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

15 June 2011

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

15 June 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.

Good afternoon, everybody, welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Briefing Guest

As you can see, today I have as my guest Catherine Bragg, who is the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and Ms. Bragg is here to brief you on her recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And then obviously she will be able to take questions.  I will also be able to take some questions and fill you in on a couple of other points at the end of Ms. Bragg’s briefing to you.  All right, so the floor is yours, Ms. Bragg.

[Press conference by Ms. Bragg is issued separately.]

So, a few more items, and I am happy to take questions after that.

**Secretary-General in Uruguay

This morning, the Secretary-General laid a wreath at the General José Artigas monument in Montevideo, Uruguay, and he also visited the National School for Peacekeeping Operations, where he met with troops who have served in peacekeeping missions.

The Secretary-General is to address the Parliament of Uruguay this afternoon, and he is expected to speak about Uruguay’s outsized contributions to United Nations peacekeeping.  Adjusted for population, Uruguay is the world’s number one contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.  He will also meet in the afternoon with the country’s Foreign Minister and Vice-President.

Yesterday, after arriving in Uruguay following a boat trip from Argentina, the Secretary-General met with President José Mujica.  And speaking to the press afterwards, he said that his visit to South America comes at a time of opportunity, hope and change.  The Secretary-General added that he is convinced that the region can play an even bigger role in the United Nations, and the United Nations can play an even bigger role in the region.  The transcript of that press encounter is available online.

** Syria

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, presented a report to the Human Rights Council concerning the work of the fact-finding mission that it established on Syria.

She notes that she has not received any response to repeated requests to the Syrian authorities to ensure full access to the country for that fact-finding mission.  However, the mission has gone about its work, gathering and analysing information on the human rights situation from a range of sources both inside and outside Syria.

Ms. Pillay writes that the information received so far reflects a dire human rights situation in Syria.  The alleged breaches of the most fundamental rights on such a broad scale require thorough investigation and full accountability.  The High Commissioner reiterates her call for access to Syria, and she is hopeful that she will be able to provide a more extensive assessment of the human rights situation in Syria in her follow-up report to the eighteenth session of the Human Rights Council.

**Security Council

The Security Council heard a briefing this morning from the Foreign Minister of Mauritania concerning the efforts of the African Union’s High Level Ad Hoc Committee on the Situation in Libya.  He expressed the African Union’s commitment to work closely with the United Nations and with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to Libya, Abdul Ilah al-Khatib, and that’s in resolving the situation in Libya.

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Security Council expects to hold a meeting on Sudan.  And Council members intend to receive a briefing by video-conference from Haile Menkerios, the head of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS).

**United Nations Environment Programme Report

A new assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says that fast actions on pollutants, such as black carbon, ground-level ozone and methane, may help limit short-term global temperature rise.  They may even significantly increase the chances of keeping temperature rise below 2° C — and perhaps even 1.5° C.

According to this report, these actions can have immediate climate, health and agricultural benefits — because, unlike carbon dioxide (CO2), which can remain in the atmosphere for centuries, black carbon only persists for days or weeks.

The report also says that, in addition to these actions, immediate and sustained measures to cut back carbon dioxide emissions are crucial if temperature rises are to be limited over the long term.  And you can find that assessment online.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And at tomorrow’s noon briefing, my guest will be Anne-Marie Orler, who is the Police Adviser and Director of the Police Division for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

And then at 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference by Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, and that’s to discuss South Africa’s hosting of COP17 — the seventeenth United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change meeting.

**Southern Kordofan

And finally, I was asked yesterday about allegations of rape in Southern Kordofan.  A preliminary inquiry was carried out by the Force Provost Marshall, who obtained brief statements from the persons who are normally immediately informed of incidents of this nature.  None of them had been contacted, by either the one who alleges, the alleged victims or third parties.

And as I said yesterday, the UN treats any allegation of rape and other serious misconduct with the utmost seriousness.  The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is making every effort to investigate these allegations.  The Mission has attempted to contact Mr. Gamar Dalman and Mr. Abdulaziz Al-Hilu, quoted in news reports as having made the allegations, to invite them to share with UNMIS investigators any information or details they may have and that may assist the UN in establishing the facts surrounding these allegations.

That’s what I have, and I’m happy to take questions.  Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you this first, in… last night, in the UK [United Kingdom], Channel 4 screened an hour-long documentary called Sri Lanka — the killing fields that had interviewed former UN staff, saying that pulling out of Kilinochchi had been a mistake.  And I just wondered, it something… What’s the status of the Secretary-General’s statement that he would look into or inquire into the UN’s own performance in Sri Lanka, including, that of his Chief of Staff in the white flag, which was also covered in the documentary, and does… has the Secretary-General seen that video and does he… might he reconsider what Channel 4 calls his rejection of his own Panel of Experts report?  That’s their quote.

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the Secretary-General is aware of the report.  He has not actually seen the documentary yet.  I think you could understand logistically why that might be unlikely at this point.  But he is certainly aware of the documentary and the themes of that film.  You raise a couple of points.  The first on the recommendations in the report; far from rejecting the recommendations, the Secretary-General has said, with regard to looking at the internal workings of the United Nations in response to that particular crisis, he has accepted the recommendations and the UN Secretariat is working with other parts of the UN system on how that will actually take place.  And indeed, far from rejecting the other recommendations of the panel, the Secretary-General has made clear that it is indeed the responsibility first and foremost of the Sri Lankan authorities to carry out a credible investigation and inquiry into the events that unfolded there at the end of the conflict.  And furthermore, he has said that any international investigation, if it is to have executive and judicial powers, it is a simple fact that it would require either national consent from the Sri Lankan authorities or a mandate from the Human Rights Council, the Security Council or the General Assembly.

Question:  Thanks a lot, I mean, I appreciate that.  I just wanted… this phrase that this… if it were to have executive and judicial powers, in the recommendations they make, they just say, they recommend that the Secretary-General set up an international investigative mechanism.  Is this some distinction… is there… are you… is… do you acknowledge that he could set up an investigation, such as the mapping report was done on the Congo?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General of his own volition set up the Panel of Experts.  The Panel of Experts’ report, as you well know, as you will have seen it, is a weighty and extremely serious document that contains a large amount of information which is now available to all Member States and indeed to NGOs — non-governmental organizations — and the media.  It’s out there.  To go beyond that required a mandate in the fashion that I have described.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  During his visit to Uruguay, the Secretary-General thanked publicly the Government there for its support, its strong support for his re-election.  It’s unusual on the part of the Secretary-General to pronounce himself that way prior to re-election.  Does he hope that other Governments will come up publicly with their support for his re-election, and is this the first time he has done so prior to the re-election?

Spokesperson:  What the Secretary-General has done is to thank people for their support, not for his re-election.  The re-election has, if it is to take place, is not yet there.  What he has done here, he’s said that — and he did it sitting right here — was to announce that he is available, he is a candidate to serve a second term, he’d be honoured to do so, and it is for the Member States to decide.  If Member States publicly, indeed in front of him, offer their support for his candidacy, then it’s quite natural that he would thank them for that support.  But it is also quite natural, as he has repeatedly said, that it is for all the Member States to decide, and that they will do in due course.  Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Thank you.  It’s been a short… at least Valerie Amos is always very open and briefs us quite often, but it’s been a little while, I wondered just generally if there is any news.  The gentleman from the African Union mentioned the worsening humanitarian situation in Libya, and I wonder if there is any news out of the Secretary-General’s Office, any new information or any changes at all, is it getting much worse, is it getting worse in a slower fashion?  Can you elaborate?

Spokesperson:  Well, your question comes maybe five minutes too late, because we just had the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs sitting here and was available to take questions on anything, and you could have asked her.

Question:  I assumed it was on the Congo and I didn’t want speak out of line.

Spokesperson:  Well, she certainly visited the Congo, but she is also extremely well briefed on what is happening in other parts of the world, too.  Not simply the Congo, the DRC, and as you know and heard, she took questions on other parts of the world, too.  But to answer your question, we do remain concerned about the humanitarian situation in Libya.  We do need greater access for humanitarian supplies and it is part of the several-strand approach that the Special Envoy is taking to seek a ceasefire and political dialogue and greater access for humanitarian workers and the supplies that they would have to be able to help the people in any part of Libya.  And more specifically, Ms. Amos is travelling at the moment, and I have no doubt that on her return she will be happy to brief you.  Yes, Ann?

Question:  Okay.  The New York Times ran an article very recently stating that Georgia is threatening to abandon the Geneva talks with Russia, based on claims by Georgia that bombs are being planted inside their country, which is dealing with the breakaway regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Did your Office get any information or details from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative at the Geneva talks on this matter?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you will have seen the most recent statement after the latest round of the Geneva discussions.  And I would refer you to that.  That’s what we have on that topic.  That is a jointly produced communiqué on behalf of the three co-chairs of those discussions.  Yeah?

Question:  Sure, and thanks for that, hopefully, possibly interim update on the rape allegations in Kordofan.  I wanted to ask you about, and I am… it’s strange that Radio Dabanga, the news source covering Darfur, has reported that, that in this case, they say, UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] has been informed of the rape of six women in Tawilla and one in Zalingei, raped by Government militia, and they state as a fact that UNAMID was informed.  So, I have read today’s UNAMID press statement, it doesn’t obviously mention this incident, but is there some way to know, can UNAMID confirm that they have been informed of this, and is it in fact true, and then what is going to happen?

Spokesperson:  Again, as I think you heard from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] yesterday afternoon, UNAMID, on the previous incident, or alleged incident that you’ve mentioned, they continue to investigate.  As you also know, this is large terrain and difficult terrain, both physically and from a security point of view.  The mission, I am sure, if it has any information that is made available to it would look into the allegations made in the same way that I have just outlined with regard to the allegations made in the media on South Kordofan.  And the point there is that, as I already said yesterday, that we take any allegation of this kind seriously, and it will be looked into.  And as I have just told you, it is being looked into.  The difficulty here is that the allegations have not been made to the mission, but in the media.  And the mission is now trying to contact the people who have made those allegations to see if they can provide the information.  I think that shows how seriously this is being taken.  All right, thank you.

Question:  Can I ask on Haiti?

Spokesperson:  Yes, you can, Matthew.

Question:  Okay.  There is, there has been a sort of an investigation carried out by journalism students at the State University of Haiti.  And I think the first part is purely factual, that there is a contract signed by the Government of Haiti with the Prince Charles Foundation, it’s a plan for Port-au-Prince, and it’s basically said the Mayor of Port-au-Prince refuses to work with the Prince Charles Foundation, wants Haitians to do the work and has cancelled the contract.  And the… what has been raised by them is that this was a no-bid contract of the Prince Charles Foundation and they are saying that it was funded by UNDP [United Nations Development Programme].  So I wanted to know, is it the case that UNDP provides money in this case, for no-bid contracts for reconstruction that, according to these investigators, never in fact took place?

Spokesperson:  Have you asked UNDP?

Correspondent:  It seems… it’s a… I will.  I will do so.

Spokesperson:  Yeah, very good.  Try that.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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