The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Very soon, we will have with us a guest at the Noon Briefing; this is Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović, who will be here to brief you on his recent trip to South Sudan.
For this part of the briefing:
Today in Dubai, the Secretary-General delivered the keynote address at the 2015 Government Summit organized by the United Arab Emirates. The Secretary-General told the audience that improving government is not just a matter of efficiency — it is essential to equity, justice and stability. He said that people around the world are calling as never before for greater transparency, accountability and democracy, and that Governments that answer these calls will be strong.
The Secretary-General said that we have all been appalled by the recent upsurge in terrorism and violent extremism. He reiterated his condemnation of the repugnant and cowardly behaviour of those committing atrocious acts against innocent civilians. However, he added that there is a need to strictly respect human rights. Any rights abuses committed while countering terrorism are morally wrong and strategically counterproductive.
Among his bilateral meetings, the Secretary-General met with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates. Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General flew to Abu Dhabi to meet with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces of the United Arab Emirates.
Upon return to Dubai, the Secretary-General met with the Prime Minister of the UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashed Al Maktoum.
We will have the readouts of those various meetings ready for you in the next few minutes.
The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, reconvened the UN-facilitated negotiations in Yemen today. The talks are ongoing at the moment and expected to continue all day.
In a statement we issued yesterday, the Secretary-General congratulated the political parties and constituencies for assuming their responsibility as leaders of the country to peacefully steer Yemen through this challenging period.
The Secretary-General calls on all sides to negotiate in good faith and in the spirit of compromise. He further urges all sides to cooperate with his Special Adviser on Yemen, who enjoys his full support.
In a statement we issued over the weekend, the Secretary-General noted the decision of the Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission to postpone the general elections, initially scheduled for 14 February 2015. He urges the electoral authorities to take all necessary measures, such as the rapid distribution of the remaining Permanent Voter Cards, to enable all eligible citizens, including those displaced, to exercise their right to vote in a timely manner. This is imperative for ensuring a credible, free and transparent election.
The Secretary-General looks to Nigeria's authorities to uphold their commitment to ensure a violence-free election and put in place adequate security measures so that citizens across the country are able to exercise their civic duty safely and without fear. The full statement is available online.
The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) is expected to facilitate a new round of dialogue among key political parties in Libya later this week. Specific venue and timing, based on logistical and security considerations, will be confirmed soon.
This week, a parallel dialogue track that brings together Libyan political parties and activists is also expected to convene at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. More information is available on UNSMIL’s website.
The UN mission in Somalia (UNSOM) and its partners, including the African Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the European Union, issued a statement today welcoming the Somali Parliament’s approval of a new cabinet.
Moving forward, they urged the President, Prime Minister and the Federal Parliament to move expeditiously towards the next steps through the new cabinet. They added that they were encouraged by the inclusion of female ministers. Their full statement is available online.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, wrapped up a three-day visit to South Sudan today, alongside Forest Whitaker, the Special Envoy for the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, or UNESCO.
Ms. Amos said she met with people who are desperate for peace. There is a woman, a child, a man behind every statistic and the numbers are large, she stressed, with 2.5 million people urgently needing help with food in the country.
Valerie Amos paid tribute to the humanitarian workers in South Sudan, including 13 who lost their lives since the beginning of the conflict, and said we need to sustain the financial support to the country.
She also highlighted the importance of stopping the violence and securing an immediate and sustainable peace in South Sudan. Her remarks are available online.
From Sudan, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator ad interim in the country, Adnan Khan, strongly condemned an attack on Sudanese Red Crescent Society staff in Blue Nile State yesterday, which resulted in the killing of three aid workers and seriously injured another staff member.
They were part of a team monitoring the distribution of food assistance provided by the United Nations in Kurmuk locality.
Mr. Khan stressed that attacks on clearly marked humanitarian aid vehicles jeopardize the delivery of relief assistance and constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.
Also from Sudan, the Joint AU-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that Sudanese troops denied access to two UNAMID routine patrols going to Juma and Fulla Shogar villages in North Darfur on 7 and 8 February, respectively.
Continuous restrictions to access specific areas have been one of the biggest challenges to the implementation of UNAMID's mandate.
**Central African Republic/Cameroon
The UN Deputy Humanitarian Chief, Kyung-wha Kang, is scheduled to start tomorrow a one-week visit to the Central African Republic (CAR) and Cameroon, with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, Dr. Chaloka Beyani.
The situation in the Central African Republic remains a full-blown humanitarian crisis with some 2.7 million people needing immediate humanitarian assistance, while Cameroon now hosts over 280,000 people who have fled conflict in neighbouring countries, especially the Central African Republic and Nigeria.
Attacks against girls seeking to go to school persist and, alarmingly, seem to be occurring with increasing regularity in some countries. That’s according to a new report by the UN Human Rights Office, released today.
In 2012 alone, there were some 3,600 separate attacks against schools, teachers and students. Attacks took place in at least 70 countries between 2009 and 2014.
Many of them were aimed at girls, parents and teachers for advocating gender equality through education.
The report says that attacks on girls’ education have a ripple effect. Not only do they impact the lives of the girls and communities who are directly concerned, but they also send a signal to parents that schools are not safe places for girls. This, in turn, has an effect on the incidence of child marriage, as some parents may view marriage as a way of protecting their daughters.
The full report is available on the UN Human Rights Office’s website.
Later this week, a blueprint for safe schools in Pakistan, highlighting community and school-based best practice, will be produced by A World at School and launched by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown, following conversations with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan. The guidelines will complement and support the existing measures undertaken by the Pakistani Government, which were quickly rolled out following the Peshawar attack to improve school safety.
Today in London, David Beckham and UNICEF (United Nations Children’s Fund) are launching 7: The David Beckham UNICEF Fund, to mark David Beckham’s tenth year as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
“7” represents his personal commitment over the next decade to helping the world’s most vulnerable children through numerous fundraising and advocacy initiatives. There is a full press release on this new Fund on UNICEF’s website.
Also on soccer, the Head of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire, Aichatou Mindaoudou, congratulated the Elephants for winning the Africa Cup of Nations over the weekend. She said that this victory shows that when united, Ivoirians can take up any challenge. Her full statement is available online.
For our Honour Roll: as of 6 February, 32 Member States have paid their regular budget assessments in full, with Sweden being the most recent. Thank you, Stockholm!
Like I said, Ivan Šimonović will be here to brief you on his recent trip to South Sudan.
And then, tomorrow at 11:15 a.m., there will be press conference here by Christiane Taubira, the French Minister of Justice, following her participation in the Security Council Committee against Terrorism meeting.
**Questions and Answers
And that’s it from me. Yes?
Question: Sure, Farhan, I wanted to ask you about an investigation done into UN Peacekeeping into the, essentially, the sale of UN police posts in MONUSCO (United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and MINUSTAH (United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti) by the Ivorian Mission to the UN here. It's an OIOS (Office for Internal Oversight Services) report that was finished in August that described at least ten peacekeepers that paid bribes to get their positions, and it made some suggestions that those ten lose their jobs. One, I wanted to know — be removed from their post — did that happen? And, two, what was done in terms of the Ivorian mission? I've heard that, in fact, very few changes have been made, and it seems to go to the heart of the credibility of peacekeeping if jobs are being sold. And why wasn't this report made public until it was made public, informally, late last week?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, first of all, OIOS reports are all eventually made public. But first they go for follow-up and response. And I believe we're in the phase of responding.
I believe the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) is studying the report and will seek to find ways to follow up on this. But this was, as you know, corruption found by our own internal oversight, and it's now up to us and to the Member States involved to follow up on the recommendations.
By the way, when you speak about the Ivorian mission, you're not talking about the peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire. It's the Permanent Mission of Côte d’Ivoire, which is separate from the United Nations.
Question: Absolutely. The Deputy Representative is named as having a bribe.
Deputy Spokesman: Yes, that's, of course, outside of our responsibility.
Question: But what I'd like to know is: Why does DPKO give a role to individuals like the Deputy Permanent Representative of Côte d’Ivoire in choosing individual peacekeepers to serve in MONUSCO or MINUSTAH, as is revealed in this case?
Deputy Spokesman: As you're well aware, peacekeeping and police contributions come from Member States themselves. What happens when the Member States provide contributions is, of course, we get the contributions of individual members for peacekeeping contingents, for police contingents from the Member States themselves. So that's part of a general dialogue that we engage in with Member States.
Question: But does DPKO have the countries certify that they haven't collected bribes before sending the individuals out? Because it seems like if this could happen in one case, there's no reason to believe that this doesn't happened in other missions.
Deputy Spokesman: It's certainly — what our expectation is, is that countries will do this while respecting the full tenets of integrity as they submit names.
Of course, we do not make decisions for Governments. Governments make decisions for Governments, and we have no way of changing how Governments go about their own internal processes. That's up to them. But at the same time, if we find corruption, as we did in this case, we report that back to the Government and expect a response.
Question: One last question. I really appreciate this. I guess I want to know, is it possible to get a statement from DPKO in terms of what steps they've taken? Because the report says that in April 2014, Hervé Ladsous was informed of this. I wanted to know — because I've heard complaints within even the Ivorian mission that nothing was in fact done. So I appreciate everything that you've said from the podium. Is it possible to get some, you know, specific response from DPKO, what they did in the ten months since they became aware of it?
Deputy Spokesman: We'll certainly try to do that. As I said, I believe the response is ongoing, but we'll have to see what has been accomplished at this stage and what remains to be done on that. Yes, Roger?
Question: Thanks. Has a decision been made yet about Valerie Amos's replacement, and is an announcement going to be made in the coming weeks?
Deputy Spokesman: No, a decision has not yet been made. The process is continuing and we will continue to seek a successor to Valerie Amos. Hopefully that can be done in short order so that there can be a smooth transition made, but I don't have a date on when the process will be completed. Yes, in the back?
Question: Yes. In South Sudan, you just noted that Valerie Amos has promoted a need of financial support. How much is still needed?
Deputy Spokesman: Excuse me, could you repeat your question?
Question: On South Sudan, you just notified us that Valerie Amos has put up the need of financial support. How many, how much do they estimate?
Deputy Spokesman: We can get you the figures from our colleagues in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). There's been an appeal on South Sudan which is — which has been, among other things, designed to help the many displaced people, including the more than 100,000 people who have been sheltering with the United Nations. So those appeals are on the website of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and we can provide you with that as you need. Yes, Linda, and then Kevin?
Question: Thank you, Farhan. Would you mind just reviewing what the SG’s schedule is, the main schedule abroad is, over the next few days?
Deputy Spokesman: It's very simple. He's having a working dinner this evening that's hosted by Anwar Mohammed Qarqash, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Arab Emirates. That's the last official thing on his schedule, and after that, he heads back to New York. And we expect him back here in New York sometime tomorrow. Kevin?
Question: Do you have any update at all on what's going on in DR Congo regarding these two generals and the effort to actually launch this offensive against the FDLR (Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda)?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have anything further to what we said last week. You've heard what our concerns are, and we're taking this issue up at the highest levels with the Congolese Government. Beyond that, we're waiting to see what sort of response there can be. And as Stéphane [Dujarric] said at the end of last week, as far as we're aware, there have been no offensive military operations starting there. Yes?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask a follow-up on the replacement of Valerie Amos. The group Avaaz has said that it has collected 70,000 signatures saying that Andrew Lansley is not qualified to head the UN… I wanted to know whether the UN is aware of that petition, what they think of it, and also how the selection process jibes with what the Secretary‑General said in the UAE, which is that people should be involved in decision-making. Does he feel… What is the process for which either aid groups or individuals that are beneficiaries of UN humanitarian assistance have to impact this important decision?
Deputy Spokesman: The Secretary‑General stands by what he said. The Deputy Secretary‑General, Jan Eliasson, is in charge of the process of determining a successor and is relying on people both inside and outside the system in terms of helping with that determination. Beyond that, we wouldn't have much detail to give until a selection is made. Regarding the petition: Yes, the United Nations has received that petition.
Question: And will the candidates be interviewed generally, I’m asking generally? And two, is Martin Kobler in the final list?
Deputy Spokesman: I wouldn't confirm any names of candidates. There is a list of candidates, and there are people who will be interviewed, yes. And with that, Mr. Šimonović, please come up.