DAILY BRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
30 October 2002
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Richard Sydenham, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Secretary-General's Report on Reform
The Secretary-General this morning presented his report on further United Nations reform to the General Assembly, telling the Assembly that one of his chief aims since becoming Secretary-General was to make the Organization more useful by making it more efficient and effective, adjusting to new conditions and needs.
He emphasized his proposal to review the United Nations programme of work, to make sure it concentrates on what matters to the world’s people, as well as proposals to improve United Nations performance in its human rights and public information work.
The Secretary-General told the Assembly that he is establishing a high-level panel to take stock of the relationship between the United Nations and civil society, and to suggest ways to enhance that relationship.
Now, he said, he hoped that his report would be debated, and that the General Assembly would adopt a single resolution providing clear guidance on the way forward.
Security Council Yesterday
Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council held a private meeting on the work of the two International Criminal Tribunals, for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, in which it heard from the Tribunal Presidents –- respectively, Judges Claude Jorda and Navanethem Pillay. They also heard from the Prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte.
All three of these officials drew attention to the cooperation they will need from Member States in providing suspects, witnesses and evidence, so that they can complete their caseloads in a timely manner.
Judge Pillay and Prosecutor Del Ponte noted difficulties the Rwanda Tribunal has faced this year in obtaining the appearance at the Arusha, Tanzania, court of witnesses based in Rwanda, which they said had set back the Tribunal’s work.
Judge Jorda and the Prosecutor drew attention to problems in securing cooperation as well, with both of them citing the failure of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to provide needed evidence or transfer accused suspects to the Hague Tribunal.
In a closed meeting held earlier that afternoon, the Security Council also heard from Judge Gilbert Guillaume, President of the International Court of Justice, on that body’s work over the past year.
The Security Council today resumed consultations on a draft resolution on Iraq. The consultations had been previously scheduled for 5 p.m. yesterday afternoon, but were postponed until 10 a.m. this morning when the closed meeting on the United Nations tribunals ended shortly before 7:30 last night.
Then this afternoon at 3 p.m., the Security Council has scheduled an open meeting on Afghanistan.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, will brief the Council on security and the reform of the security sector in Afghanistan. He is also expected to update Council members on the implementation of the Bonn Agreement and the work of various commissions called for by that agreement, including early work for the preparation of the constitution and elections.
The Council is scheduled to hold consultations on Afghanistan following the open meeting.
We’ve been informed by the Office of the Iraq Programme that on Monday, the Security Council’s 661 Iraq Sanctions Committee approved a list of just under 6,000 humanitarian supply items.
In the future, contracts for such items can be “fast-tracked” by the Office of the Iraq Programme, without prior review either by the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC)/International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) or the Sanctions Committee.
The “fast-track” list includes all food items that are procured by the Government of Iraq for distribution in the monthly food basket for the entire population of Iraq, basic medicines, supplies and consumables, as well as raw materials for the local production of basic medicines, furniture, printing paper, teaching and educational supplies, clothing, agricultural seeds and fertilizers and basic construction materials, among other things.
Liberia Panel Report
The report of the Panel of Experts on Liberia Sanctions is out as a Security Council document today.
It was transmitted by Ambassador Kishore Mahbubani of Singapore in his capacity as Chairman of the Security Council Sanctions Committee on Liberia.
On the arms embargo, the Panel notes that it has uncovered new violations, including the delivery of 200 tons of weapons and ammunition supplies to Liberia from June to August of this year. The weapons were mainly from old Yugoslav stocks and were supplied by a Belgrade-based arms dealer. A non-existent Nigerian company and a number of go-between companies and brokers were involved with these illicit arms sales, according to the Panel.
The four-member Panel also says that arms continue to reach the rebel Group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) through Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire or Guinea.
The Panel recommends that the arms embargo be continued and extended to all armed non-State actors in the region, including the LURD.
The Panel members make a number of observations and recommendations in such areas as sources of government funds, the travel and diamond bans, and the humanitarian impact of sanctions.
Democratic Republic of the Congo
We have two items today on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
First, the report of the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s Special Rapporteur for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ulia Motoc, is out on the racks. In it she concludes that massive human rights violations are continuing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in territories under the defacto control of the Congolese Rally for Democracy-Goma and the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo.
In areas under the control of the Government, Ms. Motoc says human rights violations are continuing, above all in the administration of justice. However, she notes that there has been some progress in the protection of human rights by the Government, notably relating to the release of child soldiers from detention and the lifting of restrictions on political activity.
The second item relates to the plight of refugees from the Central African Republic to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has received reports that a number of residents of the Central African Republic capital Bangui, which has been the scene of fighting in recent days, have been prevented from crossing the Ubangi river to seek refuge in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Some who have managed to cross say that Central African Republic Government soldiers are trying to extract money as people make their way across the river.
UNHCR is ferrying supplies and has opened registration centres in the Congolese border town of Zongo to process the new arrivals from the Central African Republic.
There's more information on the UNHCR Web site.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Michael Steiner, today met in Belgrade with Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica and other senior officials, briefing them on the current situation in Kosovo.
In comments to reporters afterward, Mr. Steiner said he believed that Kosovo’s Serbs had “shot themselves in the foot” with their low turnout in last week’s municipal elections. The low Serb turnout, he said, “has diminished their capacity to take part in decision-making in Kosovo".
He noted that following that outcome, it made no sense to go forward with a meeting he had proposed for Kosovo’s political parties to discuss decentralization this Friday. However, he added, “this does not mean that the philosophy of decentralization is off the table”.
We have a press release with more details.
The High-level Segment of the Eighth Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change began today in New Delhi, India. The Secretary-General’s message to the Conference, delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Nitin Desai, said that agreements reached at the Johannesburg Summit had implications for efforts to address the effects of climate change. He said: “We must pursue their goals, as well as the Millennium Development Goals and the quest for sustainable development, with vigour and commitment if we are to make a long-overdue investment in the survival and security of future generations.”
We have the full text of the Secretary-General’s message available in my office along with the remarks he will deliver at the memorial service for Cyrus Vance and at the United Nations Development Programme Poverty Eradication Awards Dinner this evening. We also have the text of the Secretary-General’s message delivered on his behalf to the regional meeting of the International Chamber of Commerce which is taking place in Yaoundé, Cameroon.
World Health Report
The World Health Organization (WHO) today launched its 2002 World Health Report, "Preventing Risks, Promoting Healthy Life". The report says life expectancy can be increased by five to 10 years if governments and individuals tackle major health risks. Life expectancy worldwide ranges from a low of 25 years in Sierra Leone to a high of 73 years in Japan.
The report shows that 47 per cent of global mortality is attributable to the leading 20 risk factors. The top preventable causes of death include childhood and maternal underweight, unsafe sex, high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol use, unsafe water and sanitation, and iron deficiency.
There's also "overweight" in there, but I didn't want to embarrass anybody.
The report provides a road map of how to tackle a wide range of preventable conditions that kill millions of people prematurely. Recommendations have been tailored to suit high, middle and low-income countries. The report concludes that the results of reducing risks and promoting healthy life will have far-reaching effects and lasting social value for all countries.
We have a press kit on that in my office.
In a new study launched today, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has called for the demobilization and reintegration of 70,000 child soldiers currently serving in the East Asia and Pacific Region.
The study, entitled “Adult Wars, Child Soldiers: Voices of Children Involved in Armed Conflict in the East Asia and Pacific Region”, is based on interviews with 69 current and former child combatants from six Asian countries. The average recruitment age of those interviewed was 13 years, while the youngest was forcibly recruited at the age of seven.
Those interviewed reported numerous abuses, including brutal training regimens, hard labour and severe punishments while serving in armed groups. Some said they had been forced to witness or commit atrocities, including rape and murder, while others spoke of seeing friends and family killed.
UNICEF’s Executive Director, Carol Bellamy, is releasing the study, and urges countries to quickly ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which outlaws the involvement of any child under the age of 18 in hostilities.
We have the UNICEF report and its press release available in the office.
World Food Programme News
The World Food Programme (WFP) today approved a new relief operation for Central America. The Programme is seeking $66 million to assist an additional 690,000 people hard-hit by recent droughts, which in turn have adversely affected the coffee crop. WFP is currently assisting more than one and a half million people in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.
WFP also warned that victims of the fighting in northern Uganda would soon face severe shortages unless donors come forward with urgent contributions. WFP needs 18,000 tons of food to feed more than half a million people until the end of the year.
We have press releases on both those items.
Spiderman and UNICEF
Okay, if you like Spiderman, get ready. Tomorrow, 31 October, there will be a Halloween party for children of United Nations delegates and staff starting at 5 p.m. on the Visitors' Plaza to highlight the "Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF" fundraising campaign. There will be a special appearance by Spiderman -– and I don't know if he's going to climb the building, I think they were trying to get clearance from the security people for him to do that -– but anyway, he'll be there, and he'll present UNICEF with a donation, encouraging the attendees to "Be a Hero: Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF".
Following the party, at 6:15 p.m., there will be a premiere screening of the DVD version of Spiderman in Conference Room 4, and the event is co-sponsored by UNICEF, the United States Fund for UNICEF, the United Nations Department of Public Information and Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment.
At 11 a.m. tomorrow, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, will be here to present the report "Progress of the World's Women, Vol. 1: The Independent Experts' Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women's Role in Peace-Building". She will be joined by the two independent experts who worked on the report, Elisabeth Rehn and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
And finally, World Chronicle programme number 868, featuring Adnan Amin, Director of the New York Office for (UNEP), will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channel 3 and 31.
Anything before we go to Richard?
Question: Does the Security Council have anything to do with the distribution of food and other items in Iraq?
Spokesman: No, this has already gone through the process. I think you're referring to the items that I listed under the oil-for-food. No, that's all done, those items can now be freely imported by Iraq. Yes?
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to visit Mr. Denktash?
Spokesman: I can't say for sure. I did ask him this morning. He said that his intention was to try to see Mr. Denktash by the end of this week, if they can find a mutually convenient time. So I think he's hoping to visit him. That would be just a private visit to wish him a quick recovery.
Question: Has the Secretary-General invited Mr. Clerides to come to New York next week?
Spokesman: I don't have that information here. I'll have to check for you after the briefing.
Question: Is the Secretary-General planning any trips or planning to visit any of the P5 members?
Spokesman: I don't have anything specific to announce. He has one more large trip to make this year and that will be in mid-November, but I can't give you any further details now. That will include an official visit to a P5 country. Before he leaves on that trip, he will make a short visit to another P5 capital. But we're not ready to announce that yet either. And then I think he's going to take some time off around Christmas, but that's not official.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly
This morning the General Assembly plenary took up agenda item 52, "The report of the Secretary-General on strengthening of the United Nations". In his introductory remarks, President Kavan said that he finds it particularly welcome that the Secretary-General clearly dispelled any anxiety that the reforms could lead to the curtailment of the development agenda in the United Nations.
While recognizing that the initial informal response to the Secretary-General’s proposals has been very positive, President Kavan went on to say that, “UN reform is a continuing process and therefore I see the report as a stepping-stone towards further improvements in the work of both the Secretariat and the
General Assembly,” which is why, he goes on to say, “many of the proposals could bring fresh ideas into the process of the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, which the Presidency fully supports.
"UN reform is not and cannot be perceived as a unilateral action. It is a process in which a joint effort of the membership and the Secretariat is absolutely crucial for getting the second phase of reforms started and agreed actions implemented.”
In outlining how he intends to handle debate, President Kavan stressed that this is going to be an open and transparent process in which all interested and concerned delegations will be involved. After the plenary debate, which will continue tomorrow, open-ended informal consultations will take place, possibly as soon as Friday.
In closing, President Kavan informed delegations, “I will carefully listen to your views, your proposals and concerns, both at this plenary and during the informal consultations. After the debate and first round of informal consultations, during which further clarification will be provided by the Secretariat, I will introduce a draft resolution in which I will reflect those views.
"I hope I can count on your constructive and active support. I do believe that given good political will, dedicated time and energy of concerned delegations, and a bit of luck, we will have a workable endorsed resolution before Christmas.”
President Kavan’s introductory remarks are available in the Spokesman’s Office, and this morning over 60 States were inscribed to speak.
The First Committee holds a general debate and considers a draft resolution on the question of Antarctica today and the Special Political and Decolonization committee continues debate on questions relating to information.
The Second Committee this afternoon takes action on draft resolutions on environment and sustainable development and starts discussion of implementation of the United Nations Decade for the Eradication of Poverty 1997-2006.
The Third Committee takes up human rights questions and the implementation of human rights instruments.
The Sixth Committee discusses the report of the International Law Commission and the report of the Special Committee on the Charter and on strengthening the role of the Organization.
And just a heads-up for Friday, 1 November, the Committee on Relations with the Host Country will meet in the Trusteeship Chamber.
Question: What did the Secretary-General say in his statement yesterday?
Spokesman: I don't have the text of his remarks. I can get that for you.
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