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

3 June 2014

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

3 June 2014
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.  Nice to see all of you here, but I’m sure you’re here for our next event.  I will start off with a statement on the announcement of the Palestinian Government of national consensus.

**State of Palestine

The Secretary-General welcomes, on the basis of assurances provided both publicly and to the United Nations, the announcement on 2 June by President Mahmoud Abbas of the formation of a Government of national consensus headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

The United Nations has long underscored the need for progress towards Palestinian unity in line with existing resolutions, within the framework of the Palestinian Authority and the commitments of the Palestine Liberation Organization.  The Secretary-General takes note of the renewed assurances yesterday by President Abbas that the Government will continue to abide by those commitments of recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements.  The Secretary-General also notes that the Palestine Liberation Organization will remain responsible for holding peace negotiations with the State of Israel, a commitment President Abbas has reaffirmed, and hopes that new opportunities for progress toward a two-state solution will emerge soon.

The United Nations stands ready to lend its full support to the newly formed Government in its effort to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, in line with the intra-Palestinian unity agreement of 23 April, under one legitimate Palestinian authority, including by addressing the serious political, security, humanitarian and economic challenges in Gaza, and holding long-overdue elections.  Special Coordinator Robert Serry discussed those issues with Prime Minister Hamdallah in their meeting today.

The Secretary-General counts on a constructive approach by regional stakeholders, and hopes the international community will not relent in its support to the development of Palestinian economy and the Israeli-Palestinian peace.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held consultations to agree on its programme of work.  And as you know Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the President for the month of June will be briefing you in this room at 12:30 p.m.  And not to step on the President’s toes but the Security Council has scheduled consultations tomorrow to receive a briefing by Sigrid Kaag, the Special Coordinator of the Joint OPCW (Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons)-UN mission working in Syria.  And she has told me that she will be speaking at the stakeout at 1 p.m. after she briefs the Security Council.

**Event on Ending Sexual Violence

A bit earlier today, the Secretary-General spoke at the Launch of the Campaign on Ending Sexual Violence through Gender Equality event, organized by the Permanent Mission of the [ United Kingdom].  He said that violence against women is a peace, security, human rights and development issue that needs to be addressed urgently on all fronts in order to achieve full equality for all women.

He said that recent acts of violence against women from Nigeria to Pakistan and from California to India were despicable.  He said he was especially appalled by the brutal rape and gruesome murder of two teenage girls in India.  And we have his full statement available upstairs.

**Midori Goto Event

Before that, speaking at a concert by violinist and UN Messenger of Peace Midori Gotō, the Secretary-General said that he was grateful for Midori’s role, and support for the UN and efforts to achieve Millennium Development Goals.  He said he was delighted that she has agreed to expand her efforts to include two of his key priorities:  the “Every woman, every child” health initiative and the work of UN-Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) to end violence against women and girls.  We have his full remarks in our office.

** Iraq

Following recent violence in Iraq’s Fallujah city, the Secretary-General’s Representative in that country, Nickolay Mladenov, issued a statement today calling on parties to the conflict to show utmost restraint and ensure the protection of civilians.  He stressed the need for people’s unhindered access to hospitals and humanitarian aid. He urged Iraqi political leaders to find a substantial and effective solution to the crisis in Anbar.  A recent report from the UN [Assistance] Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) says that more than 72,000 families have been displaced by the violence in the province so far.  UN agencies and humanitarian partners continue to provide assistance including food, water and shelter.

** Somalia

Marking a year since the establishment of the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM), UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeff Feltman, today reiterated the UN’s commitment to continue to work alongside the Somalis as they rebuild their country.  In an event in Mogadishu, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Nicholas Kay, said that much more needs to be done in the coming years as Somalia develops a federal system, reviews its provincial Constitution and prepares for elections in 2016.  And we have more information available in my office.

** Great Lakes

And Mary Robinson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Great Lakes [Region], is wrapping up a visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, along with Envoys from the African Union, the European Union and the [ United States].  Accompanied by Martin Kobler, Head of the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in [the Democratic Republic of the Congo], the Envoys heard first hand about the implementation of commitments to the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework, signed by 11 African countries in February 2013.

Prior to that visit, the Special Envoys were in Burundi, where they met with the President of Burundi and other political leaders, as well as civil society representatives.  In a joint statement, they said they were very concerned about the constraints on political space and civil liberties in Burundi in the lead up to elections in 2015.  They added that Burundi had made commendable progress in overcoming a history of conflict, but that progress risked being lost without an inclusive, transparent and peaceful election process.  That statement is available in our office.

**South Sudan

Our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs tell us that they are extremely concerned about the malnutrition crisis in Unity State in South Sudan.  They say that some 1,600 children who are suffering from severe acute malnutrition were treated at a health centre in Leer, in the south of the state, in a two week period — this is the number that would normally be treated over six months.

** China

From the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, she today voiced her concern today over the detention of numerous civil society activists, lawyers and journalists in China ahead of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.  Her Office said that reports suggest that dozens of people have been detained by the authorities in the run-up to the anniversary.  Ms. Pillay urged Chinese authorities to immediately release those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression.  Her statement is available on her Office’s website.

** Central African Republic

The Head of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, will be in Rome tomorrow in a joint push to draw attention to the plight of refugees and third-country nationals fleeing the Central African Republic.  They will call for urgent increased international support to accelerate the humanitarian efforts in the region.  Currently, the existing Regional Refugee Response Plan for the Central African Republic is only 9 per cent funded.


Our colleagues in the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also issued a report today, urging action to safeguard genetic diversity of the world's forests.  Half of the forest species that are used by countries to provide food, goods or services are threatened by their conversion to pastures and farmland, overexploitation, and the impacts of climate change.  And you can get more information in the first-ever The State of the World's Forest Genetic Resources report which is available on the FAO website.


Also one more report to flag:  our colleagues at UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) and the International Confederation of Midwives and the World Health Organization issued a report today revealing that 73 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America lack the adequate number of midwives.  The report says they have a crucial role to play in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  According to that report, investments in midwifery education and training can yield a 1,600 per cent return on investment and can reduce maternal and newborn deaths by two thirds.

**Press Conferences

And lastly press conferences.  Tomorrow, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine, Yuriy Sergeyev, will be briefing you at 10 a.m. in this room on presidential elections in Ukraine and the current political situation.

And at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference on the “Sustainable Energy for All Forum”.  The theme will be prospects for energy access, at the launch of the Poor People’s Energy Outlook report.

And then at noon, I will be joined here by Valerie Amos, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Yes, sir?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Stéphane, thanks.  Your statement on the unity Government in Palestine, what is the UN’s message given that statement to the state of Israel given their reservations in engaging with Hamas which is listed as a terrorist organization?

Spokesman:  The message is one that all regional stakeholders, all the parties involved need to continue to support the peace process.  What was important for us is the commitment that was renewed directly to the Special Coordinator that the unity Government will abide by past agreements, including the recognition of Israel, adherence to non-violence — so those are the key points for us.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Thanks a lot.  At the… at this event just now at the Delegates Lounge on ending sexual violence, Secretary-General mentioned Nigeria.  I wanted to ask you if the UN has any comment on what’s reported to be the banning of protest in Abuja about “Bring Back Our Girls”.  And I also wanted to ask you again, in the light of particularly this event, what the UN is doing to actually implement its Human Rights Due Diligence Policy after two convictions for 130 rapes in Minova by the DRC ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) army.

Spokesman:  On Nigeria, I don’t know if those reports are confirmed, but clearly we would support people’s ability to express themselves freely and in an orderly manner.  I think it’s a basic right.  On the Human Rights Due Diligence Policy, I think the… if I’m not mistaken, Martin Kobler has spoken on the convictions following those rapes and each mission does implement the policy.

Question:  Just one follow-up.  He said he was disappointed in the verdict, but it seems like the Policy… I’ve heard… I heard Patricia O’Brien describe it before she left as a series of steps to see if an abuse takes place, if the Government prosecutes it, if the prosecutions are viewed as sufficient.  So, the question really is beyond disappointment is, if two convictions for 130 rapes are not sufficient, what takes place more than Mr. Kobler’s statement?  I mean, I just want to…

Spokesman:  You know, the Mission, as I said, implements it as it’s supposed to be implemented.  Yes?  You’ve got to be ready.

Correspondent:  Thank you, back to the statement on Palestine.  The statement stopped short from endorsing or welcoming the formation of the Palestinian Government.  Is that…

Spokesman:  I think you… I maybe did not speak clearly, but the fourth word is “welcomes”.  The Secretary-General welcomes, so…

Question:  Yes, but conditional welcome, right?

Spokesman:  No, the “welcomes on the basis of the assurances provided publically and to the United Nations”, so I don’t read it as being conditional.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Could you… could you spell out once again the UN position regarding the Syrian election which is going on right now?  And if you have any update on the selection of the successor of Lakhdar Brahimi.  Thank you.

Spokesman:  No, we will announce a successor when we’re ready to announce one.  The Secretary-General said that this would be a period of stocktaking.  We’re obviously aware; we’ve taken note of the presidential elections that are going on today.  I think the Secretary-General has already expressed himself on his position on the elections which he feels take place outside of the Geneva process.  The Secretary-General remains committed on working with the Syrian Government and all the parties involved to help find a political solution to what we are seeing in Syria.  Mr. Abbadi and then Mr. Iftikhar.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I believe that in the statement you read earlier, the Secretary-General is looking for new opportunities with respect to the Middle East peace process.  Could you specify what new opportunities he has in mind?

Spokesman:  I think what he said is that he hoped the international community would not relent in its support to the development of Palestinian economy and the Israeli and Palestinian peace.

Question:  Thank you, Steph.  Do you have any comments on new tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan following Pakistan military’s anti-terrorist operations, which some time take place across the border inside Afghanistan?

Spokesman:  I’ve not seen those reports, but obviously, the relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan is a critical one, especially for the future of political stability in Afghanistan.

Question:  Just a follow-up on the Palestinian question.  Does the… I mean, just for clarification, does it mean UN recognition of the new unity Government…?

Spokesman:  The issue of recognition of Governments is one that is up to the Member States.  The Secretary-General’s statement is quite a long one, but the headline is that he welcomes on the basis of the assurances provided to his Special Representative the announcement of this Government.  Evelyn?

Question:  Yes, on Hilde Johnson in South Sudan, she announced Friday she was stepping down, but there’s some stories saying she’s not.  Has she told the UN she’s definitely leaving?

Spokesman:  Yes, that was announced.  We announced it last week. S he is at the end of her term.

Question:  When is the end of her term?

Spokesman:  I believe July.  July, yes.

Question:  Going back to the Syrian elections.  I mean, without the elections, there will be constitutional vacuum in Syria.  How does that [inaudible] with the situation in that country in turmoil without a President.  I mean, wouldn’t the Secretary-General review his position on that because, obviously, Geneva I is not working; Geneva process altogether has failed and for Syria to continue, they must have a Head of State to continue that and they are pursuing that through elections.  So, is there any review in this position?

Spokesman:  I think, you know, as I said, we’ve taken note.  I should also clarify that we’re obviously not involved in the organization of these elections or in any parts of it.  We’re also very aware of the environment in which these elections are taking place.  I think even before, weeks ago, if not more than a month ago, the Secretary-General had expressed his reservations about the holding of these elections.  He continues to support the Geneva process which aims to bring the Syrian sides together and find a political solution.  His position has not changed is my short answer to you.

Question:  [inaudible] question regarding the Euphrates.  Have you found out the impact of that action… that action…?

Spokesman:  We’re continuing to look.  As soon as I have something, I will share it with you.  Sangwon?

[The Spokesman later shared the following information with the correspondent:  ”The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that its field colleagues report that there are no indications of water or electricity shortage following allegations by local media that Turkey suspended the Euphrates water pumping activity.”]

Question:  In light of the High Commissioner’s statement on Tiananmen Square, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests?  And does he plan to make any comment tomorrow or if you have it now?

Spokesman:  There’s no planned comment.  I think we all heard the High Commissioner’s own reports and I would refer you back to what the Secretary-General said in Shanghai when he was there.  He said when it comes to human rights, no country can claim a perfect human rights record.  He said that all must do much more to learn from the past and honour their commitments for the future under the UN Declaration of Human Rights and of the United Nations.  So, I would refer you back to that speech.

Question:  So, just a follow-up then.  Does the Secretary-General call for an independent inquiry in his capacity as, you know, the [Secretary-Genera;] or…?

Spokesman:  I have nothing to add.  Yes, Oleg?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Yesterday, Ambassador Churkin, at the stakeout, he was asked about the probable investigation into the events in Odessa and he said that Russia got a response from the UN and that the UN is looking into these events, not in a formal investigation, but in some form.  My question is, what is the form of this investigation and when and how will we see the results?

Spokesman:  Sure, I heard, I was listening and watching Ambassador Churkin.  There will be — as I mentioned, we had passed on his letter to the OPCW and the events in Odessa will also be covered in the next report of the human rights monitors which is scheduled to arrive around 17 June.

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesman:  It will be looked… as I said, the events in Odessa will be reported on in the human rights report that will come out on 17 June.  Thank you.  Mr. Abbadi and then to you Matthew.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  The situation in Libya is marked by violence and lack of security, and yet, the country is planning to hold elections in three weeks.  What form of specific assistance is the United Nations prepared to provide in terms of observance of these elections in three weeks?

Spokesman:  We obviously have a political mission in Libya.  We’re in touch with the Government and we would provide whatever support we can provide depending on their request.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure, I wanted to ask you.  There… in Mali, there… there emerged these photographs, which I wanted to ask you, of MINUSMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) peacekeepers with the Azawad flag and this has caused a big uproar in Bamako and I’ve seen… the Mission put out something saying those who read into these photographs are being absurd or it’s a [inaudible].  But, what I wanted to know is, do they dispute that the photograph is correct and if so, when was it taken?  Which contingent was it taken with?  Why was it taken?  Seems like there hasn’t… they haven’t actually answered…

Spokesman:  We’ll see if we can get more.  I mean, I saw the pictures, I don’t think the photo in itself should be read as any official UN position.  Where the photo came from?  Who took it?  We can look into it, but it just seems like a photo that was taken randomly, it doesn’t reflect the position of the Mission or of the UN.

Question:  But, you know… I mean, what people in Bamako are saying is that… is that both the French force and the UN force didn’t sufficiently back up the army.  And so, that’s why they find the photo with an Azawad flag significant…

Spokesman:  I understand what people may be reading into it and I’m telling you they shouldn’t be reading into it.  Yes ma’am?

Question:  Can you give us more details about the meeting between Robert Serry and Rami Hamdallah today?

Spokesman:  Not more than I’ve mentioned in the statement.  It was important for us and for Mr. Serry to speak directly with the Prime Minister to get a clear view and understanding of the unity Government and the assurances they were willing to provide…

Question:  And what he gets from that… what he about that?

Spokesman:  What we received were assurances that the Government would abide by past agreements, would adhere to the policy of non-violence and to the recognition of Israel.  Great, thank you all.  We’ll get Ambassador Churkin for you.

* *** *

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