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

15 June 2012

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

15 June 2012
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 Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Secretary-General’s Trip Announcement

The Secretary-General will travel on Monday, 18 June, to Los Cabos, Mexico to participate in the G-20 leaders’ meeting.

The Secretary-General will participate actively in the leaders’ meetings.  He will also meet with a number of leaders individually during his stay there.   At the G-20 Summit the Secretary-General will address important issues such as youth unemployment, the need for innovative and inclusive financing to allow millions of people to get out of poverty, and the importance of keeping international commitments to development cooperation despite the prospects of financial crisis that continue globally.

On Tuesday he will travel to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20.

There he will open the conference with President Dilma Rousseff and participate in a number of events, including the meeting of Principals of the Secretary-General’s High-level Group on Sustainable Energy for All.  He will also attend a meeting of Millennium Development Goals Advocates focusing on the role of youth in sustainable development.  He will call on all to embrace a Zero Hunger challenge around the globe.

He will meet with representatives of civil society and the private sector, as he encourages the global community to build the future we want.

He will also meet with a number of Heads of State and Government.  We will aim to provide details of those meetings where we can.

**G-20 Letter

The Secretary-General has sent a letter to the leaders attending the G-20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico, and copies of that letter are available in our office.  In it, the Secretary-General warns that a modest economic recovery in some countries should not disguise the precarious state of the world’s economy.  He says that meaningful results in Los Cabos are essential.

The Secretary-General writes that we need to tackle the jobs crisis head-on through productive investment, targeted policies and a coordinated short-term stimulus.  And he adds that inclusive green growth can create jobs, safeguard hard-won progress in poverty alleviation and underpin sustainable development.

He reiterates that the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to send a signal that leaders across the world are committed to equitable growth and greater prosperity for all on a healthy planet that can sustain present and future generations.

** Rio +20

Later this afternoon, the Corporate Sustainability Forum will open in Rio de Janeiro.  With 2,500 registered participants, this is the largest private sector component for any UN conference ever.

Participants, including 1,200 business leaders and CEOs, 500 representatives from Governments and 300 business school deans, as well as investors and civil society leaders, will send policy recommendations and a list of private sector commitments to the Rio+20 Summit next week.  The Forum opens at 6 pm in Rio and runs until Monday, 18 June.

A press release on the Forum, which is organized and hosted by the UN Global Compact, is available in our office.

** Syria

The head of the UN Supervision Mission in Syria (UNSMIS), General Robert Mood, spoke to the press today, saying that violence has been intensifying over the past 10 days, with losses on both sides and significant risks to the UN observers.

General Mood said that there appears to be a lack of willingness to seek a peaceful transition.  Instead there is a push towards advancing military positions.  We have his remarks in our office.

Also, the UN Mission shared the preliminary findings of its visit to al-Haffeh yesterday.  The Mission said that the town appeared deserted, and most Government institutions, including the post office, were set on fire from inside.

Archives were burned, stores were looted and set on fire, residential homes appeared rummaged and the doors were open.  Also, the Mission added, a strong stench of dead bodies was in the air and there appeared to be pockets in the town where fighting was still ongoing.

We also put out a statement yesterday from the Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect, expressing their alarm at the widespread reports of mass killings in Syria and calling for their immediate cessation.

** Sudan

Ali Al-Za’atari, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, has been carrying out consultations to understand the reasons for the recent decision by Sudan's Humanitarian Aid Commission to terminate the projects of seven international non-Governmental organizations in eastern Sudan by the end of this month.

Mr. Za’atari expressed his hope that there would be more consultation with the UN and humanitarian organizations about such a critical decision.

There is a continuing need for humanitarian assistance in the east and cooperation in delivering aid is essential.  The United Nations is ready to participate in a joint study with the Government to assess the work of these organizations to ensure continuation of vital aid programmes.

** Myanmar

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) today expressed its deep concern over the welfare of people fleeing violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.  The Agency said that it recognizes that for years, Bangladesh has been bearing the brunt of the forced displacement caused by earlier crises in Myanmar.  It said that the latest events pose new challenges and the Agency hopes that Bangladesh will respond in line with the country's long history of compassion and solidarity.

The Agency is also following developments in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where it says the situation remains fragile.  The Agency stands ready to provide assistance and support to the Governments and the peoples of Bangladesh and Myanmar in addressing this evolving humanitarian situation.  As we announced earlier, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, visited Rakhine State this week.

He noted the Government’s prompt, firm and sensitive response to the serious disturbances in Rakhine State.  Mr. Nambiar called for a full, impartial and credible investigation of the disturbances to be conducted urgently, as well as to ensure that the rule of law is enforced in a transparent manner.  There is more information online and in our office.

** Gaza

We were asked earlier this week about the Secretary-General’s views on the closure in Gaza.

I can say in response that the closure continues to have a serious humanitarian impact on civilians and perpetuates an unsustainable and unacceptable situation for the population of Gaza.

The Secretary-General has repeatedly called for the lifting of the closure, in line with United Nations Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  He has consistently urged the Government of Israel to allow the free movement of people into and out of Gaza, to further liberalize imports, in particular of construction materials, to allow exports and to maintain a flow of approvals for further reconstruction works.

At the same time, he has also stated that Israel’s legitimate security concerns should be addressed.  These are all messages that the Secretary-General repeated when he visited Gaza in February.

Israel has taken some measures to ease the closure.  There was recently a broadening of the type of goods being exported from Gaza.  The total value of approved UN projects in Gaza involving materials that require Israel’s approval now exceeds $365 million.  The UN will continue its efforts to help improve the conditions of the civilian population and build a viable economy in Gaza.

**Personnel Appointments — Western Sahara

The Secretary-General is announcing today the appointment of Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber of Germany as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO).  The new Special Representative of the Secretary-General succeeds Hany Abdel-Aziz of Egypt.  The Secretary-General is grateful for his strong leadership and perseverance.

Mr. Weisbrod-Weber brings 28 years of experience with the UN and a strong background in peacekeeping direction and management, both at Headquarters and in field operations.  We have his full bio upstairs.

That’s all from me.  Questions, please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [inaudible name], Al-Jazeera.  Over the last week there has been a series of claims about foreign Governments or foreign groups supplying arms to the Syrian Government or the Syrian opposition.  I am wondering, as a monitoring mission, is UNSMIS looking into these claims, will they be investigating these claims and will they be putting out a statement on the veracity of these claims?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, UNSMIS’s main mission is to monitor the implementation of the six-point peace plan in Syria; and as such they are looking, they are investigating what is going on.  They have, as I said in the statement I read; General Mood says that the violence has been escalating.  This of course is totally unacceptable to the Secretary-General, who has been calling for the end to the violence and for peaceful negotiations.  The Secretary-General has also said on many occasions that any militarization of the situation is Syria is not desirable and does not contribute to a peaceful solution, and in this sense, that is where we stand.  Yes?

Question:  Do you have any information that General Mood is going to brief the Security Council next week?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on that.  If he does, we will make an announcement.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I have some questions on Sudan.  First, I mean, thanks for, for that update on the, the NGOS and, and the inquiry.  But I wanted to ask you a couple of things:  one there is a report that the, the Deputy Governor of South Darfur State, Abdel Karim Moussa, has told UNAMID that it cannot move, that it should inform the Government before it makes any movement outside of its bases.   And what I wanted to know is that, one, can you confirm that that’s been said; and, two, what is UNAMID’s mandate, and will it in fact be complying with this restriction on its freedom of movement?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on what he may or may not have said, but UNAMID’s mandate is quite clear and that hasn’t been changed by the Security Council.

Question:  Okay.  I also wanted to ask a question about Sri Lanka.  There has been a request by the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pillay, all the way back on 18 May to visit the country, to, to assess its performance some time in July.  The Government has, so far hasn’t granted the request, and I wonder whether the Secretary-General, given his past visit and interest in the matter, has, thinks that they should let them in and has said anything to that effect.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I have no information on what the Sri Lankan Government may or may not have said.  Ms. Pillay is obviously pursuing the need for accountability, which is something that the Secretary-General has called for at all times; and we would expect the Sri Lankan Government to facilitate this type of reporting.  Masood?  Masood?

Question:  Yes, sir, two questions:  one was on, yesterday, a follow-up on the occupied territories, especially Gaza, as to what is the reaction of the… have you pursued with the Israeli Government?  And the other one is that, that now even the Israeli Government is saying that the attacks on the flotilla, whatever had happened, was wrong.  So, does the Secretary-General have to say anything about that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have no specific comments on that other than what was said when the questions were originally raised.  I read something on Gaza; I think you were absent from the room, but you can probably pick it up from the transcript.

Question:  Okay, that’s fine.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Gentleman in front?

Question:  Hi, Eduardo, thank you.  As you may know, another journalist was killed in Mexico yesterday.  It’s been four journalists killed just in the State, Veracruz, in the last two months, and 57th killed since 2006.  So, I know UNESCO has been issuing statements of condemnation about the attacks on the press in Mexico, but I wonder if the Secretary-General has any comment on this.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General has always said that journalists should be free to pursue their work, with full respect to their rights to life and their rights to work as long as what they are doing is legal.  Obviously, the killing of journalists in this situation and in other situations is unacceptable, and the Secretary-General stands behind what UNESCO has been saying.

Question:  Specifically about Mexican cases and the impunity surrounding the crimes, do you think we can get something later maybe?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know, we will have to see if something later comes out.

Question:  Thank you.

Question:  Yesterday, an Egyptian court annulled the Parliament of Egypt; is the Secretary-General following the events in Egypt?  Does he have any concerns?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is following the events in Egypt very closely and we may have something a bit later on that.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, yeah, I have two:  I guess either freedom of the press or freedom of speech questions.  One is again back to Sudan, there is a poet, Abdul Munir Rama that’s, that was arrested on 2 September 2011 in Blue Nile State, and now a variety of, of press freedom groups have said that, that they have expressed concern, they think he has either been sentenced to death or already killed by the Government.  And I wondered, I haven’t seen anything at all from, from the UN despite its, its interest, its stated interest in Sudan, Blue Nile and other things, so I wanted to know, maybe you don’t have it in your binder, but is there some, have I missed something?  Has the UN said anything about this, this arrested and apparently disappeared poet in [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I recommend you check with UNESCO on that; they would be the first point of call on this issue.

Question:  Okay.  All right.  And this is a, I… I… I… and if you can indulge me, I’ll, I’ll ask this as… as… as briefly and as calmly as I can.  I wanted to ask a question that’s, that, that I have been trying to get an answer to, and it has to do with the UN’s own media access guidelines.  And they appear online to be an agreement between your office, DPI, DSS and the United Nations Correspondents Association, a formal agreement between the two.  And it also says if you violate the agreements you can have a withdrawal of your accreditation.  So my question is, and some, I can’t get this information, what percentage of the accredited journalists covering the UN are in fact members of UNCA, and if there is a significant difference between these two groups, how is it legitimate for the UN to essentially delegate its… its… its access guidelines and accreditation to a, to a, to a gov… to a group that doesn’t represent all the journalists or even defend them?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You will have to check with MALU on that.  You have a Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit here; you are in contact with them…

Question:  I wrote them yesterday and I don’t have the answer yet, so.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, wait for the response to come.  I am not going to comment on that here.

Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.  Have a nice weekend.

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