DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
22 January 2002
The following is a near-verbatim record of today's noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokeswoman for the Secretary-General.
UN officials in Goma have just told us the food distribution in the divided city will begin tomorrow. Six sites will be set up in Western Goma and four sites in Eastern Goma. There will be an additional site in the town of Sake, to the west of Goma. [It was later announced that the World Food Programme had started
food distribution in Sake.]
Meanwhile, people are continuing to return to Goma, both from other towns in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and from neighbouring Rwanda. It’s estimated that 5000 Congolese remain in that country.
A Congolese volcano expert, Wafula Mafungu, and a European colleague, Jacques Durieux, sent in by the UN, determined that volcanic activity has subsided and no immediate further activity was foreseen. This is according to preliminary assessments by these two gentlemen. However, both stressed that further detailed, technical analysis must be conducted, and future monitoring must take place.
A planning meeting of United Nations, NGO and local officials was to be held today in Goma to prepare –- just in case –- for another volcanic eruption.
Preliminary results conducted on the water in Lake Kivu also indicate that the water remains potable despite the rise in temperature. Getting safe water to the population remains a problem, however, due to the damage suffered by the town’s water distribution system.
This morning in Geneva, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) launched an interagency flash appeal to support the victims of the volcanic eruption in Goma. It calls for $15 million to cover the immediate needs of some 400,000 people for the next 15 days. I understand that we have copies of the appeal here from OCHA.
In Kigali today, Ross Mountain met with the visiting Foreign Ministers of France and the United Kingdom, Hubert Védrine and Jack Straw, to discuss this crisis. Ross Mountain, as you know, was sent in by the Secretary-General (he is the Deputy Emergency Coordinator from Geneva) to coordinate assistance efforts on the ground.
We have more upstairs on this, including copies of the flash appeal and briefing notes from UNHCR.
**Secretary-General Concludes Official Visit to Japan
The Secretary-General has concluded his official programme in Japan. He departs Wednesday morning Tokyo time –- that’s 14 hours ahead of New York time, as you know -- for the next stop of his more than two-week-long trip. Wednesday will be a travel day. He arrives in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Wednesday evening.
This morning, in Tokyo, the Secretary-General met with members of the Parliamentary Group for Japan’s Contribution to the United Nations, who volunteered that most were in their 30s or 40s and were dedicated to improving Japan’s relations with the United Nations. The Secretary-General thanked them for Japan’s hosting of the donors’ conference on Afghanistan and for Japan’s generous pledge for reconstruction of that country.
He then made two points. There should be no trade-off, he said, between the war against terror and respect for human rights. And in the post-11 September environment we should not lose sight of the pre-11 September priorities of fighting poverty, correcting inequity and improving the environment.
At a press encounter, the Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the results thus far of the two-day donors’ conference on Afghanistan, saying “it’s gone very well.” He hoped there would be sufficient funds for the recurrent costs of the Interim Administration, he said. He praised Interim Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai’s statement that he would welcome international auditors to see that the money was well spent. “That was just the right approach and the right tone,” he commented.
Tuesday afternoon in Tokyo, the International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan concluded, announcing pledges and contributions of over $1.8 billion for 2002 and more than $4.5 billion total. In a television interview afterwards, the Secretary-General said that the conference had been “a remarkable success.” Asked what kind of Afghanistan he would like to see in 10 years, he responded, “an Afghanistan that is stable, an Afghanistan that has become a more or less normal State.” He then added, “and an Afghanistan that is also left alone —- no meddling from the neighbours . . . .”
Among those with whom the Secretary-General met today was former Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party who is influential in financial policy. He attended a luncheon hosted by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori, an influential voice in foreign affairs. Also present at the luncheon was the head of the broadcasting giant NHK, Katsuji Ebisawa, and the CEO of the soy sauce producer Kikkoman, Yuzaburo Mogi, who is an active participant in the UN Global Compact. The Secretary-General’s last official meeting of the visit was with members of the opposition Democratic Party, headed by its President, Yukio Hatoyama.
There are no meetings of the Security Council scheduled for today.
Tomorrow, the Council is scheduled to hold closed consultations on Afghanistan in the morning. Carolyn McAskie, the UN’s Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, will brief Council members during that session.
In the afternoon, the Security Council will hold a private meeting with troop-contributing countries to the UN Mission in East Timor.
The Executive Director of the UN Iraq Programme, Benon V. Sevan, continues his working visit to Iraq, which began on 14 January 2002.
Following an initial round of discussions with a number of Iraqi Government officials in Baghdad on the implementation of the oil-for-food programme, including the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Oil, Health, Trade, Interior and the Commissioner of Electricity, Mr. Sevan is visiting the three northern governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dahuk this week.
In terms of Iraq’s oil exports under the programme in the week ending 18 January 2002, despite the total lifting of 10.8 million barrels, the exports remained below average, at just over 1.5 million barrels per day.
This week’s exports netted an estimated $180 million in revenue, at current prices and rates of exchange.
This brought the total estimated revenue in the current phase XI of the programme to about $922 million. Phase XI runs from 1 December 2001 to 29 May 2002.
The total value of contracts placed on hold by the Security Council’s 661 Sanctions Committee has surpassed the $5 billion mark.
The full text of the OIP update, that is the Office for the Iraq Programme, is available upstairs.
Today in Geneva, Vladimir Petrovsky, Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva, delivered a message from the Secretary-General to the Conference on Disarmament in which he said that the response to the events following last September 11 requires a “complete break with the recent prolonged inactivity of the Conference.”
The Secretary-General said the events of September 11 and its aftermath were a reminder that effective measures are needed, and must be swiftly implemented, to eliminate the risk of weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists.
He noted challenges that the Disarmament Conference needs to face, including the abrupt end of negotiations last year on a protocol to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and the slow progress in achieving the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
We have copies of his message upstairs in the Spokesman's Office.
We have a few press releases today. In Yaoundé, Cameroon, today, Catherine Bertini, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, called on the international community not to neglect the severely under-funded development programmes in Central Africa. Donors have been generous in giving to programmes for victims of war and natural disaster, but long-term development programmes in the region have received little funding, she says. We have more details in a press release.
The World Health Organization announced in a press release today that it is ready to assist South Africa in its efforts to put health at the centre of sustainable development initiatives. In the months leading up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, WHO will stress the central role of health in the development process and the linkages between health and poverty reduction.
And finally, also from WHO, two revised fact sheets on food safety and foodborne diseases are also available in our office.
I have an exhibit to announce. “eMotion Pictures: an Exhibition of Orthopaedics in Art” will be opened this afternoon in the Visitors’ Lobby. The exhibition is sponsored by the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Programme on Ageing, and was produced by the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons and the International Council for Caring Communities.
The exhibition features a wide range of media, from moving sculptures to framed art by orthopaedic surgeons and people affected by muscular and skeletal disorders. Among the speakers at this afternoon’s opening ceremony will be Mrs. Nane Annan, wife of the Secretary-General, Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head of the Department of Public Information, and Alexandre Sidorenko, Chief of the Programme on Ageing.
The ceremony begins at 6:30 this evening and the exhibition runs until 27 February.
A press conference is scheduled for today, at 12:30 p.m., in about ten minutes. The Permanent Mission of Norway is sponsoring a press conference by the NGOs participating in the fourth session of the Preparatory Committee for the International Conference on Financing for Development, who will discuss the financing for development negotiations.
There are no press conferences scheduled for tomorrow.
That is all I have for you today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Does the United Nations take the position that it is safe to return to Goma?
Answer: I think that the preliminary assessments of the volcano experts are that there will be no imminent volcano eruptions; however, they are taking no chances and have entered into immediate contingency planning for possible evacuation. The fact is that the bulk of the people who fled, about 300,000 people, have returned, so the decision was taken to assist them as close to the safest place as possible.
Question: This volcano is the most active volcano in the world. Was the United Nations monitoring it prior to the eruption?
Answer: This area as you know is a volcanic area, and they have been monitoring it consistently and held planning meetings even in the weeks leading up to the eruption. I believe it is the biggest eruption in about a quarter of a century: however, they have had periodic warnings. During the Rwandan refugee exodus, when millions of people were streaming out of Rwanda, the volcano was threatening to erupt. There has been constant international monitoring by experts of the area.
Question: On the Tokyo conference, what are the next steps for getting this money and distributing it, and what potential problems are there in figuring out how this money is spent and who will manage this fund?
Answer: Well, I think the Secretary-General, if you look at his remarks from his several press encounters, said that it was a great beginning for the reconstruction efforts of Afghanistan. The Secretary-General had pointed out yesterday that in addition to the long-term reconstruction needs, which he estimated at $10 billion over the next five years, what was needed was immediate assistance of $1.3 billion for this year. I think the pledges initially look good, but as he said in his interview, these figures need to be analyzed. Pledges are different from the actual projects and programmes. The figures do need to be analysed: there are pledges of different duration which have to be looked into. But we are very encouraged by what happened in Tokyo.
Question: Are there any United Nations casualty figures from the Goma eruption?
Answer: Not officially. The United Nations is not in the business of counting casualties; usually we are in there trying to save lives, and officially we have no statistics on that.
Question: Can you tell us if the Security Council will hold a meeting on the Middle East?
Answer: As of now I have not heard of any meetings being scheduled.
Question: Is there any news from Colombia?
Answer: We had a statement by the Secretary-General yesterday regarding the situation in Colombia which is available upstairs. He welcomed it as a roadmap for the future of Colombia.
Question: Do you know if the Secretary-General will be in New York for the World Economic Forum, which will take place 31 January to 4 February?
Answer: I understand the Secretary-General will be back the weekend before the end of the World Economic Forum. Let me get back to you on what his exact programme is.
[It was later announced that the Secretary-General intended to address the closing session of the World Economic Forum.]
Question: Hamid Karzai is apparently going to Washington next week -- are there any plans for him to come to the United Nations?
Answer: I have not heard that. He will of course be in Kabul when the Secretary-General arrives there at the end of the week. As you know, the Secretary-General met him for the first time yesterday in Tokyo face-to-face. We can check with the Mission for you. [She later said there were no plans as yet for Karzai to visit the United Nations.]
Question: I don't know the exact schedule of the trip of the Secretary-General. Could you tell me what it is?
Answer: Yes, he leaves Japan tomorrow morning on his way to Islamabad. He arrives there Wednesday evening and he will spend Thursday in Islamabad meeting
with various Government officials, including the President. I believe they will hold a press conference. On 25 January, Friday, he will make a one-day visit to Kabul in Afghanistan. He has a very full programme that day. From Kabul he will go on to Iran and on Saturday he will be departing for Vienna for his official visit to Austria. All of this is posted on the Web site; we can give you copies of his programme.
Question: Is there a list of the countries contributing troops to Afghanistan?
Answer: As you, know the lead nation of the international force is the United Kingdom and they do have periodic updates. I believe the documents are on the Security Council documents rack, and that they will list the participants of the force.
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