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

24 October 2013

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

24 October 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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.  Welcome to the briefing.

**United Nations Day

It is United Nations Day today.  And this morning, the Secretary-General was in Times Square, here in New York, along with United Nations staff who handed out UN promotional material to passers-by.  And they were also there to watch as the NASDAQ billboard displayed the UN messages.  And that was around 10 o’clock this morning, and those messages will be repeated on that billboard at just after 4:25 p.m. this afternoon.  And in his message for the day, the Secretary-General says that United Nations Day is a chance to recognize how much the Organization contributes to peace and common progress, but it is also a time to reflect on what more we can do to realize our vision for a better world for all.

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding consultations this morning on the situation in Sudan and South Sudan, and on sanctions in Côte d’Ivoire.  This afternoon, Council members expect to discuss the implementation of resolution 1559 (2004), concerning Lebanon.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

The UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, says it is extremely concerned about persistent reports of child recruitment by armed groups in the country.  It calls on all actors to help stop and prevent this grave violation against children.

According to a report published today, almost 1,000 cases of child recruitment by armed groups were verified by MONUSCO between 1 January last year and 31 August this year, predominantly in North Kivu.  Children who were victim of recruitment within the ranks of these armed groups were also victims and witnesses of other grave child rights violations, such as rape, abduction, killing and maiming.  And there is more information available online.

** Sudan — Polio

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan, Ali al-Za'tari, has welcomed the official confirmation of the Government of Sudan's agreement that a polio vaccination campaign will start on 5 November in South Kordofan and Blue Nile States.  No polio vaccination programmes have taken place in these areas so far.  The World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have put in place plans to vaccinate children under the age of five in these areas.

**South Sudan

And in South Sudan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that, during the inter-communal violence earlier this week in Twic County, in Jonglei State, humanitarian organizations evacuated nearly 50 wounded people for medical treatment.  They are now preparing to respond to other urgent needs resulting from the violence.

And meanwhile, some 150,000 people are in need of assistance in seven states across the country following severe flooding.  Humanitarian organizations continue to reach tens of thousands of people with aid and have already delivered food assistance and other essential household items.  But, impassable roads are making it hard to reach some communities.

**Press Conferences

And, immediately following the noon briefing, there will be a briefing by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

And then, at 1:15 p.m., the Chair of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, along with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, will brief you.  That is at 1:15 p.m.

And then tomorrow, several more of the various human rights Rapporteurs will be here to brief.  And you will be able to find details of those briefings on our website.

Questions, please?  Yes, Edie?  And then Matthew, yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Martin, there are reports that the United Nations and the French troops in Mali are engaged in some kind of a joint anti-terrorism operation in Mali.  Can you confirm this?

Spokesperson:  I have seen those reports and I am waiting to hear from the Mission precisely what the UN’s role, the peacekeeping Mission’s role, is in that operation or related to that operation.  So, I don’t have the full details yet, but I am hoping to get those details from the Mission, and once we have them, we will let you know, okay.  Yes, Matthew?  And then I am coming to you.

Question:  Sure, Martin, I wanted to ask you, there are… there… there are a couple of stories about the same strain of cholera that was in Haiti has now spread to… to… to Mexico and to Cuba.  One of the stories said it is on its way to the [United States], as well, but the head of PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), so it’s the med… the medical organization, said that it was inevitable that the strain that is in Haiti would… would spread through people working in the country and leaving or otherwise.  And, I wanted to know what, given the UN’s global role and its alleged role in… in the introduction of cholera into Haiti, what’s the UN’s response to the… to the spread of the disease and what steps are being taken?

Spokesperson:  Well, certainly, as you know, there is an initiative to tackle cholera on the island of Hispaniola itself, so in other words, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and I would need to check with my colleagues in the World Health Organization and others to see whether they have any further information on that.  Certainly, there is a clear focus on the need for sanitation work and general health-care work in Haiti in particular.  And I will see if there is anything further that we have on that.  Yes, please?

Question:  Irina Gelevska, Macedonian TV.  On the name issue between Macedonia and Greece, as you know, Ambassador [Matthew] Nimitz has a meeting with both countries today.  But, it is like half a year after the last one.  What the [Secretary-General] is thinking about the dynamic of this pro… talks, whether they are a little bit too late, too little in a year, because it is twice in a year?

Spokesperson:  Well, a solution to the so-called “name” issue is in the interest of both countries, as well as to the Western Balkans as a whole.  The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that these discussions will pave the way for serious negotiations on finding a mutually acceptable resolution to the name issue.  And, as you pointed out, there are discussions taking place, and I believe Mr. Nimitz may also be speaking to you at some point.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Saloua?

Question:   Thank you, Martin.  Is the [Secretary-General] aware of Kuwait’s acceptance of his request to convene the second donor conference on Syria, and did he receive a letter in that regard?  Do you know if there is a target dollar figure, and for how long?

Spokesperson:  I’d need to check.  As far as I know, no correspondence has been received yet, but that could change.  And obviously, with regard to the figures, I think it would be premature, ahead of a donor conference which is not yet formally announced and agreed, to start naming figures.  I think the key point is that there is a fairly considerable shortfall already in the funding for Syria and the surrounding countries, and it is for that reason that is really important to focus efforts on funding that shortfall and looking at the next donor conference.  When we have more details on that, obviously, we will be able to provide them, and I will also check to see whether a letter has been received or not.  Mr. Abbadi, yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  On UN Day, 24 October, today, in addition to the message issued by the Secretary-General, what is DPI (Department of Public Information) doing to counter the assertion that the UN, including the Security Council, is just a debating society?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think just mentioned that one very visible way was to place on the billboard, the NASDAQ billboard right in the middle of Times Square, messages that said very clearly, very plainly, what kind of efforts the United Nations makes in various areas in tackling poverty, on human rights, on peace and security, conflict prevention, environmental matters, very many, and listed there, vaccination programmes.  So, you may wish to wander over to Times Square, but wrap up warm, it’s quite cold, and take a look just after 4:25 p.m., you will be able to see there.  And that is just an example of how you can represent visually to a large audience, people passing by, the work of the United Nations.  And that is being repeated in many locations, many places around the world, with different events being organized by different parts of the United Nations in different countries, because, obviously, it is important for people to understand the practical work that is done by many of our colleagues.  The vast bulk of the UN staff are working in the field, not here at Headquarters, and doing extremely valuable work every day, often in very difficult circumstances.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Oleg?  Yes?

Question:  Thanks, Martin.  We are being told that tomorrow, Valerie Amos is going to brief the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Syria.  Can you confirm that, and is it going to be an open meeting?

Spokesperson:  I have heard similar information, but I can’t confirm it at this point.  I would need to check with my colleagues from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  And of course, even easier for you, presumably, is to check with members of the Security Council, who, after all, would be hosting such a meeting.  Any other questions, please?  I’ll come to Matthew, then back to Mr. Abbadi.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, thanks a lot.  I want to ask you about the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] and also about this… about Myanmar.  On the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo], and it’s kind of a two-pronged question, there are… there are allegations that…that some… that some combatants are being held in detention in… in UN peacekeeping facilities in Bukavu and… and… and elsewhere in eastern Congo.  So, I wanted to know if… if… what DPKO’s (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) response to that is, and also, there seems to be a question of, there is a policy, and I really want to thank you for the… for the human rights due diligence policy, this is another policy that has been cited in connection with this… these cases, it’s called the Interim Standard Operating Procedure on Detention and UN Peace Operations and… and some people more expert than me in this field have said that there is no… that this… they haven’t seen that this policy being public, but that it should… they, they believe that it should be given the… the… the UN’s now role as kind of a combatant in [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] and possibly in Mali.  So, is there a way, one, to get DPKO… do they, in fact, have… have individuals in detention, and two, can their policy on detention be made public if it is not?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out about that.  And with regard to the human rights due diligence policy, it’s very nice of you thank me.  It’s just there online for anybody to see.  What was your question on Myanmar, as you had two questions?  Then I am going to Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Okay, thanks a lot, I appreciate it.  It… it… it… it’s actually a meeting that Mr.… I am told Mr. [Vijay] Nambiar met with the Kachin Baptist Convention, it’s a… they’re… they’re villagers in a far part of Kachin that… that are… are reported to be trapped by fighting and… and… and they made an… a plea… they say to… to Mr. Nambiar for the UN to somehow get involved, but they re… get… get out… out of this area, and I am wondering what… what’s been done since that?  It was done earlier in October before the mid-point of the month and I wanted to… to… to… to know what if anything has been done.

Spokesperson:  I’ll check with Mr. Nambiar, who, as you know, has been in the region quite recently, so let me see about that.  Mr. Abbadi?  And then I’ll come to you, Edie.  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction or comments regarding, first, that Iran has decided not to enrich uranium to 20 per cent?  And two, that Kuwait would be happy to replace Saudi Arabia in the Security Council?  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Well, on the first, I think the correct address for that would be the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and, as I understand it, they are not commenting at this stage, and so I don’t think that we would.  And with regard to Kuwait, that… first of all, I think it is rather premature, and secondly, it would be a matter for Member States in any case.  Yes?

Question:  Also, Martin, just a quick follow-up on Saudi Arabia.  Has the Secretary-General, the [General Assembly] or the Security Council received a letter from Saudi Arabia regarding the seat?

Spokesperson:  No, no and no.  Okay?  Yes?

Question:  [inaudible]

Correspondent:  We can’t hear you.

Spokesperson:  You are not using the microphone, I am sorry.  Thank you, at the back there.

Question:  I am just wondering if… would… you would confirm that Saudi Arabia is seeking guidance from the legal department, UN legal department, on how to write such a letter… how… in any form…

Spokesperson:  Not to my knowledge.  We can check, but you could also check with the Saudi Mission.  But, let me look into that, I am not aware of anything along those lines.

Okay, thank you very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

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