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

13 March 2013

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

13 March 2013
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.


The UN High Commissioner for Refugees is in Jordan today, where he urged donor nations to approve extraordinary funds to help Syrian refugees and host countries.  António Guterres warned of devastating consequences — for both the Syrian people and for regional stability — if funding levels do not rise.

While in Jordan, the High Commissioner held meetings with King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister.  The country hosts more than 450,000 Syrian refugees.  Mr. Guterres said that even though the growing refugee population was straining Jordan socially and economically, it had been a pillar of regional stability and had a remarkable record of helping refugees prior to this current crisis.  There is more information on the website of the UN refugee agency.

**Security Council

This afternoon at 3 p.m., the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General for Sierra Leone, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, will present the tenth report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL) to the Security Council, followed by consultations.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

Research by human rights officers working for the UN Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo indicates that the number of deaths in detention almost doubled in 2012, and that conditions remain extremely poor in the vast majority of detention centres.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said that people deprived of their liberty should never be allowed to die of hunger or ill-treatment.

The report reminds the Government of its obligations to protect and take care of people in detention, and points out that it is the State’s responsibility to ensure that their basic needs are satisfied, particularly those that, if neglected, might result in loss of life.  The report placed much of the blame on the rampant corruption and lack of transparency affecting the management of prisons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Roger Meece, welcomed practical measures taken by the Government to remedy the situation, including the suspension of high-ranking officials suspected of corruption.

**Human Rights

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navy Pillay, addressed the Human Rights Council today on what she called the profoundly negative impact of corruption on human rights.  She noted that the money stolen through corruption every year is enough to feed the world’s hungry 80 times over.

The High Commissioner said that corruption in the administration of justice — which permits perpetrators to go unpunished so long as they pay bribes — creates a vicious cycle of crime.  It denies access to justice for victims, it exacerbates inequality, weakens governance and institutions, erodes public trust, fuels impunity and undermines the rule of law.  Her full remarks are available on the website of the UN Human Rights Office.


This afternoon, the Secretary-General will speak at the Global Colloquium of University Presidents, which is being held at New York University this year on the theme of global health.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General is expected to say that the United Nations is working on all fronts to accelerate progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, including the three that are devoted to health.  He will say that the Organization is leading efforts to define a future development agenda that will attend to unfinished business, as well as meet tomorrow’s needs.

The Secretary-General is also expected to say that chronic non-communicable diseases have now overtaken infectious diseases as the leading cause of mortality worldwide and that the United Nations and the international community should consider the emerging threat they pose for development.


The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan today launched an appeal for nearly $1 billion to help some 4.3 million people in the country.  Some 1.4 million people are receiving assistance in camps in Darfur.  Three million children between four and fifteen are not in full time education.  Child malnutrition rates for the whole country are above global emergency levels.  Nearly 60 per cent of the plan will be devoted to meeting needs in Darfur, where more than 3.5 million people will be targeted with aid.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., there will be a press conference here by the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Nasser.  He will brief you on his vision and plans for the Alliance in the next five years.

And then at 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference on the presentation of the outcome statement of the global network on safer cities.  Speakers will include Dr. Joan Clos, the Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat).

That’s it from me.  Questions, please?  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, sir.  Two things.  Number one, situation in India and occupied Kashmir where seven, what do you call, between protesters clash… this is between protesters and Indian police, five policemen apparently were killed.  But this situation is festering for a very long time.  Recently it has escalated.  Has the Secretary-General got anything to say about it and this is now becoming very ominous?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General… we are aware of the reports and the Secretary-General has repeatedly called on all concerned to exercise restraint and to resolve their issues peacefully.  That’s all I have on that.

Question:  And the other question I wanted to ask was about this in Saudi Arabia.  Today, five people were hanged despite appeals by the international community.  Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about it?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is always concerned that people should be subjected to the full process of law, especially in cases that result in execution, which is the ultimate punishment, but I have nothing specifically on this case for you.

Question:  Nothing at all, again?  And the other thing is about Iraq, where the attacks inside Iraq by Al-Qaida are going non-stop.  Everyday, there are 30, 40, 50 people being killed, hundreds being injured.  Has the Secretary-General’s representative over there said anything about escalating violence over there?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Martin Kobler, has spoken out continuously about violence…

Question:  Recently?

Deputy Spokesperson:  …and he has spoken out continuously about violence in Iraq and has called on all sides to exercise maximum restraint and to address their differences peacefully.  There is no room, there is no need, there is no justification for terrorist acts.

Question:  Eduardo, this may be a UNHCR question, but has Mr. Guterres and internal folks at the UN started discussions in terms of Jordan’s absorptive capacity for refugees.  You have 450,000 there are now.  Is there going to be a number, a maximum number, that they can draw in terms of how many more thousands are expected to, to try to get to Jordan from Syria?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, you would have to ask the UNHCR about that.  I don’t have any figures right now on what the absorptive capacity of any of the countries in the region is.  What I can tell you is that overall combined funding for aid inside Syria and the refugee, regional refugee appeal, is currently reported at 20 per cent.  This means committed funding, not pledges.  The regional refugee appeal is 19 per cent funded, with $200 million out of the requested $1.4 billion, and we continue to work proactively with countries to find out how their pledges are being directed.  So we are working on the macro level with respect to the Kuwait pledging conference.  On the micro level, which is the absorptive capacity, and the issues that really affect the refugee agency, you should address your questions to them.  Stefano?

Question:  Yes, thank you very much.  This is about the crisis between Italy and India that is developing in last days about the two marines, Italian marines, that were captured by India.  Now they are in Italy.  India expected the marines to come back, this was the agreement between the two countries.  On the last day, last minute, Italy decided to keep the marines in Italy and they said that for international law, and they mention also the United Nations, for international law of the sea and everything, the way the incident happened where two, unfortunately two Indian fishermen were killed, this is a matter of international law that the marines should be judged in Italy.  Now, the situation is getting… this… today, the Indian Prime Minister said practically that, you know, there is a risk also of diplomatic consequences.  Italy is keeping saying that there is international law which should resolve the problem with international law.  What is the opinion of the United Nations on this and the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is going to limit himself to hoping and calling on both parties to resolve their issues peacefully according to international law.  We do not have first-hand information as to what the situation exactly is between what the Italian Government’s decision-making is based on; that’s something you should consult the Italian Government to find out what they are basing their…

Question:  Now, just to reply, because the Italian Foreign Minister had also, I mean, had recent meetings with the Secretary-General.  And on the last meeting they didn’t talk about that, this particular issue.  But in the past, the Italian Foreign Minister come here to talk directly to Ban Ki-moon about this issue, about the problem of international law.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have anything on that issue.  If we have anything else, we will let you know, Stefano.  Up there?

Question:  Thank you.  Do you have anything on this year’s Commission on the Status of Women outcome document?  And can you explain how the negotiations leading up to that works?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any information on that right now, but we will try and get you something.

Question:  Thank you very much, Mr. del Buey.  Yesterday, in Geneva, the organization UN Watch presented or spearheaded a request signed by 43 prominent former Presidents and Foreign Ministers that the Secretary-General should initiate an investigation in the deaths of two Cuban human rights activists, Harold Cepero and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas of the Liberation… Christian Liberation Movement.  And I wanted to know if this has already gotten to the Secretariat, if this SG is aware of this request for the investigation.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check and get back to you on that, I don’t have any information on that right now.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later confirmed that the petition had been received.]

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as your question is concerned, you might want to ask somebody at UN-Women who could probably give you the information that you are looking for, but we’ll try and see what we can do, and add it to the transcript if we get something.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, Eduardo, I wanted to ask you a couple of things, but first about South Sudan.  There is a… there are two different reports:  there is an Indian press report saying that an Indian Major was shot by rebels in South Sudan, and there is a UN statement saying that a peacekeeper of an unidentified nationality was shot by an unidentified gunman.  I am wondering, do you have that?  Is it the same incident?  Are there two incidents or is it one incident and in fact the shot peacekeeper was from India and was shot by South Sudanese rebels?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, what I can give you is that the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) confirms that a UN peacekeeper was wounded when an unidentified armed group fired on the Mission patrol that was moving from Gurmuk to Pibor in Jonglei State.  The peacekeeper has been evacuated to Juba for further medical treatment.  His situation is stable.  The Mission strongly condemns this attack against its personnel and calls on all parties to respect the freedom of movement of the UN personnel carrying out their mandate and to cooperate with the peacekeepers in their efforts to protect civilians and help establish a stable security environment in Jonglei State.

Question:  Great, because I wanted to ask you one kind of a follow-up on that.  Hilde Johnson, SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General], was here and spoke across the street the other day, and she seems to be describing a situation in which UNMISS, the peacekeeping mission, is either shadowing or accompanying the South Sudan army to go take on the David Yau Yau rebels.  And it was unclear to me, she said that they are not supporting the army’s offensive, but it’s, are somehow going, you know, along with them to protect civilians.  But I wonder, first, does this human rights due diligence policy applies, given that it seems like they are moving in conjunction?  Although it is not called military support, if you are planning, doing military planning with a military unit, one, does the policy apply, and two, does the UN have any concern that it won’t be viewed as an impartial peacekeeping force if it is operating in the fashion I have described?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, Matthew, what I can tell you is that the mission is aware that the SPLA [Sudan People’s Liberation Army] has confirmed that it is redeploying its troops in Jonglei State and to prepare for military operations in the event that a peaceful solution to the David Yau Yau problem does not materialize.  The Mission has observed significant SPLA military movements in the area, and is also aware of ongoing efforts by the Murle leaders, with Government support, to find a peaceful solution.  The UN Mission in South Sudan cannot speak for the SPLA and is not in a position to confirm that the military operations have begun.  That’s all I have.

Question:  Is it calling for restraint?  What I am saying is, normally, the UN, if there is a military build-up, they say restraint, or are they just waiting for the fighting to begin?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, they are calling for restraint, obviously, and as I said, it is also aware of ongoing efforts by Murle leaders to find a peaceful solution.  Okay, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.

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