SG addresses Egypt, piracy in London, welcomes Haiti election announcement, and more from UN Direct

SG Egypt: Today, the SG addressed the press in London and stated that the protests reflect the great frustration of the Egyptian people about the lack of change over the past few decades. Furthermore, he reiterated that the UN “stands ready to support the bold reforms that are needed to meet the people’s aspirations” and that “the transition should begin now”. He also called the violent attacks against peaceful protestors “completely unacceptable” (and his spokesperson later clarified that he supports High Commissioner Pillay’s call for an investigation on rights abuses). In response to a question on Mubarak’s announcement that he intends to stay in office until the end of the term, the SG said “I’m not sure that will satisfy the demands of his people. If there is a need for change, it should happen now.” He also said that he stands firmly behind the need for Egyptian leaders to genuinely listen to the needs of the people through a peaceful and orderly transition and urged all parties to engage in dialogue without delay. The SG was also interviewed today by BBC’s Zeinab Badawi, which echoed similar messaging on Egypt. Arriving in Berlin this evening, the SG gave a brief press encounter with the President, and he called reports of intimidation and restrictions on the international media and human rights groups “outrageous and totally unacceptable”. He also indicated that he would be discussing the issue with the Security Council upon his return to NY this weekend. In regards to the UN and its on-the-ground involvement in the country, the Spokesperson explained that as of today, two planes of “non-essential” UN personnel and family members arrived in Cyprus, a temporary location due to security concerns. The essential and local staff will continue to work in Egypt. At this stage, a Special Envoy won’t be sent and while the violence is a major source of concern, the situation doesn’t classify as an international peace and security issue. Because of Egypt’s vital role in the Israeli-Palestinian talks, journalists asked whether the regional issues would affect the upcoming Quartet meeting in Munich. The Spokesperson said that the goals of the Quartet remain the same and will naturally discuss the rapidly changing regional developments.

SG Travel: The SG arrived in Germany today and will spend the day in Berlin tomorrow, before traveling to Munich where he will attend a Quartet meeting on Saturday, as well as the Munich Security Conference.

SG Piracy: Addressing the International Maritime Organization (IMO) today as it launched its 2011 theme of “piracy: orchestrating the response”, the SG explained that piracy “seems to be outpacing the efforts of the international community to stem it”. According to him, in order to address this problem, a strategy that focuses on deterrence, security, rule of law, and development needs to be implemented. The SG also highlighted the Council’s recent decision to increase the size of the AU peacekeeping mission from 8,000 to 12,000 personnel.

SG UNA: speaking to students at Oxford yesterday, the SG was asked about what civil society can do to help promote concepts such as the R2P from a member of UNA-UK, which he used as an opportunity to speak about the value of UN Associations in playing a “very crucial role in helping the United Nations carry out its work”, adding that civil society can reach community and business leaders, as well as academia, in a way that UN is constrained from doing.

Haiti: today members of Haiti’s Provisional Electoral Council announced that Mirlande Maginat and Michel Martelly will contest the second round of presidential elections in a run-off vote scheduled for March 20. This decision is consistent with the OAS recommendations, which were backed by the U.S. In response, the SG issued a statement welcoming the Provisional Electoral Council’s announcement, highlighting the importance of having a democratically elected government, as Haiti continues to tackle the cholera epidemic and recovery and reconstruction efforts.

Amos in Africa: Today USG Amos completed her three-day visit to Kenya and Somalia where she assessed challenges faced by both countries due to drought. It is reported that 1.6 million are food insecure in Kenya and 2.4 million are in need in Somalia.

NPT Update: On Tuesday, February 1st, UNU held a forum on, “The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Where Do We Stand? What’s Next?” UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Sergio Duarte elaborated on the vital necessity of the NPT in regards to national security. He stated that the elimination of nuclear weapons would ensure the avoidance of war, as disarmament seeks to reduce the weapons and makes them impossible to use. Duarte discussed the NPT Review Process, which aims to ensure accountability among Member States. In 2010, States agreed on 22 actions on disarmament. Some actions include: 1) request for specific timelines; 2) the SG’s 2008 proposal that highlighted the need to eliminate nuclear weapons under international law; and 3) the announcement of the 2012 Conference on WMD in the Middle East convened by the SG. In preparation for the 2012 Conference on WMD in the Middle East, a number of consultations have been done by Duarte and the SG. In addition, Member States called for more transparency during the NPT Review Process, noting that India, Pakistan, and Israel are the only countries that have not signed the NPT. Duarte stated that the IAEA and the UN work on disarmament. He noted that the NPT lacks a secretariat. Also, Duarte explained that NPT has no system in place to assess and examine doubts (i.e. concerning Iran). It’s up to Member States. Lastly, Duarte said that delegitimizing weapons globally is both a “practical necessity and a moral imperative.”

Palestine: responding to a question yesterday on the status of the draft Security Council resolution on Israeli settlements, Ambassador Viotti indicated that the Council is consulting “very closely” with the main sponsors, but it remains unclear as to when it would be brought to the Council for action.