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
13 October 2011
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
So, good afternoon, everyone, and good to see you. Welcome to the briefing.
Today I am very pleased to welcome Hervé Ladsous, who is, as you all know, the new Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. It is really a great pleasure to have you here.
Under-Secretary-General Ladsous: Thank you very much.
Spokesperson: Welcome. I understand that you have some introductory remarks, and then will be able to take a few questions. I will also have a few items after Mr. Ladsous has finished briefing you.
And I understand that Nihal Saad, who is the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will also brief you after me.
But first, Under-Secretary-General Ladsous, welcome, the floor is yours.
[Press conference by Mr. Ladsous issued separately.]
So, as I mentioned, I have a couple of other notes, and I’m of course willing to take questions. And then I’ll pass the floor to my colleague Nihal Saad, who has joined us here, and she will brief you shortly.
So, this morning the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Libya, Mr. Ian Martin, briefed the Security Council by videolink in closed session.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the situation in Yemen continues to be extremely volatile. The price of bread is 50 per cent higher than it was a few months ago, which is very damaging for the food security of the poorest families.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is increasing its assistance to help vulnerable people in the country. And you may recall earlier this week that the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, said that for far too long, the international community has failed to give enough attention to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
All media are invited to attend a special press preview to launch an exhibition entitled “Design with the Other 90%: Cities”; and that’s tomorrow, Friday, at 10 a.m. in the Main Gallery of the Visitors Lobby here at UNHQ. The exhibition is from the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt Museum, and it examines the challenges of unprecedented urban growth, particularly and primarily the informal settlements and slums of the Global South. And there is more detail on this to be found in a Note to Correspondents that is available on the racks.
We have been asked whether the Secretary-General received a letter from the Iranian Mission about US allegations. I can confirm that the Secretary-General has received a letter from the Iranian Mission and also from the US authorities. And both of those letters have been sent to the General Assembly and Security Council.
Questions, please? Yes, Margaret?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is the Secretary-General invited to the dinner at the White House tonight for the Korean President, and will he be going?
Spokesperson: Yes, he is. He will be going. And will be back tomorrow morning. Next question. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Yeah, sure, there has been… the… the… this Sudan Sentinel project has put out a press release last night or this morning detailing again things that happened in Southern Kordofan and actually naming the… there is an incident in which a UN independent contractor was killed, they say, right in front of the Egyptian peacekeepers. His name is Numeri Phillip Kalo. And what I wonder is what… what’s ever happened with that? I know that there was an OA… an Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights study that sort of in its final version dropped out the presence of the peacekeepers. Now that more evidence has emerged, will anything be done by the UN about this killing, essentially murder, of a UN independent contractor in front of peacekeepers in June in Kadugli?
Spokesperson: Well, let’s check. But I would note that Mr. Ladsous was just here, you could have asked him that question. You…
Question: [inaudible] I wanted to ask the other question because [inaudible].
Spokesperson: Well, that’s okay, you had a choice, you had a choice and that’s what you did.
Question: [inaudible] the death of a UN staff member, so I think it’s entirely fair to ask it in this forum. So, I am asking you.
Spokesperson: I am not saying it’s not fair to ask the question, I am just saying you set the priority for the question you wanted to ask to the head of Peacekeeping Operations. And so, what I am saying is I don’t have the answer now, and I will see what I can get.
Question: He said ask… he asked for indulgence that he didn’t have the details, so I thought it was better to ask you now, maybe you can get the details.
Spokesperson: That’s fine, we will try to get something for you. I am simply making the point. Yes? Other questions, please? Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Martin. Does the Secretary-General have any comment regarding the passing of the legislation in Washington on the free trade agreement with South Korea, Panama and Colombia?
Spokesperson: Not at this point, no, I don’t think so, no. Next question? Yes, first of all coming to you, then to Margaret, yes?
Question: I need to know that Iran has denied alleged assassination plot, and the letter that you mentioned, did Mr. Ban Ki-moon make any response to that letter?
Spokesperson: No, as I said, that letter, a letter was received from the Iranian Mission, as was a letter from the US authorities. And both of those letters have been transmitted to the General Assembly and the Security Council. That happened yesterday.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: So, on the letters, are you going to release them now, because usually they would be with the daily documents [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: That’s, that would not be us who would release them. It’s to be seen whether they are released by other bodies within the UN system.
Question: [inaudible] was the letter to the SG… I mean, we get a lot of letters [inaudible].
Spokesperson: No, that’s not typically the way that it happens. If they are transmitted to the Security Council or General Assembly, they can be, but not necessarily are made public documents. That’s not always the case.
Question: So, are you going to try to make these public?
Spokesperson: Well, as I understand it, the Iranian letter is already in the public domain.
Question: [inaudible] going around, but the US letter?
Spokesperson: Well, again you could ask the US authorities if they wish to make that public. And as I say, in due course, it may be for the General Assembly or the Security Council to do so. But that’s not for me to say.
Question: Did they ask you… did the Americans ask you not to make the letter public?
Spokesperson: I do not know the answer to that. You could check with the US Mission. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want… last month, the Secretary-General named as a member of his high-level group on energy access issues, Charles Holliday, the Chairman of Bank of America, and you know, this week down at the Occupy Wall Street protests, there was a large sort of a presentation about Bank of America being the biggest funder of mountain-top coal removal and being… called it very environmentally destructive, there is a call to remove money from the Bank, and so I wonder, did the Secretary-General… did he… was he aware of this? Did he consider this in naming the Chairman of… of… of… of this particular bank to his energy access group, that they are extensively involved in… and what’s the Secretary-General’s view of mountain-top coal removal, where you… the mountain is cut off and essentially destroyed?
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, I will check with my colleagues on the first part of you question. On the second, the Secretary-General has just returned, as you know, from a visit to Norway, Denmark and Sweden. And in Norway, there was a large conference talking about the need for sustainable energy. This is an initiative that was launched just very recently by the Secretary-General. The Norwegian authorities have a complementary initiative that they have launched. The whole point here is to provide universal energy access by 2030. And to do so requires investment in sustainable energy. And it also requires countries to increase the amount of renewable energy in the energy mix. But the energy mix will continue to contain other sources of energy. That’s an inevitability. I am talking in general terms now, not specifically addressing the last point, but just trying to underscore that the Secretary-General puts a heavy focus on the need for developing a sustainable energy strategy that will help us to reach that target that I mentioned of universal access by 2030.
Question: Sure, the only… I’m just… and thanks for this. If… if, when you look into this, is there… I guess my, my real question would be, what would he make of the critique that would say that naming the Chairman of Bank of America to this sustainable energy panel is inconsistent with what you’ve just said?
Spokesperson: Well, as I say, I heard you the first time, Matthew, and I will check, yeah? Other questions? Yes, Barbara?
Question: On Occupy Wall Street again, the Secretary-General’s economic adviser has expressed quite strong support for the… Jeffrey Sachs has expressed quite strong for the movement, is that the Secretary-General’s opinion also, and has he…?
Spokesperson: Barbara, let me correct you, let me correct you. Jeffrey Sachs is not the Secretary-General’s economic adviser. He is the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Millennium Development Goals, and he advises the Secretary-General specifically on that.
Question: [inaudible] he’s, as I said, expressed strong support for the Occupy Wall Street protesters and I wondered if that was the Secretary-General’s view and whether the Secretary-General has made any statement on these protests.
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General has not made a specific comment on the events we have seen in and around Wall Street, and indeed in other cities in the United States in recent days. He has not at this point. What I want to reiterate is that Jeffrey Sachs advises the UN system, and the Secretary-General in particular, on the Millennium Development Goals.
Question: Isn’t he [inaudible], that is his personal opinion, he is not speaking…?
Spokesperson: Well, you’d have to ask Jeffrey Sachs.
Question: I am asking you whether this is a reflection of what the Secretary-General thinks.
Spokesperson: Well, when Mr. Sachs speaks on Wall Street or wherever exactly it was about the events going on there, I don’t recall that he mentioned the Millennium Development Goals. And that’s what he advises the Secretary-General on. Iftikhar, next question, yeah?
Question: Martin, back to the two letters. Apart from forwarding them to the Security Council and the General Assembly, does the Secretary-General intend to be in touch with the two Governments in order to lower these tensions?
Spokesperson: This is something that was discussed yesterday in the Security Council, as I understand it, and I don’t know that the Secretary-General has any immediate plans to discuss it with either side, as I understand it. Yes, Matthew?
Question: I wanted to… it’s sort of a follow-up to Barbara’s question, in its own… Jeffrey Sachs and Millennium… or at least Millennium Villages, in this room, you know, relatively recently, Jeffrey Sachs said that Malawi, he found that the develop… the political developments in Malawi, which is one of the sites of the Millennium Villages, were disturbing, a trend in the wrong direction, etcetera. The Permanent Representative of Malawi, I spoke to, and he said, well, Ban Ki-moon visited Malawi, it was the only Millennium Village project that he visited and that must mean that the UN is not troubled by political developments there. So what is the… is… on Millennium Villages, does Jeffrey Sachs speak for the Secretary-General or does the Secretary-General disagree with Jeffrey Sachs that there has been a disturbing trend in Malawi politically that impacts upon the… the [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you will probably recall that on the same visit to Malawi, the Secretary-General intervened directly in a human rights case and secured the release of two men while he was there. And I think that answers the question. Yes?
Question: I think, there… just one, just… just because I think what Jeffrey Sachs was referring to was this incident in which 20 protesters were… were killed by the Government, which I think it happened since the visit. So I just wondered, is there some update? The… the… the Permanent Representative seems to see a difference between the Secretary-General and Sachs on Malawi, and I… is there one?
Spokesperson: I think we have spoken about the recent events in Malawi. Let me check into that.
Spokesperson: Okay. All right, thank you, and I am pleased to hand over to Nihal.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the noon briefing.
**General Assembly President in Finland
The President of the General Assembly, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al Nasser, is in Helsinki, Finland. Today he delivered a speech before an international seminar entitled “Migration and Communication: Rebalancing Information Flows and Dialogue”. This international seminar is co-organized by Inter Press Service (IPS), the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
President Al-Nasser said in his remarks that migration has important implications for development, both economic and social. He noted that it is important to rebalance the public debate around migration, and this could be done through two approaches: focusing on the contributions of migrants to development in countries of origin, and second by ensuring full respect for the rights of migrants in accordance with international human rights law.
President Al-Nasser also underlined the necessity of strengthening dialogue and information flows around migration, which requires global cooperation. With this in mind, President Al-Nasser stated that in 2013, the General Assembly will hold a high-level dialogue to take stock of the advances made since the high-level meeting convened by the General Assembly back in 2006.
We will have his full remarks at the event on our website, and also it will be e-mailed to all of you shortly.
Also today, the President of the General Assembly held bilateral meetings with top Finnish officials in this order: He met with Erkki Tuomioja, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Then he held bilateral talks with former President Martti Ahtisaari, in his capacity as Chairman of the Board of the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI).
The President of the General Assembly held talks with Tarja Halonen, the President of the Republic of Finland. As you may well know, President Halonen is one of the co-chairs of the UN’s High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability. The PGA will chair an informal briefing on 20 October here at the UN, when President Halonen is going to be visiting, and she will be briefing Member States and discussing the emerging findings and initial recommendations that might be useful as an input into the Rio+20 process.
In his meeting with the Foreign Minister of Finland, they discussed a wide array of issues, including the issue of mediation, the theme that the PGA has chosen as the topic of the general debate. Finland, as you may well know, is one of the co-chairs of the Group of Friends of Mediation. It played a vital role leading to the adoption of GA resolution 65/283 in June.
Earlier yesterday, the PGA met with the Speaker of the Parliament in Finland, and also with the State Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Pretti Tortila.
The PGA, just to give you a heads up, is going to be travelling to Changwon, Republic of Korea, next week to participate in the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Any questions? Yes, Edie?
**Questions and Answers
Question: You just heard these two letters mentioned, has the President received them, and are you planning to release them?
Spokesperson: I do confirm that the President of the General Assembly did receive the two letters, and as far as releasing them is concerned, I would have to check back at the Office and get back to you regarding that issue. Oh, you had the same question?
Spokesperson: Yes, please?
Question: Thank you. [inaudible] reported that the Committee on the Elimination of [inaudible] and Discrimination just sent a letter to the Ethiopian Government demanding explanation on its hydropower project named [inaudible]. I was wondering, first, is it true? Then, what’s the content of this letter and will it be… will it be made public any time soon?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have any information about that, but I can definitely check and get back to you about that issue. I will just get your e‑mail and I will get back to you and circulate the answer if other reporters are interested in that issue. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you. It has been reported that Qatar played an important role in the exchange of prisoners between Israel and the Hamas. Has the President himself played any particular role?
Spokesperson: You mean the PGA, the President of the General Assembly? Not that I am aware of, but probably I can check this also for you, but I am not aware of that kind of role. Matthew?
Question: Yeah, sure, I wanted to ask you two things. One is just, it might seem small to you, but the… in the Fourth… in covering the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) the other day, there… there was an inability to vote — this was after they discussed Western Sahara and some other [inaudible] colonial ones — so I just wanted to know, is that… is that… what was the… what was the basis of… what… I mean what’s the problem? Is there not enough money to… to… to… to have the machines working? Is it… has the problem been fixed or is this going to remain a problem in the committees?
Spokesperson: I will have to check with the Chair or the experts on that particular Committee and see what is holding the process so far and get back to you. The second question?
Question: Sure, and the other one is… is… it’s… at least last week there have been two exceptions, but basically the European Union hasn’t spoken in committees. It’s… you know, there was a big fight to get… to get them the right to speak, and now they are not speaking, which might… I understand that there’s some dispute about whether they should be called the EU, the member States of the EU or the EU and its member States. Is that true? And what does the PGA… I mean it seems like there was big… in the previous, you know, year, there was a big fight to give them this right, how is it going to be resolved and what does the President of the General Assembly think of it?
Spokesperson: First of all, I would not characterize it as a fight, as you’ve just put it. So, what I can tell you regarding this problem is that we were asked to give — the PGA’s Office, the President of the General Assembly’s Office — has been asked to give an opinion to that issue, and the PGA sought the legal opinion of the Office of Legal Affairs, as well he consulted with the other major stakeholders regarding that particular issue, including representatives of the General Assembly Affairs Office, and also with the Chairs of the Main Committees. And we are aware that there are internal EU discussions going on among the EU and the Chairs of the other Committees, and particularly with the Chair of the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), Mr. Hassim Hanif. And Mr. Hanif is consulting with other Member States, and they are trying to resolve the matter in their own context. That’s what I can tell you about that matter.
Question: Sure. Did he check with CARI… is CARICOM viewed as a… as a… as a stakeholder in this or… I mean, there was some… some Member States have been… had, you know, had some problems with giving this… this right to the EU, that’s why I was calling it a fight, I just wonder, is that… is… is… is… when you were listing the stakeholders, did he meet with these regional groups like CARICOM [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: The stakeholders, the ones that I have mentioned are the ones that we have held consultations with. Yes, please?
Question: Thank you. I would like to ask you about the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) of the General Assembly. I heard that the deadline for a draft resolution for the First Committee was postponed from 4 p.m. today to tomorrow. Do you have any information about that?
Spokesperson: Of the First Committee?
Spokesperson: Not that I am aware of. Let me check. Thank you, thank you. Yes, please?
Question: Some Eastern African foreign ministers during the general debate…
Spokesperson: I can’t hear you.
Question: Some Eastern African foreign ministers during the general debate were suggesting that IGAD [the Intergovernmental Authority for Development] [inaudible] African lobby will submit a resolution demanding observer status.
Question: Did they submit that?
Spokesperson: We have not received anything regarding that matter. Yes? Any more questions? Well, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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For information media • not an official record
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