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

9 September 2011

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

9 September 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon time briefing on this Friday.

**Security Council

With respect to the Security Council, Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for post-conflict planning in Libya, is briefing the Security Council in closed consultations.  He is expected to speak to reporters at the stakeout afterwards.

**Preventive Diplomacy

The first-ever report by the Secretary-General on the use of preventive diplomacy by the United Nations and its partners to stop conflicts before they escalate into costlier crises is now available.

The report, entitled Preventive Diplomacy:  Delivering Results, summarizes recent advances and continuing challenges in this area, making the case that building the world's capacities for fast and effective preventive diplomacy is “without a doubt, one of the smartest investments we can make”.

And Under-Secretary-General Pascoe will be the guest at the noon briefing on Monday to discuss the report, which will also inform a high-level meeting of the Security Council on conflict prevention on 22 September.

**Deputy Secretary-General

This morning the Deputy Secretary-General spoke at a General Assembly ceremony commemorating the tenth anniversary of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.

She said that to truly honour the memory of those who died and the sacrifice of the brave responders who rushed to the scene of the attacks, all people must stand against terrorism.

The attacks targeted more than one single country, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed.  They were an assault on humanity itself, and on the universal values of peace and dignity that the United Nations was created to promote and defend.

She added that the challenge of terrorism affects the entire world.  The United Nations is determined to honour the memory of those who died 10 years ago by galvanizing all countries in this necessary fight to seek justice, promote peace and build a better and more secure future for generations to come.  Her full remarks are available online.

**Horn of Africa

With respect to the Horn of Africa, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that 13.3 million people — including nearly 850,000 refugees — are in need of assistance across the Horn of Africa.

Adding to this is the conflict in the Blue Nile State of eastern Sudan, with close to 20,000 Sudanese refugees entering Ethiopia in the first week of September, the Office notes.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is stepping up its nutritional support for malnourished children and mothers in the Horn of Africa.  Since the beginning of July, it has helped more than 7 million people, and seeks to reach nearly 10 million people over the coming weeks.

With the start of the school year this week in the region, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, is underscoring the importance of education as an important part of the response to the emergency.  School-feeding programmes in drought-affected areas are often one of the few means of ensuring that children eat every day, it says.  Schools also play a key role in delivering life-saving messages on nutrition, hygiene, sanitation and health education.

For its part, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR is scaling up its presence in Somalia’s border regions and in the capital, Mogadishu, amid assessments of a somewhat improved security situation in some parts of the country.

Yesterday, an agency team visited Dobley, in southern Somalia, to finalize arrangements for a presence there.  Once security clearance is obtained, the premises will be available to other UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations.

** Nigeria

With respect to Nigeria, the UN Human Rights Office is concerned about the renewed deadly violence that has flared up in Nigeria’s so-called “Middle Belt”.  Reports point out that up to 70 people have been killed since the beginning of August.

The Office notes that ethnic and religious divisions have affected the region, particularly in and around the city of Jos, for many years.  A cycle of violence has emerged in which each incident almost invariably provokes deadly reprisal attacks.

The Office encourages authorities at the national and local levels to take effective preventative measures against such violence, underlining the importance of ensuring that the alleged perpetrators of violence are prosecuted and that there are remedies for victims and their families.

**Secretary-General’s Press Conference

With respect to “the Week Ahead”, we will have that available for you a little later.  But, since I was asked earlier in the week, I want to flag that the Secretary-General will hold a press conference in this room next Thursday, 15 September, at 11:30 a.m.

That’s all from me.  Over to you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I am sure you have seen reports that President [Asif Ali] Zardari telephoned the Secretary-General requesting for, requesting him to launch a flash appeal for the flood victims in Pakistan, where the situation has deteriorated.  Do you have any information on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any further information on that, but you might want to check with OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) to find out what they have in the planning stages.

Question:  But I am sure the OCHA must be in contact with the authorities in Pakistan; have they not given you any information on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, that’s why I suggest you speak with OCHA.

Question:  Since it’s probably already occurred, I wonder if you could explain what the Secretary-General asked of the Security Council today regarding Libya?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, Ian Martin is there now and he has his press stakeout at the end of that session.  I suggest you ask him.

Question:  There is a letter that Matthew’s InnerCityPress.com website has published regarding his, the Secretary-General’s, letter to the President of the Security Council requesting a three-month provisional mission, UNSMIL, and detailing things which we know is Ian Martin, but you are the Spokesman and that letter does give some information and I am sure you will have seen it; I wonder if you could simply explain what type of mission the Secretary-General has requested of the Security Council?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I will leave that to Ian Martin to discuss in his stakeout presentation.

Question:  A quick follow-up; one, there was a report of either a fake gun, plastic gun, toy gun, something involving a media member being brought into the United Nations today that Security, of course, is insisting that DPI Spokesman handle the questions.  Could you elaborate on it exactly?

Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, an accredited journalist was found with a toy gun, I believe it was. It was found in his baggage, where he was detained and he was turned over to the national authorities.  I believe he is with the New York Police Department.  That happened yesterday.

Question:  Did he purposely bring it in in an attempt to test security?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We have no further information on that.  We suggest you discuss it with the NYPD.

Question:  Can you give us the name of the journalist?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I can’t.  I don’t have it.

Question:  42nd Street gate?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe so, yes.

Question:  White pass journalist, for the accreditation?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t know.

Question:  Was he arrested?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He was turned over to the New York City Police, yes.

Question:  But you don’t know as to what happened to him after that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No.  All further inquiries should go to the NYPD.

Question:  What agency?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t say.

Question:  Sure, I wanted to actually, first I want to ask, a follow-up to this letter with, I mean, I did get the letter and have published it, but it was a letter written by Ban Ki-moon on 7 September to the Council.  It assigns it a number, S/2011/542.  So I am wondering since generally these letters are circulated and made public, why was this one withheld now for almost 48 hours?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I would have to check with the Secretary-General’s office on that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later clarified that the letter had been sent and was already available on the UN’s website.]

Question:  And I wanted to ask you something else that came up yesterday about Patricia O’Brien.  There were obviously a lot of requests yesterday to know what the UN’s position is, not hypothetically, but factually and legally, on a request by an Observer State for ICC membership.  And I have been told actually, that, that, that Ms. O’Brien’s office has written a memo to Legal, to Ban Ki-moon on his ability to delay on filings by the Palestinians.  And I’d like, one, for you to comment on such a memo and whether it could be made public.  And two, what is the position on a filing for an ICC membership by an Observer State?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as I said yesterday, I am not going to discuss the actual situation.  We have not received anything from the Palestinians on the situation, on what they plan to do, and we do not want to take any steps that would appear to prejudge, or that would appear to take sides in anything that goes on.  It is a question for Member States to decide, as the Secretary-General has said, and I’d like to leave it at that.

Question:  The, the, the, the, I just want to be very clear:  the request, at least my question is about what happens in a case of an Observer State voted by the Member States when the Secretary-General, as depository for the ICC which serves, receives a request to join the ICC.  It’s not about Member States; it’s about what’s his duty as, what, what is his legal obligation on a filing by an Observer State to join the ICC?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to find out and get back to you on that.  I don’t have that information.

Question:  [inaudible] question being asked of you on this question by Matthew has been asking forever… I think Ms. O’Brien should come and answer at least, to I mean, clarify as to what really is the position.  Can they become a member of ICC, which Israel fears?  What is the story over here?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll look into it and get back to you on that.

Question:  In the past when you were just a gleam in the eye of the UN flag, either there used to be more background briefings and I gather when the gang gets back from the plain, perhaps they were used, there used to be legal officers who would provide background briefings and perhaps some time next week would be a good time.  My other question regarding the Palestinians, maybe I missed it, Ban Ki-moon was quoted in Australia as saying the Palestinian statehood is long overdue.  I mean, he has said there should be two States, but I notice, unlike other trips or maybe I am forgetting things, there used to be more automatic transcripts sent out of his comments to reporters, and it appears we are getting more of just the speeches.  Did he say statehood was long overdue?  Was that something that I missed in a transcript readout?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can say what he said:  “The Secretary-General is a committed proponent of the two-State solution and is fully convinced that the Palestinians have a legitimate right to an independent, sovereign and viable State of their own, living side by side with the State of Israel in peace and security.  He indeed believes this is long overdue, and that achieving the two-State solution is more urgent than ever.  For this reason, he continues to urge both parties to return as quickly as possible to the negotiating table.”

Question:  And where did he say that?  What forum?

Deputy Spokesperson: He was quoted as saying that, I believe, in Canberra yesterday.

Question:  [inaudible] reporters, or…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe it was reporters, yes.  I saw it in some news stories this morning.  I will check and see if we have… The reason he is travelling so we will have to see if we have a transcript of what he said and put it up online when we get it.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later noted that the comments were made at a media round table, and we do not issue transcripts of these events.]

Question:  I want to ask you another question about Haiti.  There is a case going on in Haiti in which a 17-year-old girl has, has asserted and it’s, it’s, it’s proceeding in the Haitian courts saying that she was impregnated by a particular MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) peacekeeper.  And I wanted to know, I mean, what is, there is also a report out of Uruguay that, that, that, the, the abuse of the male individual was, was not a crime because no private parts were exposed.  And I wanted to know, as these things get more and more graphic, what is the UN’s role in investigating it?  And in the case of this, this woman who is pregnant, what is the UN’s responsibility?  Is it up to Uruguay to apologize or pay some kind compensation, or does the UN have some type of a policy?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The disciplining of troops that transgress accepted norms is up to the troop-contributing State.  I believe the MINUSTAH spokesperson gave a press conference yesterday in which she stated that they were aware of this situation, that the Uruguayan authorities had identified the soldier and that, in fact, he was being pressed to support the child and the mother.  This was according to the MINUSTAH spokesperson yesterday.  So I would ask you to contact the MINUSTAH spokesperson if you want more information on that.

Question:  [inaudible] from the UN’s position, that’s, that’s sufficient discipline, just to pay child support?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, this is not over.  The investigation continues and we’ll have to see what the investigation turns up.  Okay?

[The Deputy Spokesperson later stated that the investigation had in fact concluded and that the issue of financial support for the mother and the child by the soldier involved was one of the outcomes of this process, independent of whatever punishment is meted out.  The soldier had acknowledged the relationship in the course of the investigation.]

Question:  Can I ask one?  I want to, in it’s, I tried to get this yesterday outside the meeting on Sudan, but Mr. Mulet said he had a meeting, so he ran up the stairs.  Regarding this UNISFA (United Nations Interim Security Force for Abyei), the mission that is in Abyei that the UN is paying for and has a Force Commander.  Apparently there is still no status-of-forces agreement, meaning agreement on how to take out injured peacekeepers, as took place with the Ethiopians who expired there.  What’s the, what, what’s the, I guess I’d like to know, maybe either you know or can find out, but he seemed to be in a rush; what’s the plan to actually have there be an agreement so that the peacekeepers that are there, there would be some way to get them out if they get injured by a landmine and otherwise, and, and what’s the protocol for the UN having a peacekeeping mission without any agreement with the host country about uh, uh, uh, their ability to move with helicopters, etcetera?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, on the logistical aspects I suggest you speak with DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations); they can give you the details on that.

Question:  [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson: Okay, yes, one second; over here?

Question:  A question I want to ask you, I had asked you I mean, earlier in the week about this clash between India and Pakistani troops in which two Pakistani troops died, and you said you do not have any information from the UN Mission between India and Pakistan, UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan).  Have they still not sent you any report on the incident at all?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No.  When we have something to announce, we will announce it.

Question:  Was there ever a screening, or has a date been set if — I apologize if this has already been aired — The Whistleblower with the Secret…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  It will be screened, we believe, some time in mid-October.  There will be — we’re trying to organize this right now — there will be a panel, a discussion panel set up so that we can view the film and we can have an open discussion later on on the impact of the film and the themes contained in the film.  And media will be invited to that.

Question:  What is the UN reaction to the report that Madeleine Reese, who was portrayed in the film by Vanessa Redgrave, that a panel has ruled that she was wrongly fired by the Human Rights Council and Navi Pillay?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have that information.  You might want to check with the Human Rights Council and find out.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later stated that an appeal process is under way and did not want to comment on an ongoing judicial procedure.]

Okay?  Thank you so much; have a good weekend.

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