DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
22 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 Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
There is no plenary meeting today. The UN Day Concert will take place at 7 this evening in the General Assembly Hall.
At two meetings today, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) is continuing its thematic discussion on any disarmament topic. Two draft resolutions were introduced yesterday. The first, sponsored by Belarus, China and the Russian Federation (A/C.1/54/L.1), would have the General Assembly call for renewed efforts by each of the States parties to preserve and strengthen the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty through full and strict compliance. It would reiterate that there should be no deployment of ABM systems or bases to defend a country’s territory, nor any transfer to other States of ABM missile systems. The Assembly would express its support for international efforts aimed at preventing any attempts to undermine or circumvent the ABM Treaty. By the second text, on the report of the Disarmament Commission (A/C.1/54/L.3), the Assembly would note with regret that the Commission was not able to reach a consensus on the item entitled “The fourth special session of the General Assembly devoted to disarmament”.
Also at two meetings today, the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) is discussing two items. On environment and sustainable development, documents include the report of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) (A/54/25). In it, the Governing Council noted with concern the large discrepancy between the amount of funding provided from the regular budget to the United Nations Office at Nairobi, compared to UN Offices at Vienna and Geneva. It appealed to the Assembly to positively consider, in the context of the 2000-2001 regular budget, a substantial increase in the allocation to the administration of the Nairobi Office.
On the second item, implementation of Agenda 21 and the Programme for the Further Implementation of Agenda 21, the Committee has before it a report of the Secretary-General (A/54/131-E/1999/75). Analyzing the main challenges and constraints within the UN system in the field of sustainable development, the report says that additional tasks such as those implied in many decisions of the Commission on Sustainable Development could not be implemented fully without additional resources. Other constraints related to the lack of institutional capacity, vague mandates and roles, and lack of clearly defined priorities. There was often a perception, the report stated, that the follow- up to United Nations conferences was primarily the responsibility of the United Nations system. Rather, actions needed to take place primarily at the national level, with Governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the private sector and others as the main actors, and the role of the UN system being to facilitate cooperation among them. The report recommended that a more coordinated approach to the follow-up of all recent major United Nations conferences was needed in order to achieve synergies and to ensure a more efficient and effective use of limited resources. This required greater efforts aimed at promoting more effective coordination of both policy development and implementation activities at all levels.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning is continuing its examination of two items, elimination of racism and racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination. Yesterday, I drew your attention to the reports by two Special Rapporteurs on “Measures to combat contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance” (A/54/347) and on the “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” (A/54/326).
The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) is taking action on two draft resolutions at its morning meeting. In the text on the financing of the United Nations Mission in East Timor (UNAMET) (A/C.5/54/L.4), the Assembly would emphasize that all future and existing missions shall be given equal and non-discriminatory treatment in respect of financial and administrative arrangements, and be provided with adequate resources for the effective and efficient discharge of their respective mandates. The Assembly would note that paid and pledged voluntary contributions to the Trust Fund for East Timor so far amounted to $43.8 million and in-kind contributions were valued at $3.4 million. The Assembly would decide to apportion the amount of $7,155,000 gross ($5,667,700 net) among Member States, in accordance with the relevant resolutions, for phase I of the Mission’s operations. Furthermore, the Assembly would authorize the Secretary-General to enter into commitments up to $28,037,100 gross ($27,080,700 net), in addition to the commitment authority up to $10 million granted by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) on 9 September, for phase II of the Mission, pending the submission of a revised budget by the Secretary-General.
To follow up on a question I was asked yesterday, I checked and was informed that there had been disagreement among some delegations over the language in three paragraphs. However, the issue was resolved last evening when all sides agreed to stick to the standard language for resolutions dealing with the financing of peacekeeping operations.
The Fifth Committee is also taking action on the draft on establishing a special multi-year Development Account and the modalities for its operation, which I reported on yesterday. In the revised text (A/C.5/54/L.11/Rev.1), the contentious operative paragraph 5 now reads: “Also decides that the savings transferred to the Development Account section, in accordance with paragraph 4 above, shall form the maintenance base for that section in future proposed programme budgets”. The word “the” was substituted for “all” and the phrase “in accordance with paragraph 4 above” was added. The preceding paragraph states: “Decides that the savings to be achieved as a result of the efficiency measures could be identified in the context of budget performance reports and shall be transferred to the Development Account section with the prior approval of the General Assembly”.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) will this afternoon conclude its discussion of the item on an international criminal court.
Looking ahead to next week: The Assembly has a busy day on Monday. It will consider the report of its Credentials Committee; appoint seven members of the Committee on Conferences; elect 29 members of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme; and consider cooperation between the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as well as with the Latin American Economic System. On Tuesday, it takes up the report of the International Court of Justice, cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, as well as a newly inscribed item on observer status for the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries in the General Assembly. On Wednesday morning, the Assembly will commemorate the thirtieth anniversary of the operations of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). That afternoon, it will consider cooperation between the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. On Friday, 29 October, the Assembly will elect 18 members of the Economic and Social Council.
The First Committee will continue discussing thematic issues and hearing the introduction of draft resolutions. The Second Committee continues, through Tuesday, its discussion of environment and sustainable development, after which it will take up globalization and interdependence. On Monday, the Third Committee will conclude its discussion of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination. From Wednesday through Friday, it will discuss the promotion and protection of the rights of children. All week, the Fourth Committee will be discussing international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
The Fifth Committee’s programme of work for next week includes such items as: review the efficiency of the administrative and financial functioning of the United Nations; the report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the Office of Internal Oversight Services; administrative and budgetary aspects of the financing of peacekeeping operations. Secretary- General Kofi Annan will address the Committee on Wednesday afternoon, 27 October, when it begins considering the proposed 2000-2001 programme budget. The Committee will also consider the item on the United Nations common system.
For the next two weeks, through 5 November, the Sixth Committee will discuss the report of the International Law Commission on the work of its fifty-first session.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
**Security Council: Briefed by Prendergrast, Miyet; Agree to Formal Meeting on East Timor
The Security Council has a heavy schedule today.
Council members began the morning with consultations.
Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed Council members on Burundi.
Then Bernard Miyet, the Under-Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed on the financial implications of three peacekeeping operations -- Sierra Leone, the Central African Republic and East Timor.
Council members agreed to hold a formal meeting on East Timor at 10 a.m. Monday. So you all have your weekend [laughter].
The Council then went into the first of three formal meetings. The first one is Sierra Leone. The Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu, opened the meeting with a statement. Afghanistan and the Central African Republic are the subject of the two other formal meetings scheduled today.
On Monday, in addition to the formal meeting on East Timor, the Security Council has scheduled consultations on the humanitarian programme for Iraq and a briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
**Prendergrast to Visit Africa's Great Lakes Region
At the request of the Secretary-General, Kieran Prendergast, Under- Secretary-General for Political Affairs, will visit Burundi, Tanzania and other countries in the region for consultations on the situation in Burundi.
He plans to begin his two-week mission on 1 November.
We hope to have him here to brief you upon his return.
**Secretary-General Greatly Concerned by Reports from Caucasus Region
The following statement is attributable to the Spokesman, concerning the Caucasus: The Secretary-General has read reports of developments in the northern Caucasus with great concern. He expresses his strong hope that special care is taken to avoid innocent civilian casualties in the current conflict and that the provisions of humanitarian law in armed conflict are respected.
**Military Crackdown in Chechnya Forces Thousands to Flee into Ingushetia, UNHCR Reports
Further to that, on the humanitarian situation in Chechnya, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that the Ingush authorities say the number of people uprooted by the Russian military crackdown in Chechnya now stands at more than 160,000. More than 114,000 have been registered by the Ingush migration service. The influx continues and the Ingush authorities fear that as many as 300,000 people will pour into Ingushetia if the Russian military push continues.
Shelter is already a major problem with some 7,100 of the displaced living in tents and 5,000 in wagons and dilapidated buildings. UNHCR is increasingly concerned about the situation that could leave tens of thousands of people without shelter at the onset of a harsh northern Caucasus winter.
UNHCR's fourth convoy of twelve 20-ton trucks will be despatched today, Friday. The shipment includes food as well as blankets, kitchen sets, plastic sheeting, jerry cans, stoves and water tanks.
Meanwhile, small groups of the displaced, mostly ethnic Russians are returning to the northern parts of Chechnya controlled by the Russian federal forces.
**Independence Leader Returns to East Timor
The East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao returned to East Timor last night for the first time in seven years, most of which time he had been imprisoned in Jakarta for his political activities.
He was flown in to Baucau from Darwin, Australia by the Australian-led multinational force, which then took him to Dili by helicopter. This morning he gave an emotional address in Tetun, the local language, to thousands of local supporters in downtown Dili. "All of our suffering", he said, "we can leave behind. Today, we see our future. This land is ours".
**Multinational Force Paves Way for Humanitarian Aid in East Timor Enclave
Meanwhile, the multinational force (MNF) announced that at 5 a.m. today they landed in the East Timorese enclave of AMBENO to pave the way for delivery of humanitarian aid. The enclave, which is surrounded by the Indonesian territory of West Timor, is the site of reported killings. The MNF detained about 40 militia and disarmed them of knives, swords and pipe-guns.
**Report on Border Clash Due Today
The report on the investigation into the border clash between the MNF and Indonesian troops on 10 October at the town of Mota Ain, is expected to be forwarded to United Nations Headquarters today.
**East Timorese Repatriation Continues; Now by Boat
On the humanitarian front, the first return of displaced people by boat was carried out today. One thousand nine hundred and sixty-six people were accompanied by the staff of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on the 10-hour journey from Kupang, West Timor to Dili aboard a boat chartered by the International Organization for Migration.
But spontaneous returns overland, which stopped abruptly on Wednesday, still had not resumed today. It is believed that tens of thousands of people are stuck on the West Timor side of the border in makeshift camps there. With the onset of the rainy season, there is increased risk of disease, so aid agencies are sending in trucks tonight with mostly medical kits, but also some other relief items, to the Kupang area.
**International Human Rights Team to Geneva, then East Timor
The members of the international commission of inquiry on East Timor are expected to go to Geneva during the first half of November before heading to the region. We hope to be able to give you definite dates by early next week.
A spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights told reporters in Geneva today that a number of other experts from the Commission on Human Rights are also expected to travel to the region in the first half of November. These include the Special Rapporteurs on torture, violence against women, and arbitrary executions, the working group on disappearances, and the Secretary-General's Special Representative on internally displaced persons.
**Presidential Inauguration in Central African Republic
The inauguration ceremony of President Ange-Félix Patassé of the Central African Republic has just concluded in Bangui. Hédi Annabi, the Assistant- Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, represented the Secretary- General at the event.
Mr. Annabi said it was gratifying that the United Nations and observers had found the Central African Republic's recent elections to be peaceful, credible and transparent. As a result, the country can now join the growing number of African States where democracy is taking root.
He said the time has now come for the UN to gradually hand over its responsibilities to the authorities of the Central African Republic. But he stressed that the United Nations would not abandon the country, noting that the Mission's mandate had been recommended for extension through next February. Proposals would soon be submitted for establishing a political office in the Central African Republic to help it promote national reconciliation, he said.
We have copies of that speech in my office.
**Special Representative Signs Regulation to Allow Small Business Loans in Kosovo
We also have available today's notes from the press briefing in Pristina by the United Nations Mission there, UNMIK.
UNMIK announced that the Secretary-General's Special Representative Bernard Kouchner has signed into law a regulation paving the way for micro- credit institutions which will make small loans to individuals and small businesses of up to 2,000 Dms each. The purpose is to create a quick and simple licensing scheme for donors to channel funds to these projects.
**UN Volunteers Ready to Begin Third Round of Polio Vaccinations in Afghanistan
Almost six million doses of oral polio vaccine have been distributed in all areas of Afghanistan, and 20,000 trained volunteers are ready to begin vaccinating children under five years old against polio. The three-day campaign is scheduled to begin on 25 October in coordination with National Immunization Days in Pakistan.
In the first two rounds of the campaign in May and June, UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) managed to immunize 3.6 million children under five against polio -- about 85 per cent of the under-five population of the country. The agencies estimate that about 600,000 children in 20 districts missed the earlier immunization due to fighting.
The United Nations appealed to both sides of the conflict in Afghanistan to observe a three-day cease-fire from 25 to 27 October to allow a nation-wide immunization of children under five against polio.
Five high-risk countries, which include Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, southern Sudan and Angola, have redoubled efforts to try to eradicate the disease.
We have copies of a press release in my office.
**UN Technical Cooperation Mission in Pakistan
A six-member Mission of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) has just completed its work in Pakistan to formulate an integrated programme of technical cooperation.
You can pick up the press release.
**UN Millennium Assembly Web site Launched Today
We have an announcement on a new Millennium Assembly Web site: The United Nations is launching a new Web site today for the Millennium Assembly and the Millennium Summit it will hold next year. As you know, the General Assembly has decided to designate its fifty-fifth Session, which will open on 5 September in the year 2000 as the “Millennium Assembly of the United Nations”. The Millennium Summit, which is likely to be the largest gathering of Heads of State or Government ever held, will consider challenges facing the United Nations in the new century and how best to meet them. It will open on 6 September in the year 2000 here at United Nations Headquarters.
The Web site will provide continuously updated information of the Millennium Assembly and the Summit, as well as preparations leading up to the Summit, including United Nations regional hearings.
We have a press release upstairs with more information, and in the room here with us is Moncef Khane--Moncef, just put your hand up--and if you have any questions you can speak to him after the briefing.
**Star-studded Jazz Concert for United Nations Day
In honour of United Nations Day, an all-jazz concert will take place this evening at 7:00 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall. The concert, which is co-sponsored by the United Nations, the Duke Ellington Foundation and Over the Edge Records, is a musical tribute to jazz musician Duke Ellington on the 100th anniversary of his birthday.
The President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General will address the audience.
Correspondents who would like to attend this concert should contact Sonia Lecca. I hear the stampede now toward Sonia's door.
We had two payments today. One from Madagascar for over $30,000, and another from Mauritania for over $10,000. There are now 111 Member States paid in full for this year.
**UNCA Press Conference
UNCA is announcing a press conference: "Why Developing Countries Lose Massive Revenue from Trade Fraud". The guest speaker will be Ralph Sheridan, who is President of American Science & Engineering, Inc., and is also an advisor to governments on fighting fraud.
This press conference will be today, Friday 22 October in the UNCA Club at 2:30 p.m., and there will also be finger sandwiches available.
We have a rather full account of the week ahead that you can pick up in my office. I'll just read some highlights.
**Saturday, 23 October
A children's event, “When You Wish Upon a Star”, will take place at United Nations Headquarters, in commemoration of United Nations Day. The celebration will begin at 10 a.m. in the Visitor's Plaza with live appearances by a number of characters from Disney animated films as well as young actor Haley Joel Osment.
**Sunday, 24 October
Sunday is marked worldwide, of course, as United Nations Day. In his message on this occasion, the Secretary-General notes that people all over the world look to the United Nations to protect them -- from hunger, disease, violence and natural disasters -- whenever the task seems too big for nations or regions to handle alone. "But", he says, "we at the United Nations can do nothing alone, either. Our strength is the strength of our Member States, when they agree to act together for the common good".
Copies of his full statement are available on the United Nations Web site (www.un.org). The Secretary-General's United Nations Day message will be shown this afternoon on in-house television, channel 3 or cable channel 31.
**Monday, 25 October
The Secretary-General will attend and deliver brief remarks at a memorial service for Mwalimu Julius Nyerere. The service will be at United Nations Headquarters from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, in Conference Room 1.
Then, at the African Development Forum in Addis Ababa, the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, will deliver a statement on challenges to Africa of globalization and the information age.
Here in New York, Under-Secretary-General for Internal Oversight Services, Karl Paschke, will give his farewell press conference, which will follow his final report to the General Assembly. He is concluding a five-year term, I think.
**Tuesday, 26 October
The Secretary-General will throw out the first ball of the first game played in New York of the baseball World Series between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves. That’s 8 p.m. in Yankee Stadium.
The Secretary-General's Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jacques Paul Klein, is scheduled to brief a private meeting of the Security Council.
On Tuesday, there will also be a meeting here of the Heads of the six principal organs of the United Nations -- This, I think, was an innovation of the current Secretary-General -- the Secretariat, the General Assembly, the Security Council, Trusteeship Council, the Economic and Social Council and International Court of Justice. They are expected to discuss humanitarian intervention, the application of Article 19 of the United Nations Charter -- that's the one that cuts off the vote of a Member State that falls behind in paying their dues by two years or more -- as well as preparations for the Millennium Summit.
The Economic and Social Council will also meet to discuss the status of Christian Solidarity International, the report of the Committee on Development Policy, and the transportation of dangerous goods and other matters.
**Wednesday, 27 October
The Security Council will have discussions on Somalia.
**Thursday, 28 October
The Secretary-General will deliver a speech at a luncheon of the Links, Inc., an African-American women’s professional organization. That will be here at Headquarters.
And the Secretary-General's report on Western Sahara is due.
**Quiz of the Week
Now, if you have any strength left, Friday is the day we turn the tables on you and we ask you questions. The "Quiz of the week" today is pegged to Disarmament Week, which is next week, and so our questions will deal with small arms. As usual, we base the questions on information contained in a United Nations report. We have four of them.
This is easy. It's "true or false".
First, true or false: Brokers dealing in illicit arms are usually motivated by political considerations.
Answer: False. It's money. Most illegal arms traders are in it for the money.
Next, true of false: The illicit arms trade is difficult to track because brokers are constantly charting new paths.
Answer: False again. Whether they deal in rugs or drugs, smugglers tend to use the same routes they have always used.
There are four main components in a round of small arms, the cartridge case, the cap and the propellant charge. Can you name the fourth component?
Answer: The bullet [laughs]. Sorry.
And finally, Under good storage conditions, how long will small arms ammunition last?
Answer: Up to 50 years or more without significant deterioration. That's durable stuff.
The answers to all of today's questions and more information on small arms can be found in a report of the Group of experts on the problem of ammunition and explosives (A/54/155), which is being discussed in the First Committee.
Now, are there any questions before we all get on with our weekends?
**Question and Answer
Question: Has the Secretary-General had any reaction or made any statement regarding the situation in Chechnya?
Answer: You were late. I read a statement by the Secretary-General expressing concern over the situation in the Northern Caucasus. He did not mention Checnya by name. So there was a brief statement on the Northern Caucasus. And then there was some additional information on the humanitarian side from UNHCR. So, if you like, I can copy those things for you after the briefing.
Ok. Thanks very much.
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