DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
14 February 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Fred Eckhard, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Djibril Diallo, Spokesman for the General Assembly President.
Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Guest at Noon
I wanted to delay a bit while the President of the Security Council spoke to you at the stakeout.
Our guest today is Stephen Lewis, very well known to you, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. And he’ll be briefing on a recent visit he paid to Zambia.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
We have the following statement attributable to the Spokesman regarding events in Beirut today:
“The Secretary-General has learned with great sadness and shock of the brutal murder in the heart of Beirut today of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri of Lebanon, together with two former ministers and a number of others.
“Mr. Hariri’s death is an immense loss to Lebanon, the region and the international community. He will always be remembered for his dedication to the people of Lebanon, for his success as a statesman and a businessman, for his great achievements in the reconstruction of Lebanon after a long and ugly conflict, and for his courage and directness in public and in private. The Secretary-General sends his deepest condolences to Mr. Hariri’s wife and family, as well as to all the other bereaved families.
“The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms those who instigated, planned and executed this callous political assassination. Such acts are a reversion to a chapter in Lebanon’s history that he had hoped was long past. It is imperative that the already fragile situation in the region should not be further destabilized.
“Meanwhile, the Secretary-General urges all Lebanese to exercise utmost restraint, and to use peaceful means in support of their national aspiration to full sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
**Secretary-General in Munich
The Secretary-General yesterday addressed the forty-first Munich Conference on Security Policy, in which he called on Europe and America “to think ahead and to help plant the seeds of long-term global collective security”. The message is simple, he said: “Our global security environment has been transformed, and our global collective security system, including the United Nations, must be transformed too.”
He laid out a four-part formula to realize this vision: First, strengthen our collective defences; second, when prevention fails, consider the use of force; third, equip ourselves to build lasting peace in war-torn lands; and fourth, take democratization, development and human rights seriously.
The Secretary-General turned to Sudan, and said, “People are dying every single day while we fail to protect them.” He said that organizations with real capacity, including NATO and the European Union, must give serious consideration to what, in practical terms, they can do to help end this tragedy.
In the margins of the conference, the Secretary-General met with the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, who had just returned from visiting the tsunami-devastated province of Aceh, in Indonesia. They also discussed Israeli-Palestinian issues, post-election Iraq, the Iranian nuclear issue and Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General had met with German President Horst Kohler, Defence Minister Peter Struck, and two opposition leaders, Angela Merkel and Edmund Stoiber, as well as with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and Javier Solana, the European Union High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy.
On Saturday evening, the Secretary-General was presented the first “Peace through Dialogue” award at a dinner ceremony.
**DRC - Moroccan Soldiers Arrested
The Moroccan Mission to the United Nations, in a press release over the weekend, announced that it has arrested six of its soldiers serving as peacekeepers in the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (MONUC) following allegations of sexual violence against Congolese civilians.
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has welcomed the decision by the Moroccan Government to make public its decision.
MONUC considers that the jailing of the suspects -- pending their prosecution by a Court Martial -- shows that the Moroccan authorities attach as much importance to eradicating sexual abuse within UN peacekeeping missions as does the UN.
The mission hopes that the vigorous and public reaction of Morocco will serve as an example and that other troop-contributing countries will follow.
We will have more on this shortly in a press release from the UN mission.
**Statement Attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General on Togo
On Saturday, we issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesman on the situation in Togo:
“The Secretary-General is concerned over the deteriorating security situation in Togo. He expresses his sadness over deaths and injuries that have resulted from the violent incident in Lomé on 12 February. He calls on all sides to exercise maximum restraint, while efforts continue to find an early and peaceful solution to the country’s current crisis.”
The Security Council held consultations today on the election of a member of the International Court of Justice.
Tomorrow, the Security Council has scheduled a formal meeting to elect a judge to the Court to replace Judge Gilbert Guillaume of France, who is retiring.
**Security Council - Sudan
At 4 p.m. on Wednesday, the Security Council has scheduled a briefing by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, on the Report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur.
UNICEF draws attention to dozens of babies being born in Darfur to mothers raped during the ongoing conflict in western Sudan, referring to a recent UN report on war crimes in the region, which has highlighted widespread attacks on women and girls.
In an effort to minimize women and girls’ exposure to attack, UNICEF says it is working to develop locally produced, fuel-effective stoves which use much less firewood. These would cut down on time spent outside the relative safety of the camps.
Meanwhile, for those who have already been attacked, UNICEF says it is working to ensure that both the mothers and the children are not discriminated against, have opportunities for education and have an opportunity to receive health care.
The UN Mission, meanwhile, continues to report on attacks in Darfur, including incidents over the weekend in south Darfur.
There is an update in my office with details.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Søren Jessen-Petersen, yesterday received Serbian President Boris Tadic at the headquarters of the UN Mission in Kosovo.
Jessen-Petersen noted progress in implementing Kosovo’s standards, but acknowledged that more could be done to facilitate freedom of movement and the return of displaced persons. He also called for the full participation of Kosovo Serbs in the political and democratic process.
Tadic’s visit is the first of a Serbian President to Kosovo since 1999. We have more in a press release on that upstairs.
The UN Mission in Afghanistan says that Jalalabad has become the second region in Afghanistan to be completely disarmed. The Mission said yesterday that the First Corps in Jalalabad has now finished its disarmament, with that region and Mazar-el-Sharif now fully decommissioned.
The Mission says that the total number of military personnel who have been disarmed throughout the country is more than 39,000. And we have more in the briefing notes from Kabul upstairs.
The UN Disaster Management Team in Pakistan is helping that country’s Government to cope with heavy snowfall and rains that have killed more than 300 people.
As an immediate step, UNICEF is rushing a truckload of relief items -- including emergency food rations and water purification tablets -- to Pakistan’s western region of Balochistan.
For their part, the UN refugee agency is contributing tents to survivors, and the World Health Organization is donating emergency medical supplies. We have more information on that upstairs.
Now, turning to Georgia, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, arrived in Tbilisi today, to discuss the peace process between Georgia and Abkhazia with Georgian officials. He will also meet with Abkhaz de facto officials in Sukhumi.
And we have a press release on that upstairs.
**WFP – Africa
We must ensure that the tsunami does not draw funds away from hungry Africans, James Morris, said today. He’s the head of the World Food Programme (WFP).
Currently, donations to WFP’s operations in Africa for 2005 amount to just 5 per cent of the nearly 2 billion dollars needed. Last January those donations dropped by 21 per cent.
We have a press release with more on that upstairs.
** DSG Press Conference
At noon tomorrow, the Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, will be here to brief you on two issues addressed in the interim report of the independent Inquiry Committee on the UN oil-for-food programme. Those are UN procurement and reform of audit and oversight.
And following that, I will have my regular daily briefing.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Finally, a press conference tomorrow at 11:00, Ambassador Cesar Mayoral of Argentina, the Chairman of the Al-Qaida Taliban Sanctions Committee, and Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Al-Qaida Taliban Monitoring Team, will be here to brief you on the Team’s second report.
That’s all I have for you.
I believe we’re also going to have a statement on the Iraqi elections that is going through the final clearance and I hope to get it any second.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Fred, when the SG says that the killing of Rafik al-Hariri may be a reversion, as you said, to a chapter of Lebanese history that he thought was long over, can you be a little bit more specific what he means by that?
Spokesman: I don’t think I need to be, really. I mean, you know about the Lebanon civil war. You know the destruction and death that it caused, over a long period of time, throughout the country. Mr. Hariri was instrumental in rebuilding Beirut. And the hope was that there would be no return to the violence. That it was a chapter of history.
So, he’s hoping that this bloody assassination attempt will not be a return to the days of civil war in Lebanon.
Question: Doesn’t he feel that the act does bring Lebanon closer to a civil war?
Spokesman: He does not want to speculate about that now, except to say that there’s a red flag. It’s a warning signal. And he urges Lebanese to pull back; think hard and not sink back into the old days of civil war.
Question: Just one more, if I may. Regardless of who actually carried out the killing of Rafik al-Hariri, does the SG have an assessment of the repercussions for that killing in terms of Syrian politics inside Syria?
Spokesman: I have to limit myself to the statement.
Question: Fred, first on Lebanon, the President of the Security Council just said that the Security Council has requested a report on the bombing from the Secretariat. First of all, who is going to? Is that Terje Roed-Larsen is going to write the report and when do you think that report might come?
Spokesman: You’re hitting me with that cold. So, let me find out. Mr. Larsen is here in New York, following his recent visit to the region. And Mr. de Mistura is in Baghdad and has not yet been replaced as our envoy in Beirut. So, I’ll have to find out for you (a) who will do it and; (b) what the timeframe might be.
Question: And just sort of a couple of little things. One is you sort of talked about Louise Arbour and Darfur. (Inaudible)...investigating what that was?
Spokesman: She has been invited to brief the Security Council, I think I said on Wednesday regarding -- yes, 4 p.m. on Wednesday -- regarding the report of the International Commission of Inquiry on Darfur regarding possible genocide, crimes against humanity.
Question: And a third little thing, in-house. The last we heard, is that you had submitted your resignation to the Secretary-General. Did the Secretary-General accept it or did he reject it? Or did he...(Inaudible)?
Spokesman: Well, that’s a private matter between me and the Secretary-General and we can talk about it outside the briefing room, if you don’t mind.
Question: Well, while you’re here, any reaction from the UN to the ABC Brian Ross report which showed UN peacekeepers taking prostitutes in Congo into a van with UN logos; and William Swing, the UN’s man there said, “Well, I will look into it.” What’s been the reaction to this? Is the no-sex, no-fraternization rule really holding in all these countries? I know the Secretary-General asked for more people to check on it.
Spokesman: Well, I think what we have been doing in recent weeks and even months, is in reaction to the kinds of images you saw on television. So, the Secretary-General’s letter to the Security Council of last week announcing the no-fraternization policy is just one step. We have cleared areas around UN military camps of brush to make surveillance of the camps easier. We have imposed a curfew from 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. We have announced a no-fraternization rule. We’ve shut down little stalls of local people selling things on the fringes of the camp to reduce the contact between the soldiers and local people. And we’ve increased police patrols and we’ve asked for more police.
So, those I think are all the things that we’re doing to get this awful situation under control. And of course, as I just mentioned, we’ve welcomed the announcement of the Moroccan Government over the weekend, because we can’t do it alone.
The discipline, and where necessary, the judicial action against soldiers is clearly the responsibility of the troop contributors. So, it has to be good, clear guidelines laid down by the UN mission and then rigorous follow-up on the part of the troop contributors.
Question: So, the UN is still not taking any eventual responsibility for the babies that you mentioned UNICEF talked about; well, in Congo and elsewhere? Forget the UNICEF reference too; babies that have been born through rape by UN peacekeepers.
Spokesman: I don’t have anything on that. I’ll have to see what we have, what our position is that on that. I honestly don’t know. [He later said that military are the responsibility of their governments. For civilians for whom paternity is proven, child support can be deducted form UN salaries.]
Question: Did Mr. Larsen believe that Mr. Hariri’s life was in danger?
Spokesman: I’d have to let him speak to that. As I said, he’s in New York. I don’t know that he’s taking press calls, but he’s just across the street and I have not spoken to him this morning.
Question: Do you suppose you could make him available to us?
Spokesman: I could ask, yes.
Okay. So, Stephen, come on up and talk to us about Zambia and then we’ll get to Djibril on the General Assembly.
Spokesman for General Assembly President
The working group on the Convention against the Reproductive Cloning of Human Beings is meeting the whole day today in a closed session to discuss the text of a declaration against reproductive cloning.
This morning the Open-Ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council was meeting. This is the second meeting of the Working Group; following the meeting the group will hold an informal meeting.
In his address to the Working Group this morning, General Assembly President Jean Ping suggested to the Member States to dedicate the coming meetings of the Working Group to discussing issues of working methods of the Security Council and transparency of its work. The report of the High-Level Panel calls, in paragraph 258, for “the process to improve transparency and accountability be incorporated and formalized in the Council’s rules of procedure”. This is what the Working Group will be focused on for the coming few meetings but of course it will review all the other subjects relating to the Security Council reform.
The two Vice-Chairmen, from Bahamas and Lichtenstein, will be working closely with the Permanent Representatives of Panama and of the Netherlands.
The third item of this briefing: last Friday you received an interim briefing on the continuation of the exchange of views on findings and recommendations of the United Nations Millennium project 2005. Here is a more substantive report on the results of the meeting based on the closing remarks of General Assembly President Jean Ping. This briefing will be divided into two parts: comments of a general nature offered by delegations; and specific comments on the ten recommendations contained in the report.
Fifty-two delegations took the floor during the three informal sessions and offered these comments: several delegations welcomed the fact that the report established a clear linkage between development and security; delegations also noted with satisfaction the statement by the report that it is still possible to reach the Millennium Development Goals provided that the development partners respect their commitments. In this connection, several speakers pointed out, with satisfaction, the emphasis placed by the Report on the need to reinforce the capacities of developing countries.
“Development is not limited to the sole achievement of the Millennium Development Goals” said some speakers, adding that it was a much broader phenomenon.
Some delegations deplored the fact that the Report did not focus more substantively on important development questions that had been raised during past United Nations Summits.
Now, here are specific comments on the 10 recommendations contained in the report.
You may recall that recommendation 1 of Jeffrey Sachs’ report has to do with the adoption of poverty reduction strategies. In connection with that recommendation, several speakers welcomed the analysis of the report, according to which each government should adopt a development strategy based on its own national realities and taking into account its own goals.
Recommendation 2 deals with the principals and means behind poverty reduction strategies. And here too, several delegations stressed the importance of ownership by countries and regions of their development strategies, priorities and programmes.
Recommendation 3 received support from delegations. That recommendation focused on the formulation and implementation of poverty reduction strategies in a transparent and inclusive manner.
Recommendation 4 was the subject of several comments, and you will recall that recommendation deals with the focus by international donors on those countries with a potential for an accelerated achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. In this connection, several delegations felt that it was necessary to study further the suggested selection criteria for such countries; that the least developed countries, landlocked ones, the poorest among the countries and small island developing States should not be forgotten. That political conditionality should be avoided in the selection of countries; and that recipient countries should be invited in the definition of selection criteria.
On recommendation 5, which focuses on “quick-win” measures, this had also to be the subject of national ownership as an approach, said some delegations.
Several delegations shared information on ways in which their countries are adapting national strategies to regional initiatives, as stipulated in recommendation 6.
The need to increase official development assistance (ODA) highlighted in recommendation 7, was the subject of discussions and focus by delegations. And several participants agreed that only a doubling of the ODA could lead to the achievement of the MDGs.
As for recommendation 8 and the opening of markets and the completion of the Doha cycle by 2006, several delegations added that such measures should be accompanied by a set of rules, bearing in mind the specific needs of developing countries.
Addressing recommendation 9 on scientific research for development, delegations stressed the need for adequate transfer of technologies to developing countries.
On the issue of strengthening of coordination not only in the United Nations but also at national levels, as contained in recommendation 10, several speakers underlined the important role that the United Nations, especially the Economic and Social Council, could play in coordination and oversight of commitments made by Member States.
Finally, President Ping encouraged delegations to continue consultations bearing in mind the meeting of 22 February, which will focus on the two reports: the Jeffrey Sachs’ report; and the Report of the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.
That’s all I have for you, any questions?
If not, thank you.
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