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

9 April 2014

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

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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.


The Secretary-General this morning spoke at the joint thematic debate on the role of partnerships in implementing the post-2015 development agenda.  He emphasized the need to focus not only on what the goals are but how they will be achieved.  Success, he said, will require engaging a range of new partners, and he noted the contributions being made by the private sector and civil society, among others.

He added that his proposal for a Partnerships Facility, submitted to Member States for their consideration and approval, is precisely meant to ensure that the United Nations is equipped both with the capacity needed to harness the strengths of external partners and the ability to ensure a coherent and accountable approach.

His remarks are available in our office and online.

** Central African Republic

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa, Abou Moussa, arrived in Brazzaville, in the Republic of Congo, to continue his assessment of the regional impact of the crisis in the Central African Republic.

He is expected to meet with Government officials, UN agencies and development partners on the ground.

One of the focuses of his mission is the situation of Central African refugees in neighbouring countries.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, almost 8,000 people fled the CAR for the Republic of Congo since last December.

Mr. Moussa will then travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where more than 17,000 CAR refugees arrived during that same period.

** Myanmar

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that it welcomes the response by the Government of Myanmar to the events in Rakhine State’s Sittwe late last month, which caused damage to the premises of UN agencies and aid organizations.

In particular, our humanitarian colleagues noted the Government’s condemnation of the violence, the President’s rapid establishment of an investigation commission and the recognition that the incident which sparked the attacks was purely unintentional.

The Office welcomes the Government’s commitment to bringing the perpetrators of the violence to justice.

And the statement adds that it is important that the Government provide the conditions needed for aid agencies to resume their work in Rakhine State.


This afternoon, at 2:30 pm at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit here in New York, Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Chief Executive for the Sustainable Energy for All initiative, will launch the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All to the business community.

He will also announce the first annual forum for the initiative, which will take place from 4-6 June at UN Headquarters.

And more information will be available later this afternoon.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

On the DRC, the Humanitarian Coordinator for that country, Moustapha Soumaré, reiterated today his call for the release of four members of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) abducted nine months ago in North Kivu Province.

He denounced their abductions as an intolerable act and a threat to both the population in need of assistance and humanitarian workers as well.

The four Congolese team members were abducted during a July rebel attack in Kamango.

**Mary Robinson in Democratic Republic of Congo

Still on the DRC, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region was in Bukavu, South Kivu, yesterday, where she met with local authorities and women’s organizations.

Mary Robinson said that she was shocked by the number of women and young girls who continue to be victims of sexual violence in the DRC and she reiterated the need to end impunity and seek transitional justice.

**Press Conferences Today

And on that same related issue, following this briefing at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press briefing entitled “Progress and Obstacles in the Fight against Impunity for Sexual Violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.  Speakers will include Navi Pillay, the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Zainab Hawa Bangura, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict; and Hervé Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

And that’s all I have for you, but I’m happy to entertain your questions.

Yes ma’am?

**Questions and Answers

Question: I have a question about South Sudan.  There’s concern from other humanitarian organizations, particularly Doctors Without Borders, on the condition of UN camps and that there may not be enough time to move the 20,000 people before the rains increase.  How confident is Secretary-General that the refugees will be moved safely in time before the rains make the area “death trap”?   And given we just had a briefing on the prevention of spreading of disease by mosquitoes, what is the UN doing in camps in south Sudan to prevent cholera outbreaks?

Spokesman:  I think, you know, we saw the headline grabbing press release from Doctors Without Borders, and I can say that, you know, the UN Mission has been working extremely hard in South Sudan to ensure that some of the more than 70,000 people that are being housed in UN camps are provided with the right facility.  It is a huge challenge for a number of reasons.  One, the security situation obviously is not what it should be.  Second, the resources needed by the UN are really not there:  I think the UN humanitarian fund for South Sudan is only 32 per cent funded.  But I think, as you all know and we’ve been telling you here for a few weeks now, we are doing our best to de-congest the sites, to encourage people to move voluntarily to better sites with better sanitation.  We are very much aware of the health risks that are posed by the rainy season and we are trying, as I said, to move people voluntarily, and we are continuing to work with our humanitarian colleagues on the ground — NGOs [non-governmental organizations] in this regard.  But we are very much focused on giving these people, internally displaced persons, facilities in which they can live and survive and limit the risk of diseases; but obviously the incoming arrival of the rainy season poses a very grave and threat and challenge.  Yes, Pam and then Matthew?

Question:  Hi Stéphane, thank you.  The human rights report on Ukraine of the Secretary-General is due out third week in April, maybe even next week, will that include Crimea since the UN seems to still be… or is the UN considering Crimea part of Ukraine?  Someone said last week — I think Farhan — that the Office of Legal Affairs is preparing guidance on what the General Assembly resolution means, can you elaborate on that and the timetable?

Spokesman:  No update on the last part of your question, I think as we said, the General Assembly resolution is what guides us for the moment, time being.  On the report, I think we have to wait to see what’s in it before we comment on it.

Question:  But just is Crimea… you don’t know, ok. 

Spokesman:  As I said, I think I mentioned we are being guided by the GA resolution.

Question:  And can you give any timetable on the guidance from the Office of Legal Affairs?  I mean, next year, 2015….

Spokesman:  No, I mean obviously it’s a very complex issue for the United Nations, for the Secretariat.  It is one that is not to be taken lightly and our colleagues in the Office of Legal Affairs are doing their best.  Matthew?

Question:  Thanks a lot.  I wanted to ask a follow up on South Sudan and something on Sudan to the north.  I just, I understand that you’re saying it’s a headline grabbing press release, but they went beyond that and said it’s not a matter of resources that they’ve repeatedly asked that people be allowed to move to a dry part of the camp and it’s been inexplicably denied.  So I guess, what’s the, MSF usually doesn’t, is not all that critical of the UN so it seems like — well, I mean, what’s your… what is the explanation for not being allowed to move to the dry part?  And on Sudan, can you confirm that the UNFPA [United Nations Population Fund] representative Pam DeLargy has been thrown out of the country?  Can you say, I mean the Government has confirmed that she has been?  What’s the UN side of the story and what’s your response to it?

Spokesman:  On the second part, yes, we are aware and our colleagues at UNFPA have asked that questions be referred back to them. 

Question:  I did ask them and they said to expect something at noon.  So ping pong.

Spokesman:  I don’t mean to say it lightly, but we were waiting from some guidance from them and I haven’t received it as I walked into the room.  You know, I think as far as Juba and South Sudan in general, our peacekeeping colleagues and humanitarian colleagues are really doing their utmost to help people voluntarily move to better parts, to improve the facilities and what they have access to in the camps.  It’s a huge logistical challenge to run a peacekeeping mission, to also take care of these thousands and thousands of people who really are being, who would not have survived had the UN not open its gates, had the Secretary-General not said to open the gates and give them shelter.  We are there, we’re on the ground, and we are doing our outmost to try to find the best possible facilities given the circumstances.  Yes sir? 

Question: Thank you, Stéphane.  On Syria, can you tell us please how much progress have you since on issues regarding delivering aid to Syria?  This is one question to what extent that there are — the parties are abide with the resolution 2139?  And also, yesterday obviously, the Syrian Ambassador blasted on Mrs. Pillay unbalanced accounts regarding his country, I wonder whether the Secretary-General support referring Syria to the ICC [International Criminal Court], thank you.   

Spokesman:  You know on the advance of aid, I think it’s been — we’ve been able to report it as incremental.  The report has also gone to the Security Council, so I don’t really have anything on that.  I think on the broader issue the Secretary-General continues to strongly believe that we need to find a political solution.  He has called on all parties through the statement that I think was issued two days ago to work with Mr. Brahimi, his Special Envoy, and we’re continuing to hope for that, and broadly on all these issues I think there’s always the stand that impunity cannot stand.  I’ll stop there.  Yes, sir, and then we’ll go in the back.

Question: Thank you, Stéphane.  It’s about Syria again, but it’s about chemical weapons.  And I’ll like to know what the Secretary, first of all, the Secretary-General, did he read the article that Hersh wrote?  When did he read it and what was his conclusion about it?  And, is there a possibility — I mean, in the article of Hersh, he said practically that Obama Administration knew at one point that the saran, the type of saran was not from the Syrian army.  Is, I would like to know if there was — when the Secretary-General knew a part of the article Hersh when it came out?  If there was any moment before the article came out did the Secretary-General find out about this information?

Spokesman:  I am not going to comment on what was a very interesting piece of investigative journalism by Mr. Hersh, as usual.  Our focus on the chemical weapons remains on getting in the mouth of Syria through the work of the OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapon] and the UN Mission.  I think what people knew and when I will leave to others.  Yes, and then we’ll move here.

Question:  Thank you, Mr. Dujarric.  Follow-up on that, there is — he does mention something about the UN in this piece.  He said that the UN was aware that the rebels were responsible, I think for the Khan Al-Assal attack.  So I want to know if you can just comment on that aspect since he brings up the UN.  And follow-up on the South Sudan question, are any of the UN camps on the Nile River, and are there adequate facilities for the peacekeepers there?  In other words, was there a lesson learned from Haiti?

Spokesman:  I think the, I don’t know the exact location of the camps vis-à-vis the Nile, but I know every possible precaution is being taken in regards to sanitary facilities.  And I’ve really nothing more to say on the Hersh article.  Nizar, and then Benny.

Question:  I have a question regarding Iraq.  Of course the ISIS terrorist group has blocked the water from two thirds of Iraq from the Euphrates, and there’s an ongoing operations, military operations, in Fallujah area.  Are you monitoring that situation, and what’s the message from the United Nations?  Then I have another question regarding the Palestinian negotiations.

Spokesman:  Ok, I’ll talk to our colleagues in the UN Mission in Iraq and see if they have anything on that.  And, your second question?

Question:  On the position, the American position was clear yesterday by Mr. Kerry when he said that he puts the blame squarely on Israel for the end of negotiations between the two parties.  Does the Secretary-General share that view, and, if so, we have very limited time remaining until the 29th.  Are there any steps to be taken between now and 29th?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General has encouraged all parties to continue on the negotiations.  As to who’s to blame, I think the Secretary-General’s statements on this issue have been numerous, and I will refer you back to them but I’m not going to comment further. 


Question:  Two quick questions.  One on the Syrian chemicals, I asked a couple of days ago, but reports that there was another attack on 27 March in the suburbs of Damascus.  Is there any UN confirmation, do you now have any information about that?

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen any update on that.

Question: Secondly, on the… what’s the situation with the Iranian Ambassador?  Is there any UN position on whether this is, if, I mean, once the Senate said that he can’t come in, is that a violation of the Host Country Agreement?

Spokesman:  You know at this point it remains a bilateral issue.  We very much hope that it will be solved in a bilateral manner.  The Treaty on Host Country is a public document so I would, you’re able to read it, Benny, and conclude it as you wish.  We have not… that is the situation for now, so I’m not going to speculate about what may or may not become law, but at this point, we hope it gets resolved bilaterally. 

Question:  But reading it and seeing what, as I wish, who cares what I wish…

Spokesman:  I care, Benny.  I care.

Question:  No, the question is what the UN sees, how’s the UN interpret the…

Spokesman:  Well, at this point, we’ve not been asked to interpret it.  And, I know you’re asking, so at this point we’ve not been asked interpret it, and right now the discussion seems to be going on outside of this building.  So we’re just taking it one day at a time.

Yes, Kahraman?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  My question is on Syria, as a follow-up to my colleagues’ questions.  Can you give us some kind of update as to where we stand as far as, you know, continuing the political track?  What is Mr. Brahimi doing?  The Syrian Ambassador yesterday said that his Government has not received any proposal or any initiative from him.  Where do we stand today and what should we expect sooner or later?

Spokesman:  I think what we’ve learnt from this process is that it’s been unfortunately very long and complicated so I would not want to speculate on what we can expect.  We know what the Secretary-General wishes.  He expressed it just less than two days ago of continuing the political track under the auspices of Mr. Brahimi, and once Mr. Brahimi is ready to announce something, it’s announced, but in the meantime, he has to continue his work.  Yes, sir?

Question: Okay, thank you, Stéphane.  On DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea], we understand that there is going to be some kind of Arria formula sometime next week.  So have they invited someone from the Secretariat?  And, if so, who’s going to be attending?  It seems awfully that no one at the Secretariat is talking about this report, a very damning report against the UN.  Mr. Kirby likened it to the Nazi crimes.  He called on some actions from the UN and no one is doing anything about it.  So I just want to know what is the Secretariat doing, and my first question as to whether…

Spokesman:  On the Arria formula meeting, it’s the first that I’ve heard of it.  I would encourage you to talk to the presidency of the Security Council.  You know, on the DPRK, I think there was a report on human rights recently, so I think to say that the UN is not doing anything or not talking about these issues, I think I would not agree with. 


Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Does the UN back Navi Pillay on her human rights, particularly in Syria?  I mean, the usually intelligent Ambassador Ja’afari yesterday didn’t just call her unbalanced, but went called her every name in the book.  And, I just wonder if her report on Syria, for example, is backed by the Secretary-General?

Spokesman:  I think you know the, first of all, the Secretary-General has, fully supports the High Commissioner in her work, but the High Commissioner has a specific mandate and she speaks to that mandate.

Yes ma’am?

Question:  Thank you.  About the emergency meeting for the Arab Foreign Ministers in Cairo for the… to discuss the latest developments in the crisis between Israel and… Did you, are you in contact with them, and did the Secretary-General send certain message to them before they start the meeting?  Thank you. 

Spokesman: I mean, the Secretary-General, through his Special Coordinator on the ground, remains in touch with all the parties. 

Yes, sir?

Question:  The World Food Program has expressed concern over cooperation from Sudan on aid workers crossing the border there to South Sudan.  I am wondering if there’s any update on that. 

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen that specifically.  Obviously, we expect and we would hope that all Member States cooperate fully with UN staff members, especially humanitarian workers when they’re trying to bring much-needed assistance. 

[The Spokesman later said that the World Food Programme has faced severe challenges in accessing many parts of South Sudan by road.  Insecurity and fighting have been a key obstacle, but even in areas where there has not been active conflict, WFP commercial transporters have at times faced banditry and other attacks in some places, excessive checkpoints and demands for bribes in other areas.  In general the transporters are facing so many difficulties on the supply routes that they have had to raise their rates, and WFP transport costs have increased by 25 percent in the last month.

The Spokesman also said that WFP had been working with the South Sudanese authorities to ensure reliable movement of humanitarian goods, and has obtained written approval from the South Sudanese Government to facilitate cross-border shipments from Ethiopia.  Transporting food across the border overland from Ethiopia and Sudan is key to being able to supply inaccessible areas of South Sudan.]

Pam, and then Matthew.

Question:  Just a generic follow-up on the Iranian Ambassador’s appointment to the UN.  This has happened before.  What is the Office of Legal Affairs’ policy when an individual, well, when the United States rejects credentials of an Ambassador since we have read the Host Country Act and it does prohibit that?  What is the Office of Legal Affairs’ response to it?

Spokesman:  Every legal case is, you know, should be approached with a fresh pair of eyes.  As I said, at this point, nothing has come to us officially.  There’s a lot of discussions and a lot of public statements, both in Washington and Tehran.  When it comes time, when this officially comes to the UN, then we would have more to say, but at this point, it’s, we see it strictly as a bilateral issue.  

Question:  I understand that, but just, generic, I mean, the Office of Legal Affairs has, forgetting this specific case, the Office of Legal Affairs at the UN has commented and analysed the fact, what the UN, what the US Federal Law, the UN Host Country Act, means in terms of if there is a rejection of an Ambassador.  For the GA, for credentials…

Spokesman:  We have not been asked to provide any legal opinion to the General Assembly or to anybody else at this time.  So obviously, we are extremely well aware of what is going on, but there has been no official request or anything involving the Secretary-General at this point. 

Question:  Can you just see if there’s an Office of Legal Affairs analysis in the past?

Spokesman:  There is no generic opinion.  This is not a case that happens every day so…

Question:  It came up in Libya, it came up in Nicaragua, it came up a few times in the past.  Has, I mean, we don’t always see the Office of Legal Affairs’ analyses.  Is there a way you can find out?

Spokesman:  No, there is nothing for me to share with you at this point.

Question:  [inaudible] past analysis.

Spokesman:  If the Office of Legal Affairs has had to present opinions, legal guidance, on issues on having to do with the Host Country, I think it has happened in the early 50s, if I’m not mistaken, on issues on credentials, and I think possibly in the 80s, those things would be public documents, but as I said, there’s nothing for me to share with you at this point.  


Question:  I wanted to ask about your Myanmar announcement that you made, and then something about the Pension Fund.  On Myanmar, I mean, I understand that the humanitarian side of the UN is praising the response of the Government.  What I wanted to know, is there some other side of the UN that is looking at the census that sort of triggered some of this violence and that explicitly excludes the Rohingya?

Spokesman:  On the census, you asked, there was a statement, you asked and I told you that we may have further comments once the census is done, so I have no update on that.

Question:  And on the Pension Fund, there’s been a letter today from a variety of unions, staff unions, including in Vienna, Nairobi, and elsewhere, to the Secretary-General about this proposed delegation of authority to the Pension Fund, and they said that it’s inconsistent with the Mobility Plan, that it would take 230 posts out of protection, so I wanted to know, one, I mean, has the letter been received, and two, is the Secretary-General going to look at this issue before this draft Secretary-General’s bulletin that’s been sent around goes…

Spokesman:  I haven’t heard about this letter.  I’m always happy to look into issues with the Pension Fund. 

Yes, you two, and then we have to finish off.

Question:  Thank you.  This is about the situation in the Mediterranean with migrants, they’re passing the Mediterranean.  The Italian Minister of the Interior, they actually, was visited, they had a meeting with the Secretary-General just a few weeks ago.  He just said a few days ago that he thinks about 600,000 migrants are ready to leave from Libya.  Does… do you have any information from Libya, maybe the UN Mission there?  Do you have anything that you think at that number, 600,000?    

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen anything of that sort of analysis coming from the mission in Libya.  I know the issue of migrants coming over from, crossing the Mediterranean, very dangerous conditions into southern Europe is one that’s of great concern to Secretary-General and one that he raised when he met with a number of European Union Commissioners in Brussels earlier in the week.  But in terms of the specific analysis on Libya, I have not seen anything. 


Question:  Yes, Stéphane.  Does the SG agree with Secretary Kerry’s assessment that Russia is stirring up trouble in eastern Ukraine?

Spokesman:  It’s not, you know, I think the Secretary-General’s position on Ukraine has been expressed a number of times from here and has called on all the parties involved to try to talk together and to avoid any provocative actions.  I think we see there may be a four-way meeting next week in Europe between the Russians, Ukraine, the EU and others.  That would be a welcome step but beyond that….

Question:  So you’re not commenting on any outside…

Spokesman:  I think you know, everyone is putting out his or hers analysis and comments.  I think the Secretary-General’s focus is in really in trying to get the parties to talk. 

Question:  Because there is evidence that the West interfered in Ukraine in February, and we saw the leaked tape of Nuland and the American ambassador talk about midwifing a new government.  We’ve seen them marching in the square there…

Spokesman:  We are aware of A) what is being done, being seen on the ground, what is being said.  Our position remains that they need to, different parties need to talk.  There needs to be an inclusive, an all-inclusive political dialogue in Ukraine and people need to refrain from provocative actions and rhetoric. 

You have three high-powered guests who I know you will welcome, waiting behind, so thank you and I’ll see you tomorrow.

* *** *

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