4 December 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.

Good Afternoon.

**Noon Briefing Guest

In a short while, I will be joined by the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Kyung-wha Kang.  And she’ll be here to talk to you about her recent trip to South Sudan and Ethiopia.

**Synthesis Report

The Secretary-General presented his Synthesis Report, entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030:  Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet”, to the Member States this morning.  An advance version of that report has been posted on the UN website to support the discussions of Member States.  The Secretary-General told the General Assembly that we are now poised to take a major step towards ushering in a new era of sustainable development for all -- an era of transformation. And he detailed the six “essential elements” presented in his Report: dignity, people, prosperity, our planet, justice and partnership.  And, of course, the Secretary-General spoke to you outside the GA Hall and that transcript will be up very shortly. 


A couple of Ebola-related notes:  the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) said today that a member of its military personnel has tested positive for the Ebola virus disease, and that test came back yesterday.  The patient is receiving treatment at an Ebola Treatment Unit in Monrovia.  The Head of the Mission, Karin Landgren, said today that UNMIL had taken immediate steps to prevent further transmission.  In line with established WHO [World Health Organization] protocols, the medical team of the Mission has conducted an immediate and robust contact tracing to ensure that all those who came into contact with the individual while he was symptomatic have been assessed and quarantined.  Sixteen contacts have been identified to date.  And all areas where the individual is known to have been while symptomatic have now been decontaminated.

This is the third case of Ebola in the Mission, Mission personnel, rather.  As you know, one previous confirmed case and another probable case, which could not be confirmed, both resulted in the death of the staff members, on 13 October and 25 September, respectively.

Also, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro, was in Bamako, Mali, yesterday.  He discussed the current situation and the measures being taken during a series of meetings with the Malian President, Minister of Health and Public Hygiene, as well as other Government representatives, as well as with the Head of the UNMEER [United Nations Mission on Ebola Emergency Response] in Mali, Dr. Ibrahima Socé Fall and representatives of MINUSMA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali], the World Health Organization (WHO), UN agencies, funds and programmes.  Dr. Nabarro said that there was a large engagement of the whole population on the Ebola response and that the Government was working effectively.  But, he also said that a very high level of focus and attention had to be maintained even if there are few cases around and until the last person was under treatment.  He also said that as long as there is Ebola in any neighboring country, Mali needs to remain on high alert.

And also this morning, the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, UNMEER, received 400 motorbikes from Germany.  Each of the 400 motorcycles are equipped with a cooler box and will be used to bring blood samples to laboratories in the most affected areas of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.  The handover took place at the UN Humanitarian Response Depot in Accra and the Head of the Mission, Tony Banbury, thanked the German people for their donation and said it was an excellent example of international cooperation.

**Security Council

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, was at the Security Council this morning to brief on the situation in Darfur.  He said that insecurity and the persistent movement restrictions imposed by Government forces, armed movements and militia groups continued to challenge the ability of the African Union-UN [Hybrid Operation] in Darfur (UNAMID) to implement its mandate, particularly in relations to the protection of civilians.  He added that there were deep concerns about the lack of direct access to vulnerable people in need of protection, and urged the Government to allow Mission personnel to full and unhindered freedom of movement throughout Darfur.

Mr. Ladsous also urged the Government to give UNAMID independent and immediate access to Thabit in North Darfur.  He said only an independent investigation by the Mission would address the serious concerns of allegations of rapes that may have taken place there.  He also noted the recent tensions between the Mission and the Government. He underscored the necessity of continued engagement and cooperation between them to resolve these problems and create an environment that will be more favourable to the interests of the Darfur population.

Also this afternoon at 3 p.m., the Council will hold an open debate on Kosovo, and they will be briefed by the Secretary-General's Special Representative in Kosovo, Farid Zarif, who is also the head of the UN Mission [in Kosovo], UNMIK, as you know. 

**Central African Republic

Our colleagues in the Mission in the Central African Republic tell us that there are reports of renewed violence took place yesterday between Christian and Muslim villagers in downtown Bambari, with at least four dead and a dozen injured and several houses burned.  The Mission is investigating these reports and will send a fact-finding mission to Bambari tomorrow.  MINUSCA condemns all intercommunal violence and sends its condolences to the families of the victims.  The Mission also appeals for calm and reiterates its message to all Central Africans that violence will not bring the solution to the current crisis.  Only dialogue and reconciliation will do that.


And earlier today in London, Jeff Feltman, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, attended the Conference on Afghanistan, co-hosted by the United Kingdom and Afghanistan.  Mr. Feltman called the conference an opportunity to forge a strong, sustainable and accountable partnership between nations and organizations, committed to help the Afghan leadership and people lay the foundation for a more secure and more prosperous country.  He added that the UN remains a committed partner with Afghanistan and the rest of the international community in building that foundation.  And his full remarks are upstairs. 


The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, James Rawley, today expressed serious concern over the Israeli authorities’ resumption of punitive demolitions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  He said that punitive demolitions are a form of collective penalty that punishes people for acts they did not commit.  Between 1 June and 30 November, the Israeli authorities demolished or sealed five homes in this context, displacing 34 Palestinians, including 16 children.  Another six families, including four in East Jerusalem and two in other parts of the West Bank, are at imminent risk of displacement.  Mr. Rawley noted that punitive demolitions run counter to a range of rights and protections outlined in various international legal instruments that Israel has accepted. 

**United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

And Irina Bokova, the Head of UNESCO, called yesterday for the creation of “protected cultural zones” around heritage sites in Syria and Iraq.  This is at the opening of an international conference on threats to cultural heritage and diversity in these countries that took place in Paris.  And in his video message to the Conference, the Secretary-General said that the protection of cultural heritage is a political and security imperative, and should be a central component to peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts, and humanitarian and development policies.

**Democratic Republic of the Congo

And earlier today, the Head of the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, held a live social media broadcast to mark the fifteenth anniversary of the presence of this UN peacekeeping mission in the country.  In his exchanges with internet users, Martin Kobler, the Head of the Mission, stressed the need to completely restore peace and stability in the country and said this meant combatting armed groups, in North Kivu and elsewhere.  And he said that the priority of MONUSCO is to fight against the ADF [Alliance of Democratic Forces] and to prepare actions against FDLR [Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda] after 2 January.  He also deplored the security situation in Beni and said that more joint actions with the Congolese Army were needed to improve the security there. 


I have an appointment to announce:  the Secretary-General has appointed Cristina Gallach of Spain as Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information.  She succeeds Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal of Austria, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization.  The Secretary-General would also like to thank Maher Nasser for his professional and effective work as acting head of the Department of Public Information in recent months.  Ms. Gallach brings to the position a wealth of experience in communication, information, public diplomacy, international affairs and other spheres, as well as hands-on management expertise.  She is also an experienced newspaper, radio and television journalist.  She is currently Head of the Public Relations Unit in the Council of the European Union, Directorate General for Information and Communication — a post she has held since July 2010.  And her full bio is in my office.

**United Nations Correspondents Association

Also I would like to congratulate or maybe commiserate, offer my commiserations to the newly elected members of the UN Correspondents Association’s (UNCA) executive board for next year.  And especially its incoming President, Giampaolo Pioli.  And thank you, Pamela Falk, for your leadership of UNCA over the past years.

**Football Event

Tomorrow, the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom and the Permanent Mission of Germany will host an event to commemorate the centenary of the Christmas Truce of 1914.  For those of you who don’t know about the truce, this event was characterized by a series of spontaneous ceasefires during which soldiers on opposing sides exchanged gifts, sang carols and played an iconic game of football.  Friday's event will include readings from letters recording the events of 1914, carol singing, remarks by the Secretary-General and a football penalty shoot-out between Permanent Representatives, refereed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  And that will take place at 12:30 p.m. by the Riverwalk right here.


And I was asked a question on Cyprus by one of your colleagues who is not here, but hopefully she is listening. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Espen Barth Eide, did visit Cyprus from 24 to 28 November.  He met with the leaders of the two communities, as well as with members of political parties, religious leaders, diplomats and academics.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow, for those of you who will not attending the football game, the President of the Economic and Social Council, Martin Sajdik, will be here as my guest to brief you on an announcement regarding Ebola.  I believe [the Economic and Social Council] is having a meeting on Ebola tomorrow.  And immediately after that, at 12:45 p.m., a briefing by the Permanent Mission of Hungary on the theme “strengthening the family for sustainable development”.  Halas.  Evelyn?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  How do you spell Gallach?

Spokesman:  G‑A‑L‑L‑A‑C‑H.  Yes?

Correspondent:  Thanks, Steph.  I don't have the mic.  Yes.  Had I… had I asked… been able to ask the [Secretary-General] a question on the SDGs [sustainable development goals], there are many NGOs [non-governmental organizations], and I'm wondering if this is being considered that women go into each of the 17 categories as decision‑makers — not just we want gender parity or the usual words that one puts in and not just on maternal mortality and so forth.  Otherwise, there'll be even less incentive in most Governments to include them.

Spokesman:  I think this is both the end and the start of a process — the end of the Synthesis Report and the Secretary‑General presenting it to the General Assembly.  Discussions will continue.  The Secretary‑General will continue to support those discussions as Member States have them, and obviously, the issue of gender is not only an important issue in itself but, I think as you rightly say, is a cross-cutting issue.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Some questions about Sudan, but first I wanted to ask you about what's big news here in New York City, and I was wondering if the Secretary‑General has any comment on the refusal to indict the police officer who killed Eric Garner on video, not resisting and unarmed and the protests that are taking place.

Spokesman:  Sure.  We're obviously aware of what's going on here in our own backyard.  I think the Secretary‑General's thoughts are obviously with the family of Mr. Garner following that decision and the people of New York.  I think the case is again focusing attention on the issue of accountability of law enforcement officials, and the Secretary‑General urges all competent authorities in the United States to do everything possible to respond to the demands for greater accountability.  And he also welcomes the announcement, I think by the US Justice Department, of an opening of a civil rights investigation in the case.  And I think I would just add that we've seen a lot of demonstrations here in New York.  He would urge the demonstrators to demonstrate peacefully and for the authorities to respect the right of those demonstrators to do so peacefully.

Question:  I just wanted to… Thanks for that.  Are the… recently, the UN-Women offered some kind of a partnership with the City of… it seems to be like technical assistance, maybe going both ways but certainly UN helping.  Is there anything that the UN system has, given what now seems as kind of a trend of killing of unarmed African‑Americans and failure to bring accountability?  Is there anything that the UN system is offering to the United States?

Spokesman:  Not in terms of technical assistance that I'm aware of.  Obviously, there would have to be a request from the US authorities.  The UN system writ large, as you saw, there was a report on the UN Committee on Torture, if I'm not mistaken, that was released some time ago.  So, that's where it stands.  We'll come back to you.  Carla?

Question:  Thank you.  The Secretary‑General was talking about the post-… what is it?  2015 sustainable development goals?

Spokesman:  Correct.  That’s what he was talking about.

Correspondent:  And the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] in many respects fell short what their ambitions had set forth.  And I'm looking here at the voting record from the Second Committee towards a new international economic order.  And for the post‑2015 development goals to really have any legitimacy, they would need, in many respects, to reduce the growing inequality that was highlighted in Thomas Piketty's very popular new book, Capital.  Where… since the voting record here is not very encouraging, the most powerful developed countries have voted against a new international economic order.  The developing countries…

Spokesman:  Sorry, Carla, please get to the question.

Question:  Okay.  The question is:  what is the prognosis for the post‑2015 development goals accomplishing anything, if the most powerful countries in the developed… developed world are opposed to any change?

Spokesman: You know, I'm not sure I agree with your analysis.  The MDGs showed us for the first time, the world came together around concrete, achievable goals and poverty to fight disease to deal with issues having to do with gender, maternal health, children, all sorts… and I think a lot has been achieved.  If you look back, it was really a momentous moment when these were put together.  We are at another transformative moment as we aim to have a broader look at sustainable development in many different areas.  And I would refer you back to what the Secretary‑General talked about:  dignity, people, prosperity, our planet, justice and partnership.  And I think that covers a lot of ground.  He presented his report to the General Assembly, but the General Assembly will have to act with one voice, and I think everybody… the end result will need to… that we want to see is that all Member States are, indeed, on board.

Correspondent:  But since the MDGs, the growth in inequality is…

Spokesman:  You know, I don't want to engage in a debate on development.  But, what I will say is that you are right.  There are many areas of concern that are being addressed through this process, through the SDGs.  I think, you know, you should just focus on the word "dignity".  The word "dignity" is a very strong word.  It covers a lot.  And that's what we're aiming to remedy.

Before I take any questions, I do have a statement on the attacks that took place in Grozny. 

**Statement on Russia

The Secretary‑General strongly condemns the terrorist attacks of 4 December in Grozny in the Russian Federation.  He reiterates that there can be no justifications for acts of terror.  The Secretary‑General sends his deepest condolences to the families of the victims for these heinous crimes, as well as to the Government and the people of the Russian Federation.  And he wishes a speedy recovery for those injured.

Matthew and then we'll go to our guest.

Question: I wanted to ask on Sudan and Somalia.  On Sudan, the Permanent Representative of Sudan at the end of the open session of the Council, came out and spoke and there's two things that I want to ask, but that he said.  One, he said pretty clearly it that there's no intention to let UNAMID back into Thabit.  What he asked and what I’d like you to answer, or Mr. Ladsous to answer, is:  why did UNAMID, on 9 November, after having gone there, if they really didn't have access and if they really were being trailed by the army, why didn't they say it then, rather than issue a statement that essentially cleared the situation?

Spokesman:  Listen, I hear you.  I can't… I didn't watch the Permanent Representative.  I think what we're trying to do is to ensure that UNAMID personnel gets to Thabit.  We fully understand… I think, as every day passes, it becomes more and more difficult in a sense to gather the kind of information you would want to gather in this kind of investigation.  But, I think the call for clear and unhindered access to any areas in Darfur was made, has been made from here and it was made by Mr. Ladsous today.

Question:  But, does the Secretary‑General see this incident of that 9 November press release that there was no evidence of rape and that the people got along with the army as related to the issues of cover-up raised by whistleblower Aicha Elbasry?

Spokesman:  You know, I think we've… since the review, I think the Mission has increased its level of reporting, and we've been able to report more on what they're doing.

Question:  Is the 9 November [press release] consistent with those improvements?

Spokesman:  I think we are… we're getting more information from them.  Yes, Anna?

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  I have a brief question on Iran, actually.  It's been reported that Iran air forces carried out strikes against ISIS [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham] forces in eastern Iraq.  And US forces simultaneously carried out airstrikes against ISIS forces, but both parties denied any coordination between them.  I just wanted to ask, does UN consider Iran an ally against the fight… in the fight against ISIS?  And also, are we living in a situation especially with global terrorism that we can be picky, that we can have the luxury of being picky about allies?  Don't you think a more coordinated and concerted effort would bring better results?

Spokesman:  We have no way of knowing… we have no military capabilities or radar capabilities which tells us who does what.  The only thing I can tell you is that the fight against terrorism cannot be borne by one nation alone and it's something that the world needs to act together on.

Question:  Iran is an ally?

Spokesman:  It's not a matter of allies or enemies.  It's a global effort.  Stefano and then we really need to go to our guest.

Question: Yes.  Going back yesterday, I understand you did not read the news because it just happened, but I update you.  And it’s this… about the scandal in Italy with those arrests and the Mafia involved, specifically I think is concern of UN on how is the immigrants… the immigrants that arrive from Africa then they… how they taken care and it looks like the Mafia is doing business with it.  One phrase is there's a recording that says:  “actually, with the immigrants we are making more money than with the drugs”.  I would like to know what is the reaction… I don't think also it's a problem, maybe it's not only problem in Italy.

Spokesman:  Listen, I think you've put your finger on a global problem.  I think whether you are talking about migrants that wilfully, in the sense, want to move from point A to point B to seek a better life, or you're talking about people who are being trafficked.  You're talking about very vulnerable population and what we're seeing is criminal networks around the globe engaged in human trafficking.  And I think you're right that unfortunately people make more money in trafficking of people in many cases.  And the penalties, and that's an important part, the penalties for trafficking people is often less severe than the penalty for trafficking and drugs.  So, there is also work to be done at a criminal, judicial level in a sense to ensure that punishment for the trafficking of people is harsh, is reflected… is harsh, as it should be.

All right.  I will go get the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and we will be right back.

For information media. Not an official record.