28 October 2014

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.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General, as you know, is on his visit to the Horn of Africa.  In Addis Ababa this morning, the Secretary-General and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, along with other senior officials, met with the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma‎, to discuss efforts to stop the current Ebola outbreak.  Talking to reporters afterward, the Secretary-General said that effective regional partnership was crucial in the battle against Ebola. He commended the recent pledges made by African nations. And he told the African Union that it could count on the UN's support in the success of the African Union Support Mission ‎and encouraged the mission to work closely with the UN Mission on Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER. The Secretary-General also stressed the need to help affected countries rebuild their health systems to better withstand future shocks.  The Secretary-General is now in Djibouti, where he arrived a few hours ago.  He has met with the Prime Minister and the President of the National Assembly.  Tomorrow, he is scheduled to meet with the President of Djibouti.


Just a brief update on other Ebola-related news:  the UN Mission in Liberia, UNMIL, says today that its Chinese contingent is going to assist in the construction of an Ebola Quarantine and Control Center in Monrovia.  The project will take 21 days to complete.  And the Mission also announces that of the 44 UNMIL personnel who have been quarantined following two infections in the Mission, 42 have already completed their quarantine period.  Two remaining staff are expected to complete the quarantine period by 1 November.


Regarding Lebanon, Derek Plumbly, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, attended the meeting in Berlin today of the International Support Group for Lebanon and delivered a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf.  In that message, the Secretary-General said that he understands certain anxieties in Lebanon about the scale of the Syrian refugee presence and notes the tensions in some communities, as well as recent policy decisions announced by the Government.  He stressed the continuing importance of close cooperation between the Government and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in managing the refugee presence effectively and in accordance with international humanitarian standards and human rights.  The Secretary-General added that Lebanon is a beacon of tolerance and coexistence in the region.  Easing the situation imposed by a crisis now in its fourth year is essential to Lebanon’s continued stability. That full message is online.


From Geneva today, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its shock and sadness at the execution on 25 October of Reyhaneh Jabbari in Iran.  The execution of Ms Jabbari was carried out on Saturday despite repeated calls on the authorities by various United Nations human rights mechanisms not to execute her.  Serious concerns were raised about due process in connection with Ms. Jabbari’s case — in particular the allegation that her conviction was based on confessions made under duress.  The Human Rights Office said it was very concerned about the increased use of the death penalty in Iran, as highlighted in the report of the Special Rapporteur which is being presented to the General Assembly later today.  It calls on the Iranian authorities to make an explicit commitment to immediately institute a moratorium on the death penalty, particularly in light of the high number of executions and the continuing serious concerns about fair trial and due process.


From Libya, at a press conference today in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Bernardino León, stressed again that political dialogue is the only way out of the crisis.  He added that the UN will continue to help Libyan authorities work towards a ceasefire, respected by all.  Yesterday, in Tobruk, Mr. León also met with the Libyan Speaker of Parliament, as well as the President of the House of Representatives.  More information is on the Mission’s website.

**Women, Peace and Security

Back here at Headquarters, as you know, the Security Council is holding an open debate on resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.  In his message, delivered by the head of UN-Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Secretary-General said that the Council’s consistent focus on women, peace and security has enabled the international community to move beyond viewing women as only victims of conflict to seeing them as agents of peace and progress.  The Secretary-General called for broad participation in his upcoming Global Study on the implementation of Resolution 1325 (2000), which will be led by the former Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy.  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmund Mulet also addressed the Council.  Focusing on the theme of the debate, Displaced Women and Girls, Mr. Mulet said that women often bear the brunt of any protracted conflict, especially in displacement.

**South Sudan

From South Sudan, following a number of incidents in recent days near Bentiu, the UN Mission in that country (UNMISS) reiterates its call for the immediate end to fighting and for the parties to reach a comprehensive peace agreement, so that the country can move towards a path of peace and stability.  Meanwhile, the Mission reports that fighting erupted among internally displaced people at its site outside of Malakal in Upper Nile State yesterday afternoon.  The violence left one person dead and at least four injured, and had ethnic overtones, as youth of mostly Nuer and Shilluk ethnic backgrounds attacked each other.  The Mission says that peacekeepers and UN Police fired tear gas and warning shots to defuse the situation.  Four peacekeepers suffered minor injuries. By late yesterday afternoon, the situation was brought under control but remains tense.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

And just to flag something that you may or may not have seen yesterday:  One of our colleagues from Radio Okapi, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Caddy Adzuba, was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord for her work on violence against women.  The Head of the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo], Martin Kobler, said that this prize paid tribute to the entire team of Radio Okapi, which has spent the last ten years working for peace in the [Democratic Republic of the Congo].


Today, UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] issued a new report today which found that 2.6 million more children have fallen into poverty in the world’s most affluent countries since the 2008 global recession.  This brings the total number of children in the developed world living in poverty to 76.5 million.  The full report is available online.

**Youth Forum

In his video message to the first Global Forum on Youth Policies, which opened earlier today in Baku, Azerbaijan, the Secretary-General said that empowering young people remains one of his top priorities. He called on governments to help young people participate more fully in civic and public life and encouraged young people to raise their voices loud and clear so that they are heard beyond this Forum.  Representing the UN at the Forum was the Secretary-General’s Youth Envoy, Ahmad Alhendawi, who said that the Forum represents a great opportunity to reflect on the advances made on youth policies globally.

**Press Conferences

Later today, at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference here by Marzuki Darusman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

Tomorrow, at 11 a.m.:  Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

And then, at noon, I will have with me John Ging, Operations Director for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, following his recent trip to Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Yesterday, Palestinian Mission said that they sent a letter to Secretary-General and Security Council and on the Israeli settlements.  What is the Secretary-General's reaction on this letter?

Spokesman:  Yes, the letter was sent.  My understanding is that there has been a request to the Security Council to hold a meeting on this situation, so we will have to wait to hear from the Presidency of the Council.  As for the Secretary-General, I think his position on settlements and how they do not serve the peace process and they are against international law has been oft stated.  Ms. Fasulo?

Question:  Stéphane, thank you.  I have a question following up on Ebola.  What is the UN's current policy and regulations regarding the quarantine of UN personnel in Liberia?  In other words, who is quarantined, who isn't and for how long?

Spokesman:  Well, the quarantine follows the normal procedure, which I think is 21 days; and I should have that number in my head, which I clearly don't.  It really is for people who had direct contact with the person who was infected.  As you know, two staff members passed away.  It is done on the basis of science and on the basis of WHO [World Health Organization] guidelines.  Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask about Bahrain, but just a follow-up on Palestine.  There has been, the Defense Minister, [Moshe] Ya'alon, who I know the Secretary-General met with recently, has announced that Palestinians won't be able to ride buses with Israelis to get to their place of residence or their place of work.  And even a court in Israel is saying, basically, it amounts to segregation.  And I wanted to know, what is the Secretary-General's comment on it, and is the UN system aware of it and what do they think of this policy?

Spokesman:  I haven’t seen the exact reports; but, obviously, I think we believe that positions and actions should be taken that would support the peace process and avoid unilateral actions.

Question:  Okay.  On Bahrain, maybe you're aware of this, the main opposition party, Al Wefaq, has been basically suspended or outlawed for the next three months, particularly with regard to the November parliamentary elections, which they might have boycotted anyway.  And given statements made from the podium about elections, what is your comment on the outlawing of the opposition party?

Spokesman:  I would refer you back to the letter that the Secretary-General sent to the King of Bahrain, which encompasses that answer.  Abdel Hamid?

Question:  Yes, my question about Lebanon.  Stéphane, are they… is Lebanon in violation of its obligations to the 1951 Refugee Convention when they deny entry of any Syrian to enter their border now?

Spokesman:  I think a few things.  First of all, I think we all need to recognize that Lebanon has been extremely generous in the way it has opened its doors to refugees.  It has taken in almost the equivalent of a quarter of its own population in refugees.  I don't think any other country in the world has done that, so I think we need to recognize that.  We recognize the stress factor that imposes on a country which already has a fragile political situation, and we recognize the economic impact it has on the host communities.  And I think, as the Secretary-General said in his message, it is important that the Government of Lebanon work with UNHCR to manage refugees.  Every country has responsibilities under the conventions it has signed.  I'm not going to go into and award a legal opinion on whether or not it is violated.  I think we all recognize Lebanon's contribution and we hope they continue to work with UNHCR.  Mr. Avni?

Question:  Two questions.  First is, there was a report, there were a few reports actually, about… that, despite all the money that was pledged to rebuilding Gaza, tons of concrete and stuff like that was… came in and it's still laying unused in warehouses.  What's the UN's position?  Why is it so?  And then I have an in-house question after that, okay?

Spokesman:  On the mechanism, we will try to get an update on the implementation of the mechanisms from [the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process], but we do know that there is always an unfortunate lag between commitments made at a conference and cash in hand and things that are delivered, so we would encourage those countries that have made commitments to honour those commitments.  And we will get you… I think we saw the same report that you're referring to.  And I'll get an update from our colleagues at [the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process] as to where they are in the implementation of the mechanism, which obviously includes a distribution of what already has been received.

Question:  Well, yeah.  And the distribution has to do with stuff that already came in, so, yeah.  And an in-house question.  There is a, you know, the UN has spent, what, $2.1 billion on renovating and updating this building to make it fit for the twenty-first century and…

Spokesman:  And give you offices.

Question:  And why can't we get Wi-Fi in those offices?  This is the twenty-first century, I presume.

Spokesman:  It is indeed the twenty-first century, Benny, as I'm reminded by my own children on a daily basis.  My understanding, there was some “rogue Wi-Fi networks” that some user organizations have set up.  And I know my colleagues at OICT [Office for Information and Communication Technology] are trying to solve the problem.  There may have been issues with the server.  That is as far as my technical knowledge will go, but I will talk to OICT after this briefing.

Question:  Except those rogue networks, as you call them, have been there before they upgraded the system and the system worked fine before the upgrade.  Everything was perfect before they improved everything.

Spokesman:  We all worked better before we were upgraded, what can I tell you?  I will find out.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  I had something else, but I wanted to ask a follow-up on that, because I've heard there definitely has been a problem of late on the 3rd and 4th Floors; but yesterday there was no Wi-Fi at all in front the Security Council and makes it impossible to, like, hear what is said inside and then ask questions at the stakeout.  And I don't think that is the rogue network… maybe rogue networks elsewhere?

Spokesman:  We won't go there.  Yes, sir.

Question:  Recently, the Taliban in Pakistan have increased their attacks against the Shia and they stopped a bus and took eight Shia passengers from the bus and killed them, one after the other.  This kind of Wahabi teachings, would the Secretary-General ever address Saudi Arabia and ask them to stop teaching such hate and close the schools that are teaching such, which are financed directly by Saudi Arabia?

Spokesman:  I think you are making a link that I'm not able to make.  So, the violence, these killings are to be condemned.  These kinds of acts are to be condemned, the killing of innocent people by extremist groups, and that is as far as I'll go.  Erol?

Question:  Thanks, Stéphane.  Two quick questions:  Number one, Staffan de Mistura, Secretary-General’s Special Representative of Syria, repeatedly expressed his concern on developments in Kobane and he even compared it with the situation in Srebrenica in Bosnia and somehow asked Turkey to intervene.  Question:  is the Secretary-General satisfied with the sort of involvement in that direction from Turkey?  And I have another question, as well.

Spokesman:  Go ahead.

Question:  And another question:  If you just give us a little bit of your view of the stall of the negotiation within Cyprus talks?

Spokesman:  I've been here long enough not to improvise on my views on the situation in the Cyprus talks.  If I have an update, I will share it with you.  On the second issue, I think the Secretary-General and Mr. de Mistura have made it clear that all those who can help to stop the advancement of extremist groups in Kobane and stop the spread of violence they have been bringing with them should act.  We have seen those actions.  We have seen the advance halt in that town.  But, by no means has it been liberated, so whoever can do more should do more.

Question:  Does that mean Turkey, as well?

Spokesman: That means exactly what I said:  whoever can do more should do more.  Yes, Anne?

Question: Today's The New York Times stated that “Ukrainian voters affirm embrace of Europe” and that it was the first time in 96 years that communists would not be represented in the Ukrainian legislature.  What is the action of the UN Secretary-General in terms of his support for democracy in Ukraine and will there be a written statement distributed by your office on parliamentary elections in Ukraine?

Spokesman:  Well, I think that question was asked yesterday.  I answered in saying that the Secretary-General is encouraged that the early parliamentary elections took place in a generally calm and orderly manner.  He commended the people of Ukraine for their participation in the polls as a testament to their determination to build a more hopeful and democratic country; and it goes on a bit longer, but you can check the transcript from yesterday.

Question:  But is there a written statement on it?

Spokesman:  It's in the transcript of yesterday's briefing.

Correspondent:  Thank you.

Spokesman:  Nizar and then Matthew?

Question:  Question about the settlement activity:  I heard you earlier saying… but it… doesn't this really merit a condemnation to this violation of international law?

Spokesman:  I think, you know, the Secretary-General has been very clear in his public statements, in his discussions with the Israeli leadership, most recently in his visit to Jerusalem when he met Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu and met with senior Israeli officials here on his position on the settlements, which he has said was not helpful to the peace process and was not in line with international law.  And every time this comes up, we say the same thing.

Question:  I have another question regarding the raids by the Turkish fighters, fighter jets against the Kurdish oppositions in Iraq and in Syria.  There were two attacks yesterday by the Turkish Air Force, at the time when they are facing ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham], as you well know, in Kobane, so how do you view that?

Spokesman:  I did not see those news reports, but I will check.  Mr. Lee? 

Correspondent:  I wanted to ask about something that was said in the Council and then, as Benny said, an in-house question.  The inside Council question was:  Edmond Mulet, in his presentation on women, peace and security, was talking about South Sudan and he said that… resulting in the establishment of separate facilities for women and men, and I just wanted to hear a little bit more about that, a line I'm reading to you and he said there is a danger in camps, and therefore, they have established separate facilities for women and men.  So, it seems like he probably won't do a stakeout, I wish that he would.

Spokesman:  Camps where? 

Question:  South Sudan, UNMISS has established separate facilities.  And I know, in a previous stage of the conflict, they actually separated people by tribe, but I wanted to know, does this apply to families, or what does this mean?  And if you don't know…

Spokesman:  I can find out.  What it means is to create the safest possible environment when you have a lot of people in cramped quarters.

Question:  But, I guess my question is, as a matter of sort of treatment of [internally displaced persons], is it a best practice to separate families, if they’re going to be in camps?  That’s what I want to know.

Spokesman:  I don't know.  We will find out because I think we are jumping ahead.  We don't know the answer about families.  Next question?

Question:  Okay, the in-house one:  I heard and reported that the Protocol Office is… the head of it, Mr. Yeocheol Yoon, is leaving, so I wanted to know, some have expressed… there is a question whether this position can go to a member of a permanent five member of the Security Council?  And also, what the procedure is to replace the head of protocol here at the UN?

Spokesman:  It's a position that's in the Department of Management.  I assume it will be through recruitment.  And, as far as I know, there is no… there are no, how shall I put it, national guidelines to this job or any other job that is an international civil service job.

Question:  Right.  But, I mean, the Secretary-General, can they be from the “P5” country, and I guess there are unwritten rules?

Spokesman:  I think the problem with unwritten rules is they are hard to find.  So, we agree on something.

Question:  Do you have any readout of Mr. [Espen Barth] Eide's meetings in Ankara today?

Spokesman:  I do not, but I will try to harvest one for you.  And I will finish with… for you, I meant it's a problem with English, it's the general, “pour vous”.  The… just an update on Gaza, which doesn't completely answer Benny's question, but it's somewhat related:  The United Nations assisted in the delivery of a humanitarian assistance payment to civil servants in Gaza today, excluding the police and other security services.  This payment is in response to the humanitarian concerns and due to importance of functioning civil service to maintain stability in Gaza.  The payment was generously contributed by the Government of Qatar and will benefit individual civil servants whose names have been checked through an appropriate mechanism.  Thank you.  Thank you.

For information media. Not an official record.