DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
4 February 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon Briefing
Good afternoon. We've asked Carolyn McAskie, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, to come to this briefing to discuss the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ $61 million extrabudgetary funding requirement. She should be here shortly.
**World Economic Forum
Then this afternoon at 5:30, the Secretary-General will address the final day of the World Economic Forum that has been going on at the nearby Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he'll urge the business leaders in attendance to do more to ensure that the benefits of globalization spread to all the world’s people.
In particular, he will call on them to join in the Global Health Initiative and to work with the new Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and he will also urge governments to work for the success of the International Conference on Financing for Development, which is to take place next month in Monterrey, Mexico.
We have advance copies of his speech, embargoed until 5:30 today, available in my office.
And then earlier today, José Antonio Ocampo, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), delivered a message from the Secretary-General to the World Social Forum, which is a gathering of civil society groups taking place in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
In his message, the Secretary-General told them, “Those who have the power and means, governments and business, must show that economics, properly applied, and profits, wisely invested, can bring social benefits within reach not only for the few but for the many, and eventually for all.” That is a message he also intends to take to the World Economic Forum later today.
He also urged the civil society groups to show they are ready to work in partnerships for change, saying, “The way forward lies in finding constructive solutions together.”
We have the full text of that message upstairs, as well.
We have the following announcement of an appointment to make.
“The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Center for International Development at Harvard University, as his Special Adviser on the Millennium Development Goals.
“Professor Sachs will work closely with Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who has been asked by the Secretary-General to coordinate the campaign for the Millennium Development Goals within the United Nations system. Those goals are the eight key development objectives set out in the Millennium Declaration, which was endorsed by more than 160 world leaders at the Millennium Summit here in September 2000.
“Professor Sachs’ duties will focus on gathering and commissioning new research and developing novel approaches to provide practical plans of action to achieve the Millennium goals, in a project that will be funded entirely from voluntary contributions.
“Professor Sachs recently served as the Chairman of the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, set up by World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland, which last month published a report that provides a blueprint for achieving the Millennium goals on health.
“He will work out of Harvard and New York, and his initial term of appointment is for one year.”
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, is in New York for consultations.
Mr. Brahimi is expected to meet with the Secretary-General and brief the next Security Council meeting on Afghanistan scheduled to take place on Wednesday of this week, according to the provisional programme for February.
From Kabul, we have been informed by telephone that the United Nations on Friday sent a mission to Mazar-i-Sharif at the request of the Interim Authority and the feuding factions of the Northern Alliance in the vicinity of that northern city to help facilitate an end to fighting in the area. After a seven-hour meeting, an agreement was reached and a security commission set up over the weekend to ensure the terms of the ceasefire agreement. No other details were immediately available.
On the humanitarian front, we have briefing notes that include an update on the status of displaced persons inside Afghanistan, and an announcement by the World Food Programme that it will to launch a three-month rapid assessment helicopter mission to evaluate food needs in snow-affected, mountainous and difficult-to-access areas. The first helicopters are set to arrive today in Mazar-i-Sharif.
The World Health Organization reports that an important workshop to design the new structure of the Afghan Ministry of Health is under way in Kabul.
Today the Security Council is holding its first closed consultation session for the month of February, under the Presidency of Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico.
Council members are discussing the programme of work for this month.
Tomorrow, Council members will hold a public meeting on the situation in Burundi with President Pierre Buyoya. That will be followed by a private meeting on the same issue.
Also tomorrow, Ambassador Zinser will hold a press conference in this room at 1 p.m. to discuss the month ahead.
**United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH)
The Office of Internal Oversight Services, or OIOS, has completed a follow-up assessment with the United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH).
The OIOS concluded there was no evidence of widespread or systematic involvement of United Nations police monitors in trafficking activities.
It found that the International Police Task Force investigators have improved their inquiries into allegations of improper behaviour by police monitors, although the results of these investigations have not always been adequately communicated to the public.
The OIOS has found that the Mission's internal communications need strengthening in order to satisfy the requirement for full transparency and accountability that is expected of all peacekeeping missions.
Yesterday in Georgia, a large recovery team mainly comprising Georgians, assisted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), recovered two cylinders, containing the radioactive element strontium-90, from a remote area in the country’s northwest forests. The authorities placed the radioactive cylinders inside a five-ton shield and transported it safely to a temporary storage site, where it will be kept until a long-term storage site is determined.
The containers, which are about the size of one’s hand, had been found by three Georgians in early December, who have suffered severe radiation sickness since then. The IAEA sent a medical team last month to help treat the men, two of whom remain hospitalized.
**Democratic Republic of the Congo Panel
Out on the racks is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council in which he proposes two additional members of the Expert Panel on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
They are Jim Freedman of Canada and Bruno Shiemsky of Belgium. We are trying to get bios on each of those individuals.
Abid Hussain, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, has expressed deep concern about the passage last week by the Zimbabwean Parliament of a bill that would allow only journalists accredited by a Government-appointed Media and Information Commission to work in the country. Under that bill, as well, foreign correspondents will be banned from living in Zimbabwe, with visits to Zimbabwe permitted solely for limited periods and subject to accreditation.
Hussain said that the provisions in the bill “infringe on the right to freedom of opinion and expression” and wrote to the Zimbabwean Government that "the provisions of this Bill will give rise to excessive Government control over the media."
We have further details in a press release from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
**World Chronicle Screening
The Department of Public Information television programme, "World Chronicle", will feature this week Aurelio Fernandez Lopez, Commissioner of the Spanish Organizing Committee of the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing. And that will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channels 3 and 31.
A few press conferences today. At 2:45, the United Nations Information and Communications Technologies Task Force (ICT) will discuss the outcome of the second meeting of the Task Force that took place in New York on 3 and 4 February.
Then at 3:30 p.m., Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is expected to be at the Security Council stakeout to take a few questions from you. This will be immediately following his meeting with the Secretary-General.
One to mention for tomorrow. At 1 p.m. Ambassador Adolfo Aguilar Zinser of Mexico -- as we've already mentioned -- President of the Security Council will brief on the programme of work.
And then we understand that Michael Steiner, the new Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Kosovo, will be in New York later this week. And we're trying to arrange for him to come here to talk to you Thursday afternoon or Friday.
That's all I have for you. Anything before we go to Carolyn?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Will Brahimi speak to us at all?
Spokesman: We can ask him. He hasn't indicated any specific time or place, but we'll ask him if he would like to speak to you.
Question: It seems that Mr. Karzai is having some difficulties in trying to control Afghanistan and has demanded that the United Nations and the United States help him in controlling the country. What can you tell us about that?
Spokesman: It's not surprising that anyone would have difficulty controlling all of Afghanistan. But you know from news reports, as well as I do, that while Mr. Karzai was here in the United States and subsequently on a visit to the United Kingdom, he appealed to the International Security Assistance Force or ISAF, to extend its mandate -- its Security Council-given mandate -- beyond Kabul, to expand to the rest of the country. It looks like that request is now being considered by the major troop-contributing countries. How it will come out, we'll just have to see.
Question: Is there any information about the nature of meetings between the Secretary-General and Amre Moussa, Secretary-General of the Arab League?
Spokesman: As you know from public statements made by Mr. Moussa on his recent visit to Baghdad, he was given a message by President Saddam Hussein to convey to the Secretary-General. He met with the Secretary-General in Vienna to convey that message and then they said at that time that they'd be meeting here in New York for further discussions. The subject, of course, is Iraqi-United Nations cooperation. But I think you should wait until after this meeting, which was at 12 today, in the event that Mr. Moussa himself would have something to say, or that he and the Secretary-General might agree on a press line.
Question: Any reaction from the Secretary-General about the first meeting with Amre Moussa?
Spokesman: No. He just said at the time very briefly what Mr. Moussa had come to speak to him about, and that they would meet again in New York. There may be a press line after this meeting today. That is what I was told.
Question: The situation in Madagascar is taking on a critical character. Is there anything being contemplated at the United Nations regarding the critical situation?
Spokesman: I'm not aware of any initiatives. We'd have to ask the President of the Security Council or possibly the Department of Political Affairs, but I have no guidance on that subject for today.
Question: Can you give us a briefing on your reaction to these last couple weeks of your trip at some point?
Spokesman: At some point. Do you want three sentences now? The visit started in Tokyo where the pledges for Afghanistan exceeded our expectations. But the Secretary-General was concerned that the commitments for the recurrent costs of the Government weren't clear enough, or weren't adequate enough. He's concerned that unless this Government gets financial support, it's not likely going to be around later when the billions of dollars come rolling in for reconstruction.
Then on to Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran. In both Iran and Pakistan, the two most crucial neighbours of Afghanistan, he received assurances from the two Governments that they wanted to bolster the Interim Authority headed by Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. They wanted to work through that Authority for the assistance that they would provide to Afghanistan. Both Governments in Tokyo announced substantial pledges, with Iran, I think, surprising many people with a pledge of $560 million, I think it was.
In Afghanistan itself, the Secretary-General met with the full Cabinet of Mr. Karzai. It was an important meeting. He felt that they were coming to terms with the issues of governance, even though they felt that they needed a lot more international support to extend their authority throughout the country. But the spirit was good, and then on to Vienna, which was an official visit less connected immediately to Afghanistan, whereas the first part of the visit was almost all Afghanistan-focused.
So a successful visit. I think he felt that the timing was right, getting to Afghanistan sooner rather than later to show his support, getting to the two crucial neighbour States to urge them to cooperate and work together, was very worthwhile. At least in our estimation it was.
Question: We were told that during his visit he had issued an appeal against the restrictions upon Chairman Arafat. Did you have any follow-up on that?
Spokesman: It wasn't so much a statement as response to a question, where on -- on my recollection -- two separate occasions he questioned whether Chairman Arafat could lead, could function effectively as a leader, while he was virtually under house arrest. So that's something he said I think on two separate occasions. I have nothing new to add to that.
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