Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
28 April 2010
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. Jean Victor Nkolo will be briefing you here -- he is the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, as you know -- he will be here to brief you in a little while.
**Secretary-General -- Appointment
The Secretary-General has appointed Tayé-Brook Zerihoun of Ethiopia as Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Mr. Zerihoun replaces Haile Menkerios of South Africa, who has been appointed, for a one-year period, as the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan.
Since April 2008, Mr. Zerihoun has served as the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus and Head of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). We have more information on this in my office.
Edmond Mulet, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Haiti, told the Security Council today that Haiti has made considerable progress in providing aid to the people left most vulnerable after the 12 January earthquake. Meanwhile, in recent weeks, the United Nations has been working as a priority to relocate thousands of displaced Haitians from sites deemed to be at high risk from flooding and mudslides.
Mulet said that he believes the next 12 to 18 months, which include a timetable for elections by February 2011, are a period of great challenge and risk. The Secretary-General’s recent report contains a recommendation for a surge in the UN Mission’s (MINUSTAH) police presence, to help ensure their visibility on the streets and in camps for displaced people. He asked the Security Council to support the Secretary-General’s recommendations. And we have his remarks in my office.
And we understand that Mr. Mulet intends to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout once he is finished in the Council.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is facing a shortfall of nearly 70 per cent of it 2010 budget requirements for its operations in Sa’ada, in Yemen, with $24 million still needed. As a result of limited funding, WFP does not have enough food to meet the needs of families.
The World Food Programme, in consultation with the Government of Yemen and its partners, will be required to cut food rations by half beginning in May. This should allow the limited food stocks to last through the end of August.
And meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that four out of the five education projects included in the UN humanitarian appeal for Yemen have received no funds at all so far. And health programmes in Yemen are only 9 per cent funded, so that provision of health assistance to displaced Yemenis is only available for internally displaced people in camps and those who can reach existing, but already overstretched, health structures.
The UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, met today with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and discussed the tension that has arisen as a result of recent allegations. He commended Prime Minister Hariri for his efforts to reduce tension, including his visit yesterday to meet with President [Hosni] Mubarak of Egypt.
Williams said, following meetings with Israeli and Lebanese officials, that he expects that all parties will do their part to maintain the stability in the south and across the Blue Line, and that tension will dissipate. We have his press remarks in my office.
Lawyers and civil society agreed today on the way forward for free legal defence services to be offered to detainees in Iraq, under a project supported by the European Union and implemented by the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS).
Between September and November 2009, the project established 20 Legal Defence Centres in 16 governorates of Iraq, providing free services to beneficiaries who have reduced access to legal representation.
So, that is what I have for you now, and I am happy to take questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. As you indicated, the World Food Programme (WFP) is facing some challenges in Sudan. It is also doing, facing the same -- well, greater -- challenges in the Sahel region, especially in Niger. Is this due to the fact that the donors are less forthcoming or some other causes?
Spokesperson: I have also seen and heard what Mr. [John] Holmes has had to say on his visit to Niger, and that is clearly very troubling, and that’s why he is sounding the alarm bell in the same way I would say that our colleagues in Yemen are sounding an alarm bell on funding. I think it is difficult to say, as perhaps you are suggesting, that because of the economic crisis people are less willing to give. It is difficult to say that from our perspective. All we would simply point out is that there are shortfalls in a number of areas, and we would like clearly for donors to continue to show the generosity that they have up to now. There are always going to be competing pressures, competing demands, and I think everybody also knows that Governments and individuals around the world do their best and rise to the occasion when they are reminded that there is a clear need. And Mr. Holmes has done that most recently, and specifically in the case of Niger.
Question: Thank you, Martin. The European Union envoy in [the former Yugoslav Republic of] Macedonia called on both parties yesterday, Athens and Skopje, to resume their negotiations and to use these good services of Mr. [Matthew] Nimetz and reach the agreement, as he said, before June, which is the next European Council meeting. Now, my questions is whether the UN is calling, using this opportunity also to call the parties to use this sort of time limit, whether the UN is with the position that this is the time now for both parties to reach an agreement. And also we now know that the Secretary-General will meet Mr. Nimetz today. Who called for that meeting, and what we can expect out of that meeting?
Spokesperson: On the first point, the European Union envoy is speaking on behalf of the European Union, not on behalf of the United Nations. And so it is not for me to qualify that person’s remarks. What is clear is that the United Nations has continued to provide its good offices through, as you have mentioned, Mr. Nimetz. The bottom line is that there needs to be an agreement, which clearly involves compromise. There needs to be an agreement that is acceptable to both sides. And the United Nations has not set a specific deadline. It simply would like working with both the parties and other interested partners to ensure that there is a workable agreement -- and by workable, we mean that works for both. On your second question, the Secretary-General is indeed seeing Mr. Nimetz this afternoon. My understanding is that the Secretary-General is keen, as is Mr. Nimetz, to be brought up to date, for the Secretary-General to be brought up to date on where things are. And as I have mentioned to you before, individually, the Secretary-General is regularly kept informed through the Department of Political Affairs. This is a chance for a direct briefing, if you like, from Mr. Nimetz.
Question: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Mr. Nimetz today?
Spokesperson: That’s the way it works. You are invited to see the Secretary-General.
Question: I just wanted you to clarify whether it is actually accurate that the UN Mission in Chad was going to be sent out of town by the Chadians, who were not impressed with their services and no longer needed the UN Mission, and that there had to be some kind of negotiation that the Mission should stay just for another one year.
Spokesperson: I think that we have made our position clear on that. That the United Nations believes that it would be desirable for the Mission to remain in place. But this is, as you have also mentioned, the subject of discussions. Those discussions will come to a head, if you like, in May. But they are discussions that continue; the UN’s view has been made clear on that.
Question: Does it have anything to do also with the view about some African diplomats that the UN is using more non-African leaders for these missions in Africa? Do you see any connection between the two?
Spokesperson: First of all, personnel matters are something that one should put to one side from the nature of a mission, and you should not see it in a political context directly. This is personnel. I think that my colleagues in DPKO [Department for Peacekeeping Operations] could probably speak in more detail about the specific force commanders, for example, in different missions and give you more detail on that.
Question: Sure, Martin. There is a Human Rights Watch report out saying that the AMISOM [African Union Mission in Somalia] peacekeeping mission in Somalia, which the UN provides logistical support to, is engaged in what essentially are war crimes, targeting of civilian neighbourhoods in order to get at small numbers of al-Shabaab within them. There is also some discussion of recruitment of child soldiers in refugee camps in Kenya to fight in Somalia against al-Shabaab. I am wondering, particularly given the UN’s logistical support to the AMISOM unit, and these charges of war crimes by the unit being supported by the UN, what is the UN’s response to this?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, I think the question is one that you should direct to the African Union.
Question: Since the UN actually provides logistical support, DFS [Department of Field Support] has a whole unit that supports them. It would be the same as asking MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] why it supports units of the Congolese army that are accused of war crimes. Same thing, actually.
Spokesperson: Yes, but in the first instance, this is clearly a question for the African Union to comment on a Human Rights Watch report, which is dealing specifically with an African Union mission, not with a UN mission. As for the logistical role of the United Nations in supporting that mission, it’s clear that that is what it is, it is logistical support. And I will seek further guidance on that for you.
Question: Thanks. Yesterday I had asked you about… I don’t think I was clear about an attack in Sudan. It didn’t have to do with Darfur. You’d said there was over the weekend, there were reports that the SPLM [Sudan People’s Liberation Movement] of South Sudan engaged what were either Northern Government forces or Arab tribes, and killed 55 people. This was not in Darfur. This was a different, you said you’d answered it before, but it, sadly, there are two separate attacks, and I wanted to know…
Spokesperson: My understanding was that it was on the border, it was between West-South Sudan borders onto Darfur. That was my understanding, that it was in that location. But I have asked my colleagues for clearer readout. I don’t have it.
Question: Okay. And were you able to confirm, or I guess, deny this, that Tayé-Brook Zerihoun is coming to UN Headquarters to take the DPA position?
Spokesperson: I was able to confirm it; Matthew, you came into the room -- it was the first thing I read out. I know you can’t be in two places at once, but thanks to the webcast you will be able to look at it again, if you can really stand it! And we’ve also put out a statement.
Question: Given the statements yesterday of Mr. Zerihoun’s position in Cyprus for the UN, what is the process? Is there already a process began to find a new replacement? Mr. [Alexander] Downer had said that basically Mr. Zerihoun fills in for him on good offices role when he is not there. So, it seems like with him missing, not missing, but doing another job, how is that going to go forward?
Spokesperson: It is quite normal for there to be a rapid selection process. And also there is clear chain of command, if you like, and of delegation. So I don’t think that you are going to see any hiatus there. As you heard, Mr. Downer himself is returning to Cyprus this weekend. I am sure that will be something that they will be discussing, to ensure that there is a smooth transition.
Question: Martin, the Secretary-General met with Israel’s Defence Minister this morning. Is there a readout available, or will one be made available? And what was the purpose of the meeting?
Spokesperson: There will be a readout available later. We don’t have it just yet. But there will be a readout available later, and the purpose of the meeting is clearly -- as you know, Ehud Barak, the Defense Minister for Israel, was in Washington. He had meetings there yesterday. He is in New York today, and used that opportunity to catch up with the Secretary-General. The topics will be in the readout.
Question: Some time ago, I had mentioned that the UN Secretary-General had asked for an impartial, independent investigation of the killing of the journalist and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova of Grozny, Chechnya. Do you know if any impartial and independent investigation was ever made, as requested by the UN Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: Let’s find out. I don’t know the answer to that here and now.
Question: This is not about UN politics or diplomacy. The UN gets involved in all these big sporting events like the Olympics, with messages conveyed, like to the World Football Cup. Now, there is a huge event taking place in the West Indies, called the T20 cricket. Is there any UN involvement in this?
Spokesperson: That’s a good question, and an unusual question, but I am very happy to try to get you an answer on that.
Question: So you have a sports adviser to the Secretary-General who usually attends these events?
Spokesperson: Exactly, I know. We’ll get in touch to try to get you an answer.
Correspondent: Very important for us!
Spokesperson: Cricket, I am well aware, is dear to your heart, and is to many people. So, let’s try to find out.
You ask and you shall receive. A readout on Ehud Barak’s meeting with the Secretary-General:
The Secretary-General met today with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak. They discussed the prospects for progress on the Middle East peace process. The Secretary-General expressed his hope that proximity talks between the parties would begin shortly. He appealed for further progress on access for reconstruction materials into Gaza. The Secretary-General and the Deputy Prime Minister reviewed matters of mutual interest regarding the stability of the region, including Lebanon. Lastly, they exchanged views on the Iranian nuclear issue.
That’s what I have for you. Just take one last question and then I’m handing over to Jean Victor.
Question: Okay, sure. I guess it’s a climate change or management question. There is a Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) report out analyzing the UN system’s own environmental accounting and other practices. Among other things, it says that the UN generates every year 1.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide -- more than [Lao People’s Democratic Republic] and certain other countries, Guyana and Mauritius. But then it says that the UN, it’s very critical of the UN’s attempts to offset them, saying that the UN is, it doesn’t appear to know how it works, it is unable to quantify many things. So, I am wondering, given the importance of both climate change and of offsetting to the Secretary-General, what steps are being taken in light of the UN’s own report criticizing it. And I had also, there was a follow-up, I think Evelyn had asked this a few days ago, but, as the building is essentially being closed down, the tall tower, it had been asked, what is going to happen with a lot of the furniture, plastics, in terms of recycling the actual materials that are up there?
Spokesperson: Okay, Matthew, this is two for the price of one. If I say one question, I prefer to just have one question.
Correspondent: Okay. I see, there is environmental consistency, so…
Spokesperson: Yeah, but it is not as if they are going to burn the furniture, I think. But, on the first one, I am aware of the report you are referring to, and I am aware of the report that’s been written about the report that you’re probably referring to, as well. And we’re seeking guidance on that to be able to give you more information. But, clearly, as you heard from the panel sitting here in a more general context, there is always more that can be done and should be done. And the United Nations does not set itself up as being a paragon of environmental virtue. It strives towards that end. And clearly, there is always going to be the need for improvement. And when clear findings and recommendation are made, these could be acted upon. And as for the fate of furniture from this building, we were looking for an answer. I seem to recall there was something, but it may not have reached you. Let me find out. Okay. And now I am happy to pass the floor to Jean Victor.
[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations is in the process of deciding which of the used furniture in the Secretariat Building can be salvaged for economic and preservation reasons, and which will have to be disposed off. The United Nations will recycle the furniture to the extent possible.]
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Bon après-midi and good afternoon to all.
**Official Visit of President Treki to China
Currently on official visit to the People’s Republic of China, the President of the General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, today held talks with Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi. They discussed wide-ranging issues on the top of the agenda of the United Nations, including development, peace and security, United Nations reform and a number of international and regional issues. They underlined the need to strengthen multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, to address effectively the global challenges confronting the international community.
President Treki highlighted the significance of the September 2010 high-level plenary meeting of the General Assembly, with the participation of Heads and State and Government, to review the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, noting its particular importance for the developing countries. Highlighting the interlinkage between peace and development, both sides emphasized the critical importance of redoubling efforts to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
President Treki apprised the Foreign Minister of other priorities for the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly, in particular his initiatives to hold various thematic debates of the General Assembly on important issues including disarmament, the Middle East peace process, peacekeeping, dialogue among civilizations, and the piracy issue, with a focus on the situation in Somalia. The Chinese Foreign Minister expressed appreciation and full support for these initiatives.
Both sides emphasized the urgent need for a just and lasting settlement of the question of Palestine and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East, and the enhanced role that the United Nations should play in that regard. The Foreign Minister also expressed China’s full support for the peace and development objectives in Africa.
They also discussed efforts to reform and strengthen the United Nations, particularly in the context of the ongoing processes on the revitalization of the General Assembly, reform of the Security Council and of the United Nations Secretariat. They underlined the importance of an effective United Nations, responsive to the interests of all Member States.
Later in the day, the President of the General Assembly visited the China Institute of International Studies in Beijing, where he had an interactive session with prominent Chinese scholars and researchers on a host of issues related to the United Nations, Africa and other regional situations, and the role of the United Nations in addressing global issues.
That is what I have for you today. Yes, Mr. Abbadi.
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] Foreign Minister, does he plan with the President of China, Hu Jintao, and did he discuss with the Foreign Minister issues of the environment?
Spokesperson: I can confirm that he will indeed meet with President Hu Jintao and that this will be on the occasion of a banquet hosted by the President. And definitively, we may not have highlighted the environment issue here, but it was part of the questions discussed because it is on top of the priorities of the General Assembly. The President is very keen to push and promote the environmental goals of the United Nations.
Question: Any details available about his visit to Pakistan?
Spokesperson: We will provide you very soon with details regarding his upcoming visit to Pakistan. And he will visit Pakistan after having visited India. And the visit to India will start once the visit to China is over.
Question: I hope this question to do with the nuclear treaty conference of next week, is it a General Assembly affair or another body of the UN is doing that?
Spokesperson: It is a General Assembly matter, but in this case it is being organized by various entities in the building. But it is part of the General Assembly proceedings. Yes, Masood.
Question: Were you able to talk to Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin about the Security Council reform thing?
Spokesperson: I have relayed the message and we hope to receive an answer. As you may be aware, Ambassador Tanin was able to brief President Treki prior to Dr. Treki’s departure for Asia. He will, therefore, be now in a position to come and brief you. That request has now been put to him. We will wait for his answer.
Question: And where can we get information about this [inaudible], conference and what should we expect next week?
Spokesperson: The information should be online on the website of the President of the General Assembly. I will double-check that, and if that has not yet been put online, we’ll definitely make sure that you get the information, and we can also provide you with some names of specific colleagues who handle this matter hands-on here at the Secretariat.
No further questions? I wish you a pleasant afternoon. Goodbye.
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For information media • not an official record
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