DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
8 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 Manoel de Almeida Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
The General Assembly this morning heard five more speakers as it concluded debate on implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development.
The Assembly then adopted four decisions, contained in the report of the Preparatory Committee for the special session of the General Assembly on the Implementation of the Outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and Further Initiatives. The texts pertain to procedural arrangements for the special session, which will take place from 26 to 30 June 2000 in Geneva; the title for the special session, which is to be called “World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world”; the provisional agenda for the Preparatory Committee’s next session, in April 2000; and arrangements for the participation of non-governmental organizations in the special session.
Also this morning, the Assembly elected 20 members to the 34-member Committee for Programme and Coordination (CPC), as nominated by the Economic and Social Council. They are: Cameroon, Gabon, Mauritania and Zimbabwe, from the Group of African States; Bangladesh, Indonesia, Iran and Pakistan, from the Asian States; Poland, Moldova and Ukraine, from Eastern European States; Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Peru, from Latin America and Caribbean States; and Germany, Italy, Portugal, San Marino and the United Kingdom, from Western European and other States. The note of the Secretary-General on the election is contained in document A/54/400.
The Assembly had before it, for action, three draft resolutions. It adopted A/54/L.8, thereby inviting the Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization to participate in its sessions and work in the capacity of observer. The draft resolution had 33 sponsors.
However, at the request of some delegations, the Assembly postponed action on the two other texts: draft resolution A/54/L.7, under which the Assembly would have invited the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources to participate in its sessions and work as an observer; and draft resolution A/54/L.5, by which the Assembly would have invited the Secretary-General to take the appropriate steps to conclude with the Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, an agreement to regulate the relationship between the United Nations and the Preparatory Commission.
The Assembly is meeting this afternoon to hear the remaining 19 speakers on the Report of the Secretary-General on the work of the Organization (A/54/1). This morning, after considering three requests, the General Committee decided to recommend: that the Assembly include in the agenda of its current session an additional item entitled, “Observer Status for the Community of Portuguese- Speaking Countries” (A/54/232); that it include a sub-item entitled, “Relocation of South Africa in the group of Member States as set out in paragraph 3 (c) of General Assembly resolution 43/232” (South Africa is requesting that it be placed in the category of developing countries in the scheme for apportioning the costs of United Nations peacekeeping operations) (A/54/233); and that the Assembly consider directly in plenary, as requested by the Chairman of the Second Committee, the sub-item entitled, “Follow-up of the World Summit for Children”. The Assembly will take action on the General Committee’s report at a date to be announced.
In other Committee action, at two meetings today, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) is concluding its general debate on major economic issues, before taking up item 97, on macroeconomic policy questions. Reports of the Secretary-General on science and technology for development, and on external debt crisis and development are before the Committee. Debate on those two items will conclude on Monday, to be followed by a discussion on implementation of the objectives of the first United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty (1997-2006).
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), also in two meetings today, is expected to conclude its general discussion on social development issues, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family.
This morning, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) is concluding debate on all decolonization items.
Looking ahead to next week: On Thursday, 14 October, the Assembly will elect five non-permanent members of the Security Council to fill the seats that will be vacated on 1 January 2000 by Bahrain, Brazil, Gabon, Gambia and Slovenia. The candidates are: Mali, Tunisia and Bangladesh, for three African and Asian seats; Slovakia and Ukraine for one Eastern European seat; and Jamaica for one Latin American and Caribbean seat. Other plenary meetings will be scheduled, as documents become available.
The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) begins its general debate on all disarmament and international security agenda items on Monday, 11 October. That debate will conclude on 20 October. The Under- Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Jayantha Dhanapala, will address the Committee.
For much of next week, the Third Committee will be discussing the advancement of women, and implementation of the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women. On Friday 15 October, it will take up the item on crime prevention and criminal justice, and on international drug control. Pino Arlacchi, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna and Executive Director of the United Nations International Drug Control Programme, will be in New York and will address the Committee.
From 11 to 14 October, the Fourth Committee will consider the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories.
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) is holding informal consultations through Thursday next week. On Friday 15 October, it is scheduled to take action on draft resolutions relating to eight agenda items.
On 11 and 12 October, the Sixth Committee (Legal) considers the report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, followed, from 13 to 15 October, by consideration of the report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization.
Copies of Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab’s appointments for today are available in room 378 and on the Internet. This morning, he chaired the third meeting of the General Committee before presiding over the plenary. He has a meeting at 4:30 p.m. with the Permanent Representative of China, Qin Huasun, and with the Deputy Permanent Representative of Portugal, Nuno Brito.
Briefing by Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General
**Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty Conference Concludes in Vienna
The Conference on facilitating the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) ended today in Vienna with the adoption of a Final Declaration that reflects the views of the 92 ratifying and signatory States which were there.
The Declaration contains a number of specific appeals, including a call upon all States that have signed but not yet ratified the Treaty, particularly those whose ratification is needed for the entry into force, to accelerate their ratification processes. The Declaration also notes the ratification by two nuclear-weapon States, and calls upon the remaining three to accelerate their ratification processes with a view to successfully concluding them.
Upstairs, we have in our office, copies of the Conference's final report, which contains the text of the Final Declaration, as well as a wrap-up press release from Vienna.
**First Airlifted Refugees Return Home to Cheering Crowds
Moving to East Timor, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) airlifted 173 Timorese to East Timor today at the start of a program to return displaced people estimated to number 230,000 in squalid camps in West Timor.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata described the development as “an important first step which we hope will lead tens of thousands of Timorese safely back to their homes. It is a difficult and complex process”.
The first two groups were taken from the Koni Badminton Stadium in Kupang and Kupang’s Assumption Church, respectively. Militias harassing refugees were reported present in the area, but the operation went smoothly, without problems. Police stayed discreetly away as UNHCR staff and local officials transported the refugees in three buses to the airport. Cheering crowds greeted returning East Timorese as they moved from the Dili airport through the streets of the capital. The enthusiastic welcome from fellow East Timorese continued as returnees received food and relief items and underwent medical screening at the sports stadium, which aid workers have turned into a transit centre.
**Aid Workers Report Everyday Activities Resuming in Baucau and Dili
Aid workers who returned from delivering aid to Baucau said on return to Dili that traffic along the road between East Timor’s two largest cities had increased. Many residents were busily trading small merchandise in Baucau in another sign that everyday activities are slowly resuming.
**World Health Organization Warning
The World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile warned that its operations would come to a standstill in Timor if no new money were found. WHO put forward its estimated funding needs of $9 million to continue its operations.
For more details on the return of the refugees and the WHO situation, we have press releases from both UNHCR and WHO with further information.
**Polio Vaccination Campaign Begins in Sierra Leone
Just 12 weeks after a cease-fire that ended eight years of bloody civil war, Sierra Leone's government and various rebel representatives have agreed to support a nationwide polio vaccination campaign involving thousands of health workers and volunteers. The campaign represents a major step forward in the global fight to eradicate polio and will be one of the first national civilian undertakings in Sierra Leone since the cease-fire was signed.
The World Health Organization, the United Nations Children's Fund and Rotary International will join national authorities to launch the campaign tomorrow, targeting 800,000 children under the age of five over a period of five days. On the opening day of the campaign, President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah will administer oral polio vaccine to children.
Sierra Leone is the last country to begin the nationwide campaigns necessary for polio eradication. Despite war in Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia and South Sudan, vaccination campaigns will have been carried out in all these countries in 1999.
In a related matter, WHO announced a donation of 50 million doses of polio vaccine by a leading manufacturer for five endemic countries at war-- Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Somalia and South Sudan.
More details on this are available in a press release available in our office.
**United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Welcomes Pinochet Extradition
Mary Robinson, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, welcomed today's decision in London to commit Augusto Pinochet for extradition as a signal of hope to those fighting for justice for victims of human rights violations. Mrs. Robinson said Magistrate Ronald Bartle's decision confirms the view that torture is an international crime subject to universal jurisdiction. She added: “Survivors of human rights abuses the world over can take heart in knowing that impunity for torture and other human rights violations is no longer the norm, even when those responsible are the highest representatives of the State.”
We have the full text of Ms. Robinson’s statement available in our office. The press release was issued by her office in Geneva.
**Secretary-General’s Report on United Nations Mission in Guatemala Released
The Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA) is out on the racks today. The Secretary- General recommends that the mandate of the Mission be extended beyond 1 January of next year, until 31 December 2000.
In the report, the Secretary-General says that the peace process as a whole suffered a number of difficulties in 1999, but there were significant achievements in two specific areas: the status of women and the repatriation programme, which concluded in June of this year. Since 1984, some 43,000 Guatemalan refugees have returned to Guatemala
**Heavy Rainfall Creates Food Crisis in Central America, WFP Warns
Still on Central America, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that nearly a year after Hurricane Mitch savaged the countries of Central America, creating the worst humanitarian crisis in the region in over 100 years, unusually heavy rainfalls are now threatening to lead to a food crisis.
After 25 days of steady rains, which have killed more than 70 people and displaced more than 100,000, Central America is facing crop losses of an estimated $40 million.
For more details, see the WFP press release.
**International Atomic Energy Agency to Gather Information on Nuclear Incident
We have this from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA): Japanese authorities have agreed to an IAEA team of three staff members visiting Japan next week to gather information on the recent Tokaimura nuclear accident.
The team will try to assist the Japanese authorities with advise on the application of international safety standards, obtain a factual overview of the causes and consequences of the accident, and lay the groundwork for a fuller evaluation to be conducted, thereafter, in cooperation with Japan.
**Afghanistan: Humanitarian Coordinator Calls Humanitarian Access “Fundamental Right”
Speaking on assistance to the various pockets of Afghans who have been forced to flee their homes and are in need of assistance, the United Nations Humanitarian Co-ordinator for that country, Erick de Mul, today said the question is not one of resources or funding, but of access. Poor terrain, deteriorating weather, and the ongoing war complicate the issue.
“Humanitarian access is a fundamental right, which we are trying to impress on both sides of the conflict. In Panjshir, in particular, access is the key issue, and we have begun negotiating with both sides for a cross lines operation”, he said.
**First Mission for New Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Burundi
The new Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burundi, Professor Marie-Theresa Keita-Bocoum, leaves today for her first mission to the area to gather information regarding the evolution of the situation of human rights in Burundi. During her two-week trip, which concludes on 22 October 1999, Ms. Keita-Bocoum will meet with the highest-ranking judicial and military authorities of the country, as well as local officials, political organizations, church and media representatives, as well as Burundi human rights associations. She will also hold meetings with representatives of the diplomatic community and with United Nations officials. She will present her observations to the General Assembly in November.
More details on her mission are available in a press release in our office.
**4,000 Refugees Register in Tanzania UNHCR Reports
Still on Burundi, UNHCR reports today that 4,000 new Burundi refugees have been registered in western Tanzania during the past two weeks. The new arrivals say they are fleeing heavy fighting between government forces and rebels.
On the other side of the continent, UNHCR says that for the first time, since they fled the civil war in their country in 1998, Guine-Bissau refugees in neighbouring Guinea told UNHCR last week that they wanted to go home.
UNHCR has a briefing note on this, which is available in our office and has more details.
**Fulbright Prize Awarded to Robinson
Mary Robinson, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, is in Washington, D.C. today. She is receiving the 1999 William Fulbright Prize for International Understanding. The Prize carries a $50,000 award, which Mrs. Robinson will donate to projects in human rights education.
No Security Council consultations are being held today.
**European Trip Begins for Secretary-General
As you know, the Secretary-General left this morning for his trip to Europe. As we announced yesterday, he will be going first to Geneva, then on to Rome, Sarajevo and Pristina, and then back to New York.
**Quiz of the Week
The Secretary-General will be in Sarajavo on 12 October, which is the day we welcome the six billionth baby into the world. As you may recall, last Friday, we had a couple of little questions on issues that we thought were of interest, and today, taking the theme of “population” and the 6 billionth baby, the first question is:
What year was the five billionth baby born?
Answer: It was in 1987. The world's population has doubled since 1960 when it reached three billion, and we have added the last billion in only 12 years. So, we hit five billion in 1987.
Another issue that affects population matters around the world, particularly in Africa, is the question of HIV/AIDs, one of the most devastating factors in population statistics. Botswana has the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world. So the question here is:
What is the percentage of infected adults in Botswana?
Answer: It is a shocking figure: 25 per cent. In other words, one in every four adults in Botswana is infected with HIV/AIDs.
**The Week Ahead
Moving on to the last topic of the briefing, our weekly feature, “The Week Ahead”, which is as always available in hard copy in our office upstairs:
On Monday, 11 October, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) will be hosting a visit to Albania by Hollywood actor and superstar Michael Douglas. He will be there both Monday and Tuesday.
Also on Monday, the Chairman of the Joint Military Commission on the Democratic Republic of the Congo has convened the first substantive meeting of the JMC in Kampala, Uganda. The JMC, as you recall, was established by the parties to the Lusaka ceasefire agreement as the body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Lusaka Accords, pending the deployment of the United Nations peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
On Tuesday, 12 October, the Security Council will hold consultations on the Central African Republic.
And as I told you, the 12th is also the day of the 6 billionth baby
On Wednesday, 13 October, Security Council consultations will take place on Kosovo.
I will not take your time reading the full “Week Ahead,” but as I said, it is available in our office.
**Question and Answer
Question: Manoel, as the depository of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consulary Immunities, can you find out for us the position of the Secretary-General regarding the case of Pinochet, and also the future of this Convention.
Answer: I take note of your request.
Any other questions?
Alright. Thank you so much.
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