UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Military

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

19 May 2005

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**UN Reform

In Washington this morning, Chef de Cabinet Mark Malloch Brown assured members of the US House of Representatives that the reforms being envisaged for the United Nations meant nothing less than a transformation of the Organization, from one that organizes conferences and writes reports to one that is equipped to undertake large, complex, global missions.

Speaking to the House’s Committee on International Relations, Malloch Brown said that the United Nations has made enormous strides over the past few years in many operational areas. But, he added that it has some real issues of audit oversight, management accountability, financial disclosure and general performance that it urgently needs to get right.

Malloch Brown told Congress that what is needed for a long-term, sustainable solution is for the United States and fellow Member States to agree what they want the UN to do, and then to fund it properly to do the task well. And we have the full text of his statement available upstairs.

**DSG

The Deputy Secretary-General presented today a keynote address at the VII Annual Ministerial Meeting of the Human Security Network taking place in Ottawa, Canada. The Meeting, which was opened by Canadian Foreign Minister Pettigrew, was attended by a number of other Foreign Ministers, and other foreign officials, as well as NGO representatives. And they will look at human security in the context of UN reforms.

**Reform

On a related note, the Secretary-General’s five envoys continue to be actively involved in promoting the reform proposals.

At the recent summit of the Council of Europe in Warsaw, Vaira Vike-Freiberga delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General, while Dermot Ahern offered an update on how the “In Larger Freedom” proposals are being received around the world. In the preceding weeks, they also had separate bilateral meetings with a number of their European counterparts on the issue of UN reforms.

Meanwhile Ernesto Zedillo took part in the recent meeting of the Community of Democracies in Santiago, Chile. His colleague Ali Alatas met with the President of Indonesia, as well as the Foreign Minister of Malaysia also to discuss reform. And lastly, Joachim Chissano is currently visiting African countries, including South Africa, Tanzania, Angola and Zimbabwe. The Secretary-General will have an opportunity to meet with his envoys early next month here in New York.

**Timor-Leste

The mandate of the UN Mission of Support in Timor-Leste comes to an official end tomorrow. And today, in a ceremony at the Mission’s headquarters in Dili, Timor-Leste’s President, Xanana Gusmão, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the country, Mr. Hasegawa, bid a farewell to UN peacekeepers.

The new UN political mission, which will replace the peacekeeping mission, has a mandate to be in the country until 20 May 2006 and will help ensure that Timor-Leste continues its journey towards self-sufficiency and self-reliance. And a press release is available upstairs.

**Commission of Experts

Also related to East Timor, the three-member Commission of Experts that the Secretary-General set up to review the prosecution of serious human rights violations committed in East Timor in 1999 arrived in Indonesia last night and is meeting, today and tomorrow, with senior Indonesian officials. Indonesia’s President and Foreign Minister are among those whom the Commission is meeting.

The Secretary-General established the Commission in January to assess the progress made by the judicial processes in Dili and Jakarta, and make recommendations with regard to possible future actions.

**Security Council

And just for your information, there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled today.

**Burundi

Turning to Burundi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Carolyn McAskie, and Mamadou Bah, the African Union Representative in Burundi, jointly called today on all political leaders to refrain from all acts of violence or incitement to violence during the elections period.

They urged political leaders to respect the Code of Conduct drafted by them and agreed on, and also to refrain from any acts of intimidation or incitement to violence; and to commit themselves to accept the results of the elections, once they are approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission.

**Afghanistan

In Afghanistan, the UN Mission in Afghanistan today said it is deeply troubled by the abduction of Clementina Cantoni, an Italian employee of the aid group CARE, who the mission said is an exemplary humanitarian aid worker who devoted many years of her life to helping the poor. She has spent three years in Afghanistan, working with widows and children, the UN said. The UN Mission called for her speedy and safe release. And we have more information on other activities from the UN mission in Kabul in the briefing notes upstairs.

**Palestinians

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, better known as UNRWA, is currently holding a meeting with its major donors in Amman, Jordan. The agency’s officials briefed donors on UNRWA contingency plans relating to the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The agency told donors that even large amounts of international aid would not help the two thirds of Gaza that lives in abject poverty unless Palestinians were given much improved access to the outside world.

During the meeting, the United States announced a donation of $20 million to UNRWA’s Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza to support food aid programmes in particular. On a related note, the UN-Habitat agency is organizing a training seminar for newly elected Palestinian mayors. The course, which is taking place in Egypt, will focus on management and leadership skills. And a press release is available on all those items upstairs.

**DRC Expert Panel

Out as a document today is a letter from the Secretary-General, in which he appoints members of the re-established Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo tasked with monitoring the arms embargo with the addition of a fifth expert for financial issues. And a letter is out on the racks.

**Togo

We also have upstairs copies of the Secretary-General’s message to an African summit on Togo, which is taking place today in Abuja, Nigeria. In the statement the Secretary-General commends the ongoing regional efforts to find a solution to the current problems in Togo. And the statement is available upstairs in French.

**Niger

The UN has issued a flash appeal for Niger, asking for more than $16 million to combat the severe food crisis threatening that country. Immediate needs include food aid for some 3.6 million people in nearly 4,000 villages throughout the country. The appeal, which will last from now until the end of September, focuses on helping malnourished children under the age of five, as well as pregnant women. And more information is available upstairs.

**NPT Review Conference

Yesterday afternoon, the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty Review Conference reached agreement on the allocation of agenda items to the three Main Committees and the establishment of three subsidiary bodies within those Committees. And all three Main Committees began their work today.

**ACABQ

And finally, we mentioned to you yesterday that the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, known as ACABQ, met yesterday to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on the Capital Master Plan. They will present their recommendations to the Fifth Committee tomorrow morning. And that meeting will be open to the press. The Fifth Committee will then have a closed consultation session on the Capital Master Plan in the afternoon.

And I think that is it from me. Any questions?

Yes, Sylviane?

**Questions and Answers

Question: I have three questions. The first is: When will the verification team release its report? The second is also regarding Detlev Mehlis. When is he arriving in Lebanon? Is he coming here to New York? When is he supposed to be here? And we ask also if he can meet the press and have an interview or...(Interrupted)?

Associate Spokesman: Moving backwards, yes, we’re trying to see if he can stop by and meet you before he leaves for the region. We expect him to be in New York very early next week to get briefed on the situation and to travel to Lebanon in the later part of the week.

The verification team is back in New York. They’re going over their field notes and looking over the documents that were given to them by the Syrian and Lebanese authorities. And they’ll probably report first to Mr. Roed-Larsen in the early part of next week, and the Secretary-General will then get the report a bit later on.

Question: And Ms. Perelli, is she supposed to come next week?

Associate Spokesman: She extended her stay. I think, yesterday we announced that she’ll be extending her stay in Lebanon for a bit more time. I don’t have the exact time frame.

Question: Do you know the reasons for this extension?

Associate Spokesman: I think she felt that she wanted to have more consultations with the Lebanese authorities on the electoral process.

Yes, Massoud?

Question: In his letter to the United States Congress representatives, Mr. Mark Malloch Brown says that the Secretary-General should be given back the powers to manage. What were the powers which were taken away from the Secretary-General and what are the powers that he seeks back?

Associate Spokesman: The issue for the management is to give the Secretary-General, I think, more, greater leeway, more freedom in a number of personnel management issues, in terms of the executive powers so as to better manage the Secretariat and the Organization.

Question: Yes, of course, everything has a financial implication. All these USGs and so on and so forth that he has appointed have financial implications. Can somebody give us this (inaudible); because he has made a very valid case that the United Nations is not over-sized, over-resourced, and under-supervised by the Member States. So, he is making a case that, as a matter of fact, the UN’s contributions should be increased more than decreased as the United States wants to do. Can somebody give us the financial implications?

Associate Spokesman: The financial implications?

Question: Yes.

Associate Spokesman: Well, I think the issue is to give the Secretary-General greater executive powers so that he can manage the programmes that the Member States want implemented.

Question: Does he stipulate increasing the contributions of the Member States?

Associate Spokesman: You know, I think I would point you to the last part of his speech, where he says the issue is really for the Member States to agree upon what they want the UN to do, and then give it the proper resources.

Question: Then he makes the case that it’s under-funded at this point in time?

Associate Spokesman: Well, there are obviously, some programmes that are more under-funded than others. There is also the issue of reviewing the mandates every X number of years to review the mandates to see whether or not these mandates are still applicable to the work of the Organization. Yes, Lee?

Question: Has the Secretary-General made any comment on the United States Air Force talking about weapons in space even though they’re signatories to the treaty on the peaceful uses of outer space, which bans such weapons?

Associate Spokesman: According to the Outer Space Treaty of ’67, outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty by means of use or occupation or by any other means. That’s according to article 2. The article 4 of that treaty says that States shall not place nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction in orbit or on celestial bodies or station them in outer space in any other manner. And the United States is party to that treaty. Yes, ma’am?

Question: Are you aware, or does the Secretary-General have any comment on, the talks that happened on Friday between US officials and North Korean officials and were evidently taking place in New York on Friday?

Associate Spokesman: No, I’m not aware.

Question: Do you know if any UN officials are involved?

Associate Spokesman: No, I do not know. But I can try to find out for you.

[The Associate Spokesman later said that the UN was not informed of these bilateral contacts.]

Thank you very much.

* *** *



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list