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

11 December 2012

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

11 December 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Guests Today

My guests today are, as you can well see, South African singer Yvonne Chaka Chaka and to my far right, Charles Radcliffe, who is the Chief of the Global Issues Section in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights here in New York. 

Mr. [Ivan] Šimonović, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, had hoped to be here, but he is with the Secretary-General right now.  And so Charles is here to represent him.  I am going to pass the floor right away to both of them, but simply just to say that they are obviously here to brief you on a special Human Rights Day event, which is about “Leadership in the Fight against Homophobia”.  And this will be taking place in Conference Room 2, in the North Lawn Building here at Union Nations Headquarters, this afternoon at 3:15.  The Secretary-General will be speaking at that event and his remarks will be available later online and in my office.  And I can tell you the event will also be webcast on the UN website.

I think Charles will also be able to tell you a little bit more about what is in store.  So, please, the floor is yours, and it’s a great pleasure to have you here.  Welcome.

[Press conference by Ms. Chaka Chaka and Mr. Radcliffe is issued separately.]

So I have a couple of other items.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

The Secretary-General spoke this morning at a high-level conference on the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), asking participants to give as much as possible to this Fund.

The Secretary-General said that the Central Emergency Response Fund is not just an acronym for a multi-million dollar fund.  It also stops crises from turning into catastrophes through quick, targeted support when an emergency starts or by injecting funds in under-funded situations.  He made a pledge to donors that the United Nations will make the absolute best use of their precious contributions.

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, also spoke at this meeting.  And she said that the Fund was a central pillar of the humanitarian response of UN agencies.

**Syria — Refugees

And the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that more than half a million Syrian refugees have now been registered, or are awaiting registration, in four surrounding countries and North Africa.  Since the beginning of November, the number of registered refugees region-wide has risen by about 3,200 a day, including both new arrivals from Syria and those who had already been in the asylum countries for some time but had not sought help through registration.

The UN refugee agency expects the numbers of those who come forward to register to increase as the conflict in Syria continues, resources are depleted and host countries and families can no longer support them.  According to the agency, only about 40 per cent of registered Syrian refugees across the region actually live in refugee camps.  The majority live outside camps, often in rental housing, with host families, or in various types of collective centres and renovated accommodation.  UNHCR is stepping up its outreach activities in the region to provide registration and to help those who need it.

And you will recall that the Secretary-General visited refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey just last week to express his solidarity and to help highlight the need for more funding.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations on Guinea-Bissau today.  Joseph Mutaboba, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, briefed Council members on the situation there.  You’ll recall that, in his report on Guinea-Bissau in September, the Secretary-General wrote that the political impasse in Guinea-Bissau has brought the country to a virtual standstill.  While efforts are under way to ensure credible and transparent elections, the Secretary-General calls upon political and military actors in particular to act within the framework of the rule of law and to respect the rules of democratic elections.


The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued a report today noting the progress made in implementing the law on the elimination of violence against women.  But the Mission says that the application of this law continues to be hampered by dramatic underreporting and a lack of investigations into most incidents of violence against women.

The report says that prosecutors and courts are increasingly applying the law in a growing number of reported incidents of violence against women.  But the overall use of the law remains low, indicating there is still a long way to go before women and girls in Afghanistan are fully protected from violence through the law.  The full report is available online on the UN Mission’s website.

**Secretary-General’s Appointments

I have two new appointments to announce.  The Secretary-General has appointed Major General Delali Johnson Sakyi of Ghana as the Force Commander for the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).  Major General Sakyi succeeds Major General Moses Bisong Obi of Nigeria, who completed his assignment on 18 November.

The Secretary-General has also appointed Kaarina Immonen of Finland as his Deputy Special Representative in the Central African Republic.  Ms. Immonen will also serve as the United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator.  She succeeds Bo Schack of Denmark.  And we have more information on both appointments in my office.

That’s what I have for you.  Questions, please?  Erol, then Mr. Abbadi.  Yes, Erol?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Now, or since the Doha talks on climate change at as to according to many media reports are produced sort of very poor results, what does the Secretary-General in turn prepared to do to lead the talks in a direction that they can invigorate again the action of the world community?

Spokesperson:  Well…

Correspondent:  Sorry for being pathetic, but I really [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Why pathetic?  It is an important topic, and something that I think you know from your own experience that the Secretary-General has taken a leading role in helping to shape and to push.  And he was indeed in Doha, and helped to push along the discussions between the Member States who were taking part in this UN Climate Change Conference, the so-called COP.  And the meeting in Doha delivered what it needed to deliver.  It adopted the second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol, and that’s important because it helps to ensure the continuance of important and innovative mechanisms that will advance action on climate change.

And also, Doha completed the previous phase of climate negotiations that were under the Bali Action Plan, and so this opens the way now to a new negotiation under the Durban Platform to reach the important legally binding agreement by 2015 that the countries agreed they would head towards at the meeting last year in Durban.  So also, Governments further strengthened the institutions and the machinery that are needed to deliver results on the ground, for example, including the Green Climate Fund and the Technology Centre, and details about now how they can then be implemented. 

But obviously, everyone understands there is still much more to be done; there needs to be more ambition, there needs to be more financing and there needs to be greater determination that is really commensurate with the problem.  And this is something that the Secretary-General reiterated in his remarks, if you look back at what he said there, that we are really borrowing the planet from future generations and we owe it to those future generations to ensure that we do the best.  There needs to be the political will.  The Secretary-General has made it clear that he is prepared to play the leadership role that he has played up till now, and to continue doing that, particularly as we move towards 2015.  So he will be continuing to push hard on that, and I think you will be hearing more about that as we go along.

Question:  Just a short one on this “more ambition”…?

Spokesperson:  Yes?

Question:  What does it mean?

Spokesperson:  I think it is fairly clear that scientists are telling us what needs to be done, specifically to keep the global average temperature rise to less than 2 °C this century.  That is still possible, according to scientists, through a number of pathways.  But obviously, what you need is a global consensus for action, and that’s where you need the political will, including at the highest level, to help to push this, to make it happen.  So the Secretary-General is going to help with this process, which is in the hands of Member States, but importantly, they recognize the role of the… the convening power of the Secretary-General in helping to push this along.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On the same subject, the same question, but approached from a different angle.  On the Doha process, the Secretary-General said, “Doha successfully concluded the previous round of climate negotiations, paving the way to comprehensive legally binding agreement by 2015.”  The world has heard the message of the Secretary-General and his conclusion, and yet there are some strong critics who say that on major issues the Doha meeting decided not to decide.  How would the Secretary-General or DPI [Department of Public Information] counter this argument?

Spokesperson:  That the Secretary-General again, if you look at his remarks, he has been quite clear.  There are a couple of points here, some of which you said that you were phrasing the same question slightly differently or approaching it from a different angle; my answers are slightly in parallel to this approach.  You’ve heard me already list some of these areas; I am not going to go into great detail beyond that, except simply to say that the Secretary-General remains committed to finding solutions to climate change as a top priority.  Take a look at the Sustainable Energy for All initiative that he started a year ago.  That is gaining momentum, that is attracting investments and this is going to be absolutely crucial in helping to tackle climate change by focusing on renewable sources of energy, for example.

And another priority is going to be finance for climate change itself.  The Secretary-General intends to work with Governments from both donor and developing countries to address this in the coming year.  The UN has been leading by example, just to go back to Rio and the Conference on Sustainable Development in June, and also at Doha, just at this most recent meeting — these were “paper smart” meetings; in other words, not a great deal of paper flying around.  This was being done digitally, electronically, and the paper consumption at those meetings was cut by 93 per cent.  And as you well know, we are moving back gradually into the newly renovated Secretariat building that hitherto was one of the least energy-efficient buildings in New York.  And now it is going to be one of the most energy-efficient buildings in New York.  So there is leadership from the Secretary-General and from the United Nations on this.  And there is much more to be done, both individually and collectively, and the Secretary-General will help to lead the way on that.  Tim, and then Nizar.  Yes, Tim?

Correspondent:  Thank you.  [inaudible] and happy Spokesperson’s Day.

Spokesperson:  Pardon?

Correspondent:  Happy Spokesperson’s Day, if there is one.

Spokesperson:  [laughter] There is a hidden message there, thank you.

Question:  As the Prime Minister of Mali has been arrested or is under detention somewhere, how… does the Secretary-General have any comment on that too?

Spokesperson:  I think they might have something a little more formal to say shortly, but let me just say the Secretary-General is obviously fully briefed on this.  He is troubled by the developments that we heard about overnight from Mali.  His view is that it underscores again the need for political stability in Mali.  It underscores again the political track as part of the overall solution to the problems that there are in Mali.  But, as I say, I would anticipate that we will have something a little more formal to say shortly.  Yes, Nizar?

Question:  Yes, Nabil Rajab, the human rights activist in Bahrain, was sentenced today for a two-year jail sentence simply for taking part in a peaceful demonstration the authorities say was not licensed.  How does the United Nations view that?

Spokesperson:  We have seen the reports.  I don’t have anything specific on that at the moment, but simply to reiterate what the Secretary-General has said on a number of occasions about what he would wish to see happening in Bahrain with regard to the full implementation of the commission of inquiry that took place.  If I have anything more specific, Nizar, then of course, I will come back to you on this particular case that you mentioned.  Yes, Hank?

Question:  Hi, Martin, thank you.  The Secretary-General was out front in calling for an end to the killing and the shooting in the November Israel-Gaza war.  There has been a lot of silence, not just from his office, but it seems to me from my perception,, from across the board since then.  Has he called, without mentioning any Member States, for a blanket investigation of possible human rights abuses that seem to have occurred during those days?  And what is to the best of your understanding as to whether any investigation at all will happen?

Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, the Secretary-General has indeed been outspoken about the violence that took place, and he played an important role in helping to bring that violence to an end.  The ceasefire continues to hold, and this is something that needs to be worked on through the other political tracks that will help to make that ceasefire more durable in the longer term.  A part of that, of course, is reconciliation, a part of that is greater access, part of that is ensuring that illicit weapon supplies can be stopped and part of it is looking into grievances.  Now, what shape or form that takes, I cannot tell you just at the moment.  If I have anything further, then of course I would let you know.

Question:  May I please follow up?  Does he feel, perhaps, that a call for a human rights investigation in… to mention any names one side or the other would polarize things and threaten the ceasefire?

Spokesperson:  This is a very tense part of the world at the best of times.  That is why I am saying these are the steps that have been taken.  This is the situation at the moment, and if I have anything further, then I would let you know, okay?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you about Mali.  At 10:40 today, it was… the Secretary-General was scheduled to meet with the person who had, at least until yesterday, was the Foreign Minister of Mali, but now is part of the dissolved Government.  Did the meeting take place?  What… how… how… how would you describe the person’s status for the meeting and what was discussed?

Spokesperson:  The short answer, Matthew, no, the meeting did not take place.

Question:  Did not take place, okay.  And… and… I wanted to, again on Mali, and I understand you may have a statement about the coup, but given this… this… this planning that was being done, I guess mostly DPA [Department of Political Affairs] did the report about, you know, various options for… for UN assistance to an ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States]-led force to re-conquer or deal with northern Mali.  How… how… how would… how… are there any kind of initial thoughts how this would change the… the… the thinking put forward in that report if… if… if in fact there is not a, you know, legitimate Government to… to be supported to retake the north?  How… how… how does that change, and how… specifically, that report talked about the human rights due diligence policy being applied to the Malian forces; how is that implicated here?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you heard me say just a little while ago.  You prefaced your question with the reference to something else that is likely to come from us in the form of a statement, I would imagine quite soon, so I don’t want to prejudge what that would say, except what I have already said so far:  this is something that has been unfolding just in the last few hours, therefore it is being looked at very closely and if there are any ramifications, if there are any further thoughts, if there is analysis that needs to be done, that will be done, but I don’t have anything specific right now.  It is a relatively recent development.

Question:  The reason I… and… and… and obvious… maybe there’ll… is this… this idea of the human rights diligence policy still continuing to try to get somewhere on it, but I… I… so I really… I want to kind of reiterate this question of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] and MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is… is… are they going to provide an answer on which units they worked with and which units, to their knowledge, were present in Minova during… during this… these rapes?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the last part, as you have heard there are investigations under way.  Representations have been made to the authorities in Kinshasa.  Once there are more details available on those investigations, then obviously we would say more.  At this point, I don’t have anything further.  And on the broader point, we’ve spoken about that policy that there is, that policy is in place and that policy will continue to be implemented.

Question:  But how can the policy be… be assessed I guess from the outside if MONUSCO is unwilling to say which units it worked with?  I mean there are a lot of, not just UN sources, but Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Congolese human rights groups that are… that have looked at… at FARDC [Congolese Armed Forces] units.  Is there some problem with simply saying these are the units we work with and seeing if there is some… some… some issues with them?

Spokesperson:  I think I answered that question, evidently not to your satisfaction, but I did answer that question the other day.

Correspondent:  [inaudible] asking DPKO, that’s why I am asking you again.

Spokesperson:  Well, that’s part of the answer, the other part of the answer I am not going to reiterate here, except to say that if something is under investigation, you don’t then open up the entire FARDC to the same allegations.  That’s what I am trying to say.  Any other questions?  Yes, Erol?

Question:  Martin, recently, in previous weeks, there were two-three very important decisions by international courts… excuse me, the former high tribunal, for the crimes in former Yugoslavia on the generals in Croatia, Croatian generals and the leadership from Kosovo, and President of the General Assembly had lot of to say regarding that.  He was obviously disappointed, but does the Secretary-General have anything to say on that?  And did he follow that in a way having all this on his plates… on his plate or other issues from the [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General is obviously briefed on rulings by the different tribunals that there are, including the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, but he obviously does not himself pass judgement on those rulings.  Those rulings are for the courts, the Tribunal, whatever the name of that particular institution may be in that particular case.  And I don’t speak for the President of the General Assembly; he has a Spokesperson.  I would refer you to him on that aspect.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General aware about the comments that the President of the General Assembly made regarding…?

Spokesperson:  As I say, the Secretary-General is well briefed on developments relating to the Tribunal, but you need to the President of the General Assembly’s Spokesperson.

Question:  If I may, only just one more follow-up?

Spokesperson:  Please.

Question:  There is also a decision from 1993 made by then Secretary-General, I think it was Boutros-Ghali, that since there is a specific nature of the crimes made in former Yugoslavia, those who are going to be indicted, they are not going to be able, or be allowed to serve their sentence… their… their term in prison in Yugoslavia.  But there was obviously very strong statement from… made from the Government of Serbia that they are actually requesting those who are sentenced to go back to serve their term in Serbia.  According to them, and to many media, it is in hands of the Secretary-General.  They may appeal to the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General can decide on that.  So what can you say about that?

Spokesperson:  I would need to check on that.  I don’t know, I don’t have anything on that.  Okay, one last question, Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I want… I wanted to ask you about the… the mission in Guinea-Bissau.  Mr. Mutaboba, who said here last week that… that his term had simply run out and he’d come back for debriefing.  And today in front of the Security Council, the Permanent Representative of Portugal, Mr. Cabral, I asked him, you know, did he think that Mr.… whether Mr. Mutaboba was thrown out of the country, and he said I think the Secretariat was very concerned with his safety after what they said about him.  I think what the Secretariat did was prudent.  So I mean, congratulations if… if… I guess on his behalf, for being… for being prudent, but is there… is… how is this consistent?  Was… in any way is… is Mr. Cabral wrong or was the decision to remove Mr. Mutaboba in some sense a response to… to… to perceived threats by the current post-coup Government to his safety?  And I don’t… now that he is out, I am not trying to cause him any problems, I am just wondering, what can you… what do you say to this quote?

Spokesperson:  Perish the thought, Matthew.  The questions you asked Eduardo last week on Friday were answered and I don’t have anything to add to that.  Thanks very much, indeed.  Thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.

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