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

17 November 2011

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

17 November 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, and welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General in Indonesia

The Secretary-General visited the Central Kalimantan region of Borneo in Indonesia today.  His first stop there was at a health clinic, where he immunized a child against polio and met with health workers and pregnant women.

The Secretary-General then received a briefing on REDD+; this is an initiative to tackle deforestation, and that briefing was from the Governor of Central Kalimantan.  He also attended the opening of the UN Office to coordinate this initiative in Indonesia.  The Secretary-General met with representatives of communities affected by deforestation in the village of Kalampangan.

Before departing for Bali, the Secretary-General held a press conference, where he told journalists that, while the REDD+ initiative can play an effective role in engaging developing countries in the global fight against climate change, it is not a substitute for deep greenhouse gas emissions reductions in developing countries.  In Bali, the Secretary-General will be attending a summit with leaders of ASEAN, the Association of South-East Asian Nations.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations today on the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).  Council members received a briefing by videoconference from Special Representative Ellen Margrethe Løj on the presidential run-off election that took place last week.

In a statement we put out late yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated the Liberian people for exercising their right to vote in that run-off election and commended the national authorities for conducting free, fair and transparent elections.  The Secretary-General also calls upon the Liberian stakeholders to accept the outcome of the elections and to work together to resolve any outstanding issues.  He emphasizes the importance of a continued dialogue on national reconciliation.

**Humanitarian Affairs

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, says that there has been an alarming escalation in several crises in recent weeks.  She adds that this has had severe consequences for the safety and well-being of millions of men, women and children and has also reduced the ability of humanitarian actors to help them.

Citing the situations in Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan, Yemen and Syria, Ms. Amos says that civilians bear the brunt of these and many other crises.  She reminds all parties of their obligations, under international humanitarian law, to respect and protect civilians, and to spare them from the effect of hostilities.  And she adds that aid agencies must also be granted free and unimpeded access to people in need, so they can do their work.  The full statement from Ms. Amos is available online and from my Office.


The former Mayor of the Kivumu Commune in Rwanda was found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity today at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  The Tribunal’s trial chamber sentenced the Mayor, Grégoire Ndahimana, to 15 years in prison.

And in The Hague, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia said today that it had ordered its registry to appoint a medical expert to conduct a complete medical examination of Ratko Mladić.  And that expert is to report back no later than 6 December.

Questions, please.  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure.  I guess [inaudible].  There was a big protest in Kuwait, which is one of the first times that country has faced protests where the parliament was overrun, various critiques have been made of corruption and I wanted to know whether, you know, the UN Secretariat has any comment on developments in Kuwait.

Spokesperson:  Well, as a general principle, as you know, peaceful protests are something that should be allowed anywhere — peaceful protests.  And as we have said consistently throughout this year with regard to developments in that part of the world, and indeed beyond, it is important for leaders to listen to the voice of the people.  With regard to the specific developments that you refer to in Kuwait, I would anticipate having something a little later today, but I do not have it now.

Question:  I want to ask one follow-up on that, just on this idea of peaceful protest just to make sure I understand the UN’s mind correctly.  Earlier this morning right here in New York there was a peaceful protest at Wall Street.  People did a sit-in, the corner of Pine and William Street, and I personally observed people being roughed up and arrested.  Was this, in the UN’s view is that a peaceful protest, is there any, does the same standard you are articulating here about the right to peaceful protest and leaders listening, does it apply to events taking place here in Manhattan?

Spokesperson:  There are a couple of things here.  The right to peaceful protest is universal, the notion that people should be able to articulate their views in a peaceful fashion is something that applies everywhere, or should.  In addition, the rule of law is an important principle, too.  And as you well know, aspects of what has been happening in Lower Manhattan are before the courts and, therefore, it would not be proper to comment further on that particular aspect of it.

Okay, other questions?  Yes?

Question:  I understand that the Secretary-General is planning some changes in his team for his second term that is starting in January; for instance, that the Deputy Secretary-General will be leaving.  I wanted to get some perspective from you in terms of his plans for his second term and what are the likely changes that he is considering.

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has said that there is likely to be a mix of change and continuity as he enters his second term.  And as we get closer to that, I am sure that there will be announcements.  But before that, it would not be right or proper to engage in any speculation.  And I don’t have any announcements at this point.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  As you indicated, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Valerie Amos, calls on Governments to respect and protect civilians from their [inaudible] in conflict areas, we have seen procedures used in Bosnia and Iraq and Libya for the protection of civilians.  Would the Secretary-General like to see a list of criteria developed that would require intervention, say under his mandate in article 99; the so-called Good Offices criteria?

Spokesperson:  There is, of course, the concept that is actually being put into practice now, responsibility to protect, and this is something that has grown not just as a concept, but as something that is being brought to life in the past few years and most notably during the course of this year; for example, Côte d’Ivoire and Libya.  There are certain criteria already set out there within that concept and how you bring that to life.  And of course, beyond that, in each individual circumstance or set of circumstances, it would be for Member States to decide — notably through the Security Council — if a particular mandate is to be given.  And so, it would be for them obviously to look at each case and then for them to decide.  But there is an, if you like, already a bedrock of general principles that you will have seen used just in the course of this year so far.  Yes?

Question:   I have questions about Sudan and [inaudible], but I wanted to ask one follow-up, and I understand you don’t have any announcements, so it’s not so much about names but about this policy of mobility for senior officials; the idea that people should serve, you know, not necessarily leave the UN system after five years, but given other jobs.  And I have heard of some Under-Secretary-General that had been told to apply for SRSG post and etcetera, but it doesn’t, it seems that there are some people that seem to be exempt from this.  Is this a policy that is going to apply to all of the senior advisers and senior officials or is there some, just without getting into the names, is there some, does the inner circle, does it not apply, to the people that work on the third floor of the North Lawn it doesn’t apply to them?  What’s the, does the Secretary-General still believe that no official should spend more than five years in a, you know, in a post or am I misstating his reform that was announced when he came in?

Spokesperson:  As I just said a little earlier, there will be as the Secretary-General has said, a mix of change and continuity.  We should wait and see what the Secretary-General will announce in due course.  But do not prejudge events; do not assume, Matthew, what will or will not happen.  Wait and see.  Okay.

Question:  And I wanted to ask on Sudan, I am sure you have, I mean, the Secretary-General put out a statement about this formation of the new, you know, revolutionary front and Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous had said that it is counter-productive.  So, there has been some criticism both from rebel groups in Sudan and from advocacy groups around the world saying that this is I guess questioning whereas, in some situations the Secretary-General, for example in Libya, and to some degree in Syria doesn’t take the stance that it is counter-productive to call for the overthrow of a leader.  In Sudan, whose leader is indicted by the ICC [International Criminal Court] for war crimes there seems to be a, this is the line from Mr. Ladsous and Ban Ki-moon that the rebels shouldn’t call for the overthrow of the Government.  Guess some people are just wondering, kind of, where was the decision made which leaders it is not said that people should call for their overthrow and which leaders it is said that it is counter-productive to call for their overthrow?

Spokesperson:  Well, I mean, I think the statement speaks for itself as do the words of Mr. Ladsous speak for themselves, and I don’t propose to further dissect them here.

Question:  But is it based on a Security Council mandate or is it just a political analysis of the Secretary-General that some leaders should be…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, I don’t propose to…

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  …further dissect it here.

Question:  But do you have any response, have you seen this, the both press releases and statements by the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement]-North leader, very critical of the statement, have you seen those and is there going to be a response to them, if not, why?

Spokesperson:  At this point, Matthew, I don’t have anything beyond what I have just said, okay.

Question:  Okay.  And the other, just, because it’s about, I guess he may already be in Indonesia, right?  I mean, the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  Yes, he is, yeah, that’s what I just said.

Question:  Sure.  Some, there has been this ongoing problem in western Papua where there was a crackdown, there were people that were cracked down on by the Government, so various advocacy groups had the people cracked down on are saying both the Secretary-General to [United States] President [Barack] Obama, the various people that are going to Bali that, wondering whether this issue will be raised in any way.  Do you know, I mean, you say don’t prejudge, but I guess there must be, sort of, talking points and a plan of action.  Does the Secretary-General plan to raise any Indonesia-specific issues while in Indonesia, including this one?

Spokesperson:  Let’s wait and see.  I do not know the answer at this point.  Let’s wait and see.

Okay, other questions, please?  All right, okay, thank you, and have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

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