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

21 October 2011

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

21 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.

I understand that the General Assembly is still voting on the Security Council seats, and so I do want to try to keep this brief.

**Security Council

The Security Council will meet today at 3 to discuss the situation in the Middle East.  Council members will consider a resolution on Yemen.

** Libya Statement

Yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General issued a statement on the end of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s regime in Libya in which he called on the people of Libya to come together, as they can only realize the promise of the future through national unity and reconciliation.

He paid tribute to the Libyan people for their steadfastness and courage through all the pain they endured, and emphasized once more that this is the time for healing and rebuilding, and not for revenge.

The road ahead is full of challenges, but also opportunities, the Secretary-General said.  He added that the United Nations Support Mission in Libya is ready to assist and support the Libyan people and their leadership at their request.  The full statement is available online.

** Libya — Human Rights

With a new era beginning in Libya, human rights must be the cornerstone of all policies and actions, the UN Human Rights Office said today.  A key aspect that would enable closure on the legacy of Muammar al-Qadhafi’s rule and on this year’s conflict will be to ensure that justice is done.  It will be essential for alleged perpetrators to be brought to trials in proceedings, which adhere to international standards, and for victims to see that accountability has been achieved.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, wrapped up a five-day mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea today.

Ms. Amos told reporters in Beijing that in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, she saw a country and people coping despite some really tough conditions, adding that people freely explained to her problems they face.  She said that it was clear that a large number of children in the country are stunted, warning that chronic malnutrition will have long-term implications for generations to come even if drastic action is taken today.

Ms. Amos also noted that although the Government has sought to improve access to fertilizer and quality seeds, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea does not have enough arable land to produce all the food that it needs.  The most vulnerable people are victims of a situation that they have no control over, and find themselves in distress through no fault of their own, she said.  For this reason, we are not in a position to turn our backs on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, despite the many difficulties.  Her full remarks are available online.

** Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities have held their last meeting before their encounter with the Secretary-General in New York on 30 and 31 October.  Today’s talks focused on the questions of the executive and citizenship, as well as on the forthcoming meeting with the Secretary-General.  At that meeting, the Secretary-General will be able to examine the differences that still exist on some of the issues and explore how to resolve them, his Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, told reporters.

** Somalia — Refugees in Yemen

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Somalia has forced more than 318,000 Somalis to flee their country so far this year.  Some have taken the risk to cross the Gulf of Aden, and 20,000 new Somali refugees have reached Yemen since this January.

In Yemen's reception centres, new arrivals have been telling the staff of the refugee agency that drought, famine, conflict and forced conscription are the main reasons for their flight from Somalia.

Most new arrivals say that they were unaware of the situation in Yemen and the conditions they would be facing.  The deteriorating security situation in Yemen has curtailed their movement, and work opportunities for refugees in Yemen are rapidly shrinking.  For these reasons, some of the refugees are now considering returning to Somalia.  We have more details in today’s briefing notes from the UN refugee agency.

** Somalia — Refugees in Kenya

And the agency is also reporting a sharp drop in the number of new arrivals from Somalia at Kenya’s Dadaab refugee complex, the world’s largest.  It says that this could be due to military operations at the border or the onset of heavy rains in the area.  And there is more information on the refugee agency’s website.

**Press Conference on Monday

At 2:30 p.m. on Monday, there will be a press conference on the international launch for the annual report 2011 of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders.  Speakers will include Tawakul Karman, President of Women Journalists without Chains and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate this year, and Margaret Sekaggya, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you so much.  Ahmed Bhakti, Sphinx News.  With regard to the General Assembly meeting and the resolution on Yemen, would there be… can you give me a feeling, are they more in favour of the initiative offered by the Gulf Cooperation Council offering immunity to President Saleh, or they will enforce the adherence to the UN principle on no amnesty for those who commit war crimes and violation of human rights?

Spokesperson:  Well, clearly this is something for Security Council members to determine.  It’s in their hands.  And as I mentioned, they will be meeting later this afternoon to consider a resolution.  So, that’s very much in the hands of the Security Council at this point.  As I have reiterated on a number of occasions this week, certainly the position of the Secretary-General is that it is vital that there should be no impunity.  Okay?

Question:  What about the allegations of the execution of Muammar Qadhafi in Sirte?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think what you’ve seen the UN Human Rights Office say today is that it believes that there is a need for an investigation, and that more details are needed to ascertain whether he was killed in the fighting or after his capture.  And what I would note is that there already is an independent Commission of Inquiry for Libya.  This was set up in February by the Human Rights Council.  And the Human Rights Office in Geneva is saying that it is very likely that this Commission of inquiry would look into this particular matter.  That’s what I have for you.  Okay, further questions?  Yes, Pat?

Question:  Yes, could you remind us of the… these other numbers have been going up and down…

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  The number of people literally in… in danger of starvation, I believe the bulk of them were in Somalia, and [inaudible] perhaps.  And there were several million of them, I don’t know what the latest figures would be?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would have to check with my colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on the most recent figures, but it’s certainly in the millions of people who are in need of food and facing malnutrition.  So, I’d need to get the exact figures so that we can be right on that.

Question:  Perhaps it’s in the six figures, you think it…?

Spokesperson:  I’d need to check.  But it’s certainly a large figure.  And also, of course, the funding for the appeal is a particular focus, and I’d need to get the latest figures on that too.

Correspondent:  I think the latest was just barely down as I recall.

Spokesperson:  Say again?

Question:  The most recent figures represented just sort of down in the total need?

Spokesperson:  Well, again, I would need to check the exact figures. I don’t have them with me.  So I’d need to check.  But certainly there is, despite the generosity that we’ve seen already, there is certainly a need to step up the funding there.  Yeah?  Yes?

[The Spokesperson later said that according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 4 million people are in need of food assistance in Somalia.  Nearly 78 per cent of the $1 billion requested for Somalia has been received, while the $2.4 billion appeal for the Horn of Africa (including Somalia) is 74 per cent funded.]

Question:  Okay, back to the Horn of Africa.  For those Somali refugees who are contemplating going back to Somalia, how are they going to be transferred back since they came in on floats and rickety boats, etcetera?  Would the UNHCR absorb the cost of returning them back?

Spokesperson:  I’d have to check with the UN refugee agency on that, and with the, also I think, the International Organization for Migration may have something to say on that too.  But after this, let’s see if we can find out some more for you.

Okay, any other questions?  All right, have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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