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

21 May 2013

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

21 May 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.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Oklahoma City

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Oklahoma City tornado.

The Secretary-General was deeply saddened to hear of the death and destruction in Oklahoma City as a result of Monday’s tornado.  He sends his deepest condolences to those who have lost loved ones and to everyone affected by the storm.

The Secretary-General has written to the Governor of Oklahoma, Mary Fallin, to express his solidarity and to offer the assistance of the United Nations, if requested, to help with the recovery efforts.

**Secretary-General in Mozambique

Today, the Secretary-General met with Mozambican President Armando Guebuza.  They discussed a wide range of topics, including developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo [DRC] and Madagascar, as well as in Mozambique.  The Secretary-General praised the President and the country for the progress made over the past 20 years.  The Secretary-General briefed reporters after that meeting, and he said that the clashes in the eastern DRC show how urgent it was to implement the framework agreement for the DRC and Great Lakes region.

The Secretary-General has also visited a school in Maputo, where he met many students and discussed his “UNiTE” campaign to end violence against women and girls.  He also delivered a lecture at Mozambique’s International Relations Institute and answered questions from students.

Tomorrow, the Secretary-General travels to the DRC, where he will join with the President of the World Bank, Jim Kim, for talks with Congolese leaders.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

The United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) informs that this morning for the second day, fighting between M23 and Congolese forces has resumed in Mutaho, 12 kilometres from Goma.  MONUSCO is actively continuing its diplomatic and political efforts at all levels to contain and end these clashes.  The Mission has expressed strong concerns about this development while actively intervening to seek de-escalation of this situation.  MONUSCO is closely monitoring the situation and calls for restraint.

** Great Lakes Region

Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of Africa, expressed her concern today about the recent outbreak of fighting in locations near Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.  She said that the suffering and displacement of people, especially women and children, in the eastern Congo and beyond have gone on for too long and cannot be tolerated any further.

The Special Envoy proposed a set of principles today to guide the immediate efforts to tackle the crisis in the region, while maintaining a focus on long-term solutions.  Those proposals are informed by her recent visit to the region.  She urged the DRC and all other parties to implement their commitments under a recently adopted framework agreement with a focus on a peaceful solution to the crisis in the eastern DRC and the region.  We have a press release with more details in our office.

** Niger

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said today that a cholera epidemic declared by the Government of Niger on 11 May has left seven people dead in the west of the country, including two Malian refugees.  Outbreaks of cholera are recurrent in Niger, which is currently hosting some 50,000 Malian refugees, including 31,000 in three camps in the Tillaberi region.

The refugee agency is responding to the outbreak in the camps by implementing emergency health and sanitation measures, such as increasing the supply of clean water.  It says that more drugs are urgently needed to treat potential new cases.  A cholera epidemic last year affected 5,287 people and killed 110 throughout Niger.  There is more information available on the refugee agency’s website.

** Egypt

Poverty and food insecurity have risen significantly in Egypt in the past three years, according to the World Food Programme and other organizations.  A joint report by the World Food Programme and the country’s Government found that nearly 14 million Egyptians — or 17 per cent of the population — suffered from food insecurity in 2011, compared to 14 per cent in 2009.  Data also shows that between 2009 and 2011, some 15 per cent of the population moved into poverty.  There is more information on the World Food Programme’s website.


The Deputy Secretary-General said that diverse actors of society are key to building resilience to disasters and making our communities safer.  He said this at the opening of the Global Platform for Disaster Risk Reduction in Geneva this morning.

He noted that the United Nations is committed to reducing the risks stemming from disasters in the world and he said that least developed and small island developing States face the added burden of high vulnerability and exposure to hazards.  The Deputy Secretary-General also expressed sympathy to the people of Oklahoma hit by the recent tornado.  His full remarks are available online.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., in this room, there will be a press conference by the High-Level Committee on South-South Cooperation to highlight the upcoming Sixth Global South-South Development Expo.

At 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Braulio de Souza Dias, Executive Director of the Convention on Biological Diversity and Ambassador Regina Maria Cordeiro Dunlop, the Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil, on the occasion of the International Day of Biodiversity.

Questions, please?  Nizar?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  About the Jordan decision of the [inaudible] Syrian refugees:  has the Secretary-General been in contact with the Jordanian authorities to change their mind or has there been any alternative arrangement for these refugees…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and staff are in contact with Jordanian authorities and I would invite you to look at the Geneva website to see what they had to say on that this morning.

Question:  Another issue regarding the skirmishes that took place this morning in the Syrian Golan, between the Israelis and the Syrians… authorities.  Has there been any information from UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] coming to you regarding that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, we have not received any information from UNDOF to date.  However, it underscores once again the dangers of the Syrian conflict spilling over the borders, and the Secretary-General, as always, will call on both sides to exercise maximum restraint to ensure this doesn’t happen.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I have some questions about the Great Lakes.  One is this fighting that’s near Goma, are these… the two battalions that were involved in the rapes in Minova, the 391 and 41 battalions, involved in the fighting to MONUSCO’s knowledge?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll have to find out.

Question:  Also, will there be… in the Rwanda leg of the trip, is there a State dinner planned for the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I really don’t know what the plan is.  I know he is visiting Rwanda…

Question:  [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson: …meeting President Kagame, but I really don’t know what the details are, Matthew.

Question:  Okay.  And I also wanted to ask you, in this third stop, Uganda they recently the… the Daily Monitor and two radio stations were closed.  One was besieged and two were closed by the Government for reporting that President Museveni’s son may… may run to replace him.  So given, you know, this press freedom and he is about to go there, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the… on the closure of radio stations and the besieging of a newspaper in Uganda?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we have nothing on this particular case, but as you know, the Secretary-General believes firmly that journalists must be allowed to conduct their business freely and without fear of persecution and intimidation.

Question:  Do you think it is the kind of thing he might take note of while he is there?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not going to prejudge what he may take note of; we’ll see what happens.

Question:  So, what happens?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Nizar?

Question:  Do you think that the United Nations can do anything to allow the civilians who are trapped in [inaudible], in the town of Quasayr is witnessing heavy fighting there?  Do you think that… will the United Nations… could play a role in order to evacuate the civilians from there?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, we don’t have a military mission there, so we don’t have the capacity to evacuate people.  We would call on all sides to end the violence.  Basically, this has been the question for the past few years now, Nizar.  The violence has to end.  The people of Syria are paying an enormous price for the violence on both sides and it has to end.

Question:  [inaudible] excuse my ignorance, but where is Mr. Brahimi and what is he doing?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Brahimi is meeting with leaders, he is working hard with the Secretary-General and with the Russians and the Americans and other leaders in trying to get this conference on Syria together, and that is what he is doing, basically.

Question:  But, where is he?

Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sorry?

Question:  Where is he?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t know where he is right now, I couldn’t tell you.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that Mr. Brahimi is in Cairo.]

Correspondent:  Okay, all right.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew?

Question:  I want to ask you about the… the Wasserstrom whistleblower case that this was with some… it was announced… it was ruled on that he was retaliated against.  Now it is… it is reported that the… the Secretary-General has appealed.  What I wanted to know is, what’s the relation… he also… the Secretary-General also announced that he was hiring some… or some outside consultants were going to advise the UN on how to better protect whistleblowers or how to revamp whistleblower protection.  What’s the relation between this appeal, which many people see as… as kind… as basically a statement that, even where in the rare cases whistleblowers are found to have been retaliated against, there is just automatic appeals being filed?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Matthew, I am not going to comment on that situation; it is under appeal, and we don’t comment on them.

Question:  How about the consultant, has the consultant been hired and what’s the, what have they done to date?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to check on that for you.

Correspondent:  Okay, that would be good.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the United Nations Secretariat has engaged Justice Louise Otis of Canada to conduct an independent review of the Organization’s protection-against-retaliation policy for the purpose of issuing recommendations to the Secretary-General to enhance policy effectiveness.  Justice Otis is an expert in international administrative law, and formally served on the Redesign Panel on the United Nations Administration of Justice System.  Justice Otis’ review is currently under way, and her final report is expected to be delivered to the Secretary-General later in the year.]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  Have a good afternoon.

Question:  Can I ask one more?  Madagascar question, Madagascar?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you.

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