DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
7 October 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Shirley Brownell, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly, and Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President
The General Assembly is continuing debate this morning on the annual Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (A/54/1). Over 30 speakers are inscribed on the list. Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab is presiding.
It was evident from the statements yesterday that the issue of humanitarian intervention, first raised by the Secretary-General in his address to the Assembly on 20 September, and referred to by many delegations in the general debate, continues to be the dominant theme. As then, there were those who supported the concept outright, others who welcomed it but wanted further discussions, and still others who rejected the idea as a violation of the principle of State sovereignty and of non-interference in the internal affairs of States. Speakers agreed with the Secretary-General on the essential need to shift from a culture of reaction to one of prevention, but positions differed on how to achieve that objective.
This afternoon, the Assembly will continue discussion, begun yesterday afternoon, on item 37, on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development. Twenty-four delegations and one observer, Switzerland, are inscribed.
In that debate, speakers called, variously, for redoubled efforts to halt social degradation, eradicate poverty and improve employment opportunities, for globalization with a human face, fairer terms of trade for developing countries, the reversal of declining official development assistance (ODA) and for strengthening the financial and economic architecture. They also stressed the importance of youth, family, education for all and the need to empower women, among many concerns.
Yesterday afternoon, the Assembly adopted, without a vote, a resolution containing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. That instrument will enable victims of sex discrimination to submit complaints to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women against States parties to the Protocol.
In Committee action today, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) is continuing its general debate on major economic issues.
Yesterday, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, gave a sobering assessment of the world economic situation as it affects development in developing countries. He called for a global economy that included more equitable trade liberalization. Speakers then debated such issues as the positive and negative aspects of globalization; the need for all countries to participate in the world trade system to avoid marginalization; restructuring of the international financial and monetary architecture; the need for debt reduction and for increased ODA; and the need to eradicate poverty for sustainable development. There were also appeals for differential treatment for developing countries; for integrating the least developed countries into the world trading system; and for greater access by developing countries to markets in developed nations.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) is continuing its general discussion on social development issues. Its debate yesterday mirrored what was being said in the plenary, where the item is also being discussed. A wide-ranging discussion touched on all aspects of social development -- youth, ageing, disability, family, debt cancellation to alleviate or eradicate poverty, the challenges posed by globalization, cooperatives and education for all, among others.
At its meeting this afternoon, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) will continue its debate on all decolonization items.
The Assembly President announced yesterday that the General Committee will meet at 9:15 a.m. tomorrow, 8 October, to consider three items: a request by the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries for observer status in the General Assembly (A/54/232); a request by South Africa to be relocated from group (b) to group (c) -– as a developing country -- in the scheme for apportioning the costs of United Nations peacekeeping operations (A/54/233); and a letter from the Chairman of the Second Committee, requesting that the item on follow-up to the World Summit for Children be considered directly in plenary rather than in the Committee.
At its plenary meeting tomorrow morning, the Assembly will elect 20 members of the Committee for Programme and Coordination –- four from African States, four from Asian States, three from Eastern European States, four from Latin America and Caribbean States and five from Western European and other States. The note of the Secretary-General on the election is contained in document A/54/400.
The Assembly will then take action on three draft resolutions, relating to observer status, in the General Assembly, for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (A/54/L.7); cooperation between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (A/54/L.5); and on granting observer status, in the General Assembly, for the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization (A/54/L.8).
Copies of the Assembly President’s appointments for today are available in room 378 and on the Internet. This morning, he met with a member of the International Court of Justice, Judge Raymond Ranjeva from Madagascar. Judge Ranjeva is a candidate for re-election to the Court when elections to fill five vacancies are held on 3 November.
This evening, the President will attend a dinner in his honour, hosted by the Permanent Representative of Finland, Marjatta Rasi, in her capacity as President of the European Union.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Thank you very much, Shirley. I would like to welcome Zephirine Diabre, the Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme. He is joined by Robert Piper here in the front row; he is the Manager of the NETAID Web site. They are going to talk to you about the NETAID concert that is going to take place on Saturday and the Web site, which will help channel support for the global fight against poverty. We will get to you in just a minute.
**Secretary-General Concerned About Humanitarian Situation in Burundi
I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman on the subject of Burundi: the Secretary-General has continued to follow closely the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Burundi. The Security Council was briefed on the alarming developments in this country by the Secretariat on 5 October. The Secretary-General calls on all parties involved in the conflict, both Government and rebel forces, to end all attacks on the civilian population and to abide by international humanitarian law and principles.
In this regard, the Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the massive forced displacement of the population in Bujumbura Rural. The United Nations system in Burundi and its humanitarian partners are making every effort to provide urgent life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable among the displaced. The Secretary-General calls on the Government and all other parties whose actions have given rise to this situation to end the armed conflict and take all measures to ensure that those affected can return to their homes as soon as possible.
**Security Council Holds Consultations on East Timor Report
The Security Council is holding consultations this morning to take up the Secretary-General's report on East Timor. The report was introduced by Bernard Miyet, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.
**INTERFET Report Available
Also on East Timor, the first periodic report of the multinational force –- or INTERFET -- is available on the racks today.
**Multi-Agency Convoy in Timor Finds Towns Destroyed
Earlier today, a multi-agency convoy travelled to the towns of Ermera and Gleno -- 60 kilometres southwest of Dili -- where aid workers and troops from their INTERFET escort found 90 per cent of the towns destroyed. From an original population of around 31,000, an estimated 500 people have returned to Ermera and Gleno. Most of these came back 10 days ago after seeing the first international peacekeepers enter the towns. The bulk of the population is reportedly still living in a forest.
Aid workers found three cases of severe malnutrition among those who have returned to these two towns. Like other displaced persons, the group said they survived mainly on cassava and sweet potatoes. They were able to find adequate drinking water. The humanitarian convoy delivered 12 tons of rice, 18 bales of plastic sheeting and boxes of baby food.
You can get more details from the UNHCR update that is available in my office.
**First Humanitarian Convoy Travels Without Escort
The first humanitarian convoy went to Baucau from Dili without military escort. Humanitarian vehicles may travel without escort as long as there are at least three vehicles in the convoy and they maintain radio contact.
**The UN High Commissioner for Refugees OKs Airlift to East Timor
After further talks to iron out practical arrangements for an airlift return to East Timor, the UNHCR team in Kupang, West Timor, is satisfied that the first flight can go ahead as planned tomorrow, 8 October.
**Conference on the CTBT Continues in Vienna
The Conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) continued today in Vienna, where States that have ratified the Treaty are urging others to do the same.
Yesterday we told you that the Deputy Secretary-General opened the Conference; after she spoke, 10 representatives of governments took the floor, including the Foreign Minister of Japan, who is presiding, and the Foreign Ministers of Austria and Germany. There were some 35 speakers today.
Participants are reaffirming the importance of the CTBT and urging its speedy and universal ratification. They are expected to adopt a declaration to this effect tomorrow.
The declaration will reflect the views of some 90 ratifiers and signatories of the CTBT who are at the Conference. Four non-signatory countries are also taking part; they are Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, along with representatives of 13 non-governmental organizations and the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
You can pick up a press release in my office.
**De Beers to Refrain From Buying Diamonds in Angola
Ambassador Robert Fowler of Canada, Chairman of the Angola Sanctions Committee, will brief you today on the announcement made yesterday by one of the world’s largest diamond companies, De Beers, that they will refrain from buying diamonds from Angola. Ambassador Fowler will meet you at the stakeout position outside the Security Council at 12:30 p.m. That’s just about fifteen minutes from now.
**World Disaster Reduction Day
October 13 is World Disaster Reduction Day. The theme this year is “Prevention Pays”, with a focus on measures to reduce earthquake damage. For more information, pick up a press release and we also have a limited number of press kits available.
**Secretary-General’s Travel Itinerary
In my office you will find copies of the Secretary-General’s itinerary in Europe. As we announced to you, he is leaving tomorrow for a visit to Geneva, Rome, Sarajevo and Pristina. He will be returning to New York on Thursday the 14th of October. For those of you who are listening from afar, the itinerary has been posted on the Spokesman’s Web page, under the Secretary-General’s schedule.
**World Mental Health Day
Today, World Mental Health Day is being observed here at Headquarters. This afternoon, there will be a forum on "Culture, Society and Depression" from 3 to 6 in Conference Room 1. Mental health experts will be on hand to discuss the issue in a global context.
You are all invited to attend, and you'll also find a press release on the racks.
Finally, on payments, we received two today. Gabon paid its regular budget dues of over $155,000 and Oman paid over $520,000.
That makes 106 countries out of 188 paid in full for this year.
Are there any questions before we go to Mr. Diabre?
**Question and Answer
Question: With respect to Burundi, where does the initiative of former President Nyerere stand now?
Answer: There’s been no change. To my knowledge that is still on the table. Of course, as you know, the President is hospitalized and is apparently very ill. We are all very concerned about him. But it is his initiative that is the driving force for peace in Burundi.
OK. Mr. Diabre what do you have to tell us about NETAID?
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