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

4 March 2015

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.  Happy Wednesday.

**Press Conferences

In a short while, I will be joined by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Margareta Wahlström, and the Lead Author of the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction, Andrew Maskrey.  They will be here to discuss that report.

**Disaster Reduction

As you know, a short while ago, the Secretary-General launched the 2015 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction.  He welcomed the report’s focus on “Making Development Sustainable”, noting that it shows how investing in risk prevention pays high dividends while saving lives and how it charts a path towards a more disaster-resilient future.

To advance along that path, the Secretary-General said, we will take a major collective step forward at the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction which will take place in Sendai, Japan, later this month.  He stressed that “sustainability starts in Sendai”, with other major conferences in the pipeline this year:  financing for development in Addis Ababa in July, the post-2015 sustainable development agenda in New York in September, and the climate change conference in Paris in December.

**Secretary-General Travels

And as he said in his speech, the Secretary-General will be traveling to Japan next week.  He will leave New York on Thursday, 12 March.  His first stop will be in Sendai, where he will take part in the World Conference, which begins on 14 March, on Saturday.  The Secretary-General will meet leaders attending the Conference, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and attend several side events.  He will also visit areas and meet with people affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.  The Secretary-General will also visit Tokyo, where he will speak at an event marking the seventieth anniversary of the United Nations.

**Wildlife

The Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson today delivered remarks at the General Assembly’s commemoration of World Wildlife Day.  Focusing on the need to combat wildlife crime, the Deputy Secretary-General said that illegal wildlife trade has become a mushrooming transnational form of crime.  He added that such crimes undermine the rule of law and national security, as well as degrades ecosystems.  It represents a contempt and lack of respect for life on this planet, whether it is human beings, animals or plants.  His remarks are available online and in my office.

**Security Council

Back here, the Security Council this morning adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the Democratic Republic of Korea Sanctions Committee, until5 April 2016.  After that, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Bernardino León briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s Special Report on the Strategic Assessment of the UN presence in Libya, as well as on the work of the mission.

He said that the overall situation in Libya is deteriorating rapidly, adding that, unless Libya’s leaders act quickly and decisively to address the political crisis, the risks to the country’s national unity and territorial integrity are real and imminent.  He said that tomorrow’s meeting in Morocco, facilitated by the UN, is an important opportunity to honour the sacrifices that Libyans have made in their quest for a life of dignity and respect.  He reiterated the UN’s support for the Libyan people and leaders as they work to resolve their differences through compromise.  His remarks are available in my office.

**Yemen

From Yemen, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, is meeting President Hadi in Aden today.  As you’ll recall, yesterday afternoon he briefed the Security Council in closed consultations.  In a statement, Mr. Benomar said that he told Council members that progress is being made on the status of the UN-brokered negotiations. He warned that there are extremists within many sides who want for these negotiations to fail.

Mr. Benomar said that no side has the ability to impose control by force over the entire country, and that any side that would want to pursue a military solution would be inviting a protracted conflict in the vein of a Libya- or Syria-like scenario.  He also emphasized that peaceful dialogue is the only way forward, adding that we are engaged with all parties in a manner that neither gives legitimacy to those who used force to disrupt the political process, nor diminishes the legitimacy of the President and Government, nor harms the impartiality of the United Nations.

**Iraq

Moving on to Iraq, the UN and its humanitarian partners are rushing aid to thousands of displaced families in Iraq’s Samarra District, following clashes in multiple parts of Salah al-Din Governorate.  The World Food Programme (WFP) will send emergency food rations tomorrow, while the World Health Organization (WHO) is dispatching emergency medical supplies based on ongoing assessments and will vaccinate children under the age of five against polio.

For its part, UNICEF delivered three convoys of water and sanitation supplies, while UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] is focusing on non-food items.  The Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande said that the UN is very worried about the humanitarian situation in Samarra, adding that it is working around the clock to get assistance to those in need.

**Lebanon

From Lebanon, the Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Sigrid Kaag, met today with Defence Minister Samir Moqbel in Beirut.  They discussed the security situation in Lebanon, with a particular focus on the country’s eastern border.  She praised efforts by the Lebanese Armed Forces and security forces to safeguard Lebanon’s security and stability from the threat posed by extremist militants.  She said the international community would continue to stand firmly behind the Lebanese Armed Forces and security forces.  The Special Coordinator expressed her appreciation for the countries which already provide support and encouraged further assistance.

**South Sudan

Last night, as you will know, we issued a statement on the South Sudan Peace Process, in which the Secretary-General urged President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Riek Machar to show leadership and make the necessary compromises to conclude a power sharing agreement that will pave the way for a comprehensive settlement of the conflict.  The statement we issued last night is online.

**Death Penalty

From Geneva, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović spoke at the opening of the Human Rights Council’s high-level discussion in Geneva on the question of the death penalty.  He said that currently, around 160 countries from all regions of the world have either fully abolished the death penalty, or do not practise it.  In December last year, a record number of countries supported the General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty.

But, he also noted that we are seeing moves in some countries towards its preservation, or even reintroduction of the death penalty.  He stressed that we can do better.  We need not kill immigrants, minorities, the poor and those with disabilities to show that we are committed to fight crime.  Let us work together, Mr. Šimonović said, to improve efficiency of our justice system without resorting to the death penalty, which he called an inhuman and outdated punishment.  His full remarks are in my office and on the worldwide web.

**Sugars

Lastly, the World Health Organization called today on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children to less than 10 per cent of their total energy intake.  According to WHO, a further reduction to below 5 per cent or roughly 25 grams — that is 6 teaspoons per day — would provide additional health benefits and reduce risks of obesity, overweight and tooth decay. This guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, or to sugars naturally present in milk, but to glucose, fructose, sucrose or table sugar, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates.

The World Health Organization warns that much sugars consumed today are “hidden” in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweet.  Based on the quality of supporting evidence, these recommendations are ranked by WHO as strong, which means they can be adopted as policy in most situations.  More information also on the worldwide web.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow, we have a little scheduling change: at 11.45 a.m., we will have the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, right here.  He will be here for about 30 minutes, so we should have our regular noon briefing be the noon-20 or noon-25 briefing.  And we will start after Turkey.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Stéphane, is the Prime Minister of Turkey coming to see the Secretary‑General?  And if so, is there some meeting he's going to?  What…?

Spokesman:  He will be having a bilateral meeting with the Secretary‑General.  You would have to ask the permanent mission of Turkey what other meetings he's attending.  But, he will be here to… he will be seeing the Prime… the Secretary‑General.

Question:  Is there any agenda?

Spokesman:  One can imagine the situation in the Middle East and beyond.  Mr. Lee, then Masood.

Question:  There are some other things but I wanted to… I'm sure you've seen the New Republic long-form article about the Secretary‑General by Jonathan Katz, and I wanted to ask, one if you have any overall response to it but specifically to the report on the US bombing that began of Islamic State of the… of Iraq, in the Levant that the Council and Mr. Serpa Soares said this would violate the charter and that DPA [Department of Political Affairs] under Jeffrey Feltman said go for it.

Spokesman:  I think the… we're very much aware of the article.  I think the… you know, the airing in public of healthy internal discussions leading to statements by the Secretary‑General, I think, is not particularly helpful.  And they don't always particularly reflect the reality of those discussions.  I think what is important is to refer back to what the Secretary‑General actually said on the… on that day in September.

Question:  Okay.  One follow‑up and an example.  I mean, beyond that specific, it seems to represent… to portray the Secretary‑General as not really getting involved in these debates and staying “above the fray”.  So, I wanted to know, one, if you have a response to that, and two, for example, right now, there's a big renewed debate in the Fifth Committee about the Secretary‑General's proposal on same-sex marriage benefits for UN staff.  Is the Secretary‑General himself taking an active part in speaking to Member States about that?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General receives advice from his senior advisers.  That's why God created senior advisers, it is to provide advice to the Secretary‑General.  The Secretary‑General and staff are very much aware of what is going on in the Fifth Committee.  It is a debate that we are closely watching.  And we will leave it at that for the time being.  Masood.

Question:  Question about Secretary‑General.  Has he taken any decision on appointing a new climate chief after Mr. Pachauri has resigned because of allegation?

Spokesman:  It is not up to the Secretary‑General to appoint the chair of the IPCC.  As you will have seen, an interim chair was appointed by the panel itself, and a new chair will be elected by the panel later this fall.  But, it is not the Secretary‑General's authority to appoint the chair of the IPCC, who's not… who is not the “climate chief”.

Question:  The investigation, on Mr. Pachauri, is it going to be done by United Nations…?

Spokesman:  We're very…

Question:  …or Indian courts?

Spokesman:  We're aware of the allegations, which refer to incidents that may have occurred related to Mr. Pachauri's organization, own think tank which is not linked to the United Nations, which is not a United Nations entity.  Mr. Pachauri has resigned from his chairmanship of the IPCC, and we put out a statement… we put out a statement at the time.  And the proceed… the allegations are being, from my understanding, thoroughly investigated by the Indian authorities.

Question:  Stéphane, do you… okay.  Now, on another related question to the Secretary‑General.  Do you have any idea… I mean… or do we have any idea how much money is being spent on Secretary‑General's travels which is undertaking now in the second term?

Spokesman:  The Secretary‑General's travel budget is in the relevant budget documents.  Abda Hamid.

Question:  In his remarks to the Security Council, Mr. Jamal Benomar talked about extremists on all sides, which means that he equates between those who occupied Sana’a by force and then moving from… and they occupied Amran Governorate at first, and those supporters of Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi.  Was that fair assessment?

Spokesman:  No, I don't think it's… I don't think it's a fair assessment.  I think extremists are those who are using force and are not participating in the political process.  I'm not going to put words in Mr.…in Mr. Benomar's mouth, but I would not agree with your analysis… respectfully not agree with your analysis.  Stefano.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  About the chaos in Libya.  It looks like the mission of the Special Envoy León gets… is more difficult than [inaudible].  And at this point looks like the Security Council and many countries including Italy started to think of different options.  Which one is… if actually the mission of Special Envoy León doesn't get to have this unified Government, what is the option that the Secretary‑General will prefer?

Spokesman:  I think… in Mr. León's statement to the Council, I think he lays out the responsibilities of countries of the international community.  His focus right now is on the talks that will take place in Morocco, on getting the parties around the table in agreeing on a political framework.  We have the security issue to deal with, the constitutional issue to deal with, among other matters.  That's the focus of his work.  And that's what we all need to be focusing on and supporting.  Mr. Lee.

Correspondent:  Sure.  I wanted to know… an overall situation and something specific.  WIPO, the UN family agency, had a town-hall meeting and…

Spokesman:  Intellectual property.

Question:  Yes, yeah.  And had a town-hall meeting and they basically threw the staff representatives out because they intended to ask about these two ongoing controversies about the Director-General.  And I wanted to know does the Secretary‑General stand for the right of staff union that cover the UN system to be able to attend town hall meetings and ask legitimate management questions?

Spokesman:  Look, I have no idea what happened in WIPO.  You're mentioning it to me for the first time.  I don't know what the exact circumstances are.  But, obviously, in general terms, the Secretary‑General supports staff unions.  I don't know what the exact parameters of that meeting were and so forth.  So, I'm not going to get into it.  But, obviously, we support the work of staff unions.

Question:  Right.  Will you look into it?

Spokesman:  I will look into it as much as I can.  Masood.  Love to hear from you.

Question:  On this ongoing case of rape of the Japanese tourist in India and [inaudible] one of the rapists said that the women should not be roaming around in the middle of the night and they call for rape.  Has the Secretary‑General followed this?  This is a pattern that is developing in India, where the girls are being raped and then they're being blamed.  Has the… has the United Nations…?

Spokesman:  I think… you know, I'm not going to comment on the unspeakable comments that were made by the person accused of raping this girl, but I think the Secretary‑General has spoken very clearly on the need to halt violence against women and on the need for men to get involved in halting violence against women and decrying it loud and clear every time it occurs.  Hold on a second.

Question:  Stéphane, on Syria, do you have an update on Staffan de Mistura beyond Paris and London, Paris today, London tomorrow, if he's going anywhere else?  And did you see this latest attack in Aleppo and where that leaves the efforts for the freeze?

Spokesman:  You know, on Aleppo, we're continuing our efforts.  We have to start somewhere to start a de‑escalation, to create safe space for civilians, for aid to be delivered, for people to feel safe once again.  So, our efforts are continuing on the broader issue of de‑escalation.  Beyond the next two days, I do not have an update on Mr. de Mistura, but we can always check.  Mr. Klein, then we'll come back to you, Matthew.

Question:  Yes.  On the same subject, the French Ambassador yesterday expressed here scepticism, at least on the part of his Government, with this whole idea of the Aleppo freeze or what he called bottom-up, [inaudible] solution.  Apparently the opposition is not cooperating.  The Government, according to him, is making conditions difficult to really put in place an effective freeze.  Is there a plan B here?  I mean, how long is this pursuit of a freeze in one city going to constitute an approach to an overall political solution?  Or is there any discussion of reviving the Geneva conference…?

Spokesman:  I think the discussions are obviously within the parameters… continue to work… within the parameters and be guided by the Geneva communiqué.  We're continuing our efforts.  I mean, I think no one is throwing in the towel, as I told Carole.  I mean, we have to start… we have to start somewhere.  We're seeing more than four years of civilians suffering day in and day out.  We have to start somewhere.  We have to start somewhere, and the place we're focusing right now is Aleppo.  Go and then we'll…

Question:  Stéphane, could you give us names of the UN personnel… I mean UN VIPs visiting Sendai next week?  We heard about head of UNICEF.

Spokesman:  When we go to our guests, I'm sure she will give you a bit more details, but I know Margareta Wahlström will be there and other heads of UN agencies, I'm sure, will be there.  But, we'll get you those details.  Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  I just wanted to follow up on this question of the documentary and the comments made just on the freedom of the press or of expression.  It was a BBC documentary that did the interview.  It's now banned from being viewed in India.  And I wanted to know, separate and apart from what the… you know, the… the comments, is censorship of such comments a positive…?

Spokesman:  I'm not going to get into it.  We're obviously… our position on freedom of the press is clear.  Some countries have different rules regarding the viewing of evidence during judicial proceedings.  I'm not aware of the full details of it, so I'll leave it at that.  Masood, then Abda Hamid.

Question:  You may have answered this question.  I don't know.  Does the Secretary‑General agree with the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's assessment that Iran is a threshold… if there is any agreement Iran will be on a threshold of producing a nuclear bomb?

Spokesman:  I think my colleague Vannina probably spoke about that yesterday, and I will just restate that the Secretary‑General is supporting the efforts of the P5+1.  I think an agreement on these discussions P5+1 with Iran would be a great boost for the international community and for the efforts of non-proliferation.

Correspondent:  I have listened to the press conference of the Ambassador of France…

Spokesman:  Can you put your microphone a little closer?  Yeah.  Thank you.

Correspondent:  The French Permanent Representative yesterday, he mentioned the workload during the month of March, but the big missing link was Gaza.  He didn't mention it.  That was something really astonishing that when there is a human disaster taking place to the point 30 UN and NGO organizations issued an appeal about what's going on in Gaza, and yet, it was missing on his remarks.  That is one.  And the second, on the evening of Monday in the [inaudible] refugee camp, a young Palestinian was killed by Israeli occupation forces, and yet again, it doesn't show, and no one is paying attention to the slaughtering of Palestinian almost on daily basis.

Spokesman:  I didn't hear a question mark.  But, I assume those two were… you were looking for a reaction from me for your two statements.

Correspondent: Yes.

Spokesman:  I think the… obviously, a programme of work is decided upon by the Council presidency in consultation with the members.  It's their domain, not ours.  The Secretary‑General, through his either Special Coordinator or through Political Affairs, reports on a regular basis and very openly on the situation in Gaza and the occupied territory.  And I think repeatedly from here, we flag different issues that come up on the humanitarian or political issues in Gaza.  So, I don't think it's far from being forgotten.  And on the case you mentioned, I will look into it.  Mr. Carpenter.

Question:  In delivering humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq, is the UN generally satisfied with the level of cooperation they're getting from the Iraqi government for the local access?

Spokesman:  I'm not in a position at this point to pass judgment.  Obviously, it is very challenging to deliver aid to those who need it in what is basically an active warzone.  But, I will see if we can qualify the opposition we're getting from our Iraqi friends.

Correspondent:  There were three factual questions yesterday that I'm still looking for answers to.  One about restriction on aid groups in Upper Nile State by the South Sudan Government that was reported there and whether the Haitian… the Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, is in fact guarding the border so that protestors don't go into the Dominican Republic to protest discrimination, and whether Mr. Feltman got the so‑called genocide resolution while he was in Jaffna, and what he intends to do with it.

Spokesman:  On Mr. Feltman, we flagged what he said publicly.  We asked if he could brief at some point here, if he goes to the Council, he'll brief you at the stakeout.  I have nothing else on South Sudan.  On MINUSTAH, following a request from the Haitian National Police, MINUSTAH police components were deployed in Ouanaminthe, in the area of DR… Dominican Republic consulate and border bridge to assist in joint patrols and check points.  The Mission reported no incidents while a scheduled protest did not take place.  That will be really the last.  Go ahead.

Question:  Yes.  It's about this… what we can call a scandal of Hillary Clinton.  They said when she was Secretary of State, she was using her personal e-mail in the State Department.  My question is, what kind of e-mail the Secretary‑General use for his official communication?  Does he ever use his personal e-mail?

Spokesman:  There is a… an official e-mail account for the Secretary‑General, which he sometimes uses, but he is not a big e-mail user.  Thank you.  On that note…

For information media. Not an official record.