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

19 December 2011

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

19 December 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.  If you could take your seats, please?

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Kim Jong Il

I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the passing of Kim Jong Il.

The Secretary-General has learned that the leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong Il, passed away.  The Secretary-General extends his sympathy to the people of the DPRK at this time of their national mourning.

The Secretary-General reaffirms his commitment to peace and security on the Korean peninsula.  The United Nations system will continue to help the people of the DPRK.  The Secretary-General is closely following the situation.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Philippines

I also have a statement on the Philippines.

The Secretary-General is very concerned by the impact of Tropical Storm Washi (known locally as “Sendong”), which has left at least 508 people killed and hundreds more missing in northern Mindanao, in the Philippines.

The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the families of those affected, to the Government and the people of the Republic of the Philippines.  The Secretary-General commends the swift response to the crisis.

The United Nations and its partners stand ready to support the Government in responding to this disaster.

** Egypt

A statement we issued yesterday expressed the Secretary-General’s concerns about the resurgence of violence in Cairo, which has led to a number of civilian deaths and hundreds of injuries.

The Secretary-General is highly alarmed by the excessive use of force employed by the security forces against protestors and calls for the transitional authorities to act with restraint and uphold human rights, including the right to peaceful protest.  The Secretary-General underlines the importance of an atmosphere of calm to support Egypt's electoral process as part of its transition to democracy and the early establishment of civilian rule.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, also spoke out against the suppression of demonstrations by military and security forces.  She repeated her call for an impartial and independent investigation into all instances of abuse and violent repression against protestors in recent months.  She expressed strong concern at what appears to be a deliberate targeting of peaceful women protestors.

**Security Council

The Security Council received a briefing this morning from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, on Afghanistan, after his recent week-long visit there.

Mr. Ladsous said that all the parties he talked to agreed on the need for the UN’s essential role in Afghanistan to continue in the future.  And they shared the view that the success of the Kabul Process is dependent upon Afghan institutions taking on greater responsibilities and asserting greater leadership.  He added that there is no room for complacency, with a long way to go in protecting civilians and securing the rights of women, among other concerns.

And the former Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Staffan de Mistura, joined by video conference from Italy.  Mr. Ladsous also introduced to the Security Council the new Special Representative for Afghanistan, Jan Kubis.  And Mr. Ladsous, accompanied by Mr. Kubis, expects to speak to reporters at the Council stakeout following today’s meeting.

[The Associate Spokesperson later announced that Mr. Ladsous would not be speaking to reporters at the stakeout, as indicated earlier.]

** Darfur

The second mechanism for ceasefire monitoring and implementation in Darfur held its inaugural meeting yesterday.

The Joint Commission is one of the two mechanisms provided for by the Doha Document for Peace in Darfur.  Its role is to resolve disputes referred to it by the Ceasefire Commission, which is the other mechanism.  It is also to be a forum where the political leadership of the parties can ensure implementation of the provisions related to ceasefire and security arrangements in the Doha Document.

The Commission is chaired by Ibrahim Gambari, the Joint Special Representative of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  Mr. Gambari said that the Joint Commission had a critical role in advancing the implementation of the peace agreement.  He also noted that the parties are responsible for the timely and effective implementation of the ceasefire and security arrangements.

** Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities discussed European Union matters today.  Lisa Buttenheim, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, spoke to reporters at the end of the meeting.  She said that there is a solid basis for the hard work that lies ahead at the start of 2012, leading up to the leaders’ meeting with the Secretary-General at Greentree at the end of January.  And the leaders will hold talks again on 4 January.


And the High Commissioner for Refugees expressed his deep sadness today at the deaths of some 200 people when an overcrowded boat capsized off the coast of Indonesia.  Those on board were presumed to have been asylum-seekers.  Only a few dozen people have been rescued.  Antonio Guterres said that this incident is a further tragic reminder that desperate people resort to desperate measures.  The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says it stands ready to help the Indonesian Government register and assess the claims of those who were rescued if they wish to seek asylum.

That’s it from me.  Yes, Giampaolo?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can you please confirm or deny the attendance of the Secretary-General to the funeral of Kim Jong Il in North Korea?

Associate Spokesperson:  No, no, we don’t have any confirmation of that.  At this stage, I am not aware of any invitation [to] the funeral.  Certainly, we will be in contact with our Korean, our DPRK counterparts as needed in order to respond to this event.

Question:  But, if I may, sorry for the follow-up, but it means that the Secretary-General, if he receives an invitation, can go, can attend with…?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t have anything to say about this one way or the other, at this stage.  As far as we are concerned, at this stage, the people who would attend the relevant events on the ground in the coming days would be the people who are already on the ground, including our Resident Coordinator in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Just to follow up first on Giampaolo’s question, where is the funeral?  On the 28th, or…?

Associate Spokesperson:  You would have to check with authorities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; I wouldn’t have those details.

Question:  Okay.  And on an absolutely different subject, since we have heard that the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General, Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar, announced that there are going to be changes in his administration, did the Secretary-General receive and how it goes actually, if you can put a little bit more light from any candidate?  Besides we know that we have Mr. [Ivan] Šimonović from Croatia, but any candidate from the region of the former Yugoslavia, actually from western Balkans, if I could put it like that.  And does he consider any name from… let us say from Bosnia, but not necessarily Bosnia, surrounding countries?

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t be able to give any preview of any changes to be made.  We don’t have any announcements just yet.  We have at this stage just identified a number of positions that will become open in the weeks and the months ahead, and we will make further announcements on filling those posts and any other additional vacancies as needed.  But, at this stage, we wouldn’t have that.  And as for officials from your region, as I just mentioned, Jan Kubis has just been made the recent Special Representative for Afghanistan, and he will be appearing at the stakeout shortly with Mr. Ladsous.  Yes, please?

Question:  At this time, is the Secretary-General planning or considering to appoint any special envoys to the DPRK?

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on that to announce.  Like I said, the UN system will continue to help the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and will continue to closely monitor the situation.  That is all we have on that for right now.  Yes, please?

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the establishment of the Taliban office outside of Afghanistan, in another Islamic country?

Associate Spokesperson:  Outside of which?

Question:  Afghanistan.

Associate Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have a comment on this, but we will have to study this development and see what further reaction… you will have seen what Mr. Ladsous said just now on Afghanistan in the open meeting.  And that represents where we stand, including our concerns about the way forward for Afghanistan and the need to continue to enhance the basic rights of people including, by the way, women’s rights.  Yes, please?

Question:  You know there have been protests and the use of live fire by authorities in Kazakhstan since Friday, and the interior minister said on Sunday that they are going to continue to use live fire to put down demonstrations as needed.  So, I wondered what the… maybe, I hope I haven’t missed it, your comment, but is there any UN response, either by the regional office or otherwise to this use of live fire on protesters?

Associate Spokesperson:  We don’t have a comment on that just yet.  We are monitoring what the situation is.  Obviously, we are concerned about the violence.  The Security Council, as you may be aware, will have consultations on the work of the UN Regional Centre for Central Asia this afternoon, and we will see whether they get some further information, as they get an update on recent events in Central Asia as a whole.  Yes, back to you?

Question:  Just, I don’t like to explore more on that since I understand you perfectly what you are saying, but I was saying whether the regional representation and how will Secretary-General put his effort to put more people, who are claiming that they were so far under represented since they are coming from certain regions or so.  So I was just philosophically looking for the answer on that.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, in terms of the philosophy of that, you are quite right that we try to make sure that all of the regions in the United Nations are fairly represented, including at higher levels.  At the same time, of course, there are merit-based searches, where you try to find the best person for the job, and we’ll try to see how we can fit all those in.  We wouldn’t flag in advance any post for any particular positions to any particular regions or any particular countries.  Ultimately, that will have to be determined at the end of the search process.  Yes, please?

Question:  Good morning, thank you.  If you would, please talk a little bit about protocol for the [Secretary-General] in the situation of a Head of a Member State passing.  I mean, that should all be written down somewhere.  What, if any, obligations does he have to that Member State, as far as saying goodbye to that given leader?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, just in terms of the basic facts in this case, this does not concern the passing of the Head of State.  Kim Jong Il was the leader of the country, and we are well aware of that.  You have heard the statement that we have issued concerning this.  But, the Head of State is Kim Yong-nam.  So it is a different, there is a protocol in effect, but whether that is entirely applicable in this case would need to be determined.

Question:  Is that in the process of being determined now?

Associate Spokesperson: We are looking into what things we would need to do.  But certainly, we will respond as appropriate to this event, although, like I said, it is not strictly speaking something involving the listed Head of State.  Yes?

Question:  I have some other questions, one more follow-up on this, and maybe you said it before I got here; if so, I am sorry.  Has he made any… has the Secretary-General made any phone calls… I know President [Barack] Obama spoke to President Lee [Myung-bak] of South Korea; has the Secretary-General, has he spoken to any regional leaders?  Does he intend to do so?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, I expect he does intend to do so.  We will try to provide you some details of those phone calls as they take place.  They haven’t taken place so far, but I expect that he will be in touch with people, as needed.

Question:  Can I ask…?  I wanted to ask, there is pretty detailed study that has been put out by the Norwegian Refugee Council and it talks about this idea of [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] of having integrated missions in which humanitarian and others work alongside peacekeepers and the political arm.  And they say that it is leading to a rift between humanitarian [non-governmental organizations] and the UN, that there is a growing hesitancy within part of the [non-governmental organization] community to engage with the UN, including sharing information, joint assessment and joint field visits, because of the perception that the UN has taken sides or they, by going with the military component of the UN, they are no longer independent humanitarians.  And it seems like it is a pretty damning critique from a pretty respected [non-governmental organization], and I wondered if the UN is aware of it and if it has any thoughts on either how to mitigate those harms or thinks that it is inevitable.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, we are aware of the report.  I imagine that we will need to study it to make a fuller response.  In terms of the independence of humanitarian workers, though, one thing I would like to make clear is that the United Nations does respect the independence of humanitarian workers.  It is vital to their effort, and certainly in our own humanitarian work, we try to make sure that that work is done independently of other considerations.

Question:  Do you think that [Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs]… I mean, do you think… and thanks for that, at least it is something, but do you think [Office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] or [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] or one of them will actually have a kind of either a response to this study or at least sort of a statement on the issue of integrated missions harming humanitarian work?

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know.  First, I think they’d need to review and see what sort of reaction is appropriate.  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you.  Just last week, the [Secretary-General] seemed to sort of want to take a pass when he was asked about the increasing military use of drones — you know, over Lebanon, over Pakistan, apparently over Iran.  He basically said it was a Member States issue and it wasn’t his place to decide, and I don’t quote.  But, has he said anything about this increasing military use of drones since then, at all?  It seemed like a strange thing for him not to have an opinion on.

Associate Spokesperson:  No, he gave an opinion.  But, in order to just flesh it out, I will just mention basically what he said, which is that the use of drones has been debated.  Countries that use this kind of technology should fully assess the implications of their use under applicable international law, including human rights and humanitarian law.  Yes, please?

Question:  Farhan, I heard what you said before, but I was wondering if you have any comments on the impact of the death of Kim Jong Il regarding more specifically on the nuclear negotiations and in UN humanitarian assistance on the ground.

Associate Spokesperson:  Well, we will continue to monitor.  Our position on the nuclear issue is well known.  As you know, the Secretary-General over the recent months and years has been very strongly hoping for a resumption of six-party talks and for efforts to help the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.  In any case, as I pointed out in the statement that we just issued, the Secretary-General reaffirms his commitment to peace and security on the Korean peninsula and the UN system will continue to help the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Thanks very much.

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