Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, 03 December 2012
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
So, good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the briefing.
**Noon Briefing Guest
Today my guest is Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. And Ms. Zerrougui is joining the briefing for the first time. And she is here to brief you on her recent visit to Yemen. And I know that Ms. Zerrougui has some introductory remarks, and then is happy to take some questions.
But just to remind you that Ms. Zerrougui was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict at the Under-Secretary-General level in September of this year, and in this capacity she serves as a moral voice and independent advocate to build awareness and give prominence to the rights and protection of boys and girls affected by armed conflict.
And immediately prior to this appointment, she was the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and deputy head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where, since 2008, she spearheaded the Mission’s efforts in strengthening the rule of law and protection of civilians.
And as a legal expert in human rights and the administration of justice, Ms. Zerrougui has had a distinguished career, both in her own country of Algeria and internationally in strengthening the rule of law and in championing strategies and actions for protection of vulnerable groups, especially women and children.
And so, so much for my introduction; Ms. Zerrougui, welcome. And please, the floor is yours.
[Press conference by Ms. Zerrougui issued separately]
**Secretary-General in Doha
So, just to say, the Secretary-General arrived in Doha today, to attend the United Nations Climate Change Conference.
Tomorrow he will address the opening of the high-level part of the Conference and then he will give a press conference with the Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres. He will also meet with officials from different countries and regional groups attending the talks, as well as with business and finance leaders.
As you know, the Conference of the Parties started on 26 November. Ms. Figueres has called for Governments to work hard so that the meeting can constitute another step forward in the global response to climate change. The Conference is attended by Government delegates, representatives from business and industry, environmental organizations, research institutions and the media. More than 100 ministers are scheduled to attend the high-level part of the meeting, which ends on 7 December.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
An update on the Democratic Republic of the Congo: the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) is continuing to monitor the withdrawal of the M23 rebel group from the wider Goma area, in accordance with agreements reached by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region on 24 November.
The situation in Goma is relatively calm. Congolese police elements have returned and are patrolling the city. Some advance Congolese army elements have also arrived, with more expected in the coming days. The Mission remains fully deployed and active in carrying out its mandated activities and in support of the implementation of the agreements reached by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region.
**Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs
Today the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, is in Bangladesh, one of the world’s most disaster-prone countries. It is her first official visit to the country in her role as UN humanitarian chief.
During her visit, Ms. Amos has been meeting representatives of the Government, the United Nations, non-governmental organizations and the donor community. She has been discussing challenges in humanitarian access, and how to build resilience in local communities and households so they are better able to cope when disaster strikes.
Ms. Amos noted that the Government is investing in its local communities and that other countries can learn from Bangladesh. She said that Bangladesh has trained 50,000 community volunteers to be the first line of response after a storm or flood, and this is both cost-effective and saves lives.
Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Mohammed Loulichki, the Permanent Representative of Morocco to the United Nations and President of the Security Council for the month of December. And he will be here to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.
That’s what I have. Questions, please? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [Inaudible] is it true that [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: Seen the reports, and we are checking with our colleagues who deal with safety and security. So I’d hope to be able to come back to you with more information when I have. But, just as a general principle, I think everybody understands there is a balance to be struck between the work that needs to be done on the ground — that’s self-evident — humanitarian work, and the safety of those people providing that assistance. So there is always a balance there. As I say, once I have more information from our safety and security colleagues I will let you know. I know there is an obvious interest in that. Yes?
Correspondent: On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Security Council requested that the Secretary-General report on outside support for the M23. I believe the resolution said within coming days, that was almost two weeks ago [inaudible]…
Spokesperson: I’d have to check; I don’t know the answer to that, I’d have to check. Obviously, this is something that has been the focus of some attention. So let me check and I will come back to you, okay? Yes, Miki?
Question: Thanks. Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about the announcement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s intention of launching a rocket missile?
Spokesperson: Well, he is obviously aware of the report that came from the DPRK. I would simply refer you to the statement that he made in April at this point, and namely that he’d said that the most recent launch at that time, which failed, as I think you will recall, in April. He said that that action, that launch, was deplorable because it defied the firm and unanimous stance of the international community. And he said that that launch in April was a direct violation of Security Council resolution 1874 (2009) and was a threat to regional stability.
And he also — and this is the point here — he also urged the DPRK not to undertake any further provocative actions that will heighten tension in the region. So that was what he said in April. His view has not changed on that matter. At this point, if we have anything further to say, I will let you know. I’d also simply refer you to what he said at that time about the need for the DPRK authorities to work towards building confidence with neighbouring countries, and of course towards improving the life of its people. If I have anything further on that, then I will let you know. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask on, on the Democratic Republic of Congo, first I wanted, there is something I have been trying to, to get for a few days, which is that there were these reports in an Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs document of 22 rapes in the… in the town of Minova. Over the weekend there have been further reports from clinics, not the hospital whose name… putting the number at over 100. So I am wondering, in the… in the days that… in the days since, what is… has the UN now determined which units, battalions or regiments of the FARDC [Congolese Armed Forces] were present in Minova at the time of these rapes?
Spokesperson: I know you have asked a number of times, Matthew, most recently on Friday — in person, at least. And I know also that you have received replies on those occasions. But it would appear not to your satisfaction. The fact is that the Mission has an obligation, and as part of its mandate, to report on human rights violations. It has a human rights component within the Mission. As I think you have been told, those people who carry out that kind of work have not been able to gain the access that they need because of the security situation on the ground. As soon as they are able to do so, they will conduct the investigation that is necessary. So at this point, we cannot say with any certainty who precisely was involved. We are aware of the reports and need to investigate them in the usual manner that these incidents are investigated and then report back. Once we have information we will be able to provide that. And that applies also to the reported incidents over the weekend.
Question: Sure. What I… what I wanted to know then is, I have seen this quote by Babacar Gaye saying, “There is an FARDC battalion coming to Goma that we will work with.” So what I wanted to know is, is it possible to get the number of that battalion or regiments that the UN is working with currently or prospectively in the next coming days in Goma? Because obviously, with its human rights due diligence policy, they are not, I’m not saying that, you know, it is sort of, it’s sort of a loophole, but was wondering how it is actually implemented, if you don’t know who committed the rapes? Isn’t it possible that the UN is working with the same battalions and regiments in Goma today?
Spokesperson: I would simply…
Question: Can you get the number at least [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: I understand what you are saying, Matthew.
I know that Mr. [Hervé] Ladsous has said very clearly, including to you on Friday, that there is a due diligence policy and it will be adhered to. So, I think that is very clearly coming from the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. I have just said that also an investigation will need to be carried out when it is safe to do so about the reported rapes. We cannot, obviously, draw any conclusions at this point about who precisely was involved because an investigation has not yet taken place.
Let me just come back to Syria; I just wanted to be able to say that our colleagues in the Department of Safety and Security have said that we can confirm that the United Nations in Syria will pull out non-essential international personnel with immediate effect. And as the situation changes, the UN system assesses its programme of activities accordingly and as it identifies those personnel needed to carry out those activities.
I can also tell you that the UN will also suspend its missions within the country until further notice. So, yes, I know you have a follow-up question; that’s all I have at the moment, okay? So I will endeavour to provide more if I have it, but that’s all I have. That was just given to me a few seconds ago.
Question: Is there any particular incidents that prompted this, this decision, or [inaudible]?
Spokesperson: As I say, I don’t have any further information. I think it is self-evident to everybody that the situation in Damascus in particular, but across the country, has been becoming more precarious. If you look at what the Secretary-General and the Joint Special Representative said when they briefed the General Assembly just last week, they were extremely concerned about the escalating violence, the nature of that violence and the dangerous situation on the ground. If I have anything more specific, I would let you know. But as I said at the outset, before being given this piece of paper, there is a balance to be struck between the work that needs to be done for the people of Syria who have been suffering for such a long time, and the safety of the people who are trying to provide that assistance. Other questions, please? Yes, Miki?
Question: [Inaudible] can you give us the size of the UN’s presence at the moment — later, when you have it?
Spokesperson: I will certainly try to do that, yes, yes, Miki. Yes, Nizar?
Question: Martin, regarding the building of further settlement units in East Jerusalem, I have seen the statement by the Secretary-General on this issue, but did he make any contact with the Prime Minister of Israel regarding this? Many of the countries have called — two European countries, at least — have called the Israeli ambassadors and conveyed to them resentment for such activities. Did the Secretary-General contact the Israelis and convey his feelings about that?
Spokesperson: Well, I think the statement we issued yesterday conveyed the Secretary-General’s thoughts on this rather clearly. As you are aware, there is also the Special Coordinator, Robert Serry, who is based in Jerusalem, who has frequent contacts with the Israeli authorities. And as you will also know, the Secretary-General arrived in Doha just a couple of hours ago, having flown overnight. So he will not have been in touch with anyone in that period. The statement speaks for itself; we have a Special Coordinator on the ground who is in frequent contact with the Israeli authorities. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I want to ask about Mali, but just a follow-up on what you said on Syria. When you said “suspend all missions”, is that, that means the UNSMIS [United Nations Supervision Mission in the Syrian Arab Republic] and, and UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force] to the degree that it is in Syria? I mean, are you talking about those two missions in particular or are there some other…?
Spokesperson: I believe it means activities on the ground, meaning the ability to move around. But let me check further on what is precisely meant by that.
[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the word “missions” referred to travel within the country.]
Question: Okay. And I want to ask on… on…
Spokesperson: On Mali.
Question: On Mali, on the report of the Secretary-General, there has been some push back; ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), I think, has said that they deplore the report in the sense that it doesn’t… not only does it say that there is more specifics needed, but that, the suggestion that the UN won’t pay for any… that it should be all voluntary, voluntarily funded. Is there some, I mean, he is recommending what he is recommending, but given that the UN does I think fund AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) and some other things, is it that it is less urgent or is there, is there, is the UN’s financial situation so much worse at this point than it was at the time of AMISOM? What… what… how does they, he respond to this deploring by ECOWAS?
Spokesperson: Two points: first is that we obviously stand by the report that the Secretary-General put together and has now submitted to the Security Council; the second point is that it is in the hands of the Security Council. They are meeting on Wednesday, let’s see what happens.
Thanks very much; have a good afternoon.
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