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17 December 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.

**Central African Republic

I will start off with a statement regarding the release of [the report of] the external independent review on the Central African Republic.

Today, the Secretary-General received the Report of the External Independent Review of the United Nations Response to Allegations of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in the Central African Republic.  He thanks the Chair of the Panel, Ms. Marie Deschamps of Canada, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, and the other members, Ms. Yasmin Sooka, the Executive Director of the Foundation for Human Rights in South Africa, and Mr. Hassan Jallow, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, for their important work.

The Secretary-General accepts the broad findings of the Panel’s report.  The Report depicts a United Nations that failed to respond meaningfully when faced with information about reprehensible crimes against vulnerable children.  The Secretary-General expresses his profound regret that these children were betrayed by the very people sent to protect them.  Though the soldiers who committed the abuses were not under United Nations command, the Report shows that the United Nations, which uncovered the abuse, did not subsequently handle the case with the speed, care or sensitivity required.

The Report has found that three United Nations officials abused their authority. Given the gravity of these findings, the Secretary-General will act quickly to determine what action might be necessary.  To uphold the fundamental principle of accountability, and in the light of the history of allegations of sexual abuse by troops in the Central African Republic, including the current allegations, the Secretary-General had previously asked one of them — his Special Representative for the Central African Republic — to resign.

The Report also found that, while there were some shortcomings in the performance of several other United Nations officials and offices, they had not abused their authority.  The Secretary-General believes that missteps by these individuals were largely a product of flawed systems.  He intends to study these cases further to ensure that all individuals and offices heed the lessons of this review.

The comments and statements of the United Nations officials mentioned in the Report are included in an appendix to the Report.  The Secretary-General intends to urgently review the Panel’s recommendations and act without delay to ensure that systemic issues, fragmentation and other problems are fully addressed.  He stresses, however, that some of these recommendations will require the involvement and approval of Member States.

Over the years, the United Nations has put in place a host of measures to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse by United Nations peacekeeping personnel, and to react robustly when violations occur.  This year, the Secretary-General further strengthened the zero-tolerance policy.  He met with all his Special Representatives, Force Commanders and Police Commissioners to underscore the importance of the UN zero tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse.  He also met with the Security Council, and with troop- and police-contributing countries, to stress the central role of Member States in taking decisive preventive and punitive action.

Still, it is clear that we must do much more, especially to better align our peacekeeping and human rights systems.  As the report indicates, the handling of sexual exploitation and abuse is particularly complicated when, as in this case, troops are not under the command of the United Nations.  The United Nations does not have authority over contingents of troops that operate outside United Nations peacekeeping.  This in no way diminishes the responsibility of the United Nations to speak out when other troops commit violations.  Yet, too often, national responses to allegations of abuse are slow, muted or non-existent.  We must address this major weakness.  Victims do not care what colour helmet or uniform is worn by those who come to protect them.  Our duty is to uphold the trust that must underpin all international engagements.

United Nations staff are strongly committed to combatting sexual exploitation and abuse as a matter of basic humanity but also because we know that the appalling acts of a few can undermine the work of thousands of dedicated personnel.  For his part, while he may not agree with every assertion in the Report, the Secretary-General accepts its broad findings.  Sexual exploitation and abuse of power has no place in the United Nations or in the world of dignity for all that we are striving to build.

That statement will be released now, in the Secretary-General’s own voice.

**Libya

Turning to Libya, the Special Representative for Libya, Martin Kobler, today welcomed the signing of the Libyan Political Agreement in Morocco.  Participants at the meeting today included representatives from a broad range of Libyan society, such as the members of the House of Representatives and the General National Congress, as well as important public figures from Libyan political parties, civil society, municipalities and women groups.

Mr. Kobler called today a historic day for Libya, saying that the agreement puts in place a single set of legitimate institutions that are essential building blocks towards a peaceful, secure and prosperous Libya.  He added that the door remains wide open to those who were not present in Morocco today.  Stressing that this is the beginning of a difficult journey, Mr. Kobler highlighted the critical need for national reconciliation and an inclusive national security dialogue, moving forward.  More information is on the UN Libyan Mission’s website.

**Yemen

Regarding Yemen:  on the third day of the UN-sponsored negotiations for Yemen taking place in Switzerland, the participants have reached an agreement which allows for a full and immediate resumption of humanitarian assistance to the city of Taizz.  The Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, welcomed this agreement as a major step forward that will ensure immediate action to alleviate the human suffering of the Yemeni people and to ensure the neutral and impartial character of humanitarian action.

A large UN convoy, carrying essential humanitarian supplies, reached the most impacted districts of the city of Taizz and will start distributing assistance to those in need in the coming days.  It is expected that humanitarian assistance will also reach Hajja, Saada and other deprived Yemeni cities in the coming days.  The Special Envoy has congratulated the participants in the talks for this first important achievement.  He has also encouraged them to work towards further agreements on measures that will allow for rapid, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to reach people in need across all Yemeni governorates.

**Burundi

Turning to Geneva and Burundi, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, today urged the international community to take robust, decisive action on the situation in Burundi, to avert a civil war that could have serious ethnic overtones, as well as alarming regional consequences.  He told the Human Rights Council Special Session on Burundi that the country is at bursting point, on the very cusp of a civil war.  The time for piecemeal responses and fiddling around the edges is over, he added, stressing that diplomatic and political calculations must not eclipse the need for action.

More than 400 people have been killed since 26 April, and the death toll may be considerably higher.  At least 3,496 people have been arrested in relation to the political crisis and 220,000 people have now sought refugees in neighbouring countries, with many others internally displaced.

**Appointment

The Secretary-General appointed today Catherine Pollard of Guyana, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management, as his new Coordinator for Multilingualism.  In this role, Ms. Pollard is responsible for coordinating the overall implementation of multilingualism Secretariat-wide.  Previously, this function was performed by her predecessor Mr. [Tegegnework] Gettu, to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his dedicated service.

**Press Encounters

AS if you didn’t know it, it is a busy day today.  At 12:45 p.m., here, whenever we are done, I’ll be followed by the members of the Independent Review Panel on the Central African Republic.  They will be here to brief you on their report.  And then, at approximately 1 p.m., at the Security Council stakeout, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate Jean-Paul Laborde will speak to you.

At 2:30 p.m., briefing here by Director-General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), William Lacy Swing.  That’s [related] to Migrants Day.  And at 5 p.m., there will be a joint press briefing here in this very room with Jacob J. Lew, Secretary of the Department of the Treasury of the United States; Michel Sapin, Minister of Finance of France; and George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom.  They are, of course, here as part of the Security Council briefing on international peace and security that takes place this afternoon, which the Secretary-General will also attend and speak at.

**Yearbook

Lastly, I wanted to flag to you, because you didn’t have enough to read, the 65th volume of The YearBook of the United Nations covering the UN’s global activities for 2011.  This YearBook, which has 1,541 pages, can be obtained through bookstores and ordered online. All previous volumes of the YearBook dating from the 1946-1947 edition can be accessed online at http://unyearbook.un.org and the YearBook express, also available for the website, features chapter introductions to selected YearBooks in all six UN languages.  And we thank our friends at [the Department of Public Information] for producing this YearBook.  All right.  Mr. Lee?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thanks a lot.  Again, I guess I… I guess I just want to either ask or say first that it would be good to have the Secretary‑General himself answer questions on this if he takes it so seriously.  And given… it seems strange he did a press conference yesterday and now it's released today.  Is there some opportunity before the end of the year that he will answer on this report?

Spokesman:  I note your request.  Next?

Correspondent:  What I wanted to ask you about is you correctly said that it finds abuse of authority against three people, two of whom conveniently have already left the Organization.  But, I wanted to ask you this.  As to the Under‑Secretary‑General for Peacekeeping Operations, it says that it finds that he acted in ways that illustrates the UN's failure to respond to allegations of serious human rights violations.  And later in the report, on page 74, it says the reason that he's found not to have abused his authority is because these acts were not in connection with the allegations, which are, in fact, rapes that occurred before he took over, before MINUSCA [United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic] became… you can find it.  It's in italics.  It's on page 74.

Spokesman:  I don't distrust what you're reading to me.

Question:  Right.  My overall question to you is:  what standard is the Secretary‑General applying to this report?  If his current head of peacekeeping operations is, as the report finds, inattentive to human rights and only escaped the finding because it wasn't in connection with the allegations, is this sufficient?  Is his actions going to be limited to the three people, two of whom are conveniently gone, or will he, in fact, act… who is the executive officer of the Secretary‑General who's name… who's not named but is described in some detail?  Is he still in his position?  Is he going to take actions beyond the three and what's his response on the findings…?

Spokesman:  First of all, I think the Secretary‑General, as I mentioned, accepts the broad findings of the report and the systematic… the underlying systematic problems that it underscores in how we dealt with these allegations and how we deal with sexual abuse allegations.  The Secretary‑General has full confidence in Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous' ability to lead the department.  He will, of course, study… study the report, act swiftly on the panel's recommendations, and see what we can learn from what the panel underscores.

Question:  Because the panel also…?

Spokesman:  And I would say… Excuse me.  I would also say to that you the other two people that are mentioned, the head of OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] left because her nonrenewable mandate expired.  And the head of… and the other person I think you mentioned, the ethics… the head of the Ethics Office, also retired because she had reached retirement age.

Correspondent:  I think she was found not to have abused her authority.

Spokesman:  Okay.

Question:  But what I wanted to ask you is, the report says, when you read the sections on DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations], it talks about a total failure to vet the troops that go into these missions, not only on sexual abuse, but also on other human rights violations.  So, that's what I'm saying.  It seems like it's a pretty damning critique of the existing DPKO.

 

Spokesman:  I think no one disputes the very serious points that the report brings forward.  I would also encourage you to read the reactions of the people that are highlighted in the report, because it's all part of the same package.  I will come back to you, because I'm sure you have more questions.  Yes, sir?

Question:  In Nigeria, over 1,000 unarmed Shia Muslims have been killed.  Sheikh Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, remains in detention.  Does the Secretary‑General have anything to say about the apparent slaughter of a religious minority?

Spokesman:  I think we've seen these reports.  We're obviously very concerned about the reports of killing of the Shia… members of the Shia minority.  We would hope that the Nigerian Government investigates these reports, and we will continue to follow them closely.  Mr. Klein?

Question:  Thank you.  Just back to the Central African Republic report:  you mentioned in your readout or, you know, in the statement that the Secretary‑General may disagree with certain assertions that are set forth in the report.  Could you provide some more specifics?  Does it have to do with what Matthew was discussing in relation to the overall peacekeeping operation?

Spokesman:  I think, for us, there are two important parts of this report.  And I think the most important is underscoring what the report brings forward or the systematic… the way the system failed these children.  The United Nations were the first ones to investigate the allegations of abuse against these children.  Our human rights colleague, aided by UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund], conducted the investigation.  But, from then on, the system did not perform as it should have.  And it… the report uncovers a number of systematic failures that the Secretary‑General is very keen to address as quickly as possible.  It also uncovers… the report makes… has findings as to the regard of abuse of authority against three people.  One of these individuals is still working with the United Nations system.  The Secretary‑General will now decide on the course of action.  I think the report includes both the panel's views and the views of those that are looked at by the panel in the annex.  And obviously, we will study the report.  The Secretary‑General received the report in full this morning.  He will study the report.  But for us, as I said, we accept and… very much accept the broad findings of the report.  Yes, Benny.  Go ahead.  Did you have a question?  Yes, yes, sorry.

Correspondent:  Sorry about that.

Spokesman:  There's a five‑second rule.

Question:  Sorry.  Thank you.  You talk about… going back to the… to CAR [Central African Republic], you talk about the systematic failures that were outlined in the report.  What does the Secretary‑General plan to do to make sure those systemic failures are not taking place in some of the other 15 countries where the UN has peacekeepers?

Spokesman:  There are systemic failures in terms of… the panel makes it clear that we need to take a new approach to sexual exploitation and abuse to ensure that it is also seen very much through the lens of human rights violations, not just of misconduct by troops, that we need to align the two mandates.  And I think that's a recommendation the Secretary‑General very much welcomes.  He will come up very quickly with some recommendations of how the system can align those two things.  I think in terms of how people… how staff members, how managers react, I think the Secretary‑General has been very clear, especially, I would say, over the last… even the last year and since these allegations came forward, of the need for managers, for staff members to react quickly with care and with compassion when issues of sexual abuse come up.  As I said, he met with his… with the troop commanders, the police commanders, the heads of the political missions.  This is a message he has hammered away.  This is also something that we need to address in partnership with Member States, whether they are troop‑contributing countries or whether they are countries that supply international forces operating under UN mandate but not under UN authority.  This is a message the Secretary‑General will continue to hammer away at.  Giampaolo and then…

Question:  That would require a resolution that must be voted by the Security Council or the General Assembly?

Spokesman:  It's not so much a resolution that needs to be voted on.  It's ensuring that troop contributors also play their part in quickening the pace of investigations.  If you'll remember, the Secretary‑General earlier this year presented a package of special measures to the General Assembly, which the General Assembly adopted.  One of those was looking at having court‑martials for the troops in-country.  All right?  Those court-martials we do not control.  If contingent has someone that has criminal… that violates the human rights of children, of the population, conduct… undergoes criminal… does criminal things, those people are usually… those soldiers are usually repatriated and court‑martialled, we would hope, in their home country.  We would… one of the proposals of the Secretary‑General is those court‑martial take place in‑country so that the victims can also see justice.  So it's a whole package of measures that Member States also need to go along with, including a Trust Fund for victims.  Yes?  Sorry.

Question:  What about medical and psychological help?  Did the victims get any, and what is… what about also compensations for the victims?

Spokesman:  Well, as I mentioned, there is a Trust Fund that is proposed by the Secretary‑General that will need to be funded by Member States.  I think the report that you have before you underscores the failure that the UN system had in ensuring that the children who were victimized by those international troops received the proper care after the allegations were uncovered.  Currently, I can tell you that the six children are being accommodated in a range of places, including some with their families and others in foster care centres.  They and those who are caring for them are receiving monthly food and financial assistance and have also received a package of items and food, clothing, blankets and household supplies to support their care.  All the children, all the six, are attending school, and staff from local organizations and UNICEF are visiting the children on a routine basis.  This is from our colleagues at UNICEF.

Question:  Sorry.  A follow‑up:  But, is there a special… I mean, is it clear how much they will be compensated regarding money, or the package that you're talking about, is it…?

Spokesman:  No, the comp-… I can't speak to the compensation of the… the issue of compensation of these particular children.  What I'm saying is that, at this point, UNICEF and its local partners are caring for them in Bangui.  Evelyn?

Question:  And before I ask a question on Burundi, the trials being conducted in the country where the abuse took place, Prince Zeid advocated that, and, boy, the Member States turned him down, all of them.  They got absolutely nowhere with this comment… with this concept.  Secondly, excuse me.  The Human Rights Council does… approved sending a mission of experts to Burundi to report on the human rights situation.  Does this clash with anything the Secretary‑General is doing?

Spokesman:  No, not at all…

Question:  Can they get there…?

Spokesman:  First of all, we would welcome anything that increases the light on human rights violations that may be occurring in Burundi.  On your first point, clearly, this has to be done in partnership with Member States.  We've seen these allegations and these acts of sexual abuse, the rights of victims being violated.  It is up to those who bring the… who commit the troops to ensure that those who perpetrate crime are brought to justice.  Cara… Fethi.  Sorry.  Then we'll go to Cara.

Question:  Thank you, Stéphane.  Back to the report just released, as you indicated that there is a lack of vetting, who exactly is doing the vetting for the peacekeeping… peacekeepers before they are sent into the field?  Is it the contributing country?  Is it the UN?  Is there any guidelines to which… what's the areas that these personnel are vetted for…?

Spokesman:  There is… there's very much a system of vetting in place, which is done in partnership between the UN and the States providing the troops.  Member States are responsible for training their personnel prior to deployment in peacekeeping operations on issues of sexual abuse and exploitation.  We require certificates that that training has taken place.  Once they are in mission area, they receive further training at all levels from UN personnel on the issues of sexual abuse and exploitation and the proper behaviour.  There's also a human rights screening policy that is done with… in partnership with the Member States, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and DPKO.  We have seen in the past contingents that were not re-hatted.  We have seen in the past personnel or others that were not deployed because they did not pass the screening.  Cara and then the gentleman there?

Correspondent:  Thank you.  You mentioned that six kids were being taken care of, but the report makes clear that other children have stepped forward with allegations in the almost year that passed, that…

Spokesman:  I can only speak… I mean, the information I received from UNICEF concerns the six children mentioned in the report.  I think, for more information of that type, I would encourage you to turn to UNICEF.

Question:  Is… can the UN… can anyone, the UN, otherwise say that the abuse… the alleged abuse has stopped?  And has there been any accountability in this?

Spokesman:  Well, the accountability is that we're very much aware that the French are conducting an investigation, which is ongoing.  I think you've seen… we've all seen the reports of, I think, four soldiers being brought in for questioning a little earlier this year.  So, we know that investigation is ongoing.  The mission continues to report on any cases of sexual abuse by peacekeepers.  I think we've been in this briefing room together for quite some time.  Unfortunately, on a number of times, we brought to your attention cases of sexual abuse by troops currently serving in the Central African Republic.  Yes, sir?  Please.  I don't know your name.  I'm sorry.

Correspondent:  It's Rick.  I'm from The New York Times.

Spokesman:  Oh, Rick, sorry.

Question:  I had two questions about the report, not necessarily in order of importance, but are the… is the French Government or the French authorities advising the United Nations about the progress of their investigation into this abuse?  I mean, does it go beyond… are they… are they proactively telling you what has been done, you know, since the four soldiers were questioned?  That's the first question.  And secondly, the report seems to single out, among others, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict for having multiple failures of responsibility.  And is she expected to resign as a result of this?

Spokesman:  No, I think the Secretary‑General have full confidence in Ms. [Leila] Zerrougui.  Again, the panel makes… states… makes its case on her actions.  She also has responded.  I think a lot of those actions really boil down to issues of the system and how the system was not designed to properly handle these types of allegations having to do with international troops not serving under UN command.  As for the French investigation, we are aware it's continuing.  I don't believe the judicial authorities proactively share any details with us that goes beyond their need to talk to UN staff.  Yes?

Question:  Hi.  Thanks.  So, I understand there are actually some French troops working under the MINUSCA umbrella.  Can you confirm that?  And obviously, have they gone through the normal vetting process?  And also, can we hear from UNICEF?  I mean, you know, can they come here, Anthony Lake, come here and talk to us?  Because, clearly, UNICEF has a big role in this, and we haven't heard boo from them.

Spokesman:  I would… my understanding is that they may have released a statement, and I would call them if you have any question to them, but I will pass on your request, and they may even be watching.  Who knows?

Correspondent:  Well, generally, they don't answer their e-mails.

Spokesman:  Okay.  Well, I… maybe at least they're watching the webcast.  On your first question, I'm not aware of any French soldiers serving under blue berets in Central African Republic.  I may stand to be corrected, but I will check with DPKO.  [He later said that there were three French police officers and nine staff officers, all deployed in Bangui.]  Oleg?

Question:  Stéphane, welcome back.  And on Syria, on these talks that are going to happen tomorrow, these two sessions in the city and at the UN, in which of those Ban Ki‑moon is going to take part and in which of those [Staffan] de Mistura is going to take part?

Spokesman:  Both and both.  My understanding is that the Secretary‑General will attend the opening of the meeting at same place at the… off‑campus under the Vienna format.  His Special Representative will also, of course, be there throughout.  The Secretary‑General will also be there in the afternoon at the meeting in the Security Council, from what I gather.  That's still to be confirmed.  And, of course, Mr. de Mistura will play his usual role and represent the UN throughout the talks, both on and off campus.

Question:  Is there going to be any press availability?

Spokesman:  I would encourage you to check with our friends at the [United States] Mission.  I know there was some discussion of recreating a trilateral… if I can include the UN in a trilateral format, but I think those details are still being discussed as to how and when.

Question:  Trilateral who?

Spokesman:  The Russians, the Americans and the United Nations.  Mr. Lee?  We'll go to Round 2.

Correspondent:  Great.  I'll go as fast as I can.

Spokesman:  No, you can go slowly.

Question:  All right.  I didn't know if you were going to try to hit at 12:45 p.m., but… whistle-blower and vetting.  On the whistle-blower, obviously, one of the findings here is that Mr. [Anders] Kompass didn't do anything wrong or certainly didn't… did far less wrong than even other officials, including Ms. [Susana] Malcorra, Mr. Ladsous, if you look at the language.  So, my question is, is he still under investigation by OIOS?  And if so, what's the message to other UN system whistle-blowers?

Spokesman:  First of all, the issue of whether or not he requested official whistle-blower protection, that's one that is for him to divulge.  My understanding is that an OIOS investigation is ongoing.  What's the second question?

Question:  Okay.  The vetting question is one I've been wanting to ask you, and it has to do with… and it goes actually… it may even be related.  The Spokesman for the Burundian Army, Mr. Gaspard Baratuza, who most recently defended the killings of 12 December as entirely legitimate, is, I've learned, in Entebbe in the process of being deployed to MINUSCA in the Central African Republic.  So, my question would be, what… how does this vetting, this lauded vetting of the UN, apply to a… to a… he's actually a Colonel, but he's now listed as a Lieutenant Colonel, to a Burundi army official, who going back to… even before the last weekend, has defended and, some say, participated in human rights abuses, including summary executions?

Spokesman:  Well, based on the information we've received regarding the Lieutenant Colonel, his deployment has been suspended, and he will be repatriated back to Burundi.

Question:  When?

Spokesman:  It's a process…

Correspondent:  Because as of yesterday…

Spokesman:  Listen, you asked me.  I think it's an example of the policy working.  So… okay.  Yes?

Question:  All right.  Thank you.  The report states that this problem still exists despite multiple reports over the last 10 years looking at these issues.  That's part of the conclusion.  And it only serves, in the words of the report, to exacerbate the perception that the UN is more concerned with rhetoric than action.  What does the Secretary‑General have to say about this?  And how does he hope to overcome this?  What actions will he take to make sure this does not happen again?

Spokesman:  I think every step we make, we move forward.  Every mistake, we learn and we move forward.  I think if you look back at the situation over the last 10 years, we are in a better place in terms of accountability and dealing with sexual exploitation and abuse.  We are not at the zero cases we'd like to be.  I think the zero‑tolerance policy has been very clear.  As I mentioned, the Secretary‑General put forward his special measures, which was approved by the General Assembly.  In the report… in his next report in February, he will make public the names of the countries that have provided troops that have committed infractions, that have committed crimes.  Those will be updated weekly, in real time, in fact, on the conduct and discipline unit of DPKO.  I think, as you saw with the actions against the… what happened with General [Babacar] Gaye, his Special Representative, the Secretary‑General asked for his resignation.  General Gaye stepped down, which is, frankly, an unprecedented step in the UN system.  If you look at the way we have been more proactive in flagging these issues, in the repatriation of soldiers, I think we're in a relatively better place than we were a few years ago.  We're not at the place we want to be, which is zero cases.  I think this report is extremely important for us in order to learn and to improve the system, especially, I think, underscoring the point of seeing abuses by soldiers as a human… through a human rights lens, as opposed to solely through a conduct and discipline lens.

Question:  Thank you.  Give then systemic problems outlined in the report, does the Secretary‑General think anyone should submit their resignation?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary‑General has received and called for the resignation of General Gaye, who is… who has… who is being listed as having abused his authority.  The other person had come to the end of her mandate, is no longer there, and the third person, the Secretary‑General will see what action he needs to take next.  Cara?

Question:  Can the UN now say that it is in full cooperation with the French… working in full cooperation with the French…?

Spokesman:  Yes.

Question:  …and a lot more quickly?  Since the report describes weeks of… every round of communication taking weeks.  How has that been improved?

Spokesman:  Yes, I think we are clearly cooperating very… with the French investigation, as it is so required.  I think, even earlier last summer, when they asked for the lifting of the immunity of a staff member, that was done within a week so that person could participate in the investigation.  The Office for Legal Counsel, I think, has taken note of the critique in the report and is looking at ways to streamline its systems.

Question:  To follow up on that… or the second part of the question, this report was given to the Secretary‑General today, but, of course, it's been with the UN yesterday and before that, perhaps.  What has the UN role… this is an independent report.  What role has the UN played in editing it?  Thanks.

Spokesman:  There's been no redaction of any kind.  And I would… I think that's a question you could also ask the panel members, who will be here in about three minutes.  Yes, ma'am?

Question:  A follow‑up question.  It's not clear for me why the Secretary‑General is hesitating to ask the third person to resign.  I mean, if the report is finding clear that the person is guilty, so why he's taking time to think about what to do?

Spokesman:  I think there are issues of different level.  The Secretary‑General had asked his Special Representative to resign as an issue of accountability and command authority.  There are findings against a third person.  There are procedures in place, in terms of our human resources procedures.  And the Secretary‑General will look at what further steps need to be taken.  Mr. Lee?

Question:  Sure.  Thanks a lot.  I guess just… as you were saying this, I wanted to ask, I mean, is the standard that the Secretary‑General is applying to reading this report that, unless you're one of the three people found officially to have abused authority, you have full confidence in them?  Because there's a lot of damning findings, including, in some cases, a failure to find abuse of authority only due to the nexus between the wrongdoing and the actual allegations in CAR.  And so he is… I guess I'm just wondering, it seems like a very narrow approach to take to a report.  And… and what does he say… what does the report say about the Secretary‑General's Office running himself?  Because the executive office… the senior official of the executive office, one of the rea… said he told Mr. [Jan] Eliasson.  Then this turned out not to be the case, but he was basically too busy.  They find that he was assigned the CAR report and many, many countries, and for this reason… you'll see it in the report.  It's at page 74, 75.  They describe in great detail this overworked individual, so what does he take from this?

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary‑General will obviously study the report, see what next steps needs to be taken, but especially address the systemic issues that are unveiled in the report.

Question:  But, when you put them in the context of the Bernardino León thing, which you may see as separate, in which an envoy negotiated a job with a country involved in the mediation or some of the… in the John Ashe indictments, is there a recognition that there's something that, although it may be his last year, that there's a swirl of these issues and that something may need to be done?  I wish he would have answered it yesterday.  That was the question.

Spokesman:  No, I think those are your words, and I would not use them.  Okay.  All right.  I will go get the panel members, who should be right behind me.

For information media. Not an official record.