23 November 2011

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

23 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone, if you can take your seats.


I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary General on Libya for you today:

The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement of the formation of the new Libyan Interim Government, and extends his congratulations to Prime Minister [Abdurrahim] el-Keib and members of his Cabinet.

The Secretary-General wishes the new Interim Government every success in addressing the numerous challenges facing Libya in this transitional period, including the crucial issues of national reconciliation, public security, human rights protection and the resumption of basic services to the Libyan people.

The Secretary-General reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to fully support the new Government and the Libyan people, in accordance with its mandate under Security Council resolution 2009 (2011).  In this regard, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), under the leadership of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ian Martin, will continue to work closely with the Libyan Interim Government and the National Transitional Council as they move towards building a modern, peaceful, democratic and prosperous Libya.


In remarks to the press this morning, the Secretary-General said he is encouraged by the positive development of the situation in Yemen.  He said he had spoken by phone yesterday with President [Ali Abdullah] Saleh and strongly urged him to sign the agreement based on the Gulf Cooperation Council initiative.

Jamal Benomar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Yemen, announced today that the negotiations on a political transition settlement in Yemen had been successfully completed under his facilitation.

Mr. Benomar said that the Agreement delegates authority to implement the provisions of the mechanism from the President to the Vice-President.  There will be early presidential elections 90 days after signature of the Agreement, followed by a two-year transition phase.  He called on all sides to honour their commitments in the Agreement to immediately cease all violent acts, refrain from any further provocations, and to work together in good faith towards its full implementation.

Mr. Benomar will present the Secretary-General’s report on the negotiations and other issues relevant to the implementation of resolution 2014 (2011) to the Security Council on 28 November.

**Security Council

The Security Council, chaired by the Foreign Minister of Portugal, today is holding an open meeting to focus attention on three of the defining challenges of our times — transnational organized crime, pandemics and climate change.

Addressing the Council, the Secretary-General said that the three challenges are increasingly transnational because of the growing ease with which people, goods and money can cross borders.  The lesson those challenges offer, he said, is that no country and no region, no matter how powerful, will be able to address these threats alone.  They can only be addressed through regional and global cooperation.  The United Nations will continue to play a lead role in fostering such cooperation.

His statement is in our office, and the heads of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also addressed the Council.


The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, deplored the role of Egypt’s military and security forces in attempting to suppress demonstrations over the past five days, including the killing of some 30 protesters and the wounding of many hundreds of others.

She urged the Egyptian authorities to end what she called the clearly excessive use of force against protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in the country, including the apparent improper use of teargas, rubber bullets and live ammunition.  She called for a prompt, impartial and independent investigation, and added that accountability for those found responsible for the abuses that have taken place should be ensured.

Ms. Pillay said that the people of Egypt deserve to exercise their right to vote in the country’s first elections since the departure of former President [Hosni] Mubarak in a violence-free environment.


The effort to deal with violence against Afghan women has a long way to go, according to a new report by the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights

The report says that judicial and law-enforcement officials are so far implementing the two-year-old law that supports the equality and rights of Afghan women only sporadically.  The Government has not yet succeeded in implementing the law in the vast majority of cases of violence against women.

The report says that the law is only being applied in a small percentage of violence against women cases. And it finds that official statistics on the number of cases of violence against women in Afghanistan are not available and most incidents are unreported.  We have a press release in our office, and the full report is available on the Mission’s website.

**Violence against Women

The Secretary-General also spoke this morning at an event commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.  He said violence — and in many cases the mere threat of it — is one of the most significant barriers to women’s full equality.  He added that all women and girls have the fundamental right to live free of violence and that this was at the heart of the “UNiTE to End Violence against Women” campaign, which he launched in 2008.

The Secretary-General said that young men and boys must be encouraged to become the advocates.  And he urged Governments and partners around the world to harness the energy, ideas and leadership of young people to help end such violence.  Those remarks are available online, as well as his message for the International Day.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travel

The Deputy Secretary-General arrived today in Lebanon, where she will chair the fifteenth Regional Coordination Mechanism for the Arab States.  This meeting will focus on regional preparations leading up to next year’s “Rio+20” Conference on Sustainable Development.  The Deputy Secretary-General will also hold bilateral meetings with Government officials, as well as with UN staff based in the country.  And she will return to New York on 27 November.


This week, at the invitation of the Government of Myanmar, a UN delegation from the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) is conducting a comprehensive assessment mission in Myanmar.  The mission will discuss with the authorities in Myanmar their implementation of Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1624 (2005), as well as areas of counter-terrorism capacity-building.

**Children and Armed Conflict

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, has just returned to Nairobi from Mogadishu.  While in Somalia, she secured further commitments from the Transitional Federal Government to enter into a UN process to end child recruitment and release children associated with the Government side.  Ms. Coomaraswamy will be at the noon briefing next Monday to answer your questions, and we also expect a press release on her Somalia trip later.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

On Monday, 28 November, the Secretary-General will depart for a visit to Busan, Republic of Korea.  The main purpose of his visit is to participate in the fourth High-level Forum on Aid Effectiveness on 30 November.  The High-level Forum is an important event in the discussions around the emerging aid architecture leading up to 2015.  Its outcomes will also inform the discussions on international development cooperation at the upcoming Rio+20 Conference and beyond.

While in Busan, the Secretary-General will have a range of bilateral meetings with leaders attending the Forum, from both the public and private sectors.  He will also visit the UN memorial cemetery in Korea, in Busan, to pay his tribute to those who lost their lives during the Korean War.  This will be the first visit to the cemetery by a UN Secretary-General.  And the Secretary-General will return to New York on Thursday, 1 December.

**Press Conferences

And just after this briefing, at 12:30 p.m. today, Ambassador Dessima M. Williams of Grenada and Ambassador Vince Henderson of the Commonwealth of Dominica will give a press conference here, and they will discuss the seventeenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

That’s right after.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Farhan.  The commission which was investigating the incidents in Bahrain came out with the report blaming, of course, the security forces for excessive use of force and of course what happened later, in many cases, people sacked from their jobs in thousands and people remain in prison until now — medics, doctors, et cetera, professional people, are still in jail.  What is the Secretary-General going to do about the follow-up on this commission’s results?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, the Secretary-General said to reporters today that he is in fact going to meet the Ambassador of Bahrain this afternoon.  At that point, he will have the opportunity of discussing the situation more in detail and get more of a briefing about the report of this independent Commission of Inquiry.

Question:  There are, of course, news coming from Saudi… eastern province of Saudi Arabia, that violence is used against peaceful demonstrators; at least two people have been killed, many injured and many jailed.  Is there any contact with the Saudi Government to stop this repression?

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have any comment just yet on this, but we will need to look into this matter further as it develops.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you about the Democratic Republic of the Congo elections.  Now a candidate has been killed, Marius Gangale, and there is… I mean, a lot of people are saying that foreign missions in Kinshasa are saying that there may be a delay past the 28th.  I know that Mr. [Roger] Meese briefed the Council, but I am not sure what he said.  Does the UN believe that there is any chance… should there be a delay to get the logistics in place, and what can they say about this killing of one of the candidates?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, we have supported a number of consecutive elections in the DRC [Democratic Republic of the Congo] and are hopeful that this one will go ahead on schedule.  Mr. Meese did in fact brief the Security Council about the arrangements, and we continue to provide the support we can, including, of course, the security presence in the country.  At the same time, of course, we are concerned about any violence against any side or by any side.  And we are encouraging all sides to remain calm and pave the way for peaceful and smooth elections.

Question:  Is he speaking with this opposition figure, Mr. [Etienne] Tshisekedi, because I know he met with… I went back and looked at the video where he had met with Ban Ki-moon, Tshisekedi?  Is there some attempt by the UN to get Mr. Tshisekedi to sign on to these principles for the election, and do you think he will sign by the 28th?

Associate Spokesperson:  It is hard to predict what any particular individual will do.  We have been encouraging all sides to maintain calm and maintain a peaceful atmosphere that would be conducive to holding credible and free elections.  Yes?

Question:  Has the Secretary-General or anyone from the UN in Egypt spoken to the Egyptian military council about the violence in recent days?

Associate Spokesperson:  I believe the Secretary-General indeed did speak with [Field Marshal] Tantawi in recent days.  So he has done that.  And I think I just pointed out to you the statement released today by Navi Pillay reflecting her concerns on the human rights situation in Egypt as well.

Question:  Do you know when it was?

Associate Spokesperson:  I can check.  I think it was the day before yesterday, or yesterday. It’s not today.  It was one of the last two days.  Yes?

[The Associate Spokesperson later clarified that no call had taken place in recent days.]

Question:  I have asked a couple times about these reports of Ethiopia entering Somalia and I had assumed that Mr. [Augustine] Mahiga… I mean he is the envoy for Somalia.  Now other Governments have started speaking about it, what does the UN think?  Does Ethiopia have to work through AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] or is this entry permissible?

Associate Spokesperson:  On that, what I have from Mr. Mahiga’s office is the following: that we have seen the media reports indicating that there is an ongoing Ethiopian military operation in Somalia.  We have also seen comments attributed to Somali officials and officials from Ethiopia to the contrary.  The UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS) is monitoring the situation closely and looks forward to the Heads of State Summit of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) on Friday, which will discuss regional security issues.

Question:  There were two votes in the Third Committee of the General Assembly I wanted to ask you about.  Here is why.  I… One is the Syria vote yesterday.  Since the Secretary-General did opine on the failure of the resolution in the Security Council, what does he think of yesterday’s vote?  And also, there was a vote on protection of children — which some people read the resolution as being pretty critical of Radhika Coomaraswamy, and I understand she will be here Monday — but I wanted to know, did he have any comment on a resolution telling Ms. Coomaraswamy she should, quote, “stick to her mandate”?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, these are votes that are taking place at the Committee level.  Of course, as you know, there is a process where the Committee votes and goes up to the full General Assembly.  And we would not comment on these resolutions as they continue to be considered by Member States.  And that’s the case for both of these.  Our concerns about Syria are well known, and the positions of Radhika Coomaraswamy, whose work has been fully supported by the Secretary-General, are also well known, and as you pointed out, she will be here on Monday.

Question:  One last question?

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.

Question:  I just wanted to, because it came up yesterday and it was very specific; it has to do with the public financial-disclosure webpage of the Secretary-General.  Mr. [Robert] Orr did file — that’s all to the good, maybe there are 20 or something that haven’t filed — but Helen Clark… I mean, this morning, UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] put out a press release about its own financial information on its website, but is there some reason that the Administrator of UNDP is not listed on this page?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, actually we’ve asked for clarifications on that.  We should be receiving them shortly.  I do not believe — although I’m going to cheat and look at my BlackBerry and see whether we have it right now — but I do not believe we have it just yet.  No.  But when we do, we will share that with you.  But the Ethics Office was looking into the situation to clarify.

Okay.  And we won’t be here tomorrow for Thanksgiving Day.  So have a happy holiday for those of you who celebrate it.  We will be back on Friday.  Thanks.

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