Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
6 November 2015
The following is a near‑verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary‑General.
This morning, the Secretary‑General discussed climate change in a video conference call with the Presidents of France, Peru and Turkey, as well as with the Chancellor of Germany and the Prime Minister of Malta. He received an update from President Hollande on the preparations for the Paris Cclimate Cchange Cconference.
That update was part of a series of consultations that the Secretary‑General has been holding with world leaders on expectations for [the] Paris conference and to follow up on the leaders meeting he convened on the 27th of September on the side‑lines of the General Assembly, and these focus on how to achieve a successful outcome at the COP [Conference of the Parties] meeting in Paris.
The Secretary‑General is also expected to speak with South African President Zuma later on in the next day or so. He had been scheduled to take part in the video conference but there was a scheduling challenge. The Green Climate Fund announced today that its Board has approved its first investments for projects in eight8 countries: three projects in Africa, three in Asia‑Pacific region, and two in Latin America. As you know, the Secretary‑General has been calling on Governments to contribute to the Fund to enhance trust among the Parties who have been working together for the last two years to craft a new climate change agreement.
**United Nations Environment Programme
And also related to climate change, while current policies and strong engagement by countries which have submitted their contributions ahead of the Paris climate meeting will limit greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030, a new climate agreement in Paris can encourage further action to limit global temperature rise by 2° by the end of this century. That's according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), an authoritative assessment undertaken by leading scientists and experts from around the world. The full report is available online to you.
**Deputy Secretary-General Travels
The Deputy Secretary‑General, Jan Eliasson, is wrapping up his visit to Washington, D.C. today. Last night, he spoke at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In his remarks, the Deputy Secretary‑General noted that we are living in a time of hope, with a historic agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals having just been reached in New York last month. And he also pointed to how world leaders will gather in Paris in December with the aim of reaching an agreement on one of the biggest threats of all: climate change.
Today, he meets with members of Congress in the US capital and also senior officials of the State Department. As we announced earlier, on 10 November 10th, the Deputy Secretary‑General will be traveling to Valletta, in Malta, to attend the EU Valletta Summit on Migration.
**Burundi – Human Rights
And on Burundi, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Raad al Hussein condemned the killing of the son of one of Burundi's most prominent human rights defenders, Pierre Claver Mbonimpa, which took place in Bujumbura earlier today. This is the second member of his family to have been killed in recent weeks. His son, Welly Nzitonda, was reportedly arrested by police this morning around 11 a.m. His body was found this afternoon in the neighbourhood of Mutakura in Bujumbura.
Pierre Claver Mbonimpa himself narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in August of this year and is still undergoing treatment abroad. One of his sons‑in‑law was also killed on 9 October 9th. The High Commissioner says that this assassination reinforces fears that there is a systematic policy of targeting members of the opposition, journalists, human rights defenders and ordinary citizens perceived to be opposing the Government. The High Commissioner adds that so far there has been complete impunity for these crimes. I do expect a statement from the Secretary‑General while this briefing is going on, or shortly afterwards.
Turning to Yemen, the WMO [World Meteorological Organization] says that a new cyclonic storm called Megh has developed in the Arabian Sea and is expected to make landfall on Yemen this Sunday. The WMO says that the storm is not as severe as cyclone Chapala, but heavy rainfall could further worsen the already complex humanitarian situation in that country.
Our humanitarian colleagues say that cyclone Chapala has displaced about 44,000 people, killed eight, and caused widespread flooding and damage to property and crops in south‑east Yemen. They add that the coastal road from Aden to Mukalla, the principal supply route for humanitarian relief to people [in need] in Yemen, has been damaged, hampering further the delivery of humanitarian relief items by road. The response is also hindered by insecurity in much of the impacted area.
Seven airplanes from Oman and two from the United Arab Emirates have landed in Socotra, with 75 metric tons of relief supplies including food and household items. Aid agencies are organizing the transport of relief supplies by sea, air and overland to the cyclone‑impacted area. And organizations are delivering water, household items and shelter material.
The UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for RefugeesN Refugee Agency], for its part, has provided tents and emergency relief items to the displaced. UNHCR and other humanitarian agencies are further scaling up their preparedness and response measures to the second storm expected for this weekend.
Meanwhile, UNICEF [United Nations Children's Fund] says that urgent relief efforts are underway in Iraq to shield communities and families from the effect of a cholera outbreak that has already infected more than 2,200 people across the country. An estimated 20 per cent of them are children. The agency is concerned that the disease could spread further due to recent torrential rains and ongoing insecurity issues. Since the cholera outbreak was confirmed in Iraq in mid‑September, UNICEF and partners have distributed bottled water, family water and hygiene kits, water treatment tablets as well as installed water tanks.
And UNHCR says today that its staff on the Greek island of Lesvos, have worked throughout the week to help refugees, migrants and host communities affected by a four‑day shipping strike that ended this morning. Some 20,000 refugees and migrants currently on that island and others, are straining the limited reception facilities on several Greek islands. This situation underscores the need [which] UNHCR has repeatedly stressed, for improved reception conditions and increased reception capacity.
The agency says that the recent agreement of more reception places in Greece will be a key factor in stabilizing the situation, and progress made this week with the first planned relocation of asylum‑seekers from Greece to other European Union countries ‑‑ in this case Luxembourg, where 30 Syrians and Iraqis were relocated on the first flight earlier this week.
**United Nations Police Week
And our friends at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) want us to flag that next week will be UN Police Week and the ten10th meeting of the Heads of UN Police Components will take place here at UN headquarters. On Monday, the Secretary‑General will address UN Police representatives before their briefing to the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations.
And through the week, there will be panel discussions on several issues, including partnerships, organized crime, conduct and welfare, as well as capacity building. The week will conclude with a briefing to the Security Council on Friday morning. And we are trying to get one or more of the police representatives to speak to you later next week.
**Central African Republic Panel
A number of you have been asking me about the status of the independent panel appointed to review the response of the United Nations to allegations of sexual misconduct against foreign military forces not under UN command in the Central African Republic otherwise known as the CAR panel. As provided by the terms of reference, the panel's chair, Marie Deschamps ofr Canada has written to the Secretary‑General to inform him that, despite its best efforts, the Panel foresees a brief delay beyond the deadline provided to submit its report. Depending on the schedules of both Madame Deschamps and the Secretary‑General, we expect the panel to be presented to the Secretary‑General on the thi3rd week of December.
And for Honour Roll today we say a big thank you to our friends in Port‑au‑Prince, as Haiti has paid its dues in full becoming the …? 138th 138th [Member State to do so]. And just because you can answer I am going to read a statement for you.
As expected, a statement on Burundi ‑ the Secretary‑General is alarmed by the ongoing escalation of violence in Burundi. He expresses grave concern that in recent weeks, the discovery of the bodies of civilian victims, many apparently summarily executed, has become a regular occurrence in several neighbourhoods of Bujumbura. Just today, the son of prominent Burundian human rights defender Pierre‑Claver Mbonimpa was killed following his arrest by police in Bujumbura.
The recurring violence and killings [in Burundi] must stop. The Secretary‑General underlines the responsibility of the Burundian authorities to protect the civilian population, regardless of political affiliation, and to ensure that the widespread impunity for these heinous acts is brought to an immediate end.
The Secretary‑General also condemns the public statements that appear aimed at inciting violence or hatred towards different groups in Burundian society. Inflammatory rhetoric is reprehensible and dangerous; it will only serve to aggravate the situation in the country. He calls for accountability for those who have engaged in publicly inciting violence.
The Secretary‑General stresses that the imperative [is] to intensify all efforts to find a political settlement to the crisis in Burundi. He calls on all parties, including the national authorities, civil society, and opposition, whether they are in Burundi or abroad, to put an immediate end to the propagation of hate speech, renounce violence, and engage in good faith with the ongoing facilitation of the East African Community.
The Secretary‑General calls on all Burundians, especially Government leaders, to help create the conditions for a credible and inclusive dialogue that can help address the deep political challenges the country currently faces. The United Nations extends its full support and assistance to all efforts aimed at promoting a peaceful settlement. Time is of the essence. Mr. Lee?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, sir. I have some questions about Bernardino León. I guess I need to...… given that this CAR panel is now delayed for a second time and it seems like it's a pretty pressing matter, rape of children in the Central Africa Republic, what is the rationale? It seems like it is just kicking the can down the road.
Spokesman: Well, I think nobody would argue with the importance of the focus on the panel, which looks at how we handle allegations of non- UN forces and regarding child abuse. I think nobody's questioning that and that's why the Secretary‑General appointed the panel. It's independent. It is up to the panel to decide. What they have told us and where they've told the Secretary‑General is that relevant material and documentation continue to be submitted after the target date, which was earlier this fall and they've asked for an extension. I think it's not about kicking the can down the proverbial line. It's about the panel feeling that they've gone through all the information that was submitted to them.
Question: And if in December they are still getting information…?
Spokesman: I can't speak to them. My sense is that this...… again, I get in trouble when I give times. My sense is that we are nearing the end, but I think it is a credit to the panel that they are asking for the time to look at all the documentation they received.
Question: I just wanted to ask you one question on Bernardino León. Yesterday was said both by you and by him, he said the optics were bad, but he followed all the rules. I wanted to ask you specifically about certain rules. One is rule 1.2 of the staff rules conflict of interest. "Conflict of interest occurs when by act or omission staff member personal interest interferes with the performance of his duties...… when an actual or possible conflict of interest does arrive, the conflicts shall be disclosed by staff members to their head of office." So back to the same question. It's clearly a perceived or possible conflict of interest. So can you now say when did Bernardino León disclose it to the head of the DPA [Department of Political Affairs] Jeff Feldman or to the Secretary‑General?
Spokesman: I think Mr. León said that he had kept his superiors fully informed. I think from our standpoint we remain confident that those discussions that he had had about his future post did not impact or affect the process, the process that's ongoing in Libya.
Question: Only one other question. He says emails that have been released have him writing to the foreign minister of UAE [United Arab Emirates] saying "all of my movements and proposals have been consulted following and –Mahmoud Jibril-- following your request. And the charter says, "In the performance of their duties Secretary‑General and his staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government."
Spokesman: I'm fully aware of the charter. I'm not going to comment on leaked personal emails. I have no doubt that Mr. León was having all sorts of discussions with all the parties trying to get them, trying to get them to the party. I'm not going to get into the psychology of how these very delicate mediations are done. Again...… [overlapping talking]. Again, I think if you look at the effort that Mr. León has put in where he really has not, he has not given up. As you know, he was scheduled to leave earlier in September. He had been extended to try to finish off...… to finish off this effort. There is a hand-over that will be going on over in the very near future with Mr. Kobler. And I think from our standpoint, I think he has done an impartial and outstanding job in his role as mediator. [Overlapping talking] I will come back to you. Iftikhar.
Question: Thank you, Stéephane. The United States, the Department of Defense has said that the American troops in Afghanistan are no longer actively targeting the Taliban because their cooperation is required for the Afghan peace process. How does the Secretary‑General view this development?
Spokesman: I can't speak to the military tactics of the American...… of the American forces. Obviously, I think we would support any move that would help move the process, the negotiating process, and the peace process forward. Carole and then Fathi.
Question: Stéephane, can you update us on Staffan de Mistura's movements? He'll be at the Security Council next week. Who is he meeting?
Spokesman: My understanding is he will be in Washington over the next few days. I can get exact dates, meeting with you as officials, and I know he wrapped up his meetings in Moscow, and then he'll be here next week, and I'm sure he will be speaking to you. Oleg.? I'm sorry, Fathi, you've been very patient. Go ahead. Ok, Oleg, go ahead.
Question: Thank you. Charlie Hebdo, I'm sure you have heard or seen this last cartoon mocking the crash over Sinai. Some say that it could be like an exercise of freedom of the press. Some say it's abusing this freedom. What's your take on this? Because I don't remember that there was any mocking of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo after the shooting.
Spokesman: I honestly can tell you I have not seen – I have not seen that particular cartoon, so I won't –‑‑ I can't speak to it. I could take a look at it, but I really have not seen it. Yes, in the back. Wait. Fahti, I'm sorry. We're going to get to you. Go ahead. I don't know why. Go ahead. Fahti, please.
Question: Thank you Stéephane, back to the special envoy to Libya Bernardino León. Yesterday he said that as a public servant he could not just sit and wait for six months or a year after his assignment has ended. And that leads me to a question. Does the mandate or the appointment of the special envoys, the mediators, have any sort of a clause that he should not seek employment for a period of, let's say, six months after they finish their mediation that might represent a conflict of interest as situation we have now? And if not, when it is going to be possible in order to provide for those public servants who take the mediation role in many of the places?
Spokesman: I think there are regulations in place. There are guidelines in place that call on all staff members, but obviously especially senior staff members and those in very delicate roles, to uphold the highest level of ethics and integrity in how they go about their work. The charter, as Mr. Lee helpfully read out, also refers to the duties of both staff members and Member States in insuring that no instruction or influence is received. Mr. León, as we have said, said that the optics of this do not look good. We fully stand by the work that he has done. Nonetheless, I think the Secretary‑General will be reminding all of his envoys and mediators and senior staff to follow the highest level of ethics to avoid any conflict of interest or any perception of conflict of interest, to avoid any bad optics as we have seen. But again, we remain confident that Mr. León has done very strong work, outstanding work, and that none of the discussions he had regarding his future employment had an impact on the Libyan negotiations.
Question: Follow‑up, please, before jumping into full indemnification for Mr. León without any investigation, any audit for what happened, my exact question: Why there is no clear close in the appointment of the mediator, special envoys of the Secretary‑General that prohibits them from seeking any sort of employment for a period of six months as start after their mediation finish?
Spokesman: I think we would expect all the staff members, including the mediators, to conduct themselves with the highest level of integrity, and as I said, to avoid any conflict of interest or perception of conflict of interest. The staff rules, which are a public document, cover a lot of areas, and I would encourage you to take a look at them as well. You may, Carole, and then we'll go to the back.
Question: I just wanted to know in what form this reminder to everyone to avoid conflict of interest…
Spokesman: I'm sure it will be done verbally and it will be done in writing.
Question: Stéephane, OPCW [Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons] reported chemical weapons used in Syria again, I think [unintelligible]...… and what is [the] Secretary‑General['s] position on that and [has] he established a commission to find out who used chemical weapons and how is this...… this comment is...…?
Spokesman: Yes, two things. First of all, I think you're mentioning a report, a leaked report to OPCW. I don't have any specific information on it. The Secretary‑General has obviously always condemned, in no uncertain terms, the use of chemical weapons, especially -- wherever they occurred and obviously especially in Syria where he hasve seen it. The team that will be led by Ms. Virginia Gamba, I think is about to begin its work and we'll get you an update on where they are exactly, but as you know, this was a team put together at the request of the Security Council. Oleg and then we'll go to Linda.
Question: Stephane, there are reports coming from [El] Salvador. There is terrible levels of violence. It has higher than, more than 200 per cent higher than last year and it's reached levels of the civil war.
Spokesman: In El Salvador?
Question: Exactly. What is the reaction of Ban Ki‑moon to this? Is he following the case?
Spokesman: This was an issue that the Secretary‑General himself addressed when he was in the country recently, and I'll see if I can get you a little further details. Ms. Fasulo.
Question: Thank you, Stéeph. I have a housekeeping issue. Very simple question for you. Is there any information about the SG's upcoming trips?
Spokesman: None that I can share with you, but we will probably be able to share some with you next...… next week. Obviously I think it will come as no surprise that you can expect to find the Secretary‑General in Paris in December during the COP meeting.
Question: On Western Sahara, I was wondering with the anniversary of the Green March today, are there any comments of the Secretary‑General specifically on the planned trip of the king of Morocco?
Spokesman: I would refer you back to the rather extensive statement that we issued yesterday or two days ago. If we have anything further to say, I will let you know. Mr. Lee?
Question: Something on Burundi, but first, I think a week ago I asked both you and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] for a simple document, which is what they signed with the Pprime Mminister of Dominica and Mr. Ng now indicted. I haven't received anything from them. So I'm asking you, do you have the document and have you, have you determined or is it known whether this offer by
UNDP and South-South Office for a $100,000 to put corporate leaders next to heads of states and UN officials past the muster of the UNDP ethics office?
Spokesman: First of all, I think the South-South Cooperation Office is housed in UNDP, but it is not a UNDP office. It is created by the General Assembly. It is supported by UNDP, but it is not a UNDP office per se. I don't have that document. I would hope somebody from the South-South Office would get back to you. We will see if they can.
Question: But one question then. One, does the Ethics Office cover it? Two, when you said that the Secretary‑General has asked funds and programs to report to him, their interactions with David Ng, Sheri Yan, Frank Lorenzo, that covers this office, right? Even though you're saying…
Spokesman: Yes, it does cover the office and they would report back through UNDP, but it is not a UNDP office per se.
Question: Can you explain that, because they seem to have an office in Shanghai. They do a lot of things, but there's nothing like, like it seems like they should be able to give a public document.
Spokesman: I will call them and see what the situation is.
Question: On Burundi, I wanted to ask you just a kind of...… it's a good long statement, but is there any thought...… your earlier statement had deferred to the Uganda defense minister going, it seemed to say… is there a recognition given the assassination of the human rights defenders and its impending Saturday deadline that maybe that mediation is not [overlapping talking]...… What's the UN's secretary going to do?
Spokesman: I think the UN… it is not about supporting the Uganda Ddefence Mminister as Ddefence Mminister. It is about supporting the Uganda mediation which has been put forward by the East African Economic Community and also based on the AU [African Union] decision which the UN fully supports. We support that mediation and we encourage everyone else to do so. I think the statement that was both issued by the Secretary‑General and the High Commissioner clearly underscores I think the alarm at the current state of ‑ the current state of Burundi and as the High Commissioner said, the complete impunity that we have seen along these lines.
Question: Will there be a Secretariat or a DPA briefer on Monday that Mr. Zeid is going to speak to on human rights issues?
Spokesman: I'll find out. Thank you, everyone. Have a good weekend. We'll see you tomorrow.
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