DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 October 1999
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General and Shirley Brownell, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
The guest at today's briefing will be Hans Von Sponeck, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq. He is here at Headquarters for regular consultations and will be joining us in a few minutes.
I would also like to welcome to the briefing -- and I look forward to seeing you over the next few days -- the participants in the 1999 training program for Palestinian broadcasters and journalists that is organized by the Department of Public Information.
**Klein Briefs Security Council on Bosnia and Herzegovina in Private Meeting
The Security Council held a private meeting this morning to hear a briefing on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, and Coordinator of United Nations Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jacques Klein.
The meeting was a private one -- meaning that though it was held in the Security Council Chamber, it was like closed-door consultations. Non-Council Members were able to attend the meeting.
Jacques Klein, by the way, will meet you here in room 226 tomorrow at 1:00 p.m.
**Humanitarian Assistance Still 'Major Priority' in East Timor, Special Representative Says
Ian Martin, the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General, held a press conference in Dili this morning. He said that the major priority in East Timor continues to be humanitarian assistance and emergency rehabilitation. Other key tasks are the re-establishment of basic services and law and order, with a functioning police force and a justice system.
He also said that there will be, in the coming days, an assessment mission led by the World Bank, which will be setting a framework for Longer-term development and appeal to donors to assist in that process.
More details of his briefing are available in the transcript we have in our office. **WFP Launches an Appeal for Emergency Food Distribution in East Timor
The World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it is launching a $21.6 million appeal to widen its ongoing emergency food distribution to displaced people in East Timor, and to start "food-for-work" rehabilitation projects in the strife-ravaged territory.
Under the six-month operation, scheduled to begin on 1 November, WFP will facilitate the return of East Timorese, now that security is beginning to return to the troubled entity, and provide the food aid that will free them to concentrate fully on restoring their homes, farms and livelihoods.
The WFP appeal will be incorporated into the United Nations consolidated humanitarian appeal for East Timor to be issued tomorrow in Geneva. That amount should be in the vicinity of $200 million, and that will take us through June 2000.
**East Timorese Repatriation Continues by Boat, Plane, UNHCR says
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that returns by boat and by plane from Kupang in West Timor to Dili are continuing. A ship will sail from Kupang today with about 2,000 returnees -- the fourth return by sea from the West Timor capital.
Also, five airlift flights are scheduled today from Kupang with around 500 refugees. Revised figures released by the government to UNHCR today in Kupang showed there are 219,000 people from East Timor who are now in West Timor. The government says 60 per cent of them want to return to East Timor.
**Secretary-General's Progress Report on Georgia Out Today
The Secretary-General's report on Georgia is expected to be out on the racks later this afternoon. It is a progress report concerning the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia, as of mid-October.
The Secretary-General considers that efforts should be strengthened to achieve progress on the political status of Abkhazia, the core question in this issue.
In this regard, the Special Representative will work closely with the Russian Federation, in its capacity as facilitator, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Group of Friends of the Secretary- General before submitting proposals to both sides.
The report says that the continuing displacement of thousands of people, years after the end of active hostilities, is especially distressing.
The report also notes that while the security situation has slightly improved in the Gali and Zugdidi sectors, the hostage-taking incident on 13 October in the Kodori Valley has once again shown the precariousness of the situation in which the United Nations Observer Mission operates.
**Economic and Social Council Formally Withdraws Consultative Status of Christian Solidarity NGO
The Economic and Social Council this morning decided to formally withdraw the consultative status of the non-governmental organization Christian Solidarity International (CSI).
The Council acted on the advice of the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations, which had made its recommendation that CSI's status be withdrawn on 7 September.
In today's action, the Council took a roll-call vote. The decision passed by a vote of 26 in favor to 14 against, with 12 abstentions and two countries absent.
**Secretary-General to Address UN Principal Organs
Right about now, the Secretary-General is meeting with the heads of the five other principal organs of the United Nations.
He is expected to address a number of key issues, including humanitarian intervention, particularly the reactions to his opening address to this year's General Assembly session.
Over lunch, they are expected to discuss the upcoming Millennium Assembly and Summit.
**Secretary-General Vows 'Impartiality' in World Series Duties Tonight
As you know, the Secretary-General will throw out the first ball tonight at World Series game 3 that begins at 8:00 p.m. sharp. He will try his best to be an impartial observer of the parties of this conflict, and he will suppress all urges to shout and cheer. [laughter]
Journalists wishing to cover the event will have to buy their own tickets. [laughter].
**A Note to Mr. Pat Buchanan
I was asked yesterday if I had heard Pat Buchanan's comments on the United Nations, and I said I didn't think I wanted to.
But today I saw that he claimed that the Secretary-General was threatening the United States with a loss of vote if the United States doesn't pay its arrears. And he in turn threatened the Secretary-General with loss of the lease on our Turtle Bay property.
For the record Pat: the Secretary-General has nothing to do with it. The United Nations Charter says in Article 19 that the loss of vote is automatic once a Member State falls behind by two years or more.
And as for the lease, there is none. We own this land, thanks to a gift by John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and land transfers from the City of New York.
**UNHCR Opens Two New Bus Routes in Kosovo
UNHCR says it has opened two more bus routes in Kosovo this week: one in the Mitrovica area -- which opened Monday -- and the other one in the Pristina suburbs -- which opens today. The original route connecting minority Serb hamlets in the Gnijlane area which opened 10 days ago has proven so popular that UNHCR said it had to add another day to the bus schedule and despite that the buses run hopelessly overcrowded. The two new routes run through all three of Kosovo's communities -- Albanian, Roma and Serb.
**UNDP and American Bar Association Announce Joint Program to Aid Developing Countries
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the American Bar Association (ABA) will announce tomorrow an agreement to provide legal services to developing countries. UNDP Administrator, Mark Mallock Brown, and the Executive Director of the ABA, Robert Stein, will do so at an event at UNDP, at 1 United Nations Plaza on the 21st floor, at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. You are invited to attend.
**Malaria Cases Outpacing Effective Drugs, WHO says; Japanese Companies to Help
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the development of anti- malaria drugs has not kept pace with the size of the problem.
Today WHO announced a new effort to find more effective drugs in the form of a partnership with 12 Japanese pharmaceutical companies.
If you are interested, see the press release.
**UN Observes Breast Cancer Awareness Week
I'm wearing this pink ribbon in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Week.
The Group on Equal Rights for Women and the United Nations Women's Guild are sponsoring two events to raise awareness about breast cancer. Both will take place at the United Nations Church Center across the street.
Today, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., the programme will feature a representative of the American Cancer Society, among other experts.
And then, on Friday, there will also be an event from 12:30 to 2 p.m., featuring three doctors from area hospitals.
You are all invited to attend those events.
**Reproductive Health Programmes Facing 'Dangerous' Cutbacks, UNFPA says
Reproductive health programmes supported by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) are facing dangerous cutbacks due to a four-year decline in donor contributions, according to a UNFPA press release out today. For 1999, available resources will cover only two thirds of the Fund's commitments to country programmes -- a $72 million shortfall that UNFPA says could lead to an additional 1.4 million unwanted pregnancies, 570,000 induced abortions and over 670,000 unwanted births.
You can pick up a press release in my office with more details.
And today, UNFPA Executive Director, Nafis Sadik, will be here at 3 p.m. to take your questions.
**10th Annual Inter-Agency Information Fair
Marking the observance of United Nations Day, the Department of Public Information has organized the 10th Annual Inter-Agency Information Fair to acquaint the public and all of those who visit United Nations Headquarters with the scope of activities undertaken by the United Nations system.
The fair, which starts today and runs until Friday, 29 October, is in the General Assembly public lobby, and it highlights the work of 28 United Nations Programmes, specialized agencies, offices and departments.
You will find a note to correspondents with more details.
**Secretary-General Pays Farewell Call to UNICEF's Lewis
You'll see on the Secretary-General's appointments today that he is seeing Stephen Lewis, a Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, this afternoon.
This is a farewell call, as Stephen's last day at UNICEF is Friday. He will go on to do writing and speaking in his native Canada.
As you will recall, he had been Canada's Permanent Representative in the mid- 1980s. He was an especially articulate defender of the United Nations and an advocate of United Nations reform. We trust he will continue to raise his voice in defence of those causes.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
At 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, will discuss efforts to combat dry-land degradation under the Convention, particularly in Africa.
**Schwebel to Brief Correspondents Tomorrow
Our guest at tomorrow's noon briefing will be Judge Stephen Schwebel who is the President of the International Court of Justice. That is all I have for you. Before we go to Hans Von Sponeck are there any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Can you give us some highlights of the briefing that Jacques Klein gave the Security Council this morning?
Answer: No, but I did announce that he will be coming here to brief you.
Question: What time?
Answer: Whenever I said earlier -- 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, here in room 226.
Question: Nothing before that?
Answer: Well, you can always try to grab him in the hallway.
[At this point, the Spokesman welcomed Hans Von Sponeck, the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq, who briefed correspondents on humanitarian issues in that country. Mr. Von Sponeck's briefing will be issued separately.]
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
At this morning’s plenary meeting, the General Assembly will, after hearing 13 speakers, take note of the report of the International Court of Justice (A/54/4), covering the period from 1 August 1998 to 31 July 1999.
Introducing the Court’s report, its President, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel, said that “from the judicial perspective of The Hague, the century that is about to close is a century of great achievement and profound loss, of extraordinary scientific and technological advance and of atavistic reversion to barbarism. The horrors of two World Wars and too many other wars; the organized bestialities of the Holocaust, whose obsessive scale gave rise to this General Assembly's interdiction of the crime of genocide; the purposeful and pervasive atrocities of Cambodia and Rwanda, and of Bosnia and Kosovo and Sierra Leone, and others, some even more recent or continuing; this century is as marked by its invention of the concentration camp and the refugee camp as it is by its invention of the airplane and of the exploration of space. Man's knowledge has improved exponentially but his character has not; human nature seems less promising than it may have been thought to be in 1899…. The twentieth century has witnessed appalling acts of aggression and regression, yet it has seen unparalleled advances in international law and institutions as well.”
After highlighting the activities of the Court, he said that “as the Court enters the first century of the third millennium, it stands for international law, not international lawlessness; for the peaceful settlement of international disputes in conformity with international law, not with the will of the more powerful party; for international organization, not for international anarchy or for a State sovereignty which purports to be above the law; it stands for human rights, rights that can be effectively realized only within functioning systems of law, local, national and international.” Press releases on the President’s speech, in English and French, are available in the Spokesman’s office.
During the reporting period, the Court was seized of 18 new cases, including 10 brought by Yugoslavia against NATO member countries -- Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States –- on the legality of the use of force; Croatia’s case against Yugoslavia for genocide alleged to have been committed between 1991 and 1995; and three cases brought by the Democratic Republic of the Congo against Burundi, Uganda and Rwanda charging armed activities on its territory. In the Advisory Opinion requested by the Economic and Social Council, the Court declared that, under the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, Dato’ Param Cumaraswamy, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers, was entitled to immunity from prosecution by Malaysia for a 1995 article published in a legal journal.
In other action this morning, on cooperation between the United Nations and the League of Arab States, the Assembly is expected to adopt a resolution (A/54/L.14) which asks the Secretary-General to continue his efforts to strengthen cooperation and coordination between United Nations system organizations and agencies and the League in the political, economic, social, humanitarian, cultural and administrative fields. The Assembly recommends that, insofar as possible, Arab institutions and technical expertise be utilized in projects undertaken in the Arab region. The related report of the Secretary-General is A/54/180.
eeee On a new agenda item, entitled “Observer status for the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries in the General Assembly”, the Assembly is also expected to adopt a resolution (A/54/L.15), introduced by Angola, in which it decides to invite the Community of Portuguese-Speaking Countries to participate in its sessions and work as an observer. The Assembly requests the Secretary-General to take the necessary action to implement the resolution. The request for the inclusion of an additional item in the agenda, and explanatory memorandum, from seven Portuguese-speaking Member States, can be found in document A/54/232.
This morning, the First C... ***
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