Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
27 June 2014
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon
As soon as we're done with this briefing, I will be joined by the President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), Ambassador Martin Sajdik, along with Navid Hanif, the Director of the Office of ECOSOC Support and Coordination from DESA [Department of Economics and Social Affairs], and Nikhil Seth, the Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, also in the Department of Economics and Social Affairs. And they will be briefing you on various upcoming ECOSOC events.
The Secretary-General left Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, early this morning. The readouts of the numerous meetings that he held on the sidelines of the African Union Summit have been posted online and distributed by e-mail. Also available are his remarks at a press conference yesterday evening, where he said that the recurring theme of many of his discussions in Malabo has been regional cooperation. He said that regional challenges include inter-ethnic or -religious violence, piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, and the threat of terrorism as well as the Lord's Resistance Army, illicit wildlife and drug trafficking. He added that all countries in the region need to work together to address these pressing issues.
And he was asked about the issues of press freedom in Egypt, and the Secretary-General said that when he met with President [Abdel Fatah] al-Sisi earlier in the day, the Secretary-General had discussed this matter with him and urged him to fully guarantee the protection of freedom of expression for journalists.
The Secretary-General has now just arrived in Nairobi, Kenya, for the first UN Environment Assembly. He just delivered his remarks at this Assembly. The Assembly is the UN Environment Programme's governing body and the highest-level global platform for environmental policymaking. It tackles issues ranging from wildlife crime and poaching to fossil fuel subsidy reform. And while in Nairobi, the Secretary-General is also expected to meet with a number of Government officials, including President Uhuru Kenyatta.
From Burundi, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, today called on the authorities in Burundi to ensure that human rights are fully protected ahead of next year's presidential elections.
He said that special attention must be paid to the full respect of freedom of expression, including for journalists and human rights defenders. And he added that violence linked to the electoral process must be prevented and harassments against perceived political adversaries must not be tolerated.
Mr. Šimonović was speaking at the end of a three-day visit to Burundi. During the visit, he met with Burundian officials and with representatives of the international community and civil society groups. He also visited Bujumbura's Mpimba prison.
Mr. Šimonović expressed his particular concern at the fact that the number of politically motivated incidents involving the youth group of the ruling party against perceived political adversaries has more than doubled, compared to the same period last year. He called on the Government to ensure that perpetrators of political violence are held accountable.
**Central African Republic
Regarding the Central African Republic, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says from Geneva that at least 45 people have been killed this week and scores wounded in new violence and reprisal attacks in and around Bambari, in the Central African Republic. The violence also resulted in thousands of people fleeing to displacement sites around town. UNHCR adds that people urgently need better protection, shelter, water and sanitation, as well as food and other items. The agency is sending in non-food items, mainly tarpaulins.
And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that agencies are supporting the hospital in Bambari and providing food, water and emergency items to the displaced there. In the last two days, 13 emergency latrines and ten showers have been installed at the Eveche site, and the main water point has now been chlorinated. However, the tense security situation in and around Bambari continues to hamper humanitarian access, including threats against staff and the theft of stock and equipment.
And also, the UN's Children Fund (UNICEF) says that its Goodwill Ambassador and actor Mia Farrow is taking her fourth trip to the Central African Republic from 1-5 July to witness and report on the impact the violence is having on the children of the country. And she will be available for interviews during her stay. And we have a media advisory available in my office.
From South Sudan, our humanitarian colleagues tell us that aid agencies are working relentlessly to improve living conditions for the more than 40,000 people seeking shelter in the UN base in Bentiu. Water and sanitation have been built with more than 100 latrines in the past week, and they are also scaling up their capacity to build some 500 more in the coming week.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), however, says that the deteriorating food security situation is of particular concern, as well as the mortality rate of children under five. Some 150 community outreach workers have been recruited and trained to inform families about malnutrition, sanitation, hygiene and general health issues, and encourage them to seek medical assistance early.
Also on the humanitarian front, but this time from Iraq, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) says that up to 10,000 people from the predominately Christian communities in Qaraqosh have fled the violence in their town earlier this week. The town is located 30 kilometres south-east of Mosul and is controlled by armed opposition groups.
Many of them have fled to Iraq's Kurdistan region, which is already hosting an estimated 300,000 people from Mosul and the surrounding areas. UNHCR and its partners have distributed tents, mattresses, hygiene kits at schools and community centres in Erbil, where the displaced families are currently sheltering.
Together with Kurdish authorities and other humanitarian partners, UNHCR has helped to expand the Garmawa camp in Dohuk, where more than 1,000 displaced people are now staying. More camps are being constructed in Kurdistan to accommodate the growing number of internally displaced families that are arriving. The agency has also revised its funding requirements with other UN agencies and humanitarian partners. It needs $64.2 million for shelter and protection services but has only received 8 per cent of the funding so far.
Also from Geneva, High Commissioner for Human Rights in a briefing today has expressed its increasing concern at the human rights situation in the context of the ongoing operations by Israeli security forces after three Israeli teenagers went missing close to the city of Hebron in the occupied West Bank on 12 June.
The Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri, met this week in Geneva with the mothers of the three missing Israelis and expressed her sincere sympathy with them. As a mother herself, she expressed her understanding of their deep anxiety about the fate of their sons. The Human Rights Office is concerned that the three teenagers have still not been located after being missing for 15 days, and hopes for their immediate safe return.
The Human Rights Office's sympathy also goes out to the mothers and loved ones of the six Palestinians, including two teenagers, who have been killed by Israeli forces, in addition to the many others who have been injured, during these past two weeks. The Office reiterates its call for strict adherence to international law by all relevant actors and joins others in their call for restraint.
That is actually it for me. We have the Week Ahead available for you. Just to flag that we will have Leila Zerrougui, the Special Representative of Children and Armed Conflict, on Tuesday. She will present the annual report on children and armed conflict. And on 2 July at 12:30 p.m., we will have Ambassador Eugène-Richard Gasana, the Permanent Representative of Rwanda and President of Security Council for the month of July. And he will brief you on their traditional programme of work. And lots of other stuff in there, but I will let you read it. Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Sure, Stéphane, I wanted to ask you what I asked you by e-mail yesterday, which is what is the UN and UN peacekeeping's response to the complaint by the Rwandan Government that Hervé Ladsous sought a travel ban exemption for Rumuli [Gaston Iyamuremye], the President ad interim of the FDLR [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] militia, which is linked to the genocide in Rwanda? And they wanted to know… they've asked a number of things, which is why was the request made 24 hours before travel was to begin? Why did travel begin in the Congo prior to any approval being received? And what happened after the request for an exemption was denied by the Committee?
Spokesman: So are you asking or are they asking?
Question: I'm asking you. I'm asking you, factually… I want to set it up this way, so I'm asking you: why did DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] do those things? Why did they tell the Committee late?
Spokesman: I think first of all, you know, I've read the coverage on the case of the President ad interim of the FDLR. First of all, he did not leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He did not travel to Rome. As we all know, he is under sanctions imposed by the Security Council, and the Security Council is the only organization that is… the entity that is able to lift his request. A request was filed by DPKO for him to travel, to have those sanctions temporarily lifted, so he could travel to Rome. This was done at the request of a group of special envoys who were having a meeting in Rome. Since the request was not approved, he did not travel.
Question: Why was the request made so close? Normally it's a five-day procedure. Why was it made so close? And also, why did he start flying? Okay, I just want to get those questions in.
Spokesman: Okay, okay, the name of the FDLR delegation that was going to attend this meeting was not provided to us until very late. So as soon as we got the name, we passed the request on. And as I said, he did not leave the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Question: Finally, why did he start… why did MONUSCO [United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] fly him to Goma to Kisangani and then to Kinshasa when, in fact, I think there's an arrest warrant for him?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of any other services provided to him by MONUSCO.
Question: Can you find out if that's true?
Spokesman: Pam, did you have a question?
Question: Thank you, Martin.
Spokesman: Steph, but that's okay.
Correspondent: I just heard myself do that. Sorry, I'm on autopilot. Thank you, Steph.
Spokesman: You know, I know I got my short haircut, so all of us European guys look the same, I know. [laughter] Go ahead.
Question: Good morning. Thank you, Steph. I'll try again. Can you… has the Secretary-General made any comment about the resignation, the somewhat abrupt resignation of Martin Indyk, the US… I know he's the US Special Envoy? But also, is there any effort, I mean there's obviously a lot of back-channel efforts, but is there an effort to get the Quartet meeting? To get the Middle East process started again; it just has stalled for so long.
Spokesman: I mean, I think, first of all, we've seen the report of Mr. Indyk's resignation. I think the UN has worked very well with him, and he's been a good partner of the United Nations. On the Middle East peace process, you know, I would refer you back to what Jeffrey Feltman's most recent briefing to the Security Council. It is the Secretary-General's opinion that the parties have to get back to the table. And I think everyone is doing their part to try to do that. And I'm not aware of any Quartet meeting, high-ranking Quartet meeting on the schedule. Yes, sir? And then Erol.
Question: Hi, thank you. The US announced a plan to provide $500 million to rebels, moderate rebels, in Syria. Does the UN have comment on that or does it believe that it complicates the efforts to deliver aid to the refugees?
Spokesman: I mean, I think the comment in a sense is a back comment, and the Secretary-General's position on the issue of arming and of military support is well laid out in the speech that he delivered at the Asia Society. Erol?
Question: Thank you, Steph. By the way, very nice haircut, summer haircut. Three short questions: number one, does now then… since Korea is out of the World Cup mundial, what would be the preference of the Secretary-General? Number two, what is the involvement of the United Nations at the donors' conference in Brussels on 16 July, if any? And number three, is the Secretary-General really satisfied with the construction of the whole complex of the UN? Since we had probably the longest reconstruction or construction of one gate in history that at least that I know. And talking about the main entrance to the United Nations, that still doesn't work properly today.
Spokesman: Well, you know, it clearly works because you're here, so you got in. I get in every day. I think it works… I've never had any problems with it. And I'm sorry if you had any problems.
Correspondent: You have to go around. You go underground and then up.
Spokesman: I'm not sure it's a proper use of the briefing time. The CMP [Capital Master Plan] is a very, very complicated process. I think our colleagues are doing a terrific job of construction while this place… while it remains an open and working environment. If you've had any problems, I apologize, but I haven't. But I've been able to walk in and out. And even… I've been able to walk out and leave without any restrictions, which is always important. On your… which donors' conference are you referring to?
Correspondent: Donors' conference in Balkans for 16 July.
Spokesman: I will check. Second, as you know, the Secretary-General is remaining highly impartial in the World Cup. As you know, he's a big soccer fan. He loves to play soccer. I think, like all of us, he's watching the games as much as he can with a lot of passion. And may the best team win, and we'll keep watching until mid-July. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted to ask you: in Thailand, the coup leaders have announced a panel now to monitor media and to ban or block anything that undermines national security. They've also said that a number of radio stations that have been blocked since the coup will never return to the air. So I wanted to know, what does the UN think of that? And also, what did President al-Sisi say in response to the Secretary-General when he raised the issue of a press freedom in Egypt?
Spokesman: Well, I think for that, you would have to ask the Egyptians. Second, on Thailand, I haven't seen the reports you mentioned, but I think the Secretary-General in his press conference, even late yesterday, said that, you know, as a rule, he has encouraged all leaders to ensure freedom of expression and freedom for journalists.
Question: And what's his view of what should happen in Thailand? I mean it is a coup.
Spokesman: I think he has called, I think… I would refer you back to his previous statements. Yes, Pam?
Question: Mr. [Nickolay] Mladenov at the videoconference briefing said the UN office in Baghdad is severely underfunded, that they asked for $100 million, and they have only a portion, a small portion of that. Is there any effort to… this is such an immediate crisis, is there any effort to pony up the money? I mean, I know there's an effort. Is there…
Spokesman: Well, I mean, there's an effort. You know, what we're seeing is a chronic underfunding of our humanitarian appeals. Whether in Iraq, in the Central African Republic, in South Sudan, they're all priority areas. I think for people who are living in displaced persons camps, who are living in refugee camps, they need the help. So this is something the Secretary-General has repeatedly raised in his meetings, and not just the Secretary General but other senior officials, about the need to fund these humanitarian appeals.
Question: And just a quick follow-up: is there any talk of a Guard Force or anything for the UN staff in Iraq? I mean, he said they're in Erbil and Baghdad, around the country. I mean, there's obviously a…
Spokesman: You know, obviously, the security situation is very fluid, and we're assessing it on a daily basis to do what we can to keep our people safe.
Question: Any talk of evacuation?
Spokesman: As I said, it's being assessed on a regular basis. I think Farhan [Haq] gave you some numbers last week. There've been no updates since then. Matthew?
Question: Sure, I wanted… you mentioned what Mr. Šimonović said in Burundi. I wanted to know if you know if he sought to meet with or did meet the human rights offender [Pierre-Claver] Mbonimpa, who's in jail, and they have protest every Friday for him. And also, I've learned that Mr. [Pedro] Medrano was actually in New York briefing UN staff on the 27th floor last week. And I wondered, given the request that he answer questions about the UN's response to cholera, even if he's now left New York, I want to reiterate that request. And also, while he was here — why didn't he do it?
Spokesman: No, I understand. I mean, when he's… Mr. Medrano is often in New York. When we can bring him here, we will. And I'll see if we can get more details on Mr. Šimonović. All right, I will get our guests, and we will be right back.
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For information media • not an official record
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