DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
3 June 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I'm sorry I'm late. We were just getting remarks by the Secretary-General that we wanted to be able to share with you.
**Guest at Noon Briefing
Today at the noon briefing our guest is Mark Bowden. He is the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' (OCHA) Chief of Policy Development and Studies Branch and he will be briefing us on the international response to the United Nations Consolidated Humanitarian Appeals. He is here already so he will come up here as soon as I am done with the briefing.
The Secretary-General arrived in Kiev, Ukraine, yesterday. He met today with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and then addressed a meeting on AIDS.
In his meeting with the President, the two spoke of the democratization process under way in Ukraine, including recent parliamentary elections and the presidential election coming up in 2004.
The Secretary-General thanked the President for Ukraine's participation in United Nations peacekeeping and for his leadership in highlighting the AIDS issue in the country, which is experiencing a rise in infection rates.
Their talks also touched on international crisis issues, such as the India-Pakistan stand-off over Kashmir and the Israel-Palestinian crisis in the Middle East.
At a press encounter with the President afterwards, in response to questions about tensions between India and Pakistan, the Secretary-General said that he hoped that the regional security meeting taking place in Almaty, Kazakhstan, would offer an opportunity for pressure to be brought on the Indian and Pakistani leaders to de-escalate tensions.
He said: "The countries have wise leaders and I am sure they themselves would not want to see a nuclear flare-up".
The Secretary-General then walked to the Ministry of Health to address a meeting of the Government Committee on HIV/AIDS, which was meeting with civil society. He praised the partnership between the Government and private AIDS groups. He took questions from the audience, including from young activists against the disease. He said it was important for young people who were infected to go out and talk to other young people about how to avoid HIV. Peer pressure is very effective among the young, he said.
The Secretary-General also met with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister. The Minister proposed to host a regional conference on HIV/AIDS in Kiev, a suggestion the Secretary-General warmly welcomed.
In the afternoon, the Secretary-General made remarks at the monument to Ukrainian Jews killed in 1941 at Babi Yar. And I will read you the statement that he just made there.
He said: "I wanted to visit Babi Yar to express my solidarity with the victims of the anti-Semitism and intolerance, and as a sign of my resolve to do everything in my power to fight the hatred and evil that so disfigure our world.
"The unspeakable acts of murder permitted here half a century ago will always remind us of man's capacity for evil.
"In the last few months, attacks on synagogues in a number of European countries have happened. These attacks should trouble people everywhere who are concerned about human rights and human dignity."
We have the statement with these remarks upstairs and we have the press encounter from yesterday upon his arrival. We have his remarks at the HIV event and we will be having the questions and answers after the President's press encounter, as well as the follow-up on the other items on his agenda.
**Statement on Democratic Republic of the Congo
We also have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
"The Secretary-General strongly deplores the recent public attacks against MONUC [and that's the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] in particular attempts by the Rally for Congolese Democracy or RCD-Goma to 'ban' his Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Namanga Ngongi, and the 'expulsions' of several MONUC personnel from areas under its control, as well as the physical intimidation of MONUC personnel. He trusts that the international community will remain fully supportive of the courageous United Nations staff operating in that country, in particular Mr. Ngongi, who enjoys his full confidence. The RCD-Goma leadership should put an end to these unjustifiable attacks and realize that it is in its own interest, and indeed in that of the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to cease harassment of United Nations officials, cooperate fully in investigations of recent events in Kisangani, and help move the peace process forward."
On Sunday the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo recalled to Kinshasa two of its staff from Goma.
The decision to bring them back was taken for their own protection following an “expulsion” order issued in Goma on Saturday by officials from the RCD.
In a statement issued yesterday, the United Nations Mission strongly denied any wrongdoing by the two. It also strongly protested the intimidation tactics followed by the RCD, which included deploying troops around the residence of those United Nations staff.
The Mission’s statement is available in French only. But we can take questions in English.
Today is the first working day of the Syrian presidency. Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe of Syria is holding bilateral meetings on this month’s programme of work.
The President has agreed to brief you tomorrow following the adoption by the Council of the programme of work for the month of June.
We will let you know the precise time, but it will probably be around 1 p.m. in room 226.
Turning to Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that its emergency operation in Afghanistan currently faces a shortfall of 215,400 tonnes of food, or 43 per cent of the total requirements.
Consequently, the food pipeline situation has not improved and has resulted in the continued suspension of project activities. Returning refugees and internally displaced persons are now receiving a third of their resettlement packages, and food assistance to civil servants may be curtailed in the near future.
During a press briefing, the Secretary-General's Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, Nigel Fisher, also outlined shortages of funds faced by other United Nations agencies.
“What this means", he said, "is that we are going to make difficult choices which will leave a lot of people unhappy”. He said that unless there was a massive influx of resources into Afghanistan from the international community, the prospects do not seem that positive.
And I'm sure that Mark Bowden will let you know more about the situation in Afghanistan and other countries facing financial shortfalls.
Out on the racks is the ninth quarterly report of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, known as UNMOVIC.
In it, UNMOVIC’s Executive Chairman, Hans Blix, reports on his participation in the discussions between the Secretary-General and Iraqi officials. In his talks with Iraqi officials, Dr. Blix said he believed it would be important to fully clarify Iraq’s cooperation on a number of practical issues before inspectors are deployed to Iraq. It would be unfortunate, he said, if UNMOVIC inspectors were to encounter practical problems when they started working in Iraq.
The Executive Chairman welcomes Iraq’s willingness to discuss issued related to inspections in the country.
Meanwhile, Dr. Blix writes that as part of its readiness to conduct work in Iraq, UNMOVIC continues to attach high priority to the training of its staff.
The full report is out on the racks.
Also on the racks is the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
In it, he writes that the situation along the ceasefire line has remained calm. He also says that on the civilian side, he is “encouraged that there were increased contacts between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities".
Concerning the mission of good offices, the Secretary-General reports that as of 29 May, a total of 35 direct meetings had taken place between Glafcos Clerides and Rauf Denktash since the first meeting on 4 December 2001.
When he met with the two last month, the Secretary-General discussed ways in which they could move forward more effectively.
Under the present circumstances, the Secretary-General is recommending to the Security Council that the Force’s mandate be extended a further six months until 15 December.
**World Summit for Sustainable Development Preparatory Committee
Turning to Bali, the final Preparatory Committee for the World Summit on Sustainable Development enters its second and final week today with delegates continuing their work on the draft implementation plan.
Over the weekend, a new draft of the implementation plan was put together to make interlinked issues, such as trade, finance and the launching of new programmes, more evident. The draft document contains chapters on poverty eradication, protecting and managing natural resources, sustainable development in a globalizing world and health and sustainable development. The complete document can be found on the Web site and we have a press release upstairs in the Spokesman's Office with more details.
In a report released at the meeting today, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says a global survey has found that only slow progress has been made on implementing the Sustainable Consumption Guidelines. The survey showed that only 38 per cent of governments knew of the existence of these guidelines. There's a press release on this subject.
The ministerial segment of the meeting will begin on Wednesday, which is World Environment Day. Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette will address that gathering.
**Symposium on Terrorism
In Vienna today, a two-day symposium began on the United Nations contribution to combating terrorism. The symposium, organized with the support of the Austrian Government, will look at how the expertise of the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP) in the fields of transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and money laundering can be used by the international community in combating terrorism.
Hans Corell, the United Nations Legal Counsel, Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communication and Public Information, and Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the Chairman of the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, are all there and are addressing that gathering.
In her remarks, Austrian Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner announced that her Government would contribute $1 million to support the ODCCP’s Centre for International Crime Prevention.
**Statement Attributable to Spokesman for Secretary-General:
"The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the death of Ambassador Joseph Nanven Garba, the former Nigerian Foreign Minister and President of the United Nations General Assembly. During the 1980s, Mr. Garba emerged as a leading figure in Nigeria’s diplomatic campaign against apartheid. Before serving a distinguished term as President of the 44th General Assembly, he was Nigeria’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Chairman of the United Nations Committee against Apartheid for five years until 1989. The Secretary-General conveys his condolences to the family of Mr. Garba and to the Government and people of Nigeria."
**WHO Press Release
A couple more announcements. There is a World Health Organization (WHO) press release saying both India and China, which account for more than a third of all tuberculosis cases in the world, have achieved high rates of case-identification and cure by expanding the implementation of the WHO’s Directly Observable Treatment System (DOTS) strategy for the control and treatment of tuberculosis.
The progress in both countries will be discussed at the 4th World Congress on Tuberculosis, which is scheduled to open in Washington, D.C., today.
**World Chronicle Screening
World Chronicle Programme no. 862 with Ambassador Anwarul Karim Chowdury, United Nations High Representative for least developed countries, landlocked developing countries and Small Island Developing States, will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channel 3 or 31.
And press conferences tomorrow, at 12:30 p.m., Marta Santos Pais, Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, will brief on UNICEF's report entitled Birth Registration -- Right from the Start. We have an embargoed press release on this report available upstairs in the Spokesman's Office.
And finally, as I mentioned, at 1 p.m., Ambassador Mikhail Wehbe, Permanent Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations and the current President of the Security Council, will be here to brief you on the programme of work for the month of June.
And that's what I have for you today. Before we turn to our OCHA briefer, anybody have any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: What is the current status of the United Nations effort or call for families of United Nations workers to evacuate Pakistan and India?
Associate Spokesperson: Let me give you the latest figures on that, which I was just able to update. As you know, a decision has been taken to relocate dependents, families of United Nations international staff working in India and Pakistan. As of now, that involves about 200 people -- dependents -- from India. A relocation operation will be taking place over the next two to three days. And from Pakistan, this involves about 300 and that relocation is nearly complete.
So that is the status right now. We're talking about dependents of international staff members being relocated from Pakistan and India. Meanwhile, the international staff continues to work in both these countries.
Question: So that's about 300 that have left Pakistan. And of the 200, I'm sorry, how many?
Associate Spokesperson: It's 214. This is 214 from India and they will be relocated over the next two or three days. And from Pakistan we're almost 98 per cent complete with the relocation of 311, to be exact, dependents from Pakistan. [The Spokesman later clarified that the relocation of 311 dependents from Pakistan is expected to be complete by 6 June.]
Question: It's not clear how many of the 214 have already left?
Associate Spokesperson: What I can tell you is that left in Pakistan now are 288 international staff members and left in India as of now, as of a few hours ago, are 171 international staff members.
Question: Are they being relocated to Iran or to some neighbouring countries?
Associate Spokesperson: Under this security phase, what this means is that they will be relocated to their home countries. The dependents are being relocated to their home countries. The work continues with the remaining international staff.
Questions: Do you have any estimates on how much is being spent on this relocation?
Associate Spokesperson: I don't know that.
Question: Is there a date for the arrival of the new United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq?
Associate Spokesperson: I haven't seen a specific date yet. The new United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq is expected to be in place during the month of July. I don't have anything more specific than that.
Question: The United States has sent a climate report to the United Nations. Do you have any comment on that?
Associate Spokesperson: I have no reaction on that. I understand from the report that it's posted on a United States Government Web site. That report was submitted to the Secretariat of the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, Germany. The United States is party to that Convention and is required to submit periodic reports. So that was in line with that requirement, I understand.
Question: On those figures of staffers left on Pakistan and India, are the 171 in Pakistan?
Associate Spokesman: No, 288 in Pakistan and 171 in India. As you know, these figures are going to be constantly moving, I'm talking on the dependants' side, because the dependants will be moving out over the course of the next two or three days, so the figures I quote now may be already in flux as we speak.
Question: Do you know if we have any memo from the Secretary-General calling the situation between Pakistan and India a threat to international peace according to the Charter, because he's duty-bound to do this type of thing. Do we have anything in reference to that? Did he make any call to the Security Council?
Associate Spokesperson: You're talking about the Secretary-General? Not that I'm aware of.
Question: Why not, since the Charter explicitly asks him to do that when there is a threat to international peace?
Associate Spokesperson: I have nothing further to add than what the Spokesman mentioned to you already on Friday about the Secretary-General and his support of the various bilateral efforts that are going on on this front. He is in touch with the two parties on the phone and he has made a number of statements during this trip already on his views on this situation. So I have nothing further to add at this time. [The Spokeswoman later referred to the Secretary-General's comments upon his arrival in Kiev yesterday, in which he specifically says he looks forward to discussing the situation with President Putin, who will be coming from Almaty, and the Secretary-General will be meeting with him later on during his trip.]
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