DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 July 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Joining us today at the noon briefing shortly will be Kenzo Oshima, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, and Reginald Mugwara, the Representative of the Southern African Development Community, known as SADC. They will talk about the appeal for the southern African humanitarian crisis which was launched this morning. And also, Mr. Oshima has just returned from Angola. So he will talk about the humanitarian situation there.
For the record, yesterday afternoon, the Office of the Spokesman for the Secretary-General put out a statement after the suicide bombing attack in Tel Aviv, which reads, as follows:
“The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest possible terms the suicide bomb attack in Tel Aviv, which comes on the heels of the terrorist attack near the settlement of Emanuel in the West Bank. The Secretary-General reiterates his utter denunciation of such heinous acts, which are harmful to the Palestinian cause and do not serve any acceptable purpose, political or otherwise.
“The international community and the parties must remain steadfast in their determination not to allow the perpetrators of violent and senseless acts to derail efforts in the search for a just, comprehensive and lasting solution to the conflict.”
And we issued that yesterday, early evening.
Here in the Security Council today, the Council is holding an all-day workshop on the Mano River Union. Chairing the workshop is Baroness Valerie Amos, Minister for Africa in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, which is holding this month’s Council presidency.
According to the Council presidency, the objectives of the workshop are to: identify lessons from the UN experience in Sierra Leone, which may be relevant to other conflict situations in Africa; to consider how the United Nations might manage the transition from peacekeeping to peace-building in Sierra Leone; and to examine what more the United Nations and the international community can do to reduce the instability in the Mano River Union subregion, especially the fighting in Liberia.
The Secretary-General, in brief remarks at the opening of the workshop, welcomed the timeliness of the discussion and its effort to develop a coordinated approach to the situation in that part of Africa.
He said, "It comes at a critical juncture, when UNAMSIL [that’s the UN Mission in Sierra Leone] is about to begin a new phase of its operations in Sierra Leone, but, at the same time, the escalating conflict in Liberia threatens to destabilize the whole area."
He said the UN peacekeeping experience in Sierra Leone offers invaluable lessons, not only because of the success achieved so far, but also because of the trials encountered in the early stages of the Mission, and how they were dealt with. He went on to say, “Thank goodness, the international community did not give up.”
He credited the timely British intervention in Sierra Leone as a factor that helped stabilize that country.
There are 26 speakers scheduled to speak -– 13 each in the morning and in the afternoon. Among them are the Foreign Minister of Sierra Leone, the Foreign Minister of Guinea, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as well as the Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, known as ECOWAS.
A discussion paper written in preparation for this workshop is available on the United Kingdom Mission Web site.
**Southern Africa Appeal
This morning, as I mentioned, Kenzo Oshima, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General on the occasion of the launch of the more than $600 million appeal for immediate food and other life-sustaining support for the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa.
Referring to a critical moment in the lives of nearly 13 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, he said, “There is still an opportunity to avert famine and to save lives, but this window is closing rapidly.”
In the message, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of James Morris, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, as his Special Envoy on the humanitarian crisis in southern Africa. Mr. Morris will travel to the region and work with governments to review the humanitarian situation, current relief efforts and contingency planning, in order to ensure a coherent and complete response to the crisis. He will also collaborate with donors to ensure that contributions are channelled in the most efficient manner to those in the greatest need.
Kenzo Oshima will elaborate on the appeal in a few minutes. We have kits available upstairs that include a CD-ROM. There are also press releases from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on their parts of the appeal.
There are two reports of the Secretary-General on UN operations to the Security Council out as documents today.
The first one is on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia. The Secretary-General says there is a regrettable lack of progress in the initiation of political status negotiations between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.
He appeals again to the Abkhaz side, in particular, to agree to a discussion on the substance of a paper on competences, and to use this opportunity to commence negotiations on a settlement that would guarantee the rights and interests of the multi-ethnic population of Abkhazia.
He also urges the Georgian and the Abkhaz sides to respect their responsibility to safeguard UNOMIG –- that’s the UN Mission there -- personnel at all times, especially when hazardous conditions prevail, and to ensure that the Mission’s air and road movements are not restricted.
The Secretary-General concludes that he remains convinced the UN Mission’s presence is essential for creating the conditions for a political process towards a settlement of the conflict, and for moving the process forward. He recommends a further extension of the mandate of UNOMIG for six months, until 31 January 2003.
This report is on the Security Council agenda for discussion next Wednesday.
In his latest report on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, known as UNMEE, the Secretary-General makes recommendations to the Security Council on the roles that the Mission can play to ensure the expeditious and orderly implementation of the Boundary Commission’s decision on delimitation.
The Mission, he says, can help by providing mine clearance, agreeing with the parties on the technical modalities for the orderly transfer of territorial control, and providing administrative and logistical support for the Boundary Commission’s field office.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that all parties must do their part to allow the Boundary Commission’s work to move forward quickly, adding that “the lives of the affected populations have been plagued by uncertainty for far too long”. He appeals to the parties to exercise restraint, and notes, “The successful conclusion of this process, in which the parties have invested heavily, is within sight.”
**Democratic Republic of Congo Panel
In a letter to the Security Council that’s out on the racks today, the Secretary-General notes that the expert panel dealing with the illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Democratic Republic of the Congo needs additional time to complete its work, in order to receive responses from questionnaires sent to Member States and to corroborate evidence.
Accordingly, the Secretary-General recommends an extension of the panel’s mandate until 31 October.
We have copies of the exchange of letters between the Secretary-General and Council President on the racks.
The UN Compensation Commission, which deals with claims involving the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, today made available more than $708 million to 33 governments and three organizations, to be distributed to 961 successful claimants.
The awards are paid out of the UN Compensation Fund, which at present receives 25 per cent of the proceeds of the “oil-for-food” plan, in accordance with Security Council resolution 1409.
We have more details in a press release upstairs, which includes the total awards given to each government and organization.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan reports that, yesterday morning, the first disarmament exercise to be carried out voluntarily by Afghan factions began in Sholgareh, a district south-west of Mazar-e-Sharif -– that’s in the northern part of Afghanistan. The disarmament is taking place under the auspices of a multi-party group, the Security Commission in Mazar-e-Sharif, which is observed and facilitated by the UN Mission.
Weapons are being brought to three collection points, and, once collected, the arms will be transported to military depots belonging to the various parties, where they will be registered and kept under guard by factional forces. The UN Mission has the right to monitor the safekeeping of arms.
We have more details in today’s briefing notes from Kabul.
Turning to East Timor. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for East Timor, Kamalesh Sharma, said today that protecting children’s rights is especially important as children are among the most vulnerable groups in East Timorese Society.
His comments came as the Director of the UN Children's Fund’s South-East Asia Division, Mehr Kahn, winds up her four-day visit to the country. She will meet tomorrow with government officials at a briefing, which will also be attended by civil society leaders. The briefing will centre on the protection of the rights of children, as guaranteed in the Timorese Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international human rights treaties.
And we have more information in the briefing notes from Dili, East Timor, upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.
On Bosnia, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will soon carry out a joint project to gather and analyse data on a wide range of human rights issues in 48 municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. This is the first such survey there.
A team of development and human rights specialists will work with Bosnian experts to assemble information on civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. High Commissioner Mary Robinson says the project is “an encouraging example for the successful implementation of the human rights-based approach to development”.
We have more information in a note from UNDP upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.
And finally, the meeting of the 25 nations comprising the “Friends of the Chair” to deal with differences prior to the World Summit on Sustainable Development wrapped up its day-long meeting last night, around 8 p.m.
South African Foreign Minister Zuma said afterward, “There is more hope now than there was at the end of Bali”, where the last preparatory meetings before next month’s Summit were held. She said it should not take too long to achieve an agreement at the Summit, which will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this summer.
We expect a press release to be issued shortly on the meeting. And that’s what I have for you today. Mr. Oshima and his colleague should be here in a few minutes. Does anybody have any questions for me? If not, I suggest you stay here rather than leaving and then coming back. I’ll give a quick call.
**Questions and Answers
Question: There was a press conference scheduled yesterday by this “Friends of the Chair” group.
Associate Spokesman: Yes.
Question: Are they going to have press conference today or is it just a press release?
Associate Spokesman: From what I understood from Nitin Desai, who I just spoke with -– who is the Secretary-General of the conference -- he said that the Foreign Minister had to leave to catch a flight. So that was for logistical reasons. They just ran out of time. So nothing has been scheduled for today.
Well, if you want to hang here for a few minutes, let me give a call and see where Mr. Oshima is, then I’ll let you know whether you should stay or come back.
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Note: Delayed due to power outage.
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