DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
22 May 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Jan Fischer, Spokesman for the General Assembly President.
We’re going to have a guest at today’s briefing. It will be Olara Otunnu, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict. He’s just returned from Angola. His briefing will complement the one by Mr. Gambari of yesterday.
The Security Council is holding a public meeting on the situation in Africa.
At the start of the meeting, chaired by Professor S. Jayakumar, the Foreign Minister of Singapore -- which holds this month’s Council presidency -- more than 40 speakers are expected to take the floor.
After a briefing by Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius, Chairman of the ad hoc Working Group on Conflict Prevention and Resolution in Africa, the President of the Economic and Social Council, Ambassador Ivan Simonovic of Croatia, Ambassador Amadou Kebe of the Organization of African Unity, and Ibrahima Fall, the Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, all made statements before non-members took the floor.
Council members were invited by a show of hands to take the floor to respond in an interactive manner to points made by the non-members.
The day-long meeting will be suspended between 3 and 4 p.m. today when the Council members are scheduled to hold consultations. Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, has been asked to give a briefing on the latest situation in Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Following that item, the Council is scheduled to take up Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and the application for membership for East Timor in the United Nations. A note from the Secretary-General transmitting the application for UN membership by the Democratic Republic of East Timor is out on the racks today.
A presidential statement on the recent elections in Sierra Leone and a resolution on the International Security Assistance Force are expected to be introduced during consultations.
The public meeting is scheduled to resume at 4 p.m.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed Larsen, met in Ramallah today with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat along with three other members of the Quartet -- United States Consul-General in
East Jerusalem Ronald Schlicher, European Union Envoy Miguel Moratinos, and Russian Federation diplomat Sergei Biskov.
Larsen spoke to reporters after the meeting, which lasted for more than two hours. He said the Quartet had come to offer its full support to the reform initiatives undertaken by President Arafat.
The Quartet hopes the reforms, along with the ones proposed by the Palestinian Legislative Council, will be implemented as quickly as possible, he added.
“These reforms proposed by Palestinians for the benefit of Palestinians”, he said, ”are an important first step for achieving the vision we all share and that is the establishment of a democratic, secure and economically viable Palestinian State, alongside and at peace with Israel”.
The Quartet also told Arafat that the international community is prepared to provide the full measure of technical and financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority to help make that vision a reality.
The Quartet called on Israel to foster a climate conducive to reform, particularly by easing restrictions on the movement of Palestinian people and goods.
The Secretary-General this morning returned to New York after a one-night stop over in London, at the tail end of his visit over the past week to Cyprus, Indonesia and East Timor.
He is expected to return to UN Headquarters tomorrow to hold his monthly luncheon with the members of the Security Council.
This morning, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Amos Ngongi, arrived in Kisangani.
He met there with a high-level delegation of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD) as well as with Bishop Konsego. The Bishop told Ngongi that the demilitarization of Kisangani was a prerequisite for peace to return to the city.
The UN mission is continuing its investigation to establish the number of victims of the recent events there.
Concerning the 53 RCD police officers who had been pre-selected for eventual training as police instructors, I can confirm that they are alive, as we said yesterday. The UN mission, however, did tell us that four police officers had been killed in the last week, but they were not part of this group of 53 pre-selected officers.
Out as a document today is the report of the Monitoring Group on sanctions against Usama bin Laden, members of the Al Qaeda organization and the Taliban and others associated with them.
The report is transmitted to the Security Council by Ambassador Alfonso Valdivieso of Colombia, in his capacity as Chairman of the Afghan Sanctions Committee.
The Group says that this first report covers the preparatory phase of its work.
The Group makes a series of recommendations regarding the list of members of the Al Qaeda organization and the Taliban and other individuals, groups, undertakings and entities associated with them.
The report notes that Al Qaeda and its associates appear to have diversified the movements and security of their finances.
The Group encourages States to become parties to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, and those involved in the trade of rough diamonds to take part in the Kimberly Process, a negotiating process to establish minimum acceptable international standards for national certification schemes of import and export of rough diamonds.
On the arms embargo, the Group recommends that all arms-producing countries become participating States in the Wassenaar Arrangement on export controls for conventional arms and dual-use goods and technologies to increase the transparency of international arms exports.
As of now the Security Council has not scheduled the report for discussion.
Global Environment Outlook 3
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) launched its report, Global Environment Outlook 3 (or GEO-3), in London today.
The report says over 70 per cent of the Earth’s land surface could be affected by roads, mining, cities and other infrastructure developments in the next 30 years unless action is taken, with Latin America and the Caribbean likely to be the hardest hit region, followed closely by Asia and the Pacific.
The report also says that by 2032, more than half of the world’s population could be living in severely water-stressed areas if market forces drive the political, economic and social agenda of the world.
In a look at what lies ahead, the report sets out four policy approaches leading to different outcomes in the next 30 years. Two approaches are highlighted in the press release; one envisions a future driven by market forces and the other by changes in values and lifestyles in all sectors of society.
The press release is available upstairs and the report is available on the UNEP Web site.
The Colombia Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights yesterday afternoon published a report on its observation mission to evaluate violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Medio Atrato earlier this month. Copies of that report, in Spanish only, are available upstairs.
The Office collected testimony in its report on what happened in the first few days of this month in that area, and found the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC-EP, to be responsible for the deaths of more than 100 civilians and injuries to some 80 others, stemming from their use of gas cylinder bombs.
It also found the paramilitary United Self-Defence Groups of Colombia (AUC) also to be responsible for what occurred, saying that the paramilitaries had exposed the civilian population to the dangers of military action.
The report adds that the Government of Colombia failed to meet its obligations to prevent what occurred and to protect the civilian population. The Government, it says, did not heed early warning calls of the impending confrontation between the FARC and the AUC.
The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will visit Australia, at the invitation of the Government, starting this Friday. The Working Group, headed by its Chairman, Louis Joinet, will meet with the Immigration Minister and other senior Government officials on Australia’s administrative custody of unauthorized arrivals into the country. The visit is to last through 6 June, and the Group will report back to the Commission on Human Rights. We have further information in a press release.
Also, we have a press release upstairs on the recommendation by a group of international experts, who met last week in Geneva, to amend the 1989 UN Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries to elaborate a clearer legal definition of mercenary activities.
In an effort to widen the international and bilateral efforts to rebuild Afghanistan, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of India will hold a joint conference on South-South Cooperation and the Reconstruction of Afghanistan in New Delhi, tomorrow and Friday.
UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown and representatives from more than 45 countries, largely from the developing world, will attend the meeting and discuss how to support Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Delegations will examine the scope of specific development needs in Afghanistan, and recommend ways that skills, technical cooperation, and goods and services can be effectively channeled to those most in need.
We have two press releases to highlight for you today.
The first is from the United Nations Environment Programme on the International Day for Biological Diversity, which is today. How many of you knew that? This year, the importance of forest biodiversity to the global environment is being highlighted. We also have a message from the Secretary-General on this occasion, in which he calls biological diversity one of the pillars of human life and urges governments to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Protocol on Biosafety.
Our second press release comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization. In Berlin yesterday, the Director-General of the FAO, Jacques Diouf, addressed an international workshop on Policies against Hunger, saying the right to food could help counterbalance bias in social systems and lead to good governance, inclusion and increased equality among citizens.
Also, UNHCR says it is expanding its sports programmes for refugee children to 16 nations.
All these press releases are available upstairs.
As the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues continues this week, there will be a panel, from 1:15 to 2:45 this afternoon in Conference Room 2, on intellectual property and genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore. The panel is organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).
Then on Friday, the Permanent Forum will wrap up its two-week session, and the Secretary-General is expected to address a special meeting of the Forum. That meeting is to begin at 10 a.m. Friday in Conference Room 2.
We got some money today. Andorra became the 78th Member State to pay its budget contribution for 2002 in full. That’s more than $44,000.
A signing to announce. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants received three more signatures today. Bahrain, the Russian Federation and Suriname brought the number of signatories of the Convention to 149.
(Later, the Spokesman’s office announced that Thailand and Malawi had also signed the Convention.)
Tomorrow at 11:15, two members of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and two indigenous observers will discuss the present and future work of the Forum. And then the press conference by the parliamentarians for Global Action, Strengthening United Nations Peace Operations -- International Parliamentary Input, sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the United Kingdom, which was scheduled to take place today, has been rescheduled for 1 p.m. tomorrow.
And the Correspondents’ Association asked me to invite you to a party. The Permanent Mission of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be hosting a reception today at the UNCA Club at 5 p.m., on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of Bosnia’s acceptance as a member of the United Nations. You’re all invited.
That’s all I have for you. Before we go quickly to Jan and then Olara, do you want to come up and take a chair here? Any questions? Yes?
Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, the Security Council is holding a meeting on conflict resolution in Africa. One of those conflicts, current one, internal one, is Madagascar. The situation again seems to be very tense. Can you tell us, what are the latest by the United Nations in the framework of preventive action or diplomacy to avoid… (Interrupted by Spokesman)
Spokesman: I don’t have much to report on that. The United Nations is actively supporting the efforts of the Organization of African Unity, which is in the lead, and we continue to follow the situation closely. It’s not going well. We’re all very concerned. But we continue to support the OAU efforts.
Question: Fred, on the report on the experts’ panel. Is there any way of getting a count on how many individuals and organizations are on the list at the moment -- current count? It’s not in the report.
Spokesman: We’ll ask for you to see if that can be made available. Nothing else?
(The Spokesman’s office announced after the briefing that there were some 300 individuals and entities on that list.)
Spokesman for President of General Assembly
Thank you Fred. Good afternoon.
As you may have noticed from the daily Journal, there will be a plenary of the General Assembly at 3 this afternoon. And there is some work going on in the General Assembly Hall, so the meeting will take place in Conference Room 3. There are only a couple of things on the agenda. First, the Assembly is expected to appoint Mr. Kenshiro Akimoto of Japan as a member of the Committee on Contributions. He will complete the term begun by his countryman Kazuo Watanabe.
Then the Assembly will take up a report of the Special Political and Decolonization Committee entitled “Comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”. The report, which is contained in document A/56/551/Add.1, includes a draft resolution which would basically endorse the proposals, recommendations and conclusions of the Committee and urge Member States to implement them.
In another draft resolution, the Assembly is expected to congratulate East Timor with its attainment of independence and invite it to participate as a State, without the right to vote, in the World Summit on Sustainable Development and also in the preparatory committee which will take place in Bali, starting on 27 May. That draft resolution is contained in document A/56/L.78.
Speaking about East Timor, Fred mentioned it briefly. The Secretary-General, in a note to the General Assembly and the Security Council, is circulating the application of the Democratic Republic of East Timor for membership of the United Nations. The note is contained in document A/56/953, and this note also contains a letter from the President and the Prime Minister of East Timor. In this letter, they are asking that the application be considered by the Council and the Assembly and that East Timor be admitted as a Member during the last week of September 2002. I know that some had expected East Timor to become a Member sooner, but it is not an unusual situation. If we use Tuvalu, the most recent new Member, as an example, you will note that it became independent in 1978, that it applied for membership in November 1999, the Council then referred its application to the Committee on Admission of New Members in January 2000, and
then in February 2000, the Council recommended to the Assembly that Tuvalu be admitted. And the flag of Tuvalu finally went up on 5 September 2000, following the Assembly’s adoption of a resolution admitting the country as the 189th Member State.
I should just say that I know some of you have been looking for the outcome document for the Special Session on Children. It’s still not out. But on UNICEF’s Web site, you can find the unofficial version. No guarantees or anything like that. But if you go to unicef.org/specialsession in one word, you’ll come to a page where you can click on a little icon saying "outcome document".
That’s what I have for you. Richard?
Questions and Answers
Question: So were you comparing Tuvalu to East Timor, saying that it may not happen that quickly even in late September?
Spokesman: No. I was basically saying that some had expected East Timor to become a Member much sooner than September of this year. And I was just saying that it doesn’t always happen that fast and… (Interrupted by correspondent)
Question: What about the timing of Switzerland. Will that happen the same week?
Spokesman: I don’t know anything about that, but it will probably also take place in September. That’s the best bet. Yes, Jim?
Question: I don’t have all this in my head, but it does seem that other countries did enter much faster. Namibia, the former Soviet republics when the USSR broke up… Why for something that everybody is so happy about, are you waiting so long?
Spokesman (jokingly): Perhaps the flagpoles are on back order or something like that. I really don’t know. The letter that you will find in the document I mentioned -- the letter sent by the Prime Minister and the President of East Timor -- that letter says that they would like to be admitted as a new Member in the last week of September. I don’t know if East Timor has any particular reason for doing it at that particular time.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Okay. If there are no further questions, welcome Olara, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Olara Otunnu
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