DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
8 October 2003
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Michele Montas, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Statement of the Secretary-General on Burundi
The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Burundi:
“The Secretary-General welcomes the Pretoria Protocol on political, defence and security power-sharing, signed today by the Transitional Government of Burundi and the Conseil National pour la Défence de la Démocratie/Force pour la Défence de la Démocratie (CNDD/FDD). He commends both President Domitien Ndayizeye and Mr. Pierre Nkurunziza for their courage and commitment to peace and reconciliation.
“He is grateful to President Mbeki and other leaders of the region for their sustained efforts that made this agreement possible.
“The Secretary-General urges all Burundians to seize this opportunity to bring about peace and reconciliation in Burundi and reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to remain engaged in helping Burundians in pursuit of that goal.”
On the Middle East, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, is in Beirut, Lebanon today on the first leg of a regional tour that will also include Syria and Jordan.
Earlier today, he met with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud. In speaking to reporters after that meeting, he said that the last few days have seen a sharp deterioration in the situation between Israel and its northern neighbours, Syria and Lebanon. He went on to add that attacks and counter-attacks are “leading us down a steep and precarious path toward more violence”. He said, “I seriously advise the parties not to travel down that road. Instead, all parties should respect Security Council Resolutions and the rules of international law”.
Roed-Larsen calls on the Government of Israel to refrain from the unilateral use of force, address its complaints to the Security Council, and stop violations of Lebanese airspace. The Government of Lebanon, he said, must exert control over the use of force from all its territory and prevent all attacks across the Blue Line.
In closing he said, “we must now all shoulder our responsibilities and work for moderation, restraint and just, comprehensive solutions through peaceful means”.
We have the full text of his statement upstairs.
The Security Council is having an open meeting this morning on Bosnia and Herzegovina, which began with a briefing by the High Representative for that country, Paddy Ashdown.
After Ashdown spoke, Judge Theodor Meron, the President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, told the Council about the creation of a special war crimes chamber within Bosnia’s State Court, a joint initiative by the High Representative and the Tribunal.
The war crimes chamber, Meron said, will serve several important functions, helping to allow the Hague Tribunal to focus more tightly on prosecuting the most senior leaders suspected of serious crimes, and establishing a firm foundation for the rule of law in Bosnia’s national institutions.
The Council’s discussion of Bosnia is continuing right now, with all 15 Council members, as well as Bosnia and Italy, inscribed to speak.
At 3:30 this afternoon, the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee for Sierra Leone will meet.
This morning in Kinshasa, the head of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, William Swing, announced the deployment next week of UN troops to three or four locales outside of Bunia in Ituri province. One of the aims of this increased UN military presence in the province is to extend the “Bunia without Weapons” programme to the rest of the province’s population.
The operation is being made possible thanks to the arrival of the latest batch of Pakistani peacekeepers, which brings to 3,500, the total number of soldiers in Ituri. The Ituri brigade is to reach 5,000 soldiers once Nepalese troops arrive.
Swing also told reporters during his weekly briefing that he will be travelling this weekend to the town of Kashele in Ituri, which was the site of a murder of at least 65 people, mostly women and children.
Kashele, Swing said, is a challenge for all of us: the UN Mission, the transitional Government in Kinshasa and the Committee of Armed Groups in Ituri. “We must work together,” he added, “so that such acts do not repeat themselves in Kashele or anywhere else.”
The full text of his briefing is available in my office.
The UN Mission in Sierra Leone began deploying the first 80 of some 800 Bangladeshi peacekeepers to join the UN Mission in Liberia. The deployment continues until 11 October.
Yesterday, UN Force Commander for Liberia Lt. Gen. Daniel Opande visited Tubmanburg for a meeting with the leader of the Liberians United for Democracy (LURD), Sekou Conneh.
Conneh reiterated that the LURD is committed to the ceasefire accord, and that he had instructed his commanders to comply with an agreement on Monday to make the Monrovia area weapons-free within 72 hours.
Today, the Force Commander has gone with a reconnaissance/liaison team to areas where skirmishes were reported to have taken place in the past few days.
Meanwhile, the Special Representative for Liberia Jacques Klein was hosting a meeting with traditional chiefs from Liberia's 15 countries.
The latest humanitarian update on Liberia says that aid agencies are exercising caution in operating outside of Monrovia, and non-essential missions are on hold for now.
Harri Holkeri, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, today, delivered a televised statement in Kosovo to clear up misperceptions about a direct dialogue between Pristina and Belgrade, which, he noted, is one of the eight benchmark standards endorsed by the entire international community.
Holkeri said that only by talking can we make progress on resolving the fate of missing persons, facilitate the return of displaced persons, aid Kosovo’s economy and move towards the kind of future that Kosovo deserves. Dialogue, he said, “is not about politics. It is about making concrete progress on practical issues”.
The direct dialogue is scheduled to take place in Vienna on October 14; and we have copies of Holkeri’s statement upstairs.
This morning in London, UN Population Fund Executive Director Thoraya Obaid launched UNFPA’s State of the World Population report for 2003, which underlines the urgent priority of meeting adolescents’ reproductive health needs.
She said, “This report is a wake-up call. It is a wake-up call to listen to young people and acknowledge their needs”.
The report says that one person in five, or roughly 1.2 billion people worldwide, is between the ages of 10 and 19. Half of these adolescents are poor, and one in four live in extreme poverty, on less than a dollar a day. They also suffer from AIDS, which, the report argues, has become a disease of the young.
Obaid said that “supporting young people in their efforts to delay or avoid pregnancy and to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS can bring enormous health and economic benefits”, yet international funding for population and reproductive health programmes is just 40 per cent of what was agreed upon a decade ago.
We have a press release from the UNFPA with more details, and the full report is available on the agency’s Web site.
We have two messages: Tonight, the Secretary-General will accept the humanitarian award given posthumously to Sergio Vieira de Mello by the UN Association of the USA and the Business Council for the UN, and he will say at the award dinner that the days and weeks ahead in Iraq, and elsewhere, will not be easy. He will add that, as the United Nations tries to determine what it does best and to strengthen the way it works, he will look to groups like the UN Association to tell the UN story to the American public and Government.
We have embargoed copies of the full text of that statement upstairs.
Then second, the Secretary-General issued a message to mark the International Day for Disaster Reduction; that’s today. He said it is necessary to preserve water resources to sustain life, but he also drew attention to the need to reduce the capacity of water to take life away -– either by its excess, as in floods and hurricanes, or by its lack, as in droughts.
The 15th Consultative Group meeting on Bolivia is taking place today at the World Bank’s premises in Paris. The Bolivian Government has convened this meeting to discuss its medium and long-term economic and social strategies with the donor community.
In his message to the Consultative Group, the Secretary-General notes that while Bolivia has undertaken a series of reforms in the past 20 years with the assistance of the United Nations, the majority of Bolivian people continue to endure great hardship. He states that urgent action is needed to ensure their demands for social justice are answered and that the developing democratic process continues to move forward.
We have a full text upstairs.
From UNICEF, next week on 11 October, a day before the Women’s soccer championship match in Los Angeles, the UN Children’s Fund and soccer’s international ruling body, FIFA, will celebrate Global Girls Football day.
The two organizations have teamed up again this year to highlight two crucial areas of child development that are often absent or overlooked for girls because of poverty and discrimination: the right to play and the right to education.
“For millions of girls, certain basic rights are seen as a privilege or luxury”, said UNICEF’s Executive Director Carol Bellamy. “UNICEF and FIFA believe that girls should have equal opportunities to make a better life for themselves through an education and by playing and participating in sports.”
For more information on that event, we have a press advisory upstairs.
**Rise of supermarkets across Africa threatens small farmers
According to The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) today, the proliferation of supermarkets represents a risk for Africa's millions of small farmers, unless they can participate in the new market.
There is a press release on that.
**ILO organizes meeting to develop code of practice at workplace
From the ILO, workplace violence and stress are two of today’s most serious threats to productivity and decent work, according to the ILO, which is organizing an eight-day meeting in Geneva today to discuss the code of practice at the workplace.
We have more information on that.
**Press conference tomorrow
My last item for today is to announce a press conference. Tomorrow at 11 a.m. in this room, Jarmo Sareva of Finland, the Chairman of the General Assembly’s First Committee, which deals with disarmament and international security, will be here to brief you on the Committee’s work programme.
That’s all I have. Yes?
Questions and Answers
Question: Pakistan Prime Minister (Zafarullah Khan) Jamali is scheduled to meet SG this afternoon at 3 o’clock. I am wondering if we get a read out?
Spokesman: We’ll try our best. We’re not too good at read outs, as you know, but we’ll see what we can get for you. Yes?
Question: What’s the current number of international staff in Iraq, are there any changes?
Spokesman: I don’t have the number for today. Come see me. But yesterday it was up a bit to the mid-thirties. I think last time I spoke on this I said you’d see it going up and down, but probably hovering around the 30 mark.
Spokesman: I don’t know what the number is today; I suspect it’s the same, but we got the daily report from Baghdad just as I was coming down; so, the numbers are on that report. Check with me after the briefing.
[The Spokesman later announced that the number of international staff in Iraq was in the mid-forties]
Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
Thank you Fred, and Good afternoon,
As Fred mentioned, today is the International day of disaster reduction. In a message released today, the President of the fifty-eighth session, Julian R. Hunte, underlines the importance of such a date: “Natural hazards occur in every region. They occur in developed and developing countries alike. All too often, especially in developing countries, they become social, environmental and economic disasters … Much more needs to be done to promote economic growth, improve awareness through education, to develop policies and frameworks to integrate disaster reduction issues into sustainable development and national planning agencies. This is a challenge for the international community, which can only be achieved if we all work together on these issues.”
There is no Plenary today, as you know, for the General Assembly, but the debate on the follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit and the work of the Organization will continue in Plenary tomorrow.
All six Committees are working today, except for the sixth (legal issues) that has two working groups in closed session: one on “measures to eliminate international terrorism” and one on “strengthening of the United Nations: an agenda for further change”.
On this last subject, I have been getting a number of questions about proposed UN reforms, after the Press Conference by the President of the Assembly, Julian R. Hunte, yesterday. As you know, the subject has been debated for quite a while at the United Nations’ principal policy-making body, the General Assembly, but what the General debate has shown, this year is the importance given by Member States to a stronger, more efficient and credible United Nations. A number of measures have already been taken in the last few years to improve the work of the intergovernmental bodies, as well as that of the Secretariat. Of course, any reform would imply a change in the Charter and what was asked yesterday is: What mechanisms exist for such reforms?
In fact, there exist two distinct mechanisms for the amendment of the UN Charter. They are contained in Articles 108 and 109 of the Charter. The so-called “ordinary” procedure is found in Article 108. The “special conference” procedure is found in Article 109.
Under the Article 108 procedure, an amendment to the Charter comes into force only if: 1) the amendment is adopted by two-thirds of the members of the General Assembly; and 2) the amendment is ratified at the domestic level by two-thirds of the members of the UN, including all 5 permanent members of the Security Council.
Under the Article 109 procedure, a general conference of the members of the UN can be called for the purpose of reviewing the Charter. The date and place of the general conference are to be fixed by a two-thirds vote of the members of the General Assembly and by a vote of any nine members of the Security Council. Each Member of the United Nations has one vote in the conference. Any amendments to the Charter recommended by a two-thirds vote of the Conference take effect, when domestically ratified by two-thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council. Some variations; but you have an idea of what the procedure is.
The question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council will be discussed in the Assembly on October 13 and 14.
After the press conference by the President of the Assembly yesterday, we have asked that each Committee chairman talk on the work in his/her Committee. Fred has already mentioned the press conference by the Head of the first committee on disarmament and security issues, Jarmo Sareva of Finland. There will be a conference of the Second Committee next Tuesday, but we’ll have time to talk about this. I have asked the chairmen of the committees to come to you to discuss issues from their own committees.
That’s all I have. Thank you.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Are there any questions? If not, thank you very much.
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