DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
18 January 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Guests at Noon
Kevin Kennedy, Director of the Coordination and Response Division in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is already here, and when I finish the briefing,he will join us to provide an update on the assistance to the tsunami-affected areas.
And following the briefing, we will have also Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. He will talk about his recent trips to Malawi and Tanzania.
**New UNICEF Head
A short while ago here in room 226, the Secretary-General announced the appointment of Ann M. Veneman, outgoing Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), as the new Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF). And the Secretary-General’s announcement of that is available upstairs.
**Tsunami Meeting at GA
The Secretary-General following that press conference, today opened the General Assembly’s plenary meeting on the tsunami by saying that, during his recent visit to tsunami-stricken areas, he saw mile after mile of desolation, but also saw examples of the best that humanity has to offer.
If this disaster was unprecedented, he said, so was the international response. More than 60 governments have pledged assistance so far, while the United Nations mobilized itself early and quickly. Official pledges to the UN flash appeal now stand at $739 million, or more than three quarters of what we asked for.
“Today, we can say with some confidence that the humanitarian response is on track”, the Secretary-General said. He added that he will name a special envoy by the end of this week to ensure coordination of the response and encourage long-term engagement. We have copies of his speech upstairs.
There are 44 speakers inscribed for today’s meeting. The Assembly will also consider a resolution which, among other things, requests the Secretary-General to explore ways to further strengthen the rapid response capacities for immediate humanitarian relief efforts of the international community.
We understand that after the morning session, the General Assembly President, Mr. Jean Ping, will be in this room to brief you on the session.
It’s not enough to pick up the pieces when a disaster like last month’s tsunami occurs. Instead, we must work to prevent such tragedies from occurring in the future.
Those remarks were part of the Secretary-General’s video message to the World Conference on Disaster Reduction, which opened today in Kobe, Japan.
The Secretary-General added that the world was looking to the conference to do three things: help make communities more resilient in the face of natural disasters; mobilize resources and empower populations; and galvanize global action.
Opening the conference was the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland, who said that disaster-risk reduction is not an additional expense, but rather an essential investment in our common future.
Egeland also proposed that over the next 10 years, a minimum of 10 per cent of the billions now spent on disaster relief by all nations should be earmarked for disaster-risk reduction.
And here in New York, the Security Council is currently holding an open meeting on the work of the Counter-Terrorism Committee. The Committee’s Chair, Ambassador Andrey Denisov of Russia, briefed the Council on its recent work. At the end of the open meeting, the Council is expected to adopt a presidential statement concerning the Committee’s work.
Earlier today, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution which responded to recent requests by the Secretary-General considering the appointment of judges to specific cases being tried in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
Security Council members today will also hold their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General.
And then turning to Africa, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that residents of Burundi’s northern provinces continue to leave the area due to food insecurity.
The UN refugees agency (UNHCR), meanwhile, reports that the number of refugees fleeing the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) into Uganda has risen to 20,000 in the past week. The refugees say they’re fleeing fighting in the DRC’s east, and the refugee agency says it has received reports that more refugees are on their way.
We have updates on both of these developments upstairs.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia yesterday sentenced a former Bosnian Serb colonel to 18 years imprisonment, and a Bosnian Serb major to nine years, after finding both to have committed crimes that resulted in the execution of thousands of Bosnian Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995.
The Tribunal, in particular, found one of them guilty of complicity to commit genocide for the actions he took as the commander of a brigade in Srebrenica. And there are copies of the text of the Tribunal’s judgement upstairs.
**Press Conference Today
And as I mentioned, following the briefing by Kevin and by Stephen Lewis, the General Assembly President is also expected to hold a press conference on today’s session.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And at 11 a.m. tomorrow, we have Ambassador Djangoné-Bi of Côte d’Ivoire, who will be here to talk about the latest developments in his country.
And at approximately 12:45 p.m. tomorrow, Ambassador Andrey Denisov of the Russian Federation, and Javier Ruperez, Executive Director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, will brief on the Committee’s activities.
And that’s all I have for you.
I believe we’re also waiting for a note on a press encounter tomorrow regarding the special sessions of the General Assembly next week, and I am awaiting that announcement.
But I’ll turn the floor over to Kevin.
[After Kevin Kennedy’s briefing]
Any more questions for Kevin? Thank you very much.
And I’ll turn the floor over to Stephen Lewis. I just want to make one quick announcement before that, which is that tomorrow -- this is for your planning purposes –- at noon there will be an event as part of the run of the special session on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.
The Secretary-General will be joined at the Security Council stakeout by the President of the General Assembly and the Permanent Representatives of the sponsors of the session, that’s Israel, Russia, the United States, Canada, Australia and Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union.
They are expected to make a few comments and then field some questions regarding the special session scheduled for Monday, 24 January.
So, due to the timing of this event, we will have the noon briefing at 11:30 a.m. here in room 226.
And I turn over the floor over to Stephen Lewis.
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