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

12 November 2013

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

12 November 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.

**Typhoon Haiyan

The Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, arrived in the Philippines today to see first-hand the massive destruction left in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.  She met with President Benigno Aquino and participated in the launch of the Typhoon Haiyan Action Plan in the Philippines today, appealing for $301 million to help the 11.3 million people affected by the disaster.  Nearly 700,000 people have been displaced by the Typhoon, half of whom are in evacuation centres while the rest is staying with host communities or in makeshift shelters.

Ms. Amos said that millions of families have had their lives torn apart by the typhoon.  And she has voiced concern that there are thousands of people who need help that have not yet been able to receive assistance.  She said that it is still too early to determine the full scale of the destruction, but it is clear that the needs are huge and that much more is required to be done.  Ms. Amos spoke to the Secretary-General by telephone this morning.  And she briefed him on the relief efforts so far.  She said that she was intending to visit Tacloban on Wednesday.

** Somalia

The authorities in Somalia say that up to 150 people may have been killed in a cyclone that made landfall on 10 November in the Bari and Nugaal regions of the semi-autonomous region of Puntland.  The Somali President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, has requested international assistance to help an estimated 30,000 people who were affected by the storm, which reportedly destroyed entire villages and killed 100,000 livestock.  Relief efforts are being hampered by heavy rains and blocked roads.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is supporting the task force appointed by the Puntland authorities to coordinate the response.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General will leave Lithuania on Monday, 18 November, for Krakow, Poland.  The Secretary-General will visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former Nazi concentration camp, to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to stress the importance of the UN’s work for genocide prevention, tolerance and peace.

He will then travel to Warsaw to attend the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), where he will speak at the opening of the high-level segment of the Conference and at a number of climate-related events.  On the margins of the Conference, the Secretary-General will hold bilateral meetings with the President, Prime Minister and Minister of Environment of Poland.  He will also meet with officials from a range of countries and regional groups attending the Conference, as well as business and finance leaders and civil society groups.  He will return to New York on Thursday, 21 November.

**Climate Change

And also on the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, the Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, will participate in the Intergenerational Inquiry, a platform for youth delegates to support the climate change movement in Warsaw.

**Security Council

The Security Council, in a unanimous vote this morning, authorized the member States of the African Union to maintain the deployment of the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, until 31 October 2014.  The Council also requested the African Union to increase AMISOM’s force strength from the current level below 18,000 personnel to a maximum of more than 22,000 uniformed personnel.  It also decided to expand the logistical support package for the Mission.

In a separate vote on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Security Council authorized Member States acting through or in cooperation with the European Union to establish a multinational stabilization force in Bosnia for a further period of 12 months, starting today.

**Human Development

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) will launch its regional “Human Development Report on Latin America” in the ECOSOC [Economic and Social Council] Chamber at 1:15 p.m. today.  The report is entitled “Citizen Security with a Human Face:  evidence and proposals for Latin America”.  It finds that the region experienced economic growth and increased crime rates in the past decade.  The report shows new data on how crime and violence affect the region, and it highlights a series of policy recommendations to improve security.  And the event is open to the media.

**UNESCO Election

Irina Bokova was elected today for a second four-year term as Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.  In her first term, she focused UNESCO’s programme on two overarching objectives:  forging a culture of peace, and promoting sustainable development.  And there is more information available on that on UNESCO’s website.  The Secretary-General is writing to the Director-General to congratulate her and to say that he looks forward to continuing to work together on many topics, including the Global Education for All initiative, and on developing the post-2015 development agenda.

Questions, please?  Oleg?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  Ahead of the Secretary-General’s visit to Latvia, there are reports coming out the country of the resid… there are residents which have this controversial status of “non-citizens”.  They have a sent a letter to Ban Ki-moon, asking him to raise the issue in the context with the Latvian authorities and maybe meet with them in person.  Did the Secretary-General receive such a letter, and what is he planning to do?

Spokesperson:  Well, a letter was certainly received, and the Secretary-General encourages the Government to engage with civil society to follow up on the recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review, as well as those of special procedures and treaty bodies, in a holistic manner, and in this context, step up its efforts to address the issue of non-citizenship in the country.  Other questions?  Yes, please, Edie?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  I wonder if you can give us some more details on exactly what role the UN is going to be playing in the Philippines, because from watching some of the footage out there, and listening to our colleagues who are there, nobody seems to be really in charge of this whole relief operation, particularly in Tacloban, after five days.  Is Valerie Amos… is the UN going to step in and try and bring some order into the relief operation?

Spokesperson:  Look, the Emergency Relief Coordinator has, as I mentioned just a short while ago, arrived today in the Philippines, and that’s precisely with the aim of helping to coordinate that relief effort which is already under way by the Philippines authorities.  And as we mentioned yesterday, and John Ging specifically mentioned, the Philippines authorities have done a tremendous job in extremely difficult circumstances.  You have to remember that this is a country of thousands of islands — some big, some small — and they are very difficult to reach if, for example, airports are not immediately available for use because they have also been damaged.

So there is a lot going on and there are any number of different parts of the UN system on the ground helping the Philippine authorities themselves.  And that’s why there was this coordinated action plan announced today.  It brings together funding requirements from something on the order of 20 different organizations — so, within the UN system and also non-governmental organizations.  There are more details available on that on the website of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  They put up regular situation reports, which I would certainly recommend people to look at because it does provide a good picture.  And as I did just mention, Ms. Amos, in a telephone conversation with the Secretary-General, said that she would be visiting Tacloban herself on Wednesday.  It is an indication of the difficulties faced by all humanitarian workers and relief workers in getting to the scene that she will be flying there by helicopter, courtesy of one of the countries that has come to help the Philippines; so I think this gives you an indication.

Furthermore, just very briefly, as we have said, more than 11 million people affected, nearly 700,000 displaced, so these are large numbers.  And of course, as you know, the typhoon itself was of a magnitude that people have not probably seen in living memory, if at all.

So the scale of the destruction, as Ms. Amos has said, is truly devastating.  That makes it extremely difficult to get there to where you need to be, and she herself has said that that’s one of her chief concerns, that people have not received aid in some cases where they desperately need it.  Everybody is aware of that, it’s a question of being able to marshal the resources you have and to get to the locations you can as quickly as you can.  Not easy, but I know that people are doing the very best that they can.  Okay, yes, Matthew?  And then I am coming to you.  Yes?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask about the… the… one about the… the… the Kampala process that… that… where… where, from the UN’s point of view, it stands.  Last week, it was said that the UN expected some type of agreement to be reached, and then now… now… now… the DRC [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] has said it won’t sign an agreement, only a declaration, and seems to have left the talks.  What… and I saw the statement by the envoys, but I want to understand what this idea of a… does the UN believe that at this stage an agreement should be signed between the DRC and the M23, or should it only be a declaration?

Spokesperson:  Well, the parties agreed on all of the substantive points, but they did not agree on the wording of the agreement.  So the Government wanted to call it “conclusions”, while the M23 wanted to call it an “agreement”.  And so this is something that is going to be referred, as I understand it, to the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region.  And what we have said, and what the envoys said that there were no differences, as I just mentioned, on substantive points, they couldn’t agree on the format.  And so it is still absolutely vital to reach a political conclusion.  And the envoys have urged the parties to remain committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict.  And the envoys — let us make sure we understand who they are — it is not just the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC, Martin Kobler, nor is it just the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region of the Secretary-General, Mary Robinson, but it is also the Special Representatives of the African Union, the European Union and the United States.  So this is a broad range of representatives.

Question:  Sure.  And also just on this issue of… of what reprisals or… attacks and arrests in Bunagana and Kiwanja, has there been… can MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] say anything now, 24 hours later, in terms of verifying…?

Spokesperson:  Well, we said… we said they were verifying.  If I have anything further, I will let you know.  I don’t have anything further at this point, but as we mentioned yesterday after the briefing, they are certainly trying to verify the reports.  There are quite a number of reports, including on social media.  They cannot necessarily be taken at face value, they need to be verified, and that’s what the Mission is trying to do.  Other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  My question is on the Human Rights Council election.  Do you have any reaction of the Secretary-General to the… to the result of the election?  Fourteen countries are elected, including several countries which has been… have been heavily criticized that they don’t meet criteria of the Human Rights Council members on the grounds of their human rights track record.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you know what I am going to say:  that this is a matter for Member States.  This was voting procedure in the General Assembly involving all 193 Member States and, therefore, it is for the Member States to determine who are the members of the Human Rights Council, are and it is for them to explain the voting that took place.  Thank you very much.  Yes?  [upon seeing a correspondent’s microphone is not working]  Try another one.  I’ll come back to you, I’ll come back to you, I’ll come back to you.  Okay, yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I wanted to… I did… yesterday you said to listen to what the Secretary-General said and… and said to Member States, so I did and he did now name this document of rights, you know…

Spokesperson:  Rights Up Front.

Question:  Rights Up Front, okay, so it does exist.  I wanted to know if, just if you can say, is it… is it… is it… will it be a formally public document?  Will there be earlier the Dep… the Deputy Secretary-General had said that it might be released once some part of it had been implemented, I just wanted to know how do… given that he said this is going to go out through the system, what… what… what… what are the next steps?  And also, I just wanted… I know I asked you yesterday about the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, I wanted to be more specific.  There have been various complaints raised in the run-up to a… of restrictions on the press, there was a BBC report about, not 2009, but 2013 abductions and rapes committed by the Government, so my question is really just what… what’s the Secretary-General’s current thinking, not simply, not about what he said about the study of 2009 about… but the current issues that are very much being raised?  Does he have… especially on press freedom, can he say anything?  Thanks, that’s the question.

Spokesperson:  Well, with regard to the second part, I will come back to you on that.  I don’t have anything specific at this point.  On the first question, yes, you did listen and you did hear.  And it is known as the Rights Up Front Action Plan, and this was the Secretary-General’s intention to explain to Member States in a little bit of detail what this is about.  And of course more detail will be provided to Member States in the near future.  And likewise, I would anticipate that we will also be able to brief the media in a little bit more detail, but not right now.  And certainly the key part of this is to ensure that it is implemented.  And there has been a concerted effort within the UN family, all the different parts of the United Nations system that have been working on this, to do precisely that.  And there is a clear commitment amongst the senior leadership to make that happen.  So the focus at the moment is on what is an important internal process with external ramifications; the focus is on implementing.  And certainly, the intention is both to brief Member States in more detail and, of course, in due course, the media as well.  Okay, yes, does it work?

Correspondent:  Yes, I finally found one.

Spokesperson:  Well done.  Okay.

Question:  I wanted to go back to the Philippines briefly, and the appeal for, if I understood well, $301 million.  Have you heard any country already stepping in or promises?  How good or how bad does it look about the collection of this money?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think I would defer to my colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  On their website, you can see almost in real time the amounts that are required and that are received.  You will know, for example, that already yesterday, the Emergency Relief Coordinator announced an allocation of $25 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund.  That’s an early starter, if you like, and it provides time-critical funds that are

needed to help the humanitarian community reach as many people as possible with lifesaving supplies and services.  So, just to give you an idea, amongst the 20 organizations that include UN agencies and International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent societies, the International Office for Migration and nine non-governmental organizations, they have put together projects in about 15 different areas.  And this covered food, shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene.  And the overall goal of this action plan is to provide materials, services and a safe and healthy living environment until reconstruction restores normality and self-reliance.  So the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ms. Amos, has said that there is already a tremendous outpouring both of solidarity and, of course, crucially important supplies and assistance and offers of assistance.  Clearly, the requirements are huge and, therefore, it is going to be important that donors are even more generous in the coming hours, days and weeks ahead.  But do check the website of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  I know that they will have some details there.  Other questions, please?  Yes, Matthew?  I’m just going to receive a piece of paper, and… All right, okay, yeah?

Question:  Sure.  Can I ask on… on Lebanon and also on UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force], if it is possible?  On Lebanon, I just… I just wanted to know, it… it’s been said publicly by the Government in Lebanon that they’re protesting what they see as spy stations erected by Israel along… along the border, and I wondered, given UNIFIL [United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon] and given Mr. [Derek] Plumbly, what is… does the UN have any view of this… of this complaint that Lebanon is making that it… you know, it could… it could hack into banking systems, they… they want this… this, what they call spy stations removed?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything on that.  I’ll check and see if our colleagues in Beirut have anything on that.

Question:  Okay, and UNDOF question is just, I… I wasn’t aware of this, but it has been raised to me that… that… I know that there are… there have been issues of UNDOF and… and injured peop… in… in… ind… injured individuals and… and… and it’s now… I wanted to know, what does UNDOF do when… when a person who is injured, ei… ei… either in fighting or a civilian injured through fighting, approaches them, it’s… I… I have been told that actually they get… they’re sent… in… in some instances, they’re turned away to sort of avoid allegations from either side of taking sides, but is there just a sort of implicit protection of civilians mandate of UNDOF and what… what’s the… what’s the… the… the… the sort of protocol when… when an ind… when an injured individual, either a fighter or a civilian, approaches UNDOF?

Spokesperson:  I’ll need to check on that.  I do believe that we do have something on that, but I would need to check first, okay?  Any other questions?  All right, thanks very much.  Have a good afternoon.  Thank you.

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force has provided medical treatment, including immediate first aid and emergency treatment, to civilians on a strictly humanitarian basis.  Further details can be found in the March, June and September 2013 reports of the Secretary-General on UNDOF.]

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