DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
9 September 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.
You all know Jan Fischer on my left. But on my right is Richard Sydenham, who will replace Jan as Spokesman for the new President of the General Assembly. And Jan will give him a formal introduction in just a few minutes.
**Noon Guests at Noon Briefing
Our guests at today’s Noon Briefing will be Mike McCann or his Deputy Joe Martella. Mike will be here, but I think Joe will be doing the talking, is that right? And Sonia Lecca, the head of the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, and they will be telling you the ground rules for the upcoming general debate.
The Secretary-General got back this morning after an extended stay abroad. On his way into the building he was, of course, stopped by an unruly gang of journalists. When asked what initiatives the United States and the United Kingdom might bring to the UN before they take any military action against Iraq, he said he had spoken to both leaders but suggested it would be best to wait and see what President Bush would say during his speech to the General Assembly on Thursday.
The Secretary-General also stressed that the Security Council –- which has been dealing with this issue for so long -- should have something to say. “I think it is appropriate that the Council pronounces itself on the issue”, Annan said.
Asked by one journalist about the consequences of an eventual conflict with Iraq, the Secretary-General said that he was concerned about unexpected consequences and also about what the “morning after” would be like.
“What sort of Iraq do we wake up to after the bombing”, he said, “and what happens in the region? What impact could it have? These are questions leaders I have spoken to have also asked.”
We have the full transcript of his comments in my office.
There are no consultations or meetings of the Security Council as a whole today.
But the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee on Somalia held a meeting this morning. The Committee members met with the panel of experts who are scheduled to depart for Europe and the region on 15 September. The panel was set
up to investigate violations of the UN arms embargo on Somalia and to strengthen its enforcement.
Progress towards poverty reduction goals by 2015 are mixed at both the regional and national levels, according to a report by the Secretary-General on the implementation of the first UN Decade for the Eradication of Poverty.
If performances continue at the present rate, many countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, are not likely to achieve poverty reduction goals by 2015.
Despite this bleak assessment, the Secretary-General writes, a number of best practices have been identified and lessons learned. He points to a number of projects including enhancing access to education –- especially for girls and women –- and promoting micro credit and micro financing.
The full report is on the racks.
Tomorrow will be the last working day for Major-General Tim Ford, the Military Adviser of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
General Ford took office as Military Adviser on 13 September 2000. And he will be returning to his native Australia.
Until a replacement is named, the Deputy Military Adviser, Major-General Chitra Bahadur Gurung, will be the acting Military Adviser.
On a sadder note, the Chief Military Observer for the United Nations Mission in East Timor died on Sunday morning in Dili.
Brigadier-General Paulo Pereira Guerreiro was 55 years old and had been the Chief Military Observer there since July of this year. According to the Mission, there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.
The three-day DPI -– that’s the Department of Public Information -- conference began this morning with addresses by the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, the outgoing High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi.
The Deputy Secretary-General said the theme of this year’s conference, “Rebuilding Societies Emerging from Conflict: A Shared Responsibility”, was of great importance to both the United Nations and NGOs as both were involved in helping countries to recover from the trauma of conflict. She said the United Nations could not hope to achieve its goals without the efforts and expertise of NGOs. NGOs played an important role in the reform efforts of the Secretary-General, she continued, which have led to a streamlining of bureaucracy. “We have reached out as never before, she said, to new partners, foundations, parliamentarians, the private sector and, of course, NGOs.”
We have the full text of the Deputy Secretary-General’s speech, along with those of Mary Robinson and Lakhdar Brahimi in my office.
World Food Programme Executive Director James Morris, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the humanitarian crisis in six southern African countries, says that the HIV/AIDS pandemic is playing a key role in the worsening crisis in Zambia and southern Africa.
He said “HIV/AIDS is devastating Zambian society”, on the last day of his three-day mission to Zambia. “Tens of thousands of people have already died and many, many more are infected. One of the tragic consequences is a very rapid rise in the number of orphans, as well as households headed by children and elderly grandparents.”
An estimated 20 per cent of the adult population in Zambia is infected with HIV/AIDS.
Travelling with Morris on the UN six-country mission is Carolyn McAskie, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator for the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
We have a press release on that.
Last Friday afternoon, the head of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Amos Namanga Ngongi, attended the signing of the peace accord between Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Speaking to journalists after the ceremony in the Angolan capital Luanda, Ngongi praised the accord and said both heads of state had shown they could make the necessary efforts to bridge their differences.
United Nations agencies today resumed their humanitarian programmes in Chechnya that had been suspended since 29 July, when a staff member of Médecins Sans Frontières was abducted. The decision to resume humanitarian operations came after extensive consultations with the Russian authorities, the donor communities and NGOs. The main reason for the resumption is the rising needs of the civilian population in Chechnya.
We have a press release from the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Russian Federation.
You will see a new face in the Spokesman’s Office this week. It’s not an addition to our staff. It’s a visitor. He’s Mark Dennis, who is sitting right here in the front row, the Senior Media Adviser to Terje Roed-Larsen, the Secretary-General’s Middle East Envoy. He will be around all this week in my office. Stop in if you would like to check with him about the Middle East, and he can also give you his phone numbers and e-mail if you want to get in touch with him when he’s back in the Middle East.
Press conferences: 12:45 p.m. today and Wednesday at the same time on the occasion of the Fifty-fifth Annual DPI/NGO Conference, we will have several guest speakers: Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, from Médecins Sans Frontières, Gerald Gahima, from the Rwandan Supreme Court and Vincent Lelei, the Regional Director for Oxfam for the Horn, East and Central Africa. And they will be addressing problems of assisting societies emerging from conflict.
Then at 2:30 p.m. there will be a background briefing by a senior United Nations official on the report of the Policy Working Group on the United Nations and Terrorism. And delegations are invited to view the briefing in Studio 4 located in the First Basement.
And then tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Casper Villiger, the President of the Swiss Confederation and Joseph Deiss, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, will speak to the press on the occasion of Switzerland’s admission to the United Nations.
Any questions before we go to Jan?
Spokesman for the General Assembly President, Jan Fischer:
Thank you, Fred.
This morning, Han Seung-soo, the President of the General Assembly, addressed the annual DPI/NGO Forum. He said among other things that the prevention of conflicts and post-conflict peace-building are areas of the Assembly’s work which require a consolidated and integrated approach, embracing NGOs, civil society and the private sector. The General Assembly will continue to play its part as a universal organization to develop a culture of peace. The full text of his statement is available upstairs.
This afternoon at 3, the President will preside over the last plenary of the fifty-sixth session. As you will have noticed from the Daily Journal, there are 57 items on the agenda but don’t worry, it doesn’t mean that you will have to stay here till 11 o’clock tonight. Most of these items just have to be officially concluded or deferred to the next session, so it should not take too long. The President will also deliver his closing statement in which he will look back at this extraordinary session. He will tell the Member States that we have dealt with 173 agenda items, held 112 plenary meetings and adopted 359 resolutions and 107 decisions. One special session was also held and three rounds of a resumed emergency session, adding another five resolutions and nine decisions to the total.
Some of you have asked me about tomorrow, so let me just very quickly outline what will happen, although not necessarily in this order. The new session will begin at 3 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall and will be opened by the President of the fifty-seventh session. There will be a moment of silence, there will be the appointment of a Credentials Committee consisting of nine members, there may a notification of arrears and then, of course, we will hear the opening statement by the President, Mr. Jan Kavan. We should also see the adoption of a resolution admitting Switzerland as a Member of the United Nations. I expect that the President will offer congratulatory remarks and the chairs of the regional groups may do the same. At the end, we will have the flag raising ceremony outside the entrance to the Hall. The very observant among you may have noticed that there’s a new flagpole at the north end of the compound. It is still lying down but I’m sure we’ll get it up in time.
Let me also give you a heads-up regarding Wednesday. As you know, there will be a ceremony of remembrance on the North Lawn at 10 a.m., and then around 11 a.m. the General Committee will meet to discuss the agenda for the new session. The most time-consuming part of this meeting will be a discussion on the issue of Taiwan. Last year, we heard 92 speakers on the issue and had to have an evening meeting. This year, however, statements will be limited to two minutes, so it shouldn’t go that long.
Speakers list number three for the General Debate is out, and so far it has 52 heads of State or government, two vice-presidents, one crown prince, 129 foreign ministers or other ministers, one high-level representative and three other representatives for a total of 188. The Daily Journal on Wednesday should have a list of speakers which will include names and titles.
I have already taken far too much of your time but as this is my last briefing, I just want to thank you for being such a wonderful group of people to work with. It has truly been a pleasure and I will miss it.
Let me take your questions and then I’ll introduce my successor.
Questions and Answers
Question: Jan, who is the 189th, which country has not yet signed up as speaker?
Spokesman for the General Assembly President: We’re actually short of two Member States. I have not been able to identify them yet. I am pretty certain that one of them is a small Pacific Island nation. In the 188 speakers, Palestine is included, which is why you’re two short. Jim?
Question: On Palestine, it’s listed as “HL”.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General President: Yes.
Question: What does “HL” stand for?
Spokesman for the Secretary-General President: High Level. Yes?
Question: I see on the speakers’ list that there is going to be a peace day(?) ceremony on Friday 20. Does that supplant the one that is traditionally held as the GA opens?
Spokesman for the Secretary-General President: The General Assembly decided during this session which is coming to a close this afternoon that the International Peace Day should be held on 21 September. But as that is a Saturday, it will be held on the 20th.
Question: I think I speak for all the correspondents. We want to thank you so much for always being there for us and being ready to give us any information that you could.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General President: Thank you very much, Lee. Thank you very much. Thanks, Hasim.
Okay. Now to Richard who will have to contend with you for the next year.
Richard Sydenham has more than 30 years of experience in this Organization, all of them in the visual production area of DPI. After a start as film cataloguer, he became chief of the Visual Materials Library, and then in 1988, a TV producer. He has done news features, documentaries, public service announcements and was responsible for broadcasts of the UN Day concerts. He is currently the Executive Producer of the video production section of UNTV and does a lot of the UN in Action programmes. He has also been a peace observer in South Africa and was Chief of Radio and TV in the Information Office of UNAMET in East Timor.
Welcome aboard, Richard.
Richard Sydenham: Thank you very much, Jan and thank you, Fred, and good afternoon. I certainly look forward to working with you as Spokesman for the President of the 57th Session, Mr. Jan Kavan, and I will do my best – following in Jan’s footsteps – to help you to get the information that you need to report on the work of the Assembly this year.
As Jan said, for those who don’t know me, my name is Richard Sydenham, my office telephone number at the moment is Ext. 3-1256. And the Cell phone number is 917-445-2855, and I will be for the time being based in Room 378, which is just next door to the Spokesman’s Office. I have some cards here with my phone number for later.
There was just one thing I would like to mention: that the press kit for the fifty-seventh session is available at the documents counter in English and French.
I look forward to working with you. Thank you very much.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General President: Just one more thing. As far as I know, the new President will be guest at the noon briefing tomorrow. Or did you mention that already, Fred?
Spokesman: No, I am sorry.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General President: Okay.
Spokesman: Okay, if our guests would come forward and we will get down to the practical planning for the fifty-seventh session.
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