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

12 September 2011

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

12 September 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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

[The Spokesperson for the Secretary-General delivered his briefing after the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.]

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.  Bon après-midi.

Thank you all of you for being here.  And thanks also to those who are monitoring this press briefing from a remote location.

This will be my last, or final press briefing as the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.  My second term as a Spokesperson for the PGA ends today.

I would very much like to express by deepest gratitude to each and every one for the superb support I have received over the past two sessions.  My gratitude particularly goes first and foremost to Martin, Martin Nesirky.  But also to UNCA — United Nations Correspondents Association — and to all the colleagues, in-house journalists, broadcasters outside of the United Nations.  And I want to thank those who sent very kind words to me.  I cannot name them all, but some are in Africa, some in Asia like Iftikhar Ali, the Associated Press of Pakistan and former Director of UNIC in Tehran; like Edie Lederer from here.  I really did appreciate the friendship and the camaraderie; the support from all colleagues, the President of UNCA; colleagues, Matthew Lee, Masood and many, many others that I would like to name.

But one thing that really pleases me is that my successor is Nihal Saad.  She is here with us today.  Nihal comes to the PGA’s office from the Permanent Mission of Egypt to the United Nations, where she served as Press Counsellor and Head of the Press and Information Bureau.  She also worked for more than 18 years as a TV journalist and international correspondent for Egypt’s State run TV, France 24 and Abu Dhabi TV.

Welcome, Nihal, and the best of luck.

Thank you again, Martin, for all you did and for all your support to this office and to myself. I really appreciate it.

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:  Thank you very much, thank you very much.  I’ll, I think, leave the floor first of all to Nihal before I say something at the end.  Please.

Nihal Saad, Incoming Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly:  Thank you very much, Jean Victor, thank you very much for your nice words and thank you for your support that you have given me over the past few weeks, guiding through on how to do this job in a better way.

Thank you, Martin.  And colleagues thank you very much for being here in this press briefing.  I have known perhaps most of you in my previous capacity working as the Press Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Egypt.  So, I will not reintroduce myself again.  And I leave it for the few coming months when we are going to be working together so that everybody whom I did not have the honour to work with in the past few years to get to know each other and to work with each other.

I know as a journalist, being a journalist myself, how frustrating it is to be seeking information not to be able to get the kind of information that you want in a timely manner – and we are all working against deadlines – I do understand that.  And I promise you that I will do my best in order to provide you with whatever information you are seeking in a timely manner, and there will be an atmosphere of transparency and openness in the work that we are going to be doing together in the coming 12 months.

And also, I would like to hope that I will be able to earn the trust of all of you.

Thank you very much, and I am looking forward to being in touch with all of you very soon.  I will be sending you all an e-mail with my new contacts as soon as this is available.  And probably I will do that by today.

Thank you.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Spokesperson:  Well, that sounds like timely information right from the start.  So, welcome Nihal Saad, and look forward to working with you in the coming 12 months.

Jean Victor, just to say it’s been a tremendous privilege both professionally and personally to work with you, and I know that our friendship will continue beyond your assignment as Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly these past two sessions.

It’s always important to have that link between the General Assembly and the President of the General Assembly and the Secretariat and Secretary-General, and in press matters that is even more important.  And you have done that extremely well, and with great grace, too.  And so, thank you very much for that.  Thank you.

Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly:  Thank you.

**Noon Guests

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:  And just to let you know that later, in a few moments, my guest for the briefing will be B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  And he will be discussing the report of the Secretary-General on preventative diplomacy.

And I will have a few items that I can read out before then, maybe I can do that and you can gracefully exit so you don’t need to sit here beyond.

Spokesperson for the General Assembly President:  Absolutely!  I think…

President of United Nations Correspondents Association, Giampaolo Pioli:  I don’t know if it is against the rules [inaudible]…

Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:  No, it is not against the rules if it concerns UNCA; it can’t be!

President of UNCA:  Okay, in this case, on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, I have to say thank you very much to Jean Victor for what you did and kindness and cooperation.  A very welcome to Nihal for what you will do, okay.  And we have two little presents, one for you, one for you.  So, it is a kind of tradition, [laughter] but I cannot do it on camera otherwise they are going to get reprimanded by… but it’s okay.

Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly:  Coming from UNCA... Ooh, this is wonderful!

Nihal Saad, Incoming Spokesperson for the General Assembly President:  I am humbled!  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly:  I am not going to raise a question, Giampaolo, if this is in line with the UN rules!  It’s a gift, but that’s fine.  I’ll take it. [laughter].

President of UNCA:  The way out [inaudible]…  It’s the tradition; Martin had one too when he started!

Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly:  Thank you!  Now, we will make our exit on this; with a gift, it is even better!  Thank you so much.

Nihal Saad, Incoming Spokesperson for the General Assembly President:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Okay, see you soon.  So we can almost start where we left off.

**Secretary-General at General Assembly

The Secretary-General attended the closing of the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly this morning and expressed his great appreciation for the outgoing President Joseph Deiss.  Among other achievements, the Secretary-General said that Mr. Deiss highlighted the relevance of the General Assembly as the UN’s chief deliberative and representative body.

This afternoon, the Secretary-General will also be hosting a luncheon in honour of the President of the General Assembly.  The Secretary-General also paid a tribute to Harri Holkeri, President of the fifty-fifth session of the General Assembly, who passed away last month.  He applauded Mr. Holkeri’s efforts in the Assembly and as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Kosovo.

**Security Council

The Security Council was briefed this morning by Michael von der Schulenburg, the Secretary-General’s Executive Representative for the UN Integrated Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL).

He noted that Sierra Leone celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its independence last April, and it is continuing its progress towards developing into a stable, peaceful and economically more viable country.  The Representative commended the people of Sierra Leone for what has been achieved during the last nine years in consolidating peace and building a democratic society.

But he cautioned that recent clashes and skirmishes between followers of the two main political parties and among followers of different groups remind us that there is still a considerable potential for conflict and violence.

**United Republic of Tanzania

Over the weekend, we issued a statement on the ferry that capsized off the Zanzibar coast, killing many of those onboard.  The Secretary-General said he is profoundly saddened by this tragic loss of life and expressed his condolences to the Government and people of the United Republic of Tanzania and Zanzibar and the families of the victims.  The statement can be found on our website.

** Pakistan

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that torrential monsoon rains have affected more than 5 million people in Pakistan, including communities still recovering from last year’s floods.  The disaster has reportedly claimed nearly 200 lives, destroyed or damaged nearly 1 million homes, and flooded more than 4 million acres of land.

To respond to the growing humanitarian crisis in the Badin district of Sindh, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and its partners will begin delivering 3,400 tents tomorrow.  And for its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) is moving rations to Badin for distribution starting early next week.  Its stocks in Pakistan will allow the Programme to reach half a million people.

** Kenya

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the pipeline explosion in Kenya:

The Secretary-General expresses his sorrow and sympathy with the families of the victims of the explosion of a petrol pipeline today in Nairobi, as well as with the Government and people of Kenya.  He also wishes a full and speedy recovery to the survivors.  The United Nations stands in solidarity with the people of Kenya at this difficult moment.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 12:15 p.m., here in this Auditorium, the Secretary-General will launch the new Roll Back Malaria Partnership’s report entitled:  “A Decade of Partnership and Results”.  Other participants include Professor Awa-Marie Coll-Seck, the Executive Director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, and Geeta Rao Gupta, UNICEF’s Deputy Executive Director.

So, I can see Mr. Pascoe waiting patiently there.  And I’ll be happy to take some questions at the end.  I don’t wish to hold up Mr. Pascoe; but I am very happy to take questions once Mr. Pascoe is finished if there is still a need to ask them.  Please.

Okay, so welcome to Mr. Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; also Levent Bilman who has been working on this preventive diplomacy report, and is deeply involved in that area of work and will explain precisely how, I believe shortly.

But, Mr. Pascoe, the floor is yours.

[Briefing by Mr. Pascoe and Mr. Bilman issued separately.]

Spokesperson:  Okay, any other questions?  I am assuming that’s a yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes!

Spokesperson:  Well, let’s go!

Question:  Okay.  Welcome back.

Spokesperson:  Thank you.

Question:  I wanted to ask you this, for all these developments in Haiti while you were away about, multiple allegations of, of various kinds of abuse.  A senator there, Senator Latortue has put forward, is putting forward a bill to say that, that the UN’s immunity should be limited to within the, within the scope of its mandate and that otherwise including UN peacekeepers and UN staff should be subject to, to Haitian justice.  And I wanted to know the Haitian justice system.  I wanted to know, what the UN, you know, what the UN thinks of that, of, of, of, of that type of a proposal.  Is a country within its rights to, to, uh, as part of the status-of-forces agreement or otherwise, hold peacekeepers subject to the justice of the country in which they are operating?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Mission, like any other Mission, operates under Security Council resolution that governs its work and, therefore, any adjustments to that would need to be discussed by the Security Council.  But the question of impunity there or anywhere else is obviously crucial.  And we know you will have heard what has been said in recent days and weeks on this topic; the allegations in Haiti as you know, they are being looked into and taken extremely seriously.

Question:  Just one more, because I want, [inaudible] I know that the allegations with the, with the male, there is, Uruguay is looking into it very closely.  There seems to be no, no, no, no dispute that several Uruguayan peacekeepers have left behind children with underage women in that area of Haiti.  And it seems like, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t misunderstand it; it seems to be saying that the UN system thought that the payment of child support was a sufficient, you know, either, rec-, response.  It seemed…

Spokesperson:  “It” being who?

Question:  Say again?

Spokesperson:  “It” being who?

Question:  It was said from, I mean, it was said from this podium and it was said by MINUSTAH, so I wanted to ask here at Headquarters, does, is it the UN’s position that, that the payment of child support after sex by peacekeepers with underage, uh, people in State, in the countries in which they are serving, is a sufficient, is that a lack of impunity or is that a sufficient uh…

Spokesperson:  I need to check on that, Matthew, I need to check on precisely what was said where and when.

[The 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 other punishment is meted out.  The soldier had acknowledged the relationship in the course of the investigation.]

Question:  Okay.  And is Mr. Ladsous, do we know when he is going to come and will he give us a briefing when he does?

Spokesperson:  I would be almost certain that at some point he will be briefing.  As I understand it, he is here at the moment for some familiarization.  But at this point, he is the Under-Secretary-General-designate; and he will be sworn in as I understand it, either later this month or early next month.

Okay, yes, Edie?

Question:  Martin, I just want to reiterate on the record the request of many of us for a briefing by the Office of Legal Affairs on the whole issue of what Palestine raising its status to a non-Member State will entitle it to what…

Spokesperson:  I mentioned it in…

Question:  …rights and privileges?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mentioned this in the corridor; and I am happy to mention it on the record that we are trying to arrange it.  Yes, Giampaolo?

Question:  Is it confirmed tomorrow the press conference with the Secretary-General at 11:30 a.m.?

Spokesperson:  There is…

Question:  It was announced that [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  The press conference tomorrow is on the Roll Back Malaria Partnership in which the Secretary-General is playing a part.  Then the Secretary-General’s own press conference is on Thursday.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  That’s right.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  This Thursday, Martin?

Spokesperson:  This very Thursday, yeah.  Okay.  Yes, Matthew, last question.

Question:  Okay.  I mean, I am, these are two things that were since you were travelling with them, I think you may be in a position to, to answer.  One had to do with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  It was announced or it’s been confirmed that Valerie Amos…

Spokesperson:  That’s one place we didn’t go.

Question:  No, I understand, but it’s a, she is going there.  That she is going there as the Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Spokesperson:  Who is “she”?

Question:  Valerie Amos, the Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  And so the question was asked here and for, they say said that they would ask the Mission; meaning, I guess, you and the Secretary-General.  Did the Secretary-General play a role in this, in this, this what I would, rare, it seems to be a fair, a rare visit to DPRK by a high UN official?

Spokesperson:  I think that you can imagine that there would be advice from within the Department of Political Affairs and from others and obviously the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has its own level of expertise in dealing with the DPRK for quite some years already.  Next question?

Question:  Okay, and the other one is…

Spokesperson:  And that really is the last one, okay?

Question:  All right, sure, sure.  This is a, there was a screening here last week of a Sri Lankan Government film called The Lies Agreed To, which was a, it states to be a rebuttal of the film called Killing Fields which we’ve discussed before, which portrays the final stage of the conflict.  I wanted to know two things:  one, in a Q-and-A afterwards, Permanent Representative [Palitha] Kohona said, you should ask Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar when asked about a particular, this white flag incident.  So, I want to, again ask, I keep running into this brick wall, but I would like an opportunity on this and other topics maybe Mr. Nambiar can, can come.  And the other one I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General has yet seen that film, a copy of which was given to him, I know by Farhan Haq and through, through the producer some months ago.  Has he seen it and does he have a response to it?

Spokesperson:  Let me check on that; on the second part of your two-part final question.  Yeah.

Question:  What about the first part; the Nambiar part?

Spokesperson:  That I think you know the answer to that already.

Okay, right.  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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