DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
26 November 2002
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Hua Jiang, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Richard Sydenham, Spokesman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General
World AIDS Day
As World AIDS Day falls on Sunday and there is the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, the Day is being observed today here at United Nations Headquarters.
A short while ago, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS launched its 2002 AIDS update in conjunction with the World Health Organization. The report shows that famine in Africa is worsened by the impact of HIV/AIDS. In farming communities in sub-Saharan countries, the disease has greatly decreased the capacity to survive famine, with output being reduced by up to 60 per cent. Since 1985, 7 million agricultural workers in 25 African countries have died from AIDS.
The epidemic is also expanding in new areas, such as Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where injecting drug use is the main mode of transmission. The report cites several successes in the fight against AIDS, from South Africa to Ethiopia to Brazil.
Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette is scheduled to give opening remarks at a panel discussion this afternoon on the theme “Live and let live”. The discussion will be moderated by Ann Curry of the Today Show and will feature guest of honour Whoopi Goldberg.
Other activities today include a panel discussion for high school students, the screening of the documentary “Pandemic: Facing AIDS” and the opening of an exhibit in the Visitors’ Lobby. We have the text of the Deputy Secretary-General’s remarks available upstairs, under embargo until delivery.
Today in Baghdad, the leaders of the United Nations weapons inspections teams gave a technical briefing to the press on their inspection activities, which will begin tomorrow.
Dimitri Perricos, the director of the Division of Planning and Operations of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), who is leading the chemical, biological and missiles inspections teams, and Jacques Baute, who is leading the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) action team in the nuclear field, explained the ways and means of conducting their respective inspections, and exhibited some of the instruments they plan to employ.
Seventeen inspectors, who arrived in Baghdad yesterday, spent the day preparing for the resumption of inspections tomorrow. They will leave the Baghdad Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Centre, their central base, for the first inspections early tomorrow morning.
This morning, the Security Council is meeting in closed consultations on the Central African Republic. Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Tuliameni Kalomoh briefed the Council on the latest political developments in that country. Afterwards, members will resume their closed consultations on Liberia, which had begun yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, Council members heard from the Executive Chairman of the UNMOVIC, Hans Blix. Blix briefed Council members in closed consultations on his, and IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei’s recent visit to Baghdad, as well as the discussions they had with the Iraqi authorities.
Following more closed consultations, the Security Council unanimously adopted two resolutions. The first was resolution 1442, which extends the mandate of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus until 15 June
2003. The second resolution extends phase XII of the United Nations oil-for-food programme for Iraq for a further nine days, until 4 December 2002.
Today is the last day this month for which the Council has scheduled work, before Colombia takes over the rotating Presidency of the Council from China on Sunday, 1 December. The Council has also agreed that, next month, the five nations that are to join the Security Council next year -- Angola, Chile, Germany, Pakistan and Spain -- will be invited to attend the Council’s consultations and the meetings of its subsidiary bodies. There is a note by the President of the Council with more details on the racks.
**Secretary-General concludes trip to Paris
The Secretary-General had a series of private meetings in Paris this morning before meeting with Koichiro Matsuura, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), with whom he discussed the United States’ decision to return to UNESCO this year, after an 18-year absence. They discussed, among other subjects: the United Nations Literacy Decade, which starts next February; preparations for the next meeting of the United Nations Chief Executives Board in Paris next March; and French President Jacques Chirac’s proposal for a convention on cultural diversity.
They also discussed bioethics and the need for greater cooperation within the United Nations system to deal with ethically complex issues, such as cloning and the handling of genetic data, and Matsuura said he would convene a meeting of United Nations agency representatives to discuss the issue.
The Secretary-General raised the issue of the preservation of monasteries in Kosovo, where religious sites are threatened by inter-communal violence and neglect, and Matsuura responded that UNESCO was already focusing on that issue.
The Secretary-General left Paris in the early afternoon, and will return to New York by the weekend.
Yesterday evening in Kosovo, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Michael Steiner, signed a directive placing all of the northern city of Mitrovica under a single municipal administration, with the United Nations Mission moving into the parallel structures that had been set up in northern Mitrovica and establishing offices of the UNMIK Administration-Mitrovica there.
The move by the United Nations Mission into northern Mitrovica is part of the effort, announced recently by Steiner, to restore normalcy to the city, which has been divided in recent years into a Serb-majority north and an Albanian-majority south.
Steiner yesterday gave a press conference in Mitrovica in which he said that northern Mitrovica had left an administrative “grey zone” and that the United Nations Mission had filled the vacuum in northern Mitrovica, by ensuring that it has a functioning administration. We have copies of what Steiner said at that press conference in a press release upstairs.
In a press release, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, said it filed a protest with the Israeli Defence Forces at the treatment of one of the Agency’s international staff members and her family. In the early hours of 22 November, an Israeli combat unit surrounded the Bethlehem home of Allegra Pacheco, UNRWA’s Field Legal Officer.
Mrs Pacheco was held at gunpoint in the open air for two hours while her house was searched, her mobile phone was taken from her and her car was used as a prop for Israeli weapons. Mrs Pacheco repeatedly protested her United Nations status to the troops. Those protests were ignored.
In addition, Mrs. Pacheco’s husband, who is recognized by the United Nations as a dependent of a staff member, was forced to partially strip before being taken into Israeli custody. The agency has since learned that an 11-day detention order has been issued in respect of Mrs. Pacheco’s husband. Currently, 23 of UNRWA’s Palestinian staff in the West Bank are being detained by the Israeli authorities. All but three are being held without charge. UNRWA has requested explanations for each arrest, but has received no reply and is refused access to its staff after their arrests. For more information, please pick up the press release upstairs.
**Iraqi oil-for-food programme
The weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme shows that the volume of Iraqi oil exports last week doubled from the previous week’s total, standing at 17.1 million barrels, or an average of more than 2.4 million barrels per day. The estimated revenue generated from the week’s sales was about $365 million. To date, more than $25.3 billion worth of humanitarian supplies and equipment have been delivered to Iraq under the oil-for-food programme. The full text of the weekly update is available upstairs.
In Luanda today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Angola, Ibrahim Gambari, launched a consolidated inter-agency appeal for 2003 by voicing his hope that this year’s appeal will be “the last United Nations emergency appeal for Angola”.
In announcing the appeal, which aims to raise $386 million, Gambari said that, now that peace is virtually irreversible in Angola, the international community should continue to support the consolidation of peace, and he appealed to all Angolans to continue to make efforts for national reconciliation and the development of democracy, as well.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Ruud Lubbers today begins a four-day mission to Colombia, where he will focus on one of the world’s most serious internal displacement situations, with more than 2 million Colombians having been displaced by the continuing internal conflict. This year alone, according to UNHCR, more than 200,000 people have been forced to flee their homes, and tens of thousands of others have sought refugee status outside Colombia.
Lubbers is to arrive in Bogotá today, where he will meet with President Alvaro Uribe and other senior officials. During his visit, the United Nations system will also present a humanitarian plan of action for Colombia. And we have more details upstairs.
**Stephen Lewis in Southern Africa
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, will begin a three-week mission to five countries tomorrow. Lewis will travel to Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to meet with Government, non-governmental organization and aid agency officials, as well as with people affected by HIV/AIDS. He will also visit a range of United Nations projects in some of the worst affected areas to see what has been achieved and what extra action is needed.
Today in Geneva, High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello addressed the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and said the Committee’s initiative to adopt a general comment on water would contribute meaningfully to the World Water Forum, to be held next March. He also discussed with the Committee the Secretary-General’s recent reform initiatives for the United Nations, which include reform proposals on the Organization’s human rights
work, and asked the Committee to reflect on the Secretary-General’s proposals and submit their views.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today announced that about 100 governments are about to agree on a major funding package for the Montreal Protocol’s Multilateral Fund. The new funds will assist developing countries in the phasing out of CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) and other ozone-depleting substances. It is estimated that developing countries will need between $530 million and $568 million to meet their 2005 targets under the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer.
UNEP also announces the launch of a multi-million dollar project, backed by the Global Environment Facility, to help nomads and communities in three African Countries to conserve and boost the prospects for native flowers, shrubs and trees. The projects in Kenya, Botswana and Mali will educate local people and others on the issues of land management and indigenous species conservation.
This morning, Jordan became the 144th country to sign the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
And World Chronicle Programme number 879 with Pascal Lamy, European Union Trade Commissioner, will be shown today at 3:30 p.m. on in-house television channels 3 and 31.
That's all I have for you; any questions?
**Question and Answer
Question: Do you have any information on Mr. de Soto's meeting with the Turkish Foreign Minister that took place today in Berlin?
Deputy Spokesman: The meeting between Mr. de Soto and the Turkish Foreign Minister will happen later today in Berlin. It hasn't happened yet, and once it's finished we’ll try to get a readout for you.
Question: Any notice from Mr. Denktash in terms of an answer?
Deputy Spokesman: No, so far we haven’t.
Question: Does the Secretary-General, then, remain optimistic that a settlement is possible, given that Mr. Denktash has made public statements claiming that the plan cannot serve as a basis for a comprehensive settlement?
Deputy Spokesman: What the Secretary-General said in the last statement still stands.
Question: Can you tell me if either Stephen Lewis and Mr. (inaudible) would be in New York now or sooner?
Deputy Spokesman: I don't have information on that, but I'll check for you afterwards.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the General Assembly President
The General Assembly Plenary this morning is discussing the outcome of the International Year of Volunteers and its follow-up. In his opening statement, President Kavan told the Assembly, “The International Year of Volunteers was launched with a view to achieving four main objectives: recognition; facilitation; networking; and promotion of volunteering. Accomplishments in all of these areas have been remarkable.”
“The International Year of Volunteers was a milestone in recognizing the tireless work of volunteers around the world. It generated and mobilized public awareness. It helped to connect volunteers from various parts of the world, and most importantly, it created an environment conducive and motivating to volunteer action.”
He goes on to say, "clearly, many more governments now see volunteerism as a valuable asset, which needs to be strategically factored into development policies and programmes. The Year has contributed significantly to the attainment of the Millennium Goals.” The President’s remarks are available on the Web site.
Some 19 speakers are inscribed, with the debate and action on draft resolution L.8 expected to conclude this morning on this item.
President Kavan will address the meeting this afternoon commemorating AIDS Day. And in his message, President Kavan points out that The Declaration of Commitment that emanated from the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS provides specific guidelines for governments to follow and act upon. There is a determined commitment amongst the United Nations family, including through the work of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), to enhance coordination and transparency and mobilize the world community to this challenge.
Then President Kavan goes on to thank “the many workers and distinguished personalities around the world who have so generously given their time, as advocates, as counsellors, as care givers, and who have shared with us their thoughts and experiences publicly, thus supporting the work of the Secretary General and the United Nations in our determination to fight this pandemic, and have helped to lend transparency to this social issue, thereby assisting to remove the stigma and shame attached to it.” This message is available as a press release and published on the President’s Web site.
The Second and Fifth Committees are in informal discussions today and tomorrow the Plenary takes up the report of ECOSOC.
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