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

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

2 June 2014

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Climate Change

I will start off with a statement from the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General welcomes the important initiative announced today by President [Barack] Obama to limit emissions from the United States' power plants, calling it a significant step towards reducing global greenhouse gas emissions that are disrupting the climate, exacerbating extreme weather patterns and threatening human health, sustainable economic growth and development.

The Secretary-General calls on all countries to accelerate their efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen adaptation and resilience. He calls on world leaders to take advantage of the unique opportunity provided by the Climate Summit he will host in September by bringing bold announcements and actions they will undertake nationally, as well as in multilateral and multi-stakeholder settings to address climate change.

The head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, also welcomed President Barack Obama's new initiative to more tightly regulate emissions from power plants. Her statement is available online.

** New York City Mayor

The Secretary-General this afternoon will pay a courtesy call to New York City Mayor Bill di Blasio at City Hall. They are expected to say a few words to the press right after their meeting.

** Ukraine

The Secretary-General spoke to President-elect Poroshenko of Ukraine on Saturday. The Secretary-General said that while he fully understood the Ukrainian government's need to reassert full sovereignty over its territory, he underscored that this needs to be done through peaceful means. The Secretary-General also urged the President-Elect to initiate a dialogue with President Putin of Russia.

**Secretary-General at Economic and Social Council Youth Forum

The Secretary-General, a few moments ago, delivered remarks at the Economic and Social Council's Youth Forum today. He called young people the leaders of today who want and deserve a real voice in shaping the politics that will affect their lives.

He thanked the youth engaged in the Forum for showing how young people from diverse circumstances and backgrounds can help unite and shape the post-2015 development agenda. He also thanked the first-ever Special Envoy on Youth, Ahmad Alhendawi, for helping raise awareness about the challenges young people face globally, and in making sure that their voices are reflected throughout the work of the UN. His full statement is available online and in my office.

And in a short while, we will be joined by Martin Sajdik, the President of the Economic and Social Council, and Ahmad Alhendawi, the Special Envoy on Youth. And they will be here to discuss the Youth 2015 Forum.

** Syria

Also on Saturday, the Secretary-General called Lakhdar Brahimi to thank Mr. Brahimi for his work on the last day of his mission as Joint Special Representative for Syria. He appreciated Mr. Brahimi's tireless efforts over the past two years to achieve a political solution in Syria. He also sent Mr. Brahimi a letter, saying that he regretted that the parties have proven so reluctant to take advantage of the opportunity to end the tragic suffering of the Syrian people. But, he noted that Mr. Brahimi had made history by bringing the Syrian sides to the table for the first time. And the Secretary-General added that he looks forward to continuing to count on Mr. Brahimi's wisdom, advice and unique experience on issues of concern to the United Nations.

** Iraq

From Iraq, the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMI) in that country has reported that at least 799 Iraqis have been killed and an estimated 1,400 people have been injured in May alone due to acts of terrorism and violence. The majority of those killed and injured have been civilians. Some of the worst affected areas included Baghdad with 932 civilian casualties and Anbar with almost 700 casualties.

The Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov, condemned the attack and urged political leaders to work swiftly to form an inclusive government within the constitutionally mandated time frame and to find a sustainable solution to the situation in Anbar. And that statement is available online.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I would like to update you on the announcement last week by representatives of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) that the armed group would lay down its weapons in two locations in North and South Kivu. So far, reports indicate that no such activity took place in South Kivu, and that an insignificant number of low ranking combatants have surrendered in North Kivu.

In a joint statement issued on Sunday by the Head of the UN [Organization Stabilization] Mission in [the Democratic Republic of the Congo] (MONUSCO), Martin Kobler, as well as Mary Robinson, the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region, as well as representatives of the African Union, the European Union and the United States in the region, stressed that members of the FDLR who choose not to surrender will remain subject to military action by the Congolese Army and MONUSCO, in line with the Mission's mandate to neutralize armed groups.

** Sudan

From Sudan, our colleague Ali al-Za'tari, the Humanitarian Coordinator and Resident Coordinator for Sudan, has expressed alarm over the increased humanitarian needs in the country which are not being met with a sufficient level of humanitarian aid. He said this puts at risk hundreds of thousands of people throughout Sudan.

Mr. Al-Za'tari noted that in the first quarter of 2014 alone, close to 300,000 people in Darfur were displaced from their homes by violence. These people join the 2 million people in Darfur who are already living in camps and depend on international aid to survive. The UN and its partners have only received 33 per cent of the $995 million needed in 2014 to meet the country's humanitarian needs.

** India

Over the weekend, the United Nations in India condemned the gang rape and murder of teenage girls in Uttar Pradesh.

In a statement, the UN Resident Coordinator in the country and the representatives of UN-Women (United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women) and UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) said that this latest act of violence also highlighted the dangers that girls and women all over India are exposed to due to a lack of toilets. The victims were attacked while going into fields near their home to relieve themselves.

Louis-Georges Arsenault, the UNICEF Representative in India, stressed that around 65 per cent of rural population in India defecates in the open and women and girls are expected to go out at night, which not only threatens their dignity, but their safety, as well.

**International Atomic Energy Agency

From Vienna, the Director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), briefed Members States today in Vienna on nuclear verification issues in Iran, Syria and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Those remarks are available on the Agency's website.

IAEA is also celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of its Nuclear Data Section. Nuclear and atomic data are international resources produced and used globally for application in research, education, medicine and industry, ranging from cancer radiotherapy to exploration for oil and other minerals.

**Press Conferences

Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on the launch of the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century otherwise known as REN21.

And then, at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who is the President of the Security Council for this month, will brief you in the traditional start of month press conference.

That's it. Any question? Yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question: I wanted to ask about Ukraine and CAR ( Central African Republic). On Ukraine, I mean, I understand that… that Secretary-General made that call Saturday, but since then, there are reports of jets bombing Lugansk, and I'm wondering, is that something that… that the UN and its monitors are aware of and how does it relate to the call? And on CAR, I'm sure you've seen the report by Human Rights Watch of the Republic of Congo peacekeepers essentially kidnapping people on 24 March. And I wanted to know what the Mission has done, what the UN has done since then to find these people.

Spokesman: Sure, on Ukraine, the Secretary-General made that call to reaffirm his position on the need for political dialogue and peaceful end to the conflict and peaceful uses — and to encourage the Government to regain its authority through peaceful means. The Secretary-General's position on that is unchanged. And obviously, we have monitors, human rights monitors, in the country and their report will come out, I think, on 17 June. On the CAR, we've obviously seen the very disturbing reports presented by Human Rights Watch on the reports of forced disappearances of civilians in the CAR. The UN Mission in the Central African Republic is in touch with the African Union to encourage them to look into these allegations and to offer a support in looking into these allegations. Nizar?

Correspondent: I wonder if the United Nations has… had any contact recently with Mr. Amr Moussa with regard to Syrian representation. There were some rumours, of course, about that.

Spokesman: You know, I will be delighted to play the "who's next game" until we have an announcement, but there are names that are going to float a lot in the press, but I think, as the Secretary-General said, this is now a period of stocktaking for the UN, for the Security Council, for the international community, in order to see how we can best support the political process. When we have an announcement to make, I will make it.

Question: What decision do… what is the United Nations opinion regarding the Ministry of Interior Affairs in Lebanon banning Syrians from returning to Lebanon if they go and visit Syria? Some of them just go for a day to see their property or to see their houses after they are destroyed. What is the situation… what's the position of the United Nations?

Spokesman: I don't have anything on that, but I will get you something. Linda?

Question: [inaudible]

Spokesman: Let me see what I can find out, otherwise I'm sure you will get something from Mr. Churkin, but there will be — I assume there will be a briefing and we'll try and make sure she also comes to the stakeout.

Question: And secondly, is there any further statement or reaction to the 3 June elections in Syria?

Spokesman: I think on that the Secretary-General's position on the timing of this election remains unchanged. Yes, sir? And then we'll go to you, Pam.

Question: Thanks. You've probably seen that there are protests the last couple of days by some gay rights organizations and by a New York Senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, regarding the pending acclamation of the new President of General Assembly, Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa of Uganda, on the grounds that Uganda has passed an abhorrent law regarding criminalization of homosexuality. I'm wondering, is the Secretary-General has anything to say about that?

Spokesman: You know the election of the President of the General Assembly remains in the domain, the strict domain, of the Member States of the General Assembly. They choose their President. The Secretary-General is not involved in that process. The Secretary-General's own position on full rights for LGBT, for gay, lesbian, transgender people, is very clear, is very strong, and he's also expressed his particular position on issues regarding to Uganda and his position remains unchanged. Yes, Pam?

Question: I have a question about the UNAMI report, but just on a follow-up to this last question. Can you see if the Secretary-General has any reaction to the election of a new [General Assembly] President that represents a country with this kind of a policy?

Spokesman: I think I just answered that. The Secretary-General…

Correspondent: No, I know it's not his decision.

Spokesman: No, I understand, but it's not his decision. It is not for him to comment on the election of the President of the General Assembly. The Secretary-General's own position on ensuring that gay, lesbian, transgender people enjoy full human rights and full protection is strong and remains unchanged.

Question: Alright. On the UNAMI report, the SRSG (Special Representative of the Secretary-General), and you mentioned it before just about Anbar, but he said he's looking for some kind of a solution and a political solution. And then also, this was the highest civilian… I mean this is the highest causalities in a very long time in May. What… what… he mentioned terrorism and acts of violence… is there anything else on what they're attributing this to and what are the political solutions?

Spokesman: We've reported regularly here on the acts on violence — whether they were killings, whether it was the withholding of water or the misuse of water. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General has been working with political leaders and tribal leaders and others to try to find a peaceful end to the situation. Yes, sir? Nizar, we'll go after we've done first round.

Question: Hi, I was just wondering if the Secretary-General has a reaction to the abdication of King Juan Carlos in Spain.

Spokesman: I do expect a statement and hopefully if I talk long enough it will materialize in a few minutes. Somebody from my office will run in, but we do expect something. Yes? You've got to be ready.

Question: In Libya, there was a fight today between the Libyan army and between some… the Islamic groups there and there was [inaudible] people were killed. I wanted to know, what is role of the United Nations in Libya now? Thank you.

Spokesman: The role of the UN is through a political mission that is in Libya we're obviously watching the situation there with great… great concern. The repeated violence, the attacks on State institutions and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Libya is in touch with the parties.

Ah, look at that. Look at that. It's what we call an "if asked". Thank you. Let me read this statement which is on the abdication of the Kind of Spain.

** Spain

The Secretary-General wishes to express his sincere gratitude to His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain for his personal engagement and valuable contributions to the work of the United Nations, including in the context of the Alliance of Civilizations and the global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General pays tribute to the outstanding public service that His Majesty has rendered over the past thirty nine years, recalling, among other achievements, his instrumental role in Spain's transition to democracy. The Secretary-General looks forward to continuing his cooperation and that of the United Nations with His Royal Highness Prince Felipe and wishes him every success in fulfilling his important duties.


Question: I have two questions. First, the Secretary-General's response to President Obama's climate plan. Does he believe that the US has accelerated its efforts to address change and that today's proposal came at on timely fashion? And, in a lead-up to the Summit in September, what more could the US be doing? And my second question is about the US soldier that was released over the weekend. What is the Secretary-General's response to that especially when the Taliban is listed under UN Security Council sanctions?

Spokesman: I have nothing on the Afghan swap. On climate change, it's obviously a very important announcement… initiative that was made today. And we do look forward to the Secretary-General's Climate Summit and we very much hope that other nations will also come with bold announcements and bold initiatives. Nizar and then Matthew.

Question: [inaudible] again I ask about the Euphrates river being cut off from Syria. Do you have any new reports from the refugee agencies…?

Spokesman: No, let me… I'll check with our colleagues.

Question: Do you consider that the situation in Ukraine now has went into a civil war situation?

Spokesman: I think we're not going to talk about labels of what is and what's not. What we do know is that there is violence, there is a lot of violence and civilians are being caught in the crossfire. And again we appeal for both, all those involved to find a peaceful political solution and those who have an influence on the parties to exercise that influence as well. Matthew, go ahead.

Question: Great. I wanted to ask about UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) and also a follow-up on the [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] statement you made. On UNDP, I'm sure you've seen that there's a lot of discontent about what are called lay-off announcements. Basically, a new organigramme was put forward, many people see their jobs are not on it. They think it's up to 30 per cent of the jobs in New York, maybe that's high, but what… their biggest complaint is that none of them, they claim, were consulted about the restructuring that's led to the… this… before it was… before it was announced in an organigramme. What's the… is this… is this UN practice in terms of conferring with staff before eliminating jobs? And what… is it… is it something that is, as they're saying, will spread with the Secretariat or elsewhere?

Spokesman: I think UNDP is undergoing a very important and large change in order to meet its new strategic plan. As to how things were communicated, you should talk to UNDP. Yes, sir?

Question: Yes, sir. This… I just want to know… further update on the persecution of Indian and Pakistani women which has been happening in manifestation being killing them or hanging them and the rape and murder has been going on forever. [inaudible] in the past condemned it and asked the Governments to do something about it…

Spokesman: Masood, I mentioned this issue before you came in. We had a statement from our colleagues from the UN office in India and I think one cannot question the unwavering determination of the Secretary-General to fight the violence against women wherever it occurs.

Question: My question was also [inaudible], Secretary-General given all the statements that he has made and his outrage and so forth, does he plan on setting up, I mean, I'm just saying… does he plan on setting up… sort of a fact-finding commission as to why…?

Spokesman: You know, there are many reasons why. One fact, if you'd been earlier at the briefing, you would have heard that, in fact, the issue of toilets and open defecation which we had talked about last week could also be one of the reasons what happened to these two girls in India. They were out going out to the fields to relieve themselves when they were attacked. There are lots of reasons. In order to fight the issue, the scourge of violence against women, this is something that all UN development agencies and UN agencies working in the field are taking a great interest in and are putting programmes together to try to fight it. Yes, sir?

Question: Just one other thing. Do you have any details on the IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) in the South Sudan? The composition of those troops and also the timetable for it?

Spokesman: No updates since we were briefed on Friday. Pam, and then Nizar.

Question: Stéphane, on the Youth 2015, I know we are about to have a briefing, but you tweeted out that that might come up… you were preparing. Is there anything the Secretary-General or at least [inaudible]… is there anything the Secretary-General is doing on the Youth 2015?

Spokesman: Well, he spoke at the event and we can hear from his Special Representative on Youth in two minutes.

Question: And is there anything employment at the UN in terms of youth… there's precious little and this has come up a few times that college student or high school students even can do have internships and things like that. Is there a…? This has come up a few times…

Spokesman: I think for internships…

Question: …for DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) or somebody else?

Spokesman: They would look… you know, there's… each department offers internships. The general rule in the Secretariat that those are for graduate students. There's a young professionals programme and we're very supportive of high school and college students being involved in Model UN. Nizar and then Matthew.

Question: Do you have any statements [inaudible] the duration of the unity government in Palestine today?

Spokesman: Yes. The Secretary-General's Representative on the ground, Robert Serry, hopes to meet with the new confirmed Prime Minister Hamdallah tomorrow. He hopes to discuss how the new Government can bring tangible improvements for the people both of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and provide opportunities for progress towards a two-State solution. In terms of the Palestine unity, I would add that the UN continues to view Palestinian unity in line with the commitments of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), which are recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements — as a positive development. Today the formation of an interim Government of national consensus on this basis is an important step to implement the intra-Palestinian unity agreement of 23 April. But obviously, Mr. Serry, as I mentioned, will meet with the new authorities tomorrow, we hope to have a bit more then.

Question: How do you view the bombardment by Israel yesterday to Gaza Strip?

Spokesman: I think we've you know, we've regularly condemned attacks and violence. Yes?

Question: Stéphane, about these [inaudible] Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt who have been incarcerated for almost 150 days and so forth, and the… it doesn't seem that the Egypt court is going to release them. What does… is the next step that the Secretary-General…?

Spokesman: The next step — I mean, the Secretary-General's position on that is unchanged. He's raised the issue not just of the Al Jazeera journalists, but of all journalists in Egypt whenever he meets with the Egyptian officials. Matthew and then we'll stop.

Question: Okay, two quick follow-ups. One is on internship… this question that you just answered. I just wondered, does the UN have a position on… basically the critique that says unpaid internships make it that… organizations like the UN are only accessible to the most affluent of youth? What would be your critique of that? Does the UN… this takes place in the journalism field, but I'm asking you… are the internships that UN offers…?

Spokesman: We take interns from various places in the world…

Question: But if they're not paid, who can afford to do it?

Spokesman: Well, Matthew, that's just the way the system is right now.

Question: Okay, the other one is about the FDLR. I know… I know on Friday, you know, I guess there was a statement that it was welcome and then over the weekend, Mr. [Martin] Kobler Feingold and others said it was insignificant… hasn't taken place. What changed? What is that on Friday more surrenders were anticipated and what's been found of the 105 that surrendered? How many of them were actually combatants and how many were as… as… as I asked you on Friday, you know, children that had never fought, people that were not combatants at all?

Spokesman: I don't have an update on what we found. Obviously, we were ready to accept the surrender, it did not happen and the Mission will continue to support the Government of the DRC in that operation.

Question: What's the next step though? Has the neutralization card that was always talked about on the table…?

Spokesman: I don't have anything else. Thank you. If you wait two seconds we'll bring out our guests.

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For information media • not an official record

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