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

19 October 2011

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

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

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices 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 Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon everybody, and welcome to the Noon Briefing.  And welcome to a group of students and their professor from Regent University in Virginia Beach.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General this morning addressed the Security Council on the topic of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.  In his address, he commended the States in the Gulf of Guinea and their partners for working together to tackle this security threat.

He noted that a forthcoming United Nations assessment mission will examine the scope of the threat, as well as the capacity of Benin, and of the West African subregion as a whole, to ensure maritime safety and security in the Gulf of Guinea.  It will also make recommendations on fighting piracy, including in the broader context of organized crime and drug trafficking.  The Secretary-General said piracy transcends national boundaries and economic interests.

He said the recent deployment of naval vessels to support anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Guinea attests to the readiness of the region’s States and their partners to address this threat.  The Secretary-General called upon other Member States to join these efforts.  And a full version of his statement can be found on the website.

** Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities held a long meeting today, during which they discussed governance, power-sharing, European Union matters and the property issue.  They will hold talks again on Friday, and that will be their last meeting before their encounter with the Secretary-General in New York on 30 and 31 October.

** South-East Asia Floods

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that South-East Asian countries are still on high alert, with heavy rains causing further flooding.  The Office reports that the total number of deaths in the region has reached 745, with at least 8 million people having been affected by the flooding.

In Thailand, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) is supporting the national response and monitoring the need for temporary shelter.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the Public Health Ministry on mosquito control.

In Cambodia, humanitarian partners have identified food, clean water and emergency medical assistance as urgent needs.  The World Food Programme (WFP) aims to supply 12,000 households there with enough rice for the next month.  And for its part, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has made 1,000 ceramic water filters available in the worst-affected areas of Cambodia.

**Youth Employment

The International Labour Organization (ILO) is warning of a “scarred” generation of young workers, who face a mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity, and precarious work in developed countries.

According to a new report by the Organization notes collective frustration among youth has contributed to protest movements around the world this year, as it becomes increasingly difficult for them to find anything other than part-time or temporary work.

While the number of unemployed young people fell slightly since its peak in 2009, the report says this is due to them withdrawing from the labour market rather than finding jobs.  The full report is on the Organization’s website.

**Press Conferences

Immediately following this briefing, Nihal Saad, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly and Ion Botnaru, Director of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Committee (ECOSOC) Affairs Division, will brief you on the forthcoming elections by the General Assembly of members of the Security Council and on other matters.

Pleased to see you here, and I know that you will be able to speak to the journalists right after this briefing.  Thank you.

And tomorrow, there will be a number of press conferences related to human rights.  Bear with me, there is a list, but it’s quite an interesting list of speakers:  At 10:30 a.m., you will hear from Ahmed Shaheed, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

At then at 11:15 a.m., it will be Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

At 12:30 p.m., Marzuki Darusman, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will speak to you.

At then at 1:15 p.m., Heiner Bielefeldt, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief will be here.

And he will be followed at 2 p.m. by Richard Falk, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

So, that’s what I have.  Questions, please? Mr. Abbadi, do you have a question?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Yesterday, the Secretary-General described the Israeli-Palestinian prisoners’ exchange as a breakthrough… humanitarian breakthrough.  And he voiced hope that the two parties will return to negotiations.  Does he actually have any indication that they might return to negotiations in the near future?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the aim is for there to be direct negotiations between the two parties in the quest for a two-State solution.  What we do know is, as I think you are aware, that the Quartet has been working hard in the background too.  And as you will be aware, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet separately with Quartet envoys in Jerusalem on 26 October to discuss how to move forward as envisaged by the Quartet in its statement from 23 September, so 23rd of last month.  So in brief, the Secretary-General certainly believes that it is really important to make steps in line with the Quartet statement, and it is important that the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators will meet separately with the Quartet envoys on 26th.  Okay, yes?

Question:  Hi.  I would like to know if there is some declaration of the Secretary-General about what the Governor of Texas Rick Perry said yesterday night in Las Vegas about the fact that the United States must cut the funding… must the funding the… the UN and the foreign aid?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think it’s incumbent on all Member States of the United Nations to live up to their obligations to provide funding so that the United Nations can carry out the life-saving work that it does around he world every day.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I… I am sorry to ask this again, maybe there is a different… yesterday, there was a demonstration in front of the… the North Lawn Building with new Nobel Prize winner, Ms. Karman.  She read out loud this letter that she said is a letter to the Secretary-General.  I wanted to now know, has he received it, and also what the status is if any of the… of the two of them meeting.

Spokesperson:  Well, as you will have heard Ms. Karman say, she intends to hand the letter to the Secretary-General.  And at the moment we are trying to arrange a meeting, potentially for this afternoon, for that to happen.  And when we can confirm that we’ve been able to contact Ms. Karman to make those arrangements, then we’d let you know.

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the Secretary-General will meet the Yemeni Nobel Peace Prize winner in his conference room at 5 p.m. today.]

Question:  And there’s… and just one more on that, there are… there are… she seemed to be saying yesterday outside that… that the… this… this Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) initiative, she said that the… the… the peaceful youth revolution is against it because it provides for immunity for President Saleh and his family.  And the… and the Council has now a draft out that basically would say make a deal on the basis of the GCC initiative.  I know usually… I mean, sometimes, the Secretary-General does have something to say on these issues, sometimes he doesn’t.  In this case, does he have any feeling between these two positions… which better reflects UN values of accountability?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think I addressed that yesterday.  And I don’t really have anything further to add to that.  I think I addressed that yesterday.

Question:  Is it fair to read that… what you said yesterday as saying that… that there should be no… there should be no immunity and therefore the GCC initiative should be…

Spokesperson:  Well, what I said is what I said…

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  …and that is that it is vital that there should be no impunity.  That’s what I said.  Okay, other questions, please?  Yes, Anne?

Question:  During the general debate, the Estonian President [Hendrik] Ilves said that the Secretary-General would focus on democracy and human rights during his second term.  And the President said he was encouraged and would like to encourage the UN to move forward on that decision.  Can you tell us more about this decision by the Secretary-General to focus on democracy and human rights during his second term, and can you give us any specifics?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think, as you know, this is a reference to the need to support countries in transition.  And that’s one of the five priorities that the Secretary-General did spell out in his own address to the General Assembly.  Obviously the main priority is sustainable development.  There is also the need to focus on peace and security.  Linked to that is, as the Secretary-General said, the need to support countries in transition.  Obviously we’re very mindful of what’s happening in the Middle East and North Africa at the moment.  But there are other countries in other parts of the world that have not so long ago gone through a transition themselves and they maybe have not yet emerged from that.  And there may be other countries that do enter such a transition in the future.  So, it’s about the planning of that.  Another priority of the Secretary-General is prevention; both seeking to prevent conflicts from erupting in the first place and also to prepare better for any natural disasters that there may be, to try to reduce the loss of life and damage to property.  And finally, the Secretary-General has also said that there should be a heavy focus on women’s empowerment and the rights of young people.  But to come back to the point that you’ve asked, examples, I mean, I think it’s framed within the context of helping countries in transition.  That’s what we’re talking about, I think.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, can I… I wanted… maybe I’ve had something about this, there is reports of the… the Indonesian authorities opening fire on a protest in West Papua, of Papuans who declared independence.  And so there are reports of… in deaths and… and stampeding and I just wonder, is this… is this an item that… that… that the UN is… is watching?  Do they have any comment on that, and what do they… how do they think, the UN could be useful in any way and in… in operating on this long standing conflict there?

Spokesperson:  Let me check.  I don’t have anything on that, yeah.  Okay, yes, Evelyn?

Question:  Just a bit of housekeeping.

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  A bit of housekeeping.

Spokesperson:  When I see you, that’s what it usually is.  What is it this time?

Question:  Yes, the… the… lots of people interested in human rights.  And to have all these briefings all in one day, really defeats the purpose — nobody could possibly sit there through each one and write a story,and I realize they’re briefing the General Assembly, but it’s typical that nobody expects anyone to write anything, that it just sort of gets to your news media by osmosis, you know.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think that is certainly a matter for those Special Rapporteurs and their own schedules.  They’re, as you quite rightly point out, here to speak to the General Assembly Committee that deals with these matters.  So I think that it’s obvious that different people will focus on different things.  And I think also it will be possible to, you may shake your head, Evelyn, it’s possible also to watch the webcasts, and to go back to it.  Yes?

Correspondent:  It doesn’t work that way.

Spokesperson:  Let’s have the conversation afterwards, okay?  It’s not really a question, it’s a statement.  Let’s have a go.

Question:  Do you have a reaction to what the Israeli Government has said in reaction to UNICEF’s appeal to release children, all the children in jails… in Israeli jails?  And the Israeli Government has rejected it.  Has the Secretary-General got anything to say about it?

Spokesperson:  I do not have anything beyond the… the statement that we made yesterday.  Or rather, the Secretary-General made yesterday on the release of Staff Sergeant Shalit and hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.  I don’t have anything beyond that.

Question:  But this was about the UNICEF’s appeal.

Spokesperson:  I know what you’re talking about, Masood, but I don’t have anything extra, okay?  Any other questions?  Yes, last question, then I am handing over to Nihal and Mr. Botnaru.

Correspondent:  Okay, I’ll do these very fast.

Spokesperson:  Well, no, this is very fast, one question, please, and then we’re handing over to Nihal and Mr. Botnaru.

Question:  Well, I’ll send the Sudan question to the Department of Peacekeeping Missions (DPKO), and I’ll ask you the Patricia O’Brien question.  Patricia O’Brien earlier this week wrote… who has repeatedly declined requests to come and give a briefing as… as the UN’s top lawyer, wrote a letter to the editor… to the… to… of the New York Times published defending sort of in a kind of a one way fashion…

SpokespersonHerald Tribune, I think, yeah.

Question:  Yeah, okay.  When he… so my… I guess my question is, does this reflect… I thought that the reason that she wouldn’t brief is that she should remain sort of behind the scenes as a lawyer, but if she’s actually coming forward and defending it, what’s the rationale for her not to actually ask questions about what she wrote this… this letter about i.e. the UN’s behaviour with the extraordinary courts and in terms of [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Well, the rationale was that there was an Op-Ed piece in the International Herald Tribune that we felt did not correctly characterize the position of the United Nations related to the Extraordinary Chambers.  And as the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel, it was felt appropriate that Ms. O’Brien should sign off on the letter that was sent to the editor as a response to that Op-Ed.  And it was simply to spell out, really not going much further beyond the statements that I have made here based on advice from Ms. O’Brien’s Department, and indeed from Ms. O’Brien, including the news that Ms. O’Brien is going to Phnom Penh.  So, there wasn’t really anything fresh there for you, Matthew, beyond what I’d already said here.

Question:  One, there is one follow-up, I just want to ask you, as a spokes… as a spokesperson, doesn’t it strike you that the UN… it would be easier for the public to understand the UN’s position if the person formulating the position was willing to come and give a briefing and take questions and just make it clear?

Spokesperson:  Sometimes, sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.  And that’s what I am paid to do in the meantime, okay?

Nihal and Mr. Botnaru, the floor is yours.  Thank you.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon everyone, and welcome again to the noon briefing.


Today, I have invited Ion Botnaru, the Director of the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council Affairs Division (GAEAD) to join me and brief you on Friday’s elections, on the 21 October, in the Security Council for five new non-permanent members of Security Council.  He will also give you some details on other upcoming significant elections taking place during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

But first, I have some highlights of the latest activities of the President of the General Assembly.

**General Assembly President in Republic of Korea

The President of the General Assembly, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, is on his way back from the Republic of Korea where he took part in the tenth meeting of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), which was held in the city of Changwon.  President Al-Nasser presented to the gathering the Chair’s summary from last month’s High-Level Meeting on the theme “Addressing Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in the Context of Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication.”  The President of the General Assembly also had a number of meetings with senior Government officials of the Republic of Korea, including one with H.E. the Prime Minister, Kim Hwang-sik, in Changwon.

And in Seoul, the President of the General Assembly held talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Kim Sung-hwan, and the Deputy Minister for Multilateral and Global Affairs, Sun Joun-yung.  For more details on these meetings, we have circulated a readout and you can find it on our website.

**General Assembly Informal Briefing on Sustainable Development

Related to the issue of global sustainability, President Al-Nasser, as I have mentioned last time I was here, is chairing an informal briefing tomorrow, 20 October, by the President of Finland, Tarja Halonen, and the President of South Africa, Mr. Jacob Zuma, who will be addressing the informal briefing via satellite.  And Mr. Zuma and Ms. Halonen are Co-Chairs of the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability.  They will be briefing Member States on the emerging findings and initial recommendations that might be useful as an input into the Rio+20 process.  And the event — you will find it in the Journal — will be in Conference Room 2 tomorrow at 10 a.m.

**Israeli-Palestinian Prisoner Releases

And before turning to Mr. Botnaru, here are the two latest statements attributable to the Spokesperson of the President of the General Assembly on the Israeli/Palestinian prisoners’ releases.

The President of the General Assembly welcomed the exchange, and he thanked all the States and Governments, as well as all other parties, that have worked tirelessly over many years to facilitate these releases.  This positive development, he said, reinforces the importance of mediation and negotiation in the peaceful settlement of disputes, a subject that he has identified as one of the key focus areas during the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly.

**Floods in South-East Asia

And another statement on the floods in South-East Asia.

The President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, today expressed his deep sympathies, sadness and concern over the loss of hundreds of lives in Thailand, Cambodia and neighbouring South-East Asian nations, as a result of widespread flooding affecting these areas.

He commends the various UN agencies, funds and programmes, as well as the Member States who are offering much needed support to the affected countries and communities.  And the full statement is available on the website of the President of the General Assembly.

Now, let me hand over to Mr. Botnaru to brief us on Friday’s elections of the new five non-permanent members of Security Council.  Mr. Botnaru, welcome to the briefing.

[Press conference by Mr. Botnaru issued separately]

**Questions and Answers

Spokesperson:  So, Matthew, one question? 

Correspondent:  Sure.

Spokesperson:  One question, or several questions?

Question:  No, no, it’s nothing, just one question.

Spokesperson:  [laughter]

Mr. Botnaru:  It’s not over yet?  I can leave?

Spokesperson:  Yes, you can leave, thank you very much.  Okay.

Question:  No, no, it’s actually very simple, I saw there is a letter from the… the President of the General Assembly about… about a briefing about the G-20… the upcoming G-20 meetings in Cannes, it’s going to be… this meeting is going to… that he’s, I guess hosting, is going to be on 25 October?

Spokesperson:  25 October.

Question:  The question I wanted to ask you is whether there was some back and forth with the previous Assembly President, President [Joseph] Deiss, about this, whether these meetings are open in the spirit of transparency and of the G-20 wanting to be open.  It was sort of back and it’s… and, at the time, then it was said, Deiss, Mr. Deiss had said he wanted it to be open, but it was up to Member States.  I am just wondering if this far in advance it’s possible for… if the PGA thinks it should be open to either ask Member States or ask the French Presidency that this G-20 important process not be behind closed doors, but be actually open to the press and public.

Spokesperson:  Well, I will have to get back to the office and check on that.  But also I am not in a position to comment on the previous Presidency and what President Deiss said or stated.  So, I will have to go back.  But yes, there will be a meeting on 25 October based on the letter of invitation that the President of the General Assembly has sent out.  So, probably I will be able to… yes, Mr. Botnaru?

Mr. Botnaru: Yeah, I think they’d have to come back since [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Okay, then.  Please?  Here we go.

Mr. Botnaru:  We are with the institutional memory for, for the Office of the PGA.  Well, as you are aware, there were some developments on the relations between G-20 and the General Assembly during the previous and I will… previous Presidency, and I will especially mention the resolution which was adopted, the proposal of the President of the General Assembly.  What is the exact title again of that resolution — on global governance?  And that was exactly for putting close General Assembly, G-20 and any other international groupings.  And it was very well received; we had informal thematic debate on this; we had, and there were a lot of proposals and the coordinator of the group of Member States, Singapore, they came with a lot of proposals on this.  And we have regular briefings during that session.  We are glad that the sixty-sixth President of the General Assembly has the intention to do the same, to follow through with this.  And as my colleague mentioned, that a briefing is scheduled now with the…

Spokesperson:  Yes, on 25 October.

Mr. Botnaru:  …of the G-20. So, it became a practice the Secretary-General comes before the General Assembly, before the G-20 meetings and then comes also before the General Assembly briefing Member Sates on the outcome and so on.  I was just sorry to intervene, because I was aware with the…

Spokesperson:  All those questions [inaudible].

Question:  Yeah, the only question I had is whether… whether the press and the public, or the press for the public has any role in this new global governance and opening.  That’s the question I am trying to…

Spokesperson:  No, no, that’s what we are going to be checking for you.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  And we have time for now to 25 October.  I will be getting back to you, Matthew.  Thank you all and have a great day.  Thank you.

* *** *

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