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

3 October 2011

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

3 October 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 everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.


The High Commissioner for Refugees said today that an increasingly complex international environment is making it harder to help the world’s more than 43 million refugees, internally displaced and stateless people.

Speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of UN refugee agency’s (UNHCR) Executive Committee, António Guterres said the international community must step up its efforts to prevent conflict, adapt to climate change and to better manage natural disasters.  He said that in such challenging circumstances, we must recognize our shared responsibility, and we must exercise our shared commitment.  And there is more information on Mr. Guterres’ speech on the UN refugee agency’s website.

**Climate Change

Governments recognize that they need to speed up and intensify their efforts to combat climate change, according to the head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Christiana Figueres was speaking in Panama at the last formal negotiation session of the year ahead of the next annual UN Climate Change Conference in the South African city of Durban, which starts in November.  She said Governments know that the best way to have a successful meeting in Durban is to arrive there with draft decision texts.  And she also said that she sees a lot of support for that approach.  And there is more information on the website of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Libya, Georg Charpentier, met with internally displaced populations from Bani Walid.  He said he was impressed by the effective organization that local councils have displayed in mobilizing resources among the local population to support those arriving in their towns.

He said the UN will continue to support local efforts on the ground.  Further joint assessments in conjunction with national authorities are planned in the coming days for Sirte and subsequently for the southern region.

UN humanitarian organizations have worked closely with national and international partners to respond to requests for support from Libyan authorities and they have rapidly transported relief, particularly water, food and non-food items to populations fleeing conflict areas in Bani Walid, Sirte and Sabha.

**Department of Economic and Social Affairs

Sha Zukang, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, is in India where today he opened the Delhi Ministerial Dialogue on Green Economy and Inclusive Growth.  The Dialogue, which is organized by the Government of India and the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, is addressing the costs and benefits of a green economy transition.  Mr. Sha, who also serves as Secretary-General for next year’s “Rio+20” UN Conference on Sustainable Development, is calling for a green economy to help promote inclusive growth and poverty eradication.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow, Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, will be my guest at the briefing.  And Ms. Amos will brief you on her recent trip to Haiti.

And then at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, Ambassador Joy Ogwu, the Permanent Representative of Nigeria and President of the Security Council for the month of October, will brief you on the programme of work of the Council for this month.


I was asked on Friday about the Robert Moses Playground.  And here is what I can tell you:

The United Nations understands that the State of New York enacted legislation to conditionally allow the host city to transfer part of the Robert Moses Playground to the United Nations Development Corporation (UNDC) to construct a building for use by the United Nations.  The United Nations Development Corporation is a public benefit corporation of the State of New York. The building, which is referred to as DC-5, would be built by UNDC, not by the United Nations.  It is our understanding that UNDC would lease the building to the United Nations with the option to own it at the end of the lease term.

The United Nations understands that the legislation shall take effect only if a Memorandum of Understanding is negotiated and signed by the Mayor of the host city, the Speaker of the State Assembly, and the Temporary President of the State Senate, after consultation with local elected officials, by 10 October of this year.  The United Nations is being kept informed of the discussions about the Memorandum of Understanding by the United Nations Development Corporation, but the UN is neither a party in this process, nor are we involved in any detailed planning at this stage.

In the event that a Memorandum of Understanding is reached, the UN would enter lease discussions with United Nations Development Corporation.  If the UN and UNDC arrive at a draft lease, we would review it and the General Assembly would have the opportunity to approve or disapprove it.

Apart from the current renovation, the UN accommodates about half of its approximately 10,000 staff members in leased office space outside of its Headquarters compound.  A large share of the leased office space is located in the DC-1 and DC-2 buildings, where leases expire in 2023.  The UN is therefore appreciative of the efforts that would enable us to consolidate our offices that are currently spread out in more than half a dozen locations around the City.

So, that’s what I have.  And I am happy to take questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the extrajudicial killing of Anwar al-Awlaki by US drones this past Friday?

Spokesperson:  No, no comment.  Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I’ve got a few.  First Libya, then something here in New York.  On Libya, there is a story in the… in Saturday’s New York Times about alleged torture of detainees by anti-Qadhafi, i.e. NTC [National Transitional Council] forces, and I am wondering if any… what… you know, what Ian Martin and Georg Charpentier, what they are doing on this issue.  I know that Ian Martin talked about, you know, African migrants that are in prison, but there now seems to be allegations of torture and I just wonder what the UN is doing.  There is also a report of a request by the NTC to the UN for gasoline or transportation assistance for the wounded fighters from Sirte.  So, what is the… what is the… the… I guess those are… there are two… two questions of UN and NTC.

Spokesperson:  On the second part, let me check with our colleagues on precisely the picture there.  But certainly in general terms, as you just heard me say, there is the prospect in the coming days of an assessment of the humanitarian situation in Sirte and other areas.  Coming to the first part of your question, clearly we’ve said publicly, and the Secretary-General has said publicly, that accountability and reconciliation are hugely important.  And accountability means for everyone.  And another part of this is of course that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights is monitoring this extremely closely.  And if I have anything further on that particular aspect then I would come back to you.  I am just going to see if there are other questions then I will certainly come back to you, Matthew.

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] expressing preoccupation concerning the increasing isolation of Israel.  Is there any [inaudible] the request for recognition of the Palestinian and the work of the Quartet, the proposal that [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  On the first, this is now in the hands of the Security Council.  And as you know, they have set in train the procedure that is required.  And I would leave it with them at this point.  Secondly, on the other part of your question, the Quartet statement speaks for itself.  We have seen various voices in recent days, but the Quartet statement is very clear on what is required, and the Secretary-General certainly believes that what is set out in the Quartet statement is, after all, supported by all the Quartet principals is certainly something that needs to be explored seriously and we would hope, positively by the parties concerned.  Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to ask you, I mean, and maybe you will have a comment on this or not.  On Saturday, here in New York, there were 700 protesters arrested.  They said lured on to the bridge.  In any event, I wanted to, given… I understand that them… the level of… of… of… of arrest or crackdown is not… is not… it’s qualitatively different and things that the Secretary-General usually comments on, but seven… 700 arrests in an economic injustice protest in New York City, and I just wonder, since it is the host city, since he is here, what is… what is… what does the Secretary-General or anyone in the UN system think of the… of events 100 blocks to the south?

Spokesperson:  Well, we are aware of the reports.  I don’t have anything immediate for you. If I get something then I would certainly let you know, okay?  But I don’t have anything at the moment.  All right?  Okay, other questions?

Question:  Can I ask something on Cambodia?

Spokesperson:  Yeah, sure.

Question:  I am sure you’ve seen this, this Human Rights Watch report which says that two of the judges there are refusing to move forward on cases 003 and 004, Sigfried Bahk being named.  And they… and Human Rights Watch has come out and sort of said by name that the current UN is… is failing to discharge its duties as a letter was sent to Ban Ki-moon from local staff saying that the Court is not prosecuting the cases correctly.  So I just wonder what… it also, you know, it talks about OLA [Office of Legal Affairs], so I wanted to reiterate the request for Ms. O’Brien, not only on the other issues mentioned, but this one, to come and do a briefing.  But absent that, or prior to that, what’s the UN’s response to this pretty damning criticism by Human Rights Watch?

Spokesperson:  Well, just on the question of the briefing, I think we’ve made it clear, or I have made it clear, that that’s unlikely at this point.  But just on the immediate question that you’ve raised about the report by the Human Rights Watch, I think what we would want to do is simply to underline again that the judges and prosecutors at the Extraordinary Chambers must be allowed to function free from external interference by the Royal Government of Cambodia, the United Nations, donor States and civil society alike.  The independence of the judiciary is a fundamental principle that the United Nations upholds in Cambodia and elsewhere.  And also just to say that there are judicial checks and balances built into the ECCC proceedings.  In particular, the decision of the Co-Investigating Judges in Case 003 is subject to an independent judicial process.  And I think it would therefore follow that the United Nations will not comment on issues which remain the subject of judicial consideration, nor speculate on actions that should or should not be taken by the judges or prosecutors in any case.

And rather technically, but let me finish, as it may help you, as we have said before, as we have clarified previously, the Co-Investigating Judges must ultimately issue a closing order in Case 003 which, in relation to each suspect, either sends him or her to trial, or dismisses the case against him or her. And the closing order must include reasons, which will be available for public scrutiny.  And speculating on the content of the closing order at this stage does not assist the independent judicial process.  So, that’s what I have for you.  Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible] the Quartet statement calls the parties to avoid provocative action.  Do you consider the most recent decision taken by the Israeli Government as a provocative action or as something that can jeopardize the [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the, on the Quartet and the Special Coordinator of the Middle East Peace Process within the United Nations has made quite clear our views on this last week, and I would refer you to what he said.  Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

Question:  [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Oh, sure, sure.

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask one thing about Darfur and then, and then something again closer to home about what you’d said earlier.  In Darfur…

Spokesperson:  So, is it one question or two?

Correspondent:  It’s two.

Spokesperson:  All right.

Question:  In Darfur there is, there is a report out…

Spokesperson:  I just want to get it straight.

Question:  Sure, of a… of a… of an LJM — Liberation and Justice Movement — official, Janjani Ahmed Adan suppo… reportedly killed in a UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] vehicle… this is reported by Radio Dabanga, but it seems eminently sort of confirmable or deniable, and if so, what is… what is, you know… can you confirm it, and what’s UNAMID going to do?

Spokesperson:  And what’s the other question?  Let’s…

Question:  Okay, sure.  The other question is, I just wanted to… and thanks for that long readout about the, the proposed UNDC building.  I just wanted to know… I mean, I’ve seen a report that says that… that the UN Foundation has hired a public relations firm, Berlin Rosen to try to… to get local support for the project, and I wanted to know, one, is… is that work that’s done on behalf of the UN?  It’s often said that the UN Foundation does what it does for the UN.  And what’s the UN response to… I understand there are many supporters of the project, but there are also some local opponents who say the loss of playground, etcetera, is a negative thing.  I understand legally that it is the UNDC and not the UN, but if the UN Foundation is in fact lobbying of the project, what can the UN say about why this is good project even to local people?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, you are right, I did read out at great length what we have to say on the matter and the key part — and you underscored it yourself — is that the UNDC is a public benefit corporation of the State of New York, it’s not part of the United Nations, okay.  So I think we need to be very, very clear about that.  And the second point that I would want to emphasize is that nothing has actually happened yet.  And the United Nations at this point is not a party to that process that is in train.  And we are also not involved in any detailed planning.  And so therefore I don’t think I would want to get into that any further at this point.  And as for what the UN Foundation may or may not be doing, I would suggest that you ask them. 

And if we come back to the UNAMID incident, UNAMID are telling us that on 30 September, Government of Sudan military forces were pursuing a Sudanese civilian who ran towards a UNAMID patrol near Foro Baranga, which is in West Darfur. As the man tried to climb onto a UNAMID armoured personnel carrier, he was shot and killed by the Government of Sudan forces, who fired upon the armoured personnel carrier, damaging it and risking the lives of the peacekeepers.  The pursuing Government of Sudan soldiers numbered about 40, and they were armed with automatic weapons.  And I can tell you that UNAMID plans to protest to the Government of Sudan about this incident.

Okay, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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