DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 June 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 President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
The Secretary-General is on his way to the Group of Eight meeting in Kananaskis, Canada.
As you’ll recall, the Secretary-General, in a letter to the Group of Eight, called on the leaders to support Africa and strengthen world social and economic security.
And yesterday, in his remarks to reporters, he highlighted the importance of discussing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development –- or NEPAD –- to be discussed by the G-8 and African leaders at the summit.
We have dug out the text of the Secretary-General's letter to the G- and an accompanying press release that were made available last week. You will find them on the counter for your reference, on the third floor.
The Security Council is holding a formal meeting on Kosovo. The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean Marie Guéhenno, opened the meeting by briefing on recent developments in Kosovo, including the continuing preparations for the 26 October municipal elections and the UN Mission’s efforts to strengthen the rule of law.
On the latter, he noted that an international judge opened an investigation last week into six former members of the Kosovo Liberation Army on charges that they may have tortured and beaten other members of that organization in June 1999 and exchanged gunfire during a break-in of a house in June 2000. Mr. Guéhenno asserted that internal investigations suggest that the UN Police carried out their operations during the suspects’ arrests in a professional manner, with a proportionate use of force.
The arrests, he asserted, are evidence of the Mission’s “zero tolerance” for crime and show that “no one is above the law”.
We have copies of his comments upstairs. The debate on Kosovo is continuing.
Earlier this morning, the Council met in closed consultations to discuss a draft resolution on Afghanistan, which welcomes the successful holding of the Loya Jirga and calls for greater international assistance for Afghan refugees.
The resolution is expected to be voted on at the conclusion of the Kosovo meeting.
This year’s UN report on the world economy, which was just launched in the press conference held earlier this morning in this room, says that, following the rapid and widespread slowdown in the world economy last year, a recovery is expected to be slow and less synchronized among many economies.
Developing countries, the report says, will benefit only gradually from the recovery, with a growth rate estimated for 2003 at 3 1/4 per cent, well below the past decade’s average. Economic growth in Africa is estimated to be some 3 per cent for this year, barely above population growth.
The dominant role of the United States in the world economy, and the expected modest nature of its recovery this year, contribute to the slow-rebound scenario. Meanwhile, world trade fell dramatically last year, from a growth of 12 per cent in 2000 to negative 1 per cent in 2001.
The full report is available, and you just heard from Ian Kinniburgh of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs on the findings.
**International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
The judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia today ordered a medical examination for former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who continues to be ill with a flu, delaying the progress of his trial. The judges want to be updated on the extent of his illness, and hope to receive a report on his medical condition by 17 July.
The UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention today launched its annual report on “Global Illicit Drug Trends”, and it says that the efforts to rebuild Afghanistan as a well-governed country could help to reduce substantially the supply of opiates in the narcotics market, a topic I mentioned during yesterday’s briefing.
The Office’s Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, said, “Afghanistan and some regions in Latin America prove that the weakening of civil society and the breakdown in law and order facilitate criminal activities.” Helping to establish democratic accountability, he said, would help fight the spread of narcotics.
The report says that last year illicit opium production in Afghanistan fell by 94 per cent, causing a two-thirds decline in global opium production. However, production has resumed this year, and is expected to be at levels comparable to those recorded in the mid-1990s.
Another major trend highlighted in the report is the increase in levels of heroin abuse in nearly all the countries of Eastern Europe, with the number of registered drug addicts in Russia alone rising by 30 per cent in 2000.
We have a press release with more information, and we also have a transcript of remarks made in Afghanistan by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Lakhdar Brahimi, during today’s International Day against Drug Abuse, calling on Afghanistan, in cooperation with the international community, to eradicate drug cultivation in that country. He also thanked Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Interim Administration for its eradication efforts, despite its limited means.
The World Food Programme (WFP) appeals for urgent support to help Afghanistan to avoid a crisis in this coming winter.
WFP’s Executive Director James T. Morris, who is on a two-day visit to Afghanistan, said: "Unless we get additional cash immediately, we could see malnutrition with the risk of starvation rising especially in the highlands."
With all the stocks and pledges that the WFP has received so far, it still faces a staggering shortage of 175,000 metric tons of food, worth approximately $102 million. It has to cut down on various programmes over the past two months to cope with this shortage.
On 1 April, WFP started a nine-month operation whose focus is to gradually shift from relief to recovery, with particular emphasis on education, health and the agricultural sector after July. It is estimated a total of 544,000 tons of food will be required for this operation.
Today is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, and, to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says in a message that “humankind must continue to stand united in the fight against torture” and calls for a redoubling of resolve to eradicate torture from the face of the earth. He emphasized, following the 11 September events, that security cannot be achieved by sacrificing human rights, adding, “That would hand the terrorists a victory beyond their dreams.” His message is available as a press release.
Also today, we have available a joint statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and the various organs of the UN human rights system dealing with torture, calling on States to give their immediate attention to move towards adopting an optional protocol to the Convention against Torture. That protocol would provide for setting up effective international and national mechanisms to visit places where people may be deprived of their liberty.
We have copies of that statement upstairs.
**Nane Annan Receives Rotary Award
In Barcelona, Spain, Nane Annan, the wife of the Secretary-General, addressed the Rotary International annual convention. Speaking to thousands of Rotarians from around the world, Mrs. Annan commended the organization's outstanding volunteer efforts in the service of humanity. She particularly praised the "daunting yet wondrous task" that Rotary adopted in 1985 to eradicate polio worldwide by 2005, and she urged them to continue their noble quest. This is undertaken in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, as well as with the governments concerned. She also referred to Rotary's impressive youth programme, including a student exchange programme and the scholarship programme for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution launched in April of this year.
Studying the work of Rotary, she found it closely reflected the ideals of the United Nations, and she spoke about the priorities identified in the outcome document of the special session on children, especially the need to combat AIDS and promote healthy lives.
After her address, the Rotary Foundation Chairman, Luis Vicente Giay, presented Mrs. Annan with the Rotary Humanitarian Service Award for "outstanding leadership in humanitarian service to mankind". Some seventeen thousand Rotarians from around the world attended this 2002 convention.
A couple of press releases to highlight, first from the World Food Programme. They warned today that food supplies for post-war Angola are dwindling at a time when there is urgent need to feed a growing number of hungry people. The sharp increase in demand has put more pressure on WFP food stocks, which the agency says will run out by September. Currently, more than a million people receive food aid, and that number is expected to rise to one and a half million by the end of this year. The agency says it will need $241 million to feed up to 1.5 million people for the next 18 months.
The second press release is from the World Health Organization which says that an updated survey of HIV medicines, test kits and suppliers of AIDS-related products will be released today. “Sources and Prices of Selected Drugs and Diagnostics for People Living with HIV/AIDS” was produced jointly with UNICEF, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and Médicins sans frontiers, and contains 123 pharmaceutical products, including anti-retrovirals and medicines to treat AIDS-related infections and for pain relief. The UN bulk-buying scheme has resulted in savings of about $2 million each year.
On signings, this morning, the Holy See deposited its instrument of accession, becoming the 130th party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
And finally, a press conference to announce for tomorrow, at 11 a.m. the Coalition for the International Criminal Court will brief on the entry into force of the Rome Statute and the birth of the International Criminal Court. This press conference is being sponsored by the Mission of Canada to the United Nations.
That is my report for today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: My question is about your press release about the UN and Iraq meeting in Vienna. What will be the combination of the UN team in this dialogue with the Iraqis?
Answer: I don't have the final delegation list of the UN side nor on the Iraqi side at the point, other than what I have already said. The Secretary-General will be accompanied by Hans Blix, the head of UNMOVIC, and Mohammed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). And I think that I have also confirmed, and if have not, I will do it now, that Yuli Vorontsov, the High-Level Coordinator on Iraq, will also be there to deal with the issue of missing property and also missing persons. So there probably will be a few other political advisers, but those are the principal names on the UN side. On the Iraqi side, we don't have the delegation list yet.
If there are no other questions, we will go to Jan on the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesman of the President of the General Assembly
Thank you Fred, and good afternoon.
I have a bit of a mixed bag for you today. First of all, there will be a plenary of the General Assembly at 10 o’clock tomorrow morning in Conference Room 1. The Assembly will take up the report of the resumed session of the Fifth Committee, mainly on the financing of peacekeeping operations. You will recall that the budget of these operations usually runs from 1 July to 30 June the following year. All the draft resolutions are expected to be approved without a vote, except for the one on the financing on the UN Interim Force in Lebanon. In the Fifth Committee, draft resolution A/C.5/L.70 was adopted with 110 in favour and 2 against.
The Assembly will also take up a request by Japan to hold two meetings on the outcome of the International Year of Volunteers, on 26 November instead of 5 December. The reason behind the request is that 5 December is a United Nations holiday.
Tomorrow afternoon, the open-ended informal consultations of the plenary on the revitalization of the General Assembly will continue with its fourth and possibly last meeting during this session. Among other things, the meeting will discuss the potential change of some of the rules of procedure. If agreement can be reached, these changes would mean that the President and the Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly and the Chairpersons of the Main Committees would be elected months before the opening of the General Assembly. The purpose would be to ensure a more smooth transition from one session to the next. Again, if agreement can be reached, a draft resolution will come out as an L document and, if adopted, we could see elections as soon as within the first two weeks of July.
The Working Group on the Reform of the Security Council, the title is actually 28 words long, so I will just call it the Working Group on the Reform of the Security Council, has adopted its report. Please keep an eye on the list of documents; it should be out soon. I don't have a specific date. I have been told that the report contains a new annex this year entitled "Proposals submitted to the Working Group during its 2002 session".
Last Monday, the Secretary-General drew lots for the seating arrangements for the 57th session of the Assembly and came up with Lebanon. This Member State will be seated in the front row to the extreme left.
The President of the General Assembly, Dr. Han Seung-soo, is winding up a visit to three countries in Europe, whereupon he will return to the Republic of Korea. The President also has a message for the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Drug Trafficking, which is today. The message calls upon all Member States and the international community to reaffirm their commitment to implement the action programmes and measures contained in the declaration of the special session on HIV/AIDS, and to cooperate with UNAIDS and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) to eliminate illicit drug abuse and HIV/AIDS. The message is available upstairs.
That is what I have for you today. Any questions? Thank you very much.
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