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

26 November 2013

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

26 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, everyone.  Welcome to the briefing.

**Noon Guest

As you can see, today I am joined by Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  Welcome back, Ms. Zerrougui.  Ms. Zerrougui is here to brief on her recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, obviously, I will pass the floor to Ms. Zerrougui in a second to make some introductory remarks and then we can open it up to questions.  After Ms. Zerrougui has finished with her briefing to you, I will have another few items and we will be able to take some questions, as well.  But, first of all, welcome back and the floor is yours.

[The press conference by Ms. Zerrougui is issued separately.]

**Trip Announcement

The Secretary-General will depart New York for a visit to Lima, Peru, on Sunday.  On Monday, in Lima, he will attend the opening session of the General Conference of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), which was established as a specialized agency in Lima in 1975, when the first Lima Declaration was adopted.  This marks the first time in 20 years that the UNIDO General Conference will take place outside of its Vienna headquarters and in a developing country.

The Secretary-General will also take part in the adoption of the second Lima Declaration, in which Member States will deepen their commitment towards achieving inclusive and sustainable industrial development.  Its outcome will serve as the Organization’s contribution to the post-2015 development process.  On the margins of the Conference, the Secretary-General will meet with the President of Peru and he’s also scheduled to hold other bilateral meetings.

On Tuesday, 3 December, the Secretary-General will visit a project aimed at bolstering resilience to climate change by planting native tree species and restoring environmentally degraded areas to a productive state.  Peru will host the UN climate change conference next year, 2014.  The Secretary-General will return to New York on the evening of the same day, Tuesday, 3 December.

**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels

Later today, the Deputy Secretary-General will fly to Brussels to participate in the European Development Days on behalf of the Secretary-General.  During his visit, he will meet with the President of the European Commission, with the European Commissioner for development and the Commissioner for environment, as well as other officials and Ministers attending the event.

And then tomorrow, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Geneva to speak at a meeting of the International Organization for Migration.  And that’s their Council session.  And again, that will be on behalf of the Secretary-General.  And the Deputy Secretary-General will return to New York on 28 November.

**Security Council

The Security Council held consultations this morning on the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), concerning Lebanon.  Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed Council members on recent developments there.  The Security Council is also discussing the work of the Somalia/Eritrea Sanctions Committee this morning.  And then this afternoon, the Council will hold a formal meeting, followed by consultations, on Guinea-Bissau.

** Philippines

As we enter the third week of the emergency response to Typhoon Haiyan, the World Food Programme (WFP) is extending its reach to those in need on outlying islands in the Philippines with airlifts, ferry services and trucks.  In the past two weeks, WFP has dispatched more than 4,000 tons of rice and more than 100 tons of high energy biscuits for distribution by partners.  And the World Food Programme-managed United Nations Humanitarian Air Service is operating two helicopters and a nine-passenger plane out of Cebu, with the aim of helping with that relief effort.

The UN refugee agency is working with authorities to prevent congestion in overcrowded evacuation centres.  Thousands of people had been evacuated to public buildings, such as stadiums, schools and churches, ahead of the typhoon.  Many have since left, but some 240,000 people still remain in some 1,100 evacuation centres, according to the authorities in the Philippines.

** Egypt

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that a new law regulating demonstrations in Egypt could lead to serious breaches of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.  And she said that the law must be amended.  She expressed particular concern at the provisions on the use of force by law enforcement officials and the excessive sanctions which can be imposed on those found to be in breach of this law.  The High Commissioner said that no one should be criminalised for addressing human rights through peaceful protest.  And she urged the authorities to amend or repeal the law.  And her full statement is available online.

**Human Rights

[ United States] hip hop artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have joined the UN Free & Equal Campaign, which seeks to encourage greater respect for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.  The UN Free & Equal Campaign seeks to raise awareness about homophobic and transphobic violence and discrimination.  Macklemore and Lewis are well known for their song, “Same Love”, which celebrates same-sex relationships and quickly became an anthem for LGBT equality.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has more information on this announcement.


The Secretary-General and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim will speak to the media tomorrow at 11:50 a.m. on action to catalyse financing for the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative.  This press stakeout will take place in the Delegates Dining Room here at United Nations Headquarters.

The Sustainable Energy for All initiative was launched by the Secretary-General in 2011.  And it seeks to achieve universal access to modern energy services, double the improvement rate of energy efficiency and double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.  This stakeout will be webcast live on UN WebTV.  There’s a more detailed media advisory available in my office.

**Press Conference

And as result of this stakeout, there won’t be a noon briefing tomorrow.  What there will be, at 12:30 p.m., is an end-of-presidency press briefing by Ambassador Liu Jieyi, the Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations, and of course, President of the Security Council for this month of November.  So, as I mentioned, no noon briefing tomorrow and likewise, because of Thanksgiving here in the [ United States], there will be no briefing on Thursday or on Friday.  But I’m here now, and will be on Monday, as well.  Oleg, yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  There was an announcement today by the Russian Foreign Ministry that Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq will be invited to the consultations in Geneva on 20 December, I guess in the Palais.  Can you confirm, please?  And are there any other participants in this meeting?

Spokesperson:  I can’t confirm that at this point.  As I said yesterday, this is a topic that is still under discussion.  The list of invitees — of course, it will be the Secretary-General who is doing the inviting and so those discussions do continue.  We’ve said consistently that the neighbouring countries have an important role to play, as do some other regional players and indeed, those neighbouring countries were involved in the preceding meeting; not the one that took place yesterday in Geneva, but the preceding meeting with the [United States] and the Russian authorities and then with the permanent five members of the Security Council.  You’ll recall that the four neighbouring countries did also take part in a meeting so their role is clearly important, but at this point, I don’t have a list of invited countries or organizations to announce.  When we get to that point, I will certainly do so, or do so on behalf of the Secretary-General.

Question:  One follow-up, just to confirm:  we’re talking about the consultations on 20 December, yes?

Spokesperson:  Yes, consultations on 20 December.  Again, I do not know the answer to that.  There is already a precedent, as I just explained, but this is something that I’m sure will be worked out in the coming days.  Okay, other questions please?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  This is a question I had hoped to ask yesterday on the International Day against Violence against Women.  There’s a case, a high-profile case, in Somalia, where, for a second time, a woman, in this case a journalist, alleging rape has been arrested, as well as the journalist that interviewed her making the charge.  And I wanted to know, particularly, since there’s the Mission there, what does the UN say about this case?  Have they spoken to the Government?  What do they think about it? 

Spokesperson:  Well, following the reported arrest of an alleged rape victim and a journalist who interviewed her, the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) reports that it’s following this case closely.  It’s in close contact with the authorities and individuals connected with it.  According to the Mission, the full facts of this case are not yet clear, but the information available so far gives cause for concern over the handling of the case and the rights of those involved.  Any individual in detention should be given access to legal representation and be either charged or promptly released.  Allegations of rape should be properly investigated and the freedom of journalists to report responsibly on this topic should be respected.  Okay.  Other questions, please?  Yes?

Question:  I wanted to also ask you, there’s been about several hundred people either of Haitian decent, or thought to be of Haitian decent, ejected from the Dominican Republic and there’s reports of unrest on the border.  But, I wondered whether the UN has any view of this trend.  There’s a law passed, but now there just seems to be unilateral expulsion of Haitians.

Spokesperson:  Well, I think you may recall that the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN refugee agency have both expressed their concern that the ruling of the Dominican Republic Constitutional Court may deprive tens of thousands of people of nationality and virtually all of them of Haitian descent, and may have a very negative impact on their other rights.  So, the UN human rights office said that the decision could have disastrous implications for people of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic, leading such individuals in a state of constitutional limbo and potentially leaving tens of thousands of them Stateless and without access to basic services for which identity documents are required.  And for its part, the UN refugee agency said that, by virtue of being Stateless, a person can be denied many of the rights and privileges taken for granted as a national of a country, including the right to vote, the right to travel outside of one's country and even the right to access to basic services.  Any other questions?  Yes, please?

Question:  Thank you, Martin.  China set up its air defence identification zone already over the disputed island between Japan and China.  And, actually I got the news that the [ United States] plane has flown over this zone recently, so does Secretary-General have any comment on that?

Spokesperson:  Well, there are quite a number of territorial disputes in North-East Asia, in the Asia-Pacific region and indeed in many other parts of the world, and the Secretary-General expects that those disputes should be resolved amicably through dialogue and negotiations, and in full accordance with international law.  The parties concerned should approach those issues with a good will and in a constructive spirit.  That’s what I have for you, okay?  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I wanted… two questions, I wanted to ask.  One, maybe we’ll have it or maybe there will be a comment… you read out the comment on the Egyptian law against public protest.  There’s a law in Turkey that’s being considered that would criminalize medical treatment without the authorization of the Government, even if done by a licensed doctor and many people are saying this is a response to the crackdown or to the treatment given to protesters in Occupy Gezi and other things.  So doctors groups have written to the Turkish Government and said this would violate their rights as doctors to practice.  But, I wonder, does the UN system see as sort of an indirect restriction on protest, i.e. medical treatment to protestors if they’re tear-gassed, in the same way, and is there any comment on this Turkish proposal?

Spokesperson:  Not at the moment, but I will certainly look into that, Matthew.

Question:  The other… I’m sorry, I won’t give the number of days, but I’m still… this idea of whether UN peacekeeping has standing claims commissions in any of its missions around the world.  It seems like… I understand there may be a longer explanation of whatever answer is given, but is it possible to just get an answer on whether any exist or not?

Spokesperson:  I’ll look into it, alright?  Yes, please?

[The Spokesperson later confirmed that no peacekeeping mission has a claims commission in place.]

Question:  Hi.  Yesterday, the Deputy Secretary-General said the situation in the Central African Republic is descending into chaos and the French representative said that he would circulate a resolution on creating a peacekeeping force there last night, but he also said that it might take up to three months for that to be formulated.  From the Secretary-General’s Office, can you give any timeframe on that?

Spokesperson:  No.  Obviously, a resolution is in the hands of the Council and so it is not possible really for me to put a timeframe on that.  What you’ll recall the Deputy Secretary-General saying yesterday is that there is a keen sense of urgency in all of this and that everything really needs to be done as soon as possible, and he did note that the Government of France is already going to dispatch additional troops to the Central African Republic and that beyond that there is a unified view of the need for a UN peacekeeping operation.  But, the question is when such an operation, in other words, a UN peacekeeping operation, could be on the ground.  So, at the moment, yes, there is a resolution in the works, but that is very much in the hands of the Security Council.  I think you would need to check, not least with the French delegation on their understanding of the timing for this.  Just one final point on this:  the Deputy Secretary-General was extremely clear and eloquent in setting out the dire circumstances in the Central African Republic and the need for urgent action; and I think that what you’ve seen in the Security Council, not just in response, of course, to his remarks, but in part to that, there’s a real sense of purpose and desire to address what is after all and extremely critical situation as quickly as possible.  Any other questions?

Question:  I’m really sorry if I missed this while reading other things.  Did you, and Oleg might have asked this… it seems like General [Salim] Idriss is quoted saying that they will not attend… FSA (Free Syrian Army), and is there a response to what seems to be a pretty major announcement?  And again, I’m sorry if I missed that response.

Spokesperson:  You didn’t.  You didn’t.  I mean, we’re not going to comment on the positions of individual groups, firstly.  But, what’s really important for the success of the conference is that the Syrian sides be represented by credible delegations, and the Secretary-General has made clear, indeed in his statement yesterday, his own expectation for all sides to start working now to take steps to help the Geneva conference succeed, including toward the cessation of violence, humanitarian access, release of detainees and return of Syrian refugees and internally displaced to their homes.   Okay?  Alright, thank you very much.

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