DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
10 September 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I am going to start by welcoming the new Dag Hammarskjöld scholars for 2002. There are three. Wan Esuriyanti Wan Ahmed, Malaysia; Ipek Yesdani, Turkey; Serigene Adama Boye, Senegal. Welcome.
And our guest at the noon briefing today, of course, will be the President of the fifty-seventh session of the General Assembly, Jan Kavan. He will be coming here in just 10 minutes or so.
**International Criminal Court
A short while ago, at the meeting of the States parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Secretary-General said that in creating the Court good people had stood up on behalf of the innocent victims of the horrendous crimes. “An idea that arose in the throes of the Holocaust has finally come to fruition”, he said.
The Secretary-General went on to say that the ICC is different than the Tribunals in Nuremberg, The Hague and Arusha, which were established after the fact. “Indeed”, he said, “by its very existence, the Court can act as a deterrent.”
He urged the assembled delegates to make sure that the ICC begins its life on a secure footing with a strong financial base and that its staff -- judges, prosecutors and others –- meet the highest standards of legal rigour, human sensitivity and professional probity.
In his speech, he also said that the independence, impartiality and integrity of the Court must be preserved above all. “The ICC is not -– and must never become”, he said, “an organ for political witch hunting. Rather, it must serve as a bastion against tyranny and lawlessness, and as a building block in the global architecture of collective security.”
A short while ago, in a separate event relating to the ICC, a ceremony was held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber marking the opening for signature of the Agreement on the Privileges and Immunities of the International Criminal Court.
The following 12 States were expected to sign the Agreement: Austria, Finland, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Namibia, Norway, Peru, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago and the United Kingdom. Norway is also expected to deposit the first instrument of ratification of the Agreement.
Almost a year to the day after the terrorist attacks on the United States, an expert report outlining new ways the UN can contribute to the international battle against terrorism was released this morning.
The report, prepared for Secretary-General by a group of senior UN officials and outside experts, identifies the policy dimensions of terrorism for the UN, and offers a series of 31 recommendations on steps the Organization can take to further address the problem.
The group concentrated on areas where the UN has a comparative advantage over other entities, and aims to ensure the Organization adds value to, rather than duplicates, international efforts.
It argues that the UN must project a clear and principled message that terrorism, whatever the cause and whose name it is undertaken, is unacceptable and deserves universal condemnation.
It notes that terrorist acts constitute an assault on human rights, but makes clear that human rights must be respected in the fight against terrorism.
The UN should be wary of offering, or being perceived to be offering, a blanket endorsement of measures taken in the name of counter-terrorism, and that its efforts to reduce terrorism must not be at the expense of its core responsibilities. The full report is available upstairs.
Later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will attend the raising of the flag of Switzerland, as it becomes the 190th Member of the United Nations.
In speaking to Swiss journalists this morning, the Secretary-General said, "We have all waited a long time for this day. In a way, it feels as if the family of nations has finally united and come together, and this is really wonderful."
In a statement he’ll deliver at the flag-raising ceremony, he’ll praise Switzerland for embodying what the United Nations stands for –- a peaceful and multicultural society built on strong democratic traditions.
The full text of his statement, which is embargoed until the ceremony takes place at about 3 p.m., is available upstairs.
Hans Blix, the Executive Chairman of the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) for Iraq, is briefing the Security Council in closed consultations on his latest quarterly report, which we flagged for you last week and he is expected to speak to you at the stakeout as soon as he is finished. And I think when we get the sign that he is out there, we’ll give it to you so you can run out if you want.
**Oil for Food
According to the weekly figures of the Office of the Iraq Programme, Iraqi oil exports were down to a trickle at 2.6 million barrels in the week that ended 6 September.
The week’s total netted only $69 million in estimated revenue.
Reduced oil exports with a consequent revenue shortfall have left more than $2.2 billion worth of approved humanitarian supply contracts without available funds.
We have the full text of the report upstairs.
In speaking to journalists in Geneva on her penultimate day as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson noted that her last day is also the first anniversary of what she called an “appalling crime against humanity”.
The events of that date, she went on to say, “have shaped much of my work over the past year and helped influence my future focus”.
She told journalists that, as of 1 October, she will start developing a project called the Ethical Globalization Initiative -– in partnership with the Aspen Institute, the State of the World Forum and the International Council on Human Rights Policy.
This is a 15-month project which Mrs. Robinson said is aimed to ensure support for a sustainable movement for ethical globalization.
For more information, we have a press release upstairs.
Yesterday in Tirana, Albania, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, and the Albanian Foreign Minister, Ilir Meta, witnessed the signing of two memoranda of understanding between Kosovo and Albania.
The first memorandum concerned the exchange of information on organized crime, corruption, trafficking and drugs. The second was on the mutual recognition of insurance. (And I’ll tell you what that’s about in just a minute.)
Today, Steiner travelled to the border town of Morina in Albania, where, along with the Foreign Minister of Albania, he formally launched the cooperation on insurance. According to the understanding, people travelling from Kosovo to Albania and vice versa will no longer need to purchase additional insurance as both countries will recognize the insurance policies taken out in the other.
I have a press release on that.
Let me give you a heads-up for tomorrow, 9/11. The Secretary-General’s activities will start at 8:30 in the morning.
He is scheduled to attend the interfaith service at St. Bartholomew's Church and he will make some remarks there.
Then at 10 a.m., he plans to attend the UN’s ceremony of remembrance that will be held on the North Lawn. The ceremony is expected to last about 40 minutes and statements are expected to be made by him, by President of the General Assembly Jan Kavan, by U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte, and by the President of the UN Staff Committee, Rosemary Waters. A selected number of staff members will also be invited to speak, as well. And in the event of inclement weather, the ceremony will take place in the General Assembly Hall.
Then from 12:45 p.m. to about 1:15 p.m., the Secretary-General will attend a high-level open meeting of the Security Council, convened to pay tribute to the memory of victims of the terrorist acts that struck the United States a year ago tomorrow. The meeting will be chaired by President Georgi Parvanov of Bulgaria, which holds the presidency of the Council for September. Statements are expected by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and the Secretary-General. And they will issue a presidential statement afterwards.
Finally, the Secretary-General is scheduled to attend an evening ceremony organized by the City of New York and that I believe is to take place at Battery Park starting at about 7:15.
**Food Crisis in Southern Africa
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have signed an agreement today in Malawi on an operational partnership as part of their response to the unfolding food crisis in southern Africa.
The agreement was signed by Jan Egeland, the Secretary General of the Norwegian Red Cross, on behalf of the International Federation, together with James Morris, the WFP’s Executive Director and the Secretary General’s Special Envoy on the region’s humanitarian crisis. He is in Malawi today as part of his two-week UN mission to the six countries affected by the crisis.
New statistics compiled by the High Commissioner for Refugees on asylum seekers in 28 mostly industrialised countries show that overall in the first six months of 2002 the number of people seeking asylum fell by 12 per cent compared to the previous six-month period.
Iraq remained the largest nationality of origin of asylum seekers overall in the 28 countries combined, with more than 22,000 applicants in the first half of the year.
If you are interested in that, check out the UNHCR Web site.
I understand that Hans Blix is on his way to the stakeout. If anyone is interested, you can go there now.
The office of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Kigali today reports that the outbreak of meningitis in Rwanda continues to affect some 2 million people. There are fears that the disease may spread to the capital, Kigali, endangering another million people. An appeal has been made to raise $1 million for a vaccination programme for the 2 million people most at risk. UNICEF has already provided 665,000 doses of vaccine and a further 250,000 arrived in Kigali today. We have a press release with more information on that.
Also available upstairs is a press release from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) concerning a joint mission to Venezuela that it is undertaking with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center.
The mission will meet today with President of Venezuela Hugo Chávez and members of the opposition in an effort to facilitate dialogue and to help to overcome the current political crisis.
Budget news. Thailand today paid its 2002 dues with a cheque $2.8 million. That’s gratefully received. And we now have 98 Member States paid in full for their regular budget dues for this year.
We have a new car. Early this afternoon, the Secretary-General will receive the keys to a new armoured vehicle, gift of Volvo.
The car, which will be handed over at the Secretariat Entrance, is a gift from the Volvo company to the United Nations.
Two to give you: 12:45 p.m. tomorrow we have the second briefing by the NGO Section, (Non-governmental organization section of the Department of Public Information), and that to update you on the annual DPI/NGO conference and it will feature three key speakers from the conference. We’ll announce their names a little later.
And then at 5 p.m. tomorrow, the Foreign Minister of China, Tang Jiaxuan, will speak to you. Okay, that’s all I have for you. Any questions? Or maybe you want to run out and see Dr. Blix?
Questions and Answers
Question: I wonder if you could clarify something, how much the US owes the UN; about $1 billion. I spoke yesterday with the German ambassador (Ekout Tomar) and she said that she thought that it was less than that and that there’d been a negotiation. I wonder if your could bring us up to date on that.
Spokesman: I am happy to give you the figure. We can call the contribution section and get you the latest as of midday today. But the last I heard it was over $1 billion. Okay. [He later said US arrears as of today stood at
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