Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
20 November 2014
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Vannina Maestracci, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Bonjour. Welcome to the Noon Briefing.
In a short while, I will be joined by José Ramos‑Horta, the Chair of the Secretary General's High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations.
This morning, we issued a statement in which the Secretary-General welcomes the pledges of up to $9.3 billion made by Governments towards the initial capitalization of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) at the Berlin Pledging Conference today. These pledges go far to kick-start the operationalization of the Fund and follow on the heels of other significant climate actions, such as the US [United States]-China joint announcement and the decision by the European Union as well as positive commitments reaffirmed by other leaders in recent meetings, including at the G20 and the September Climate Summit. These developments demonstrate that Governments increasingly understand both the benefits derived from climate action and the growing risks of delay. It also provides much needed public finance, which is key to unlocking investments at a much larger scale from private sources.
The Secretary-General underscores the importance of climate finance for securing a meaningful, universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015 and for catalysing action on the ground. He urges all developed countries that have not yet pledged to the Fund to do so by COP 20 [Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity] in Lima. He also encourages those developing countries that are in a position to do so, to consider making voluntary contributions to the Fund in Lima. That statement is available online.
We also issued another statement this morning, on the occasion of the resumption of talks between the P5+1 and the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Secretary-General calls on all participants to demonstrate the necessary flexibility, wisdom and determination to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion that meets the concerns and interests of all sides. The Secretary-General hopes that reaching a mutually acceptable and comprehensive agreement will restore confidence in the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear programme. He is convinced that such an accord can contribute to the strengthening of regional and international peace and security at a time when global cooperation is needed perhaps more than ever. And that statement is also available in our office and online.
The Secretary-General is in Washington D.C. where this morning he opened a meeting of the UN Chief Executives Board (CEB), hosted by the World Bank Group. During this two-day session, the heads of the UN system will particularly focus on their coordination on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda. Tomorrow, they will also discuss our common effort to counter the Ebola outbreak, and after that session, the Secretary-General and other CEB members will hold a brief press encounter. That will be at 12:45 p.m. approximately, tomorrow.
On Ebola, the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) report a total of 15,145 cases, and 5,420 deaths. In the three countries with widespread and intense transmission, reported case incidence is no longer increasing nationally in Guinea and Liberia but is still increasing in Sierra Leone. In Mali, there have been six reported confirmed and probable cases and five deaths. A massive effort is currently under way to identify all potential chains of transmission, monitor contacts, and prevent the outbreak from growing larger.
WHO says that as the successful experiences in Senegal and Nigeria show, aggressive contact tracing can support a rapid end to the outbreak. The Ministry of Health, with support from the World Health Organization, has also strengthened the number of staff engaged in contact tracing by drawing on polio surveillance teams and using local medical students with training in epidemiology. WHO has also deployed 10 epidemiologists, and Mali is ramping up its capacity to perform exit screening at the Bamako airport.
As you know, the Head of the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Mr. Anthony Banbury, visited Mali yesterday to see how UNMEER could support the Government, not only in its efforts to end the current crisis, but also to put in place the necessary capacity to react quickly should there be any new cases in the future. And the Security Council will hear a briefing by Dr. David Nabarro, the Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Ebola, and Anthony Banbury, tomorrow afternoon at 3 p.m.
The latest UN human rights monitoring report in Ukraine has found that civilians continued to be killed, unlawfully detained, tortured and disappeared in the country's east. The new report, issued today, has also found that the number of internally displaced people has risen considerable despite the ceasefire that was announced on 5 September. It also notes that since the ceasefire began, nearly 1,000 people have been killed and that the number of displaced has risen sharply to more than 466,000. The report said that accountability and an end to impunity are at the core of ensuring peace, reconciliation and long term recovery, adding that crimes must be promptly investigated, perpetrators held accountable and victims provided with an effective remedy. This is the seventh report produced by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, and it is available online.
The High-level Partnership Forum on Somalia concluded in Copenhagen today. The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, commended the successful discussions of the Forum, the endorsement of a communiqué mapping out key successes of the Forum and next steps and the recommitment to the New Deal through the Somali Compact progress report.
Speaking at the Forum yesterday, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, welcomed the participants' commitment to review Somalia's political and security progress within the next six months. He noted that although the work of the Forum has been conscious of the urgency of delivering on political unity, stability, security and prosperity, the international community's partnership with Somalia needs to be stepped up in all areas. There is more information available online.
The Security Council, I believe, is still meeting today on the role of policing in peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, noted that the past 15 years have seen an unprecedented growth in the scale, scope and importance of United Nations Police, and he also highlighted the critical linkages between all elements of the criminal justice chain — police, justice and corrections. There are currently more than 12,000 United Nations Police from 91 Member States deployed to 13 peacekeeping operations and four special political missions.
Today is Universal Children's Day. In a message to mark this day and the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Secretary-General called on the world to stand up for the rights of children everywhere.
Also marking the Day, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, launched the latest State of the World's Children report, calling for urgent action to prevent millions of children from missing out on the benefits of innovation. Earlier today, UNICEF unveiled the #IMAGINE project in the General Assembly Hall. The project brings together artists such as Yoko Ono, David Guetta as well as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors Katy Perry and Angélique Kidjo to highlight the tremendous challenges children face globally.
Other UN organizations, including the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), are commemorating the day by highlighting the plight of refugee children, whose rights are often denied. There is more information on all of this online.
**Press Conferences Today
At 1 p.m. — it's a busy day — after our guest, at 1 p.m., there will be a press briefing here by Stefan Löfven, the Prime Minister of Sweden. He will brief on the High-level Meeting on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. And then at 2 p.m., there will be a briefing by Stefan Feller, UN Police Adviser, along with other UN Police personalities.
**Questions from Yesterday
Matthew, yesterday you had asked about the situation in Malakal. And this is actually something that we flagged on Monday when we said that the Mission in South Sudan had reported that the situation at the Malakal protection of civilians site was tense over the weekend after a series of clashes between Nuer and Shilluk IDPs [internally displaced persons] that resulted in injuries to civilians. Three UNMISS [United Nations Mission in South Sudan] peacekeepers were also injured when they intervened to contain the situation.
You also asked about bombings in Darfur, and I can tell you that the Joint African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) received local reports that Kornoi and Abu Leha in North Darfur were struck by aerial bombs on 16 and 18 November, respectively. The Mission has not yet received any reports of casualties, and it is obviously concerned by these reports and is in the process of verifying that information. That is all I have for you, and I will take a few questions. Just to remind you that our guest is in the front row, so let's make this quick. Matthew?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Hi. DPRK [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] announced that in response to the Third Committee resolution passing for referral to the ICC [International Criminal Court], they were going to conduct a nuclear test. Does the Secretary-General have a comment on this? And, also, does the Secretary-General believe that this ICC referral resolution is worth it if it's going to precipitate a nuclear test from North Korea? Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: My understanding is that right now the resolution passed the Third Committee, not the General Assembly level. And, as Stéphane said yesterday, we won't comment until it goes to the General Assembly. Erol?
Question: Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: Can you use your mic?
Question: Sure. Vannina, just to follow, a quick follow-up on Matthew's question. First of all, does the Secretary-General have any comments on apparent news reports but rather confirm news reports that the Russian President [Vladimir] Putin is looking for more cooperation with North Korea? You know the circumstances now. And, number two, with the creation of Green Fund, I mean, the pledging at the Berlin Pledge Conference of $9.3 billion for the Green Fund and beside the very positive message that was sent from Berlin and Secretary-General's comments, does anybody actually count now the average or statistic of all these pledges at similar conferences? How much is realized? And is there any trend — positive or negative — out of there that you can comment on?
Associate Spokesperson: Okay, I don't have anything for you on the first question. On the second question, this is an initial capitalization of this Fund. You know, it's something that the Secretary-General was very much in favour of and pushed for. And so he is definitely very happy to have this out with the $9.3 billion. What I can also tell you is that pledges were made by 21 countries, including four from developing countries. And that their combined contributions provide for the largest amount the international community has ever mobilized for a dedicated climate finance mechanism within a timeframe of less than five months. Okay.
Question: Just follow-up on that?
Associate Spokesperson: Yep.
Question: So you said five months' timeframe — meaning to be ready before the Paris conference 2015 or after that? When is the Paris conference?
Associate Spokesperson: No. It's between when it was launched and now. So I think the first capitalization. But then they will need money again and again. This is just a first part. And this is an ongoing effort to help developing countries fight against climate change, so it's definitely a noble effort. Matthew, please?
Question: Sure, thanks. I wanted to ask about UNAMID in Darfur and the situation of the alleged rapes in Thabit.
Associate Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: Basically I wanted to ask you is because the spokesperson or Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry of Sudan, Abdalla al-Azraq, has said that he has no intention of allowing UNAMID to go back, and the UNAMID Acting Head, [Abiodun Oluremi] Bashua, has said that please let us in to put an end to recent rumours. But some people say, one, is it the UN's position that the allegation of 200 rapes are nothing but rumours? And, two, what will UNAMID do now that the Government said they are not letting them in?
Associate Spokesperson: You saw the Secretary-General's statement. And I'm sure you saw also the Security Council's own statement yesterday where basically it called for the full and unrestricted freedom of movement without delay throughout Darfur of UNAMID as to enable them to conduct a full and transparent investigation and verify whether these incidents have occurred. And so for us, our position hasn't changed. We have asked for access. We are hoping and waiting to be granted access because an investigation by UNAMID is the only way to verify the rape allegations. Let's give a chance to someone else.
Question: Follow-up on Darfur, and seems to make sense. Because in your answer that you gave earlier you said that UNAMID has heard of the alleged bombing by Antonov in Darfur on the sixteenth. Today is the twentieth, so when you say they are trying to verify it, have they actually left their base to go?
Associate Spokesperson: You are talking about the first answer I gave you?
Question: Yes, are they seeking Government permission to go or have they gone?
Associate Spokesperson: I assume so, but it's never good to assume, so I will check. Okay?
Question: Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: You are welcome. Masood, please?
Question: Yes, everybody in this world condemns what happened in the synagogue in Jerusalem the other day, but the human rights bodies are now saying they are razing to the ground the homes of… the homes as a family, homes of these so-called attackers, is really not good and that it should not have been carried out. Now, what does the Secretary-General have to say about this position?
Associate Spokesperson: You saw his…
Question: Numerous bodies have condemned that.
Associate Spokesperson: Basically what I can tell you is refer you to his earlier statement on the attack on the synagogue, which you've mentioned, and the full statement and also what OHCHR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights] has said. And, you know, I can read it to you: We condemn all acts of violence, which have resulted in deaths and injuries. Israel has a duty to ensure law and order, including by bringing to justice those responsible for these attacks, but any response would be in accordance with international law. We urge Israeli authorities to refrain from taking measures, such as punitive demolitions, which violate international law and may further inflame the situation. And that is a statement by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Oleg, please?
Question: Thank you, Vannina. US President Senior Adviser yesterday said that Joe Biden, Vice‑President of the US, while visiting Ukraine in the coming days, he will be talking about possible, providing military defensive lethal weapons to Ukraine. What is the stance of Ban Ki-moon towards this? Does he think providing weapons to one of the sides of the conflict would be dangerous to escalate the situation? Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: Again, I think he has been clear on what he is hoping to see in the case of Ukraine, and that is dialogue and going back to the Minsk Protocol. I won't speak specifically to Vice‑President Biden's comments, but you know what his position on Ukraine is more generally, and it hasn't changed. Mr. Abbadi?
Question: Thank you, Vannina. As you stated, the Secretary-General has called on the P5+1 and Iran to demonstrate flexibility, wisdom and determination and to reach mutually acceptable compromise on Iran's nuclear programme. Does the Secretary-General have any concrete suggestions on how to achieve those goals?
Associate Spokesperson: You know, the statement that he made today is because the talks are starting in Vienna. The UN is not involved in those talks, but, of course, we would, you know, we would want to see a successful conclusion of those talks as he says in his statement, that's it. Stefano?
Question: Thank you very much. Does the Secretary-General have any comment on in a few hours the President of the United States, Obama, is going to announce his plan for illegal immigrants in this country that could affect millions of people? Does he have any comment about his decision?
Associate Spokesperson: I don't think we would have any comment before the decision is made… sorry, the announcement is made. Let's wait for the President of the United States to speak first. Yes?
Question: Sure. I wanted to ask you, you had given a summary of this Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights report on Ukraine, but I wanted to ask you something about it because the Assistant Secretary-General, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, when he testified to the Council, he said that the cut‑off in pensions in Eastern Ukraine and Donetsk and Lubansk was a decision.
Associate Spokesperson: I remember you asking that question a little bit earlier.
Question: Now I see the report, and the report has three paragraphs on pensions, and it basically says… doesn't mention the Prime Minister's decision and lays it entirely on the rebel side. So I wanted to know, maybe it's a difference in time frame.
Associate Spokesperson: Right, I was going to say that the report is from 17 September through 31 October. It may be that was after. Let me check with OHCHR.
Question: I would like to make a request that Mr. [Ivan] Šimonović do a public, on the record briefing about the report in either at a stakeout or here on these and other issues.
Associate Spokesperson: Noted. And I'm sure our Human Rights colleagues are listening to you. Evelyn, please?
Question: This report is written by Mr. Šimonović?
Associate Spokesperson: It's written by the team of… I mean, they are all part of the same office, but it's written by a team of human rights monitors from the UN, who I think there is 35 of them, and this is their seventh report. It's the same people, unit team. They might change people around.
Question: Is there any thought of encouraging them to name names if they can find them so you can blacklist some people on both sides, not necessarily just the separatists, and, of course, include the Russians because the human rights violations are huge in this report?
Associate Spokesperson: I am not going to tell the Human Rights Office how to do its job, but I'm sure they are listening. Okay, anything else or can we go to the guest? Masood, yes, very quickly.
Question: Yeah, do you have any update on this education award being given to President Obama's step‑grandmother?
Associate Spokesperson: None at all.
Question: You don't even know that, right?
Associate Spokesperson: No, sorry.
Question: Okay, it's a United Nations award, that is what I wanted. Thank you.
Associate Spokesperson: Anything else? Okay, then let's go to our guest, please.
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