DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY OFFICE OF SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
17 November 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
**Secretary-General Concludes Visit to China
The Secretary-General concluded his official visit to China today with an address at a seminar hosted by the United Nations Association of China on the subject of "The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century". His address had two themes, humanitarian intervention and the dialogue of civilizations.
The dialogue, he said, "is based on the belief that global diversity is a precious asset, and that we can all learn from the beliefs and the ways of life of other peoples and other cultures",
"It is diversity which gives humanity its promise", he added. "No union of nations, no assembly of people and no community can thrive without tolerance. Without that basic respect between human beings, ...the United Nations -- as an idea and a reality -- will never fulfil its destiny."
You can get the full text of that statement upstairs.
The Secretary-General left Beijing for Istanbul, Turkey, this afternoon, where he will attend the summit meeting of the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
**Security Council Briefed on 'Oil-for-Food' Programme Report
The Security Council is holding informal consultations today on the latest “oil-for-food” report, which is available in the documents counter. The Council is being briefed by the Executive Director of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan.
The report, as you'll recall, noted that over the past 180-day period, contracts for a total of $389 billion worth of oil were approved. The total revenue for the 180-day period is expected to reach $7.2 billion, which is still $1.3 billion short of the increase in revenues that was authorized by the Council last month.
However, Mr. Sevan noted in his briefing, the Security Council Sanctions Committee continues to place a large number of holds on applications for Iraqi imports. As of 15 November, he said, the total value of applications placed on hold amounted to $1.042 billion, compared with approved applications worth $8.770 billion.
He noted in particular holds placed on nearly $750 million worth of applications in the electricity sector, saying that Iraq's electricity supply could increase by 50 per cent if the holds were released. Sevan said that the Secretary-General intends to submit a thorough review of the Office of the Iraq Programme by February of next year.
We expect to make copies of Mr Sevan’s introductory statement available in the Spokesman's Office shortly.
Also, Ambassador Van Walsum of the Netherlands, Chairman of the Sanctions Committee, presented his report to the Council, which will be available as a document this afternoon.
The United States circulated a draft resolution on a technical rollover of the programme, and the Commission of Experts will discuss that this afternoon.
Under "other matters", the Council also held discussions on the Prevlaka peninsula.
**High Commissioner Ogata Meets Russian Foreign Minister Today
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Sadako Ogata, in Russia as the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, met today in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov.
Mrs. Ogata was also scheduled to meet today with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
She is scheduled to travel tomorrow to Ingushetia, where according to UNHCR, the authorities have now registered 195,000 displaced people from Chechnya, but the actual number exceeds 200,000.
**Sergio Vieira de Mello's First Day: Meetings with INTERFET, Gusmao
Sergio Vieira de Mello, in his first full day on the job as head of the new United Nations mission in East Timor, met this morning with the commander of the multi-national force (INTERFET), General Peter Cosgrove, and with the outgoing acting Special Representative, Ian Martin.
In the afternoon, he sat down with East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao.
He made no statements to the press.
**East Timorese Repatriation Continues
The repatriation of East Timorese continued, meanwhile, with large crossing into Suai, Maliana and the Ambeno enclave. All roads in East Timor have now been designated secure by INTERFET and military escorts are no longer required.
Seeds for planting are being distributed throughout the territory, and this week 15,000 agricultural tool kits are being distributed.
**Spokesman's Follow-up Response
There was a question asked yesterday concerning the Human Rights Commission's request to create a commission of inquiry into East Timor, and I said I would check for you. And indeed, as I suspected, the Human Rights Office reaffirmed to us that the Commission on Human Rights, which is based in Geneva, is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council. As the parent body, the Economic and Social Council has to endorse and ratify every decision taken by its subsidiary bodies.
The question was: Couldn't there have been a short cut. The answer is: No.
**Disarmament Efforts Continue in Sierra Leone
On Sierra Leone, the United Nations Mission there continues its efforts to encourage former rebel leaders to get their constituency under control.
Today, Johnny Paul Kuroma went on a sensitization mission to Okra Hills to meet with his field commanders and get them to register in the disarmament programme. He was accompanied by the Economic Community of West African States' Monitoring Observer Group (ECOMOG) Commander, and by the Chief Military Observer of UNAMSIL, Brigadier-General Joshi of India. This is the first time that Mr. Kuroma has returned to his rebel stronghold in Okra Hills since his return to Freetown. Several thousand former rebels are still in Okra Hills -- a volatile group which had taken 35 hostages last August, including United Nations personnel. Abductees and child combatants are assumed to still be held there as well.
**Memorials for WFP Plane Crash Victims Held Today in Rome, UN Headquarters
The first of several memorial services this week for the 24 victims of last Friday's WFP plane crash in Kosovo was held today at the World Food Programme headquarters in Rome.
Here in New York, you will notice that the United Nations flag is flying at half mast today in honour of the victims. And from 12:45 p.m. to 1 p.m. here at United Nations Headquarters, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Frechette will lead a service outside the cafeteria during which she will pay tribute to the 24 people who lost their lives in a mission to improve the lives of others.
We have copies of the remarks she will make in my office.
**Kouchner Signs New Regulations in Kosovo
From Kosovo, we have today's briefing notes available for you, as well as three press releases on new regulations signed by the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Bernard Kouchner -- two regulations on banking, another regulation prohibiting casino-style gambling, and then there is a fourth establishing an internationally supervised body to regularize housing and property rights and to adjudicate disputes.
The latter is aimed at beginning a process to resolve the complex issue of residential property ownership, which will be guided by the United nations mission and the United Nations Center for Human Settlements or HABITAT.
If you look at the briefing notes, you'll get more information, and you'll also see a briefing by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in which their spokesman in Pristina says the situation at the border crossing with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continues to stymie humanitarian aid.
**UNEP Warns Hole in Ozone 'As Big as Ever'
The ozone "hole" in the Antarctic is as big as ever, cautioned the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today. The hole covers an area of 22 million square kilometres -- more than twice the size of China.
Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of UNEP, said : “The progress being made to repair this seemingly irrevocable damage to the Earth's stratosphere is due in great part to the research undertaken by scientists around the globe, including the winner of this year's UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize, Professor Mario Molina".
You can get a press release in my office.
**WFP Launches Appeal for Persons Displaced by the Conflict in Colombia
The WFP announced today that it would provide food assistance for 227,000 displaced people in Colombia, in an operation that is scheduled to begin in February 2000. The programme is expected to cost $8.9 million.
The two-year operation is intended to address the living conditions of people who have been internally displaced by the conflict in Colombia, where the Government has been fighting the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Since 1996, roughly 180,000 Colombians have been displaced each year, and more than 1.5 million people have been driven from their homes over the past 15 years, according to WFP.
The WFP operation will include the establishment of food production projects like fish tanks, chick hatcheries and vegetable gardens, in which displaced persons will be given job training. Young children and nursing mothers will also be provided with supplementary diets.
You can see the press release from WFP.
**UNICEF Steps up Relief Efforts in Orissa
We have a press release from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) saying they have stepped up their relief activities in the Indian state of Orissa, releasing $3 million from its emergency fund to finance programmes in health, education, nutrition, water and sanitation, and child protection services.
**Afghanistan Humanitarian Update Available
We have the weekly humanitarian update from Afghanistan that you can pick up in my office.
**World Humanitarian Day
Next Tuesday, 23 November, is “World Humanitarian Day”.
The Secretary-General will preside over the second global launch of the Consolidated Inter-agency Appeals in Geneva.
These appeals will seek funding for humanitarian operations in 14 complex emergencies around the world. The acting Emergency Relief Coordinator and the heads of several United Nations agencies and partners will also be present.
During the second day of this event, the Humanitarian Coordinators for a whole bunch of countries will give presentations on the humanitarian crises in their respective areas of responsibility.
Information on the humanitarian programmes and the dimensions of the crises can be obtained from the Consolidated Appeal documents which have been posted on the OCHA Web site: www.reliefweb.int/appeals.
**Come Taste the Beaujolais
Now, here's the one piece of news of real relevance today: The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations, is inviting you all to come and taste the first of the vintage of Beaujolais for 1999. That will be at the UNCA Club tomorrow from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. There will be no news developments during those two hours so you can all go and enjoy.
And at that event, the French Mission is announcing the launch of its new Web site. So come taste the Beaujolais.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Press conference tomorrow – 11:15 in this room -- Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey, the Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, will discuss the Srebrenica report.
**Guest at Tomorrow's Noon Briefing
And finally, the guest at tomorrow's noon briefing will be Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict, and he will be talking about his mandate in the context of the tenth Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Any questions before we go to Shirley? Good. Shirley.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President
The General Assembly’s commemorative meeting to mark the end of the United Nations Decade of International Law (1990-1999) is under way. Two meetings are planned to hear 32 speakers. Among the participants are 18 Ministers of Justice, all of them women.
Opening the special meeting, Assembly President Theo-Ben Gurirab said the Decade had significantly contributed to the promotion of and respect for international law worldwide. The United Nations continued to be a unique and indispensable universal instrument for survival of humankind and our common development and progress. Such a role was unattainable without proper international regulation and management by the established legal bodies. Solving global problems, or facing emerging challenges, was hardly possible without effective legal regulation on a global scale. That was why important legal bodies needed further strengthening. “As the world moves towards the twenty-first century, we also need system-wide expert analysis, modification and elaboration of appropriate legal concepts and principles, as well as their accompanying normative and institutional mechanisms.” Copies of the statement are available in room 378.
In his message to the Assembly, read out by the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel, Hans Corell, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that perhaps the most important example of the Decade’s achievements was the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Its establishment would constitute a giant step in the development of an effective system of enforcement of international law and combating the most heinous crimes known to mankind.
Notwithstanding the achievements of the Decade, there was little reason for euphoria, he said. International and national conflicts were still a part of life today, and international law had an important role to play in meeting these challenges and in making our planet a better place to live. As the Decade comes to an end, the Secretary-General said, it was clear that the role of international law was greater than ever. Not only must it regulate relations between States. In keeping with the highest principles of the Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law must also serve as the ultimate defence of the weakest and most vulnerable individuals within States against violence and tyranny. Copies of that message are available in the Spokesman’s Office.
After hearing the remaining statements this afternoon, the Assembly will take action on two draft resolutions contained in the report of the Sixth Committee (Legal) (A/54/609). The first text, on the outcome of the action dedicated to the 1999 centennial of the first International Peace Conference, would have the Assembly commend all who, through their efforts, wisdom and expertise, contributed to the success of the celebration of the centennial. By adopting the second draft, on the United Nations Decade of International Law, the Assembly would acknowledge that the Decade has contributed significantly to strengthening the rule of international law and reaffirm the continued validity of its main objectives, the fulfilment of which is essential to achieve the purposes of the United Nations. A report of the Secretary-General (A/54/362 and Add.1) on the Decade contains an analytical presentation of information received from States and international organizations on activities they had undertaken in connection with the Decade.
Tomorrow, the Assembly takes up two items: the situation in Central America, and the University for Peace.
Only two Committees are holding open meetings today. This morning, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) is concluding its discussion of refugee questions. In the afternoon, 10 draft texts will be introduced, relating to the advancement of women, the report of the UNHCR, human rights questions and situations. The Committee will take action on three texts dealing with crime prevention and criminal justice (A/C.3/54/L.4, L.21/Rev.1 and L.22/Rev.1); one on enlargement of the Executive Committee of UNHCR (A/C.3/54/L.57); five drafts on human rights questions, dealing with: human rights and cultural diversity (A/C.3/54/L.62), United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004, and public information activities in the field of human rights (A/C.3/54/L.64), effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (A/C.3/54/L.65), human rights in the administration of justice (A/C.3/54/L.66), protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (A/C.3/54/L.68), the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (A/C.3/54/L.69); and one text on human rights situations, namely, the question of human rights in Afghanistan (A/C.3/54/L.58).
For correspondents who’ve been asking about the draft resolution on the death penalty, I’ve been told that at this afternoon’s meeting, the Committee Chairman will report on the status of the negotiations on draft resolution A/C.3/54/L.8/Rev.1.
At an afternoon meeting, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) will continue its discussion of questions relating to information.
As to the appointments of the President, he is presiding over both plenary meetings today; he will attend a luncheon hosted by The Hague Appeal for Peace, to mark the end of the Decade of International Law; and this evening, he is expected to attend the UNEP Sasakawa Environment Prize Award Ceremony and Dinner.
Finally, a reminder that tomorrow, the Fourth Annual World Television Forum will begin here in Conference Room 4. This year’s theme is “The impact of television on peace and development”. Assembly President Gurirab will make an opening statement. This will be followed, at 10:30 a.m., by the keynote event, a dialogue between Secretary-General Kofi Annan and television personalities on the subject of “Television and the United Nations”.
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