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

20 September 2011

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

20 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


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.


The Secretary-General has been chairing the High-level Meeting on Libya this morning.  And in his opening remarks, he said that it was an historic day for Libya, as its new leadership is formally welcomed into the international community.  The new Libyan flag flew for the first time at UN Headquarters this morning.

He said that the Libyan people have fought courageously for their fundamental rights and freedoms.  As they look to the future, he promised that the United Nations will support them in every way that it can.

The Secretary-General said that his new Special Representative for Libya, Ian Martin, and his team are already deploying.  And meanwhile, UN humanitarians and engineers have been on the ground for several weeks, distributing food and medical aid and assisting Libyan authorities to deal with critical threats to the country’s water supplies.  We have his remarks in my office.

And then this afternoon, delegates from Member States and multilateral organizations will attend a meeting to discuss international support for Libya and how to coordinate that support.  The meeting will be co-chaired by Ahmed Jehani, Chairman of the Stabilization Steering Group of Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC), and Ian Martin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Libya.  The meeting is expected to announce the establishment of a multi-donor trust fund — known as the Libya Recovery Trust Fund — under the leadership of the transitional authorities to support the recovery phase.  We’d expect a press statement to be issued following that meeting.

**General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Desertification

The Secretary-General spoke at the General Assembly’s High-level Meeting on addressing desertification today.  He noted that the drylands of the Horn of Africa are experiencing the most severe food crisis in the world, with more than 13 million people in the region in urgent need of humanitarian aid.

The Secretary-General underlined that drought does not need to become famine, but the international community too often reacts too late.  Drylands hold the potential — both in the immediate and long term — to drive national economic growth and sustainable human development, he said.  By refocusing our development agenda to include the potential of drylands, we can break the links between poverty and desertification, drought and land degradation.  His full remarks are available on the website.

**Secretary-General’s Events Today

Right now, the Secretary-General is taking part in the United Nations Private Sector Forum on Sustainable Energy for all.  You were briefed on this initiative a little earlier, I understand.

[The Spokesperson later clarified that the Deputy Secretary-General spoke on the Secretary-General’s behalf.]

The Secretary-General will also address the High-level Meeting on Food and Nutrition shortly.

And then, this afternoon, he will make remarks at the “Every Woman, Every Child” event on maternal and children’s health.  As you know, the Secretary-General launched this effort a year ago.  It mobilizes key actors — Governments, civil society, the private sector and the UN — to stop the needless death of hundreds of thousands of women while giving life and prevent the death of millions of children before their fifth birthday.


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that its partners have verified that 4 children were killed and 18 others injured by live ammunition in the latest round of violence in Yemen earlier this week.

UNICEF says that the country is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster. Malnutrition rates there are among the highest in the world and increasing, especially among children displaced by conflict.  Vaccination programmes are under threat and children have lost out on nearly two months’ worth of schooling.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General strongly condemned the excessive use of force by Government security forces against unarmed protestors in the capital Sana'a and called on the authorities to protect civilians and uphold their obligations under applicable international law.  The Secretary-General urges all political players to engage closely with UN Special Adviser Jamal Benomar, who is in Sana'a to continue his good offices, working closely with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and other international partners to help find a peaceful solution to the political impasse.


And regarding the floods in Pakistan, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is distributing thousands of tents and other emergency aid — such as jerry cans, blankets, sleeping mats and plastic sheets — to families displaced by the flooding in southern Sindh, which has been particularly hard hit.  And furthermore, UNHCR is bringing in 8,000 more tents from its warehouse in Peshawar. 

As you are aware, the UN launched a rapid-response plan yesterday for the sum of $357 million to assist the people and Government of Pakistan.  The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reiterates that funds to respond to the situation are urgently needed as the contingency stocks used by the humanitarian community need to be replenished as soon as possible. 

**Press Conferences

At 1 p.m. today, there will be a press conference on the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.  Speakers will include Hifikepunye Pohamba, the President of Namibia; Luc Gnacadja, the Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification; and Yann Arthus-Bertrand, a UN Goodwill Ambassador.

And then at 2:30 p.m., there will be a press conference on the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.  Speakers there will include Tatsushi Terada, the Vice-Minister for Global Environmental Affairs of Japan, and Yoo Young-Sook, Minister of Environment of the Republic of Korea.

And then tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference on the “World’s best forest policies”, and speakers will include Carl Lewis, the Goodwill Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and Jan McAlpine, Director of the UN Forum on Forests Secretariat.

And at 11:30 a.m., there will be a press conference by Evo Morales, President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia.  And just a note, there will be no Noon Briefing tomorrow, I think for obvious reasons.

Yes, Iftikhar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction on the assassination today of a very prominent Afghan figure, Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was an ex-President and also heading the reconciliation process in Afghanistan?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is aware of the reports, and I think that you could expect to hear more a little bit later in the day, both from our Mission in Afghanistan and from the Secretary-General.  Okay, further questions?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you, hearing that… that… and I wanted to know what the UN’s position on this is… that… that, if Palestine is named a State, whether observer or non-member, that this causes problems for the mandate of… of… of UNRWA, the Relief and Works Agency, that’s premised… that… that… that the… the… the… that part of its raison d’être is the stateless status, and that this would change, and I wanted to know, what is the UN’s thinking on this and what contingency plans have been made?

Spokesperson:  Well, at this point it’s hypothetical.  That doesn’t mean that obviously different parts of the United Nations are not looking at the longer term, as they may have been for many decades about Palestinian statehood.  UNRWA has for many years, decades, been caring for many thousands, indeed millions, of Palestinian refugees and that obviously is not in any circumstance going to change overnight.  That relief work will still be necessary in any circumstance for some time to come.

Question:  No, definitely, I know.  I… the… the relief work will be needed, I just wanted to know if there is a way to get a statement.  I mean, I… this is… I’ve heard this is something that with… on what the UN’s position is with the… they needed change, a changed mandate from the GA.  Do you see what I am saying?

Spokesperson:  No, I understand that, but that aspect… I mean, I am simply saying that in any eventuality there will be plenty of work to do as there has been for many years.  As for, at this point, the hypothetical question that you’ve posed, I don’t have anything on that.  If I am able to get something, I’ll let you know.  But I suspect that at this point I won’t be able to oblige.  But I’ll certainly try.  Okay, other questions?

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that this would not have an impact on UNRWA’s mandate since there would still be millions of refugees requiring assistance.]

Question:  I wanted to ask, this is maybe… maybe… maybe… I may… I just literally… I mean, I may have missed this yesterday, but there have been two… there is… it’s about two pretty bloody incursions — one in Côte d'Ivoire and one in Burundi.  Côte d'Ivoire, it said that people came over from Liberia and killed, you know, dozens of people, and that these are Gbagbo supporters who did the killing.  I wanted to know, what is… does that… UNOCI’s understanding, and how are they going to react to that cross-border breach, and then I think you probably this thing in Burundi, has there been any UN statement or…?

Spokesperson:  Yes, there has.  On Burundi, there was a statement from my office on behalf of the Secretary-General.  So yes.

Correspondent:  That’s what I meant, like, I literally might have missed it, but on Côte d'Ivoire…

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s… there is a lot going on.  Yeah, on Côte d'Ivoire, I can tell you that the mission in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) reported that during the night of 15 to 16 September, a group of unidentified and heavily armed militia elements allegedly crossed into Côte d'Ivoire from Liberia and raided two Ivorian villages along the border.  The mission confirmed that 18 individuals were killed, including one person from the Ivorian armed forces, the Forces républicaines de Côte d'Ivoire.  Many other civilians were injured in the attack.  In reprisal, the local population burned several houses.  The incidents caused localized displacement of parts of the population towards the town of Tai — apologies if that’s not the correct pronunciation.  On Friday morning, the mission sent two robust patrols to the affected areas to assess the situation.  And the mission will continue to monitor the situation in the volatile and heavily forested border areas, including through coordination with the Ivorian security forces.  And as you know, the mission is in the process of reinforcing its military presence in western Côte d'Ivoire, and also stepped up coordination arrangements with the United Nations Mission in Liberia, UNMIL.  And UNMIL has indeed strengthened its deployment in the sensitive border areas.  So, that’s what I have for you.

Question:  Thanks a lot.  And someone had said that they… they… actually the… the people that came across the border and did this attack were actually in camps, refugee camps, had been… had left Ivory Coast, and I just wanted to know, is there some… this is something that came up years ago in the… in the… in the Rwanda conflict, the idea of providing shelter to people that may still be combatants.  Is this something that the UN is… is… has it heard that… that idea and is it looking into the… into…?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I say, this is what we have at the moment and the mission is continuing to monitor the situation.  If there are further details, then we will let you know.

Question:  And I just… I had a couple of… of maybe… what I wanted to know, when you said it’s… it’s… it’s… it’s… the reasons are obvious why there is no briefing tomorrow…?

Spokesperson:  Yeah?

Correspondent:  They’re not obvious to me, just because things could still happen.

Spokesperson:  I thought that might be the case, but I think probably it’s obvious to everybody else, Matthew.  The fact is that there are many high-level speakers at the opening session of the General Assembly; I think the majority of journalists will be focusing on that.  And it’s not just me thinking that, I think you would find that most journalistic colleagues will be focusing on that aspect of covering the United Nations tomorrow.

Correspondent:  But one thing I had asked…

Spokesperson:  Precisely at the point when the briefing would take place.

Correspondent:  Sure.  But the… the…

Spokesperson:  We’re always available to take questions.

Correspondent:  Something like this Côte d'Ivoire, it seems like you had the statement, but you only put it out if you are asked a question, so it seems like they should be in the building to ask the question to [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  And you know very well — and indeed, journalist colleagues know well and do so — that you can ask your question at any time.  It doesn’t have to be in this room, on camera.  You can ask your question any time you like.  Okay?  And get an answer, any time you like.

Correspondent:  That’s not been my experience.

Spokesperson:  All right.  Well, I think you will find that we’ve tried our best, it’s evidently never going to be good enough for you, Matthew Lee, but we try our best to provide information.

Correspondent:  [inaudible] on Côte d'Ivoire, it should have been announced; it shouldn’t require a question to have a statement about that.  But it’s…

Spokesperson:  We’ve provided the information that you asked, okay?  Yeah, thank you very much.

* *** *

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