DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
29 June 2005
Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Guest at Noon Briefing
Our guest today will be Under-Secretary-General José Antonio Ocampo of Economic and Social Affairs. He will be joining us today to brief on the United Nations mid-year economic review called the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects as of Mid-2005.
**Economic and Social Council
Earlier today, the Secretary-General addressed the Economic and Social Council’s High-Level Segment, saying that, while economic growth was vital to the fight against poverty, it was not enough. Instead, the world needed smarter policies, more resources and closer partnerships, so that the benefits of globalization could reach everyone.
He added that, just like the developed countries, developing countries must do their part -- by devising bold national strategies to meet development goals and through promoting accountable and transparent governance, among other things.
The Secretary-General also laid out steps for making the Economic and Social Council more flexible, dynamic and relevant. And he called on it to reinforce its links with the Security Council, so that it could better address the economic and social dimensions of conflicts.
And the full text is available upstairs.
Turning to Zimbabwe, Anna Tibaijuka, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, met earlier today with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. The President assured Ms. Tibaijuka that she could go whereever she wanted in the course of her mission.
She has already begun visits to a number of sites around the capital, including some that have been cleared, as well Government-sponsored relocation sites. She will continue these visits in the coming days and will also meet with a wide array of civil society representatives.
**Security Council - Sudan
Turning to Sudan, the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Court told the Security Council this morning that there is a “significant amount of credible information” to show that grave crimes have taken place in Sudan’s Darfur region.
Those crimes, Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo told the Council in an open meeting, include the killing of thousands of civilians, the widespread destruction and looting of villages and the displacement of some 1.9 million civilians. In addition, he said that his office has received information showing the persistent targeting and intimidation of humanitarian personnel.
He said that his office is continuing to study what cases in Darfur would be admissible in court. Preparations for investigations, Moreno Ocampo added, are advancing rapidly. The meeting was followed by a private meeting of the Council, also on Sudan.
Once that ends, Moreno Ocampo has said that he intends to talk to reporters at the Security Council stakeout. And that should be happening very shortly. And we will have, of course, upstairs his statement that he delivered to the Security Council.
Turning to Sudan, the United Nations Mission in Sudan, at its weekly press briefing in Khartoum, today reports that tensions continue in the eastern part of the country. The mission also reports that the overall level of insecurity around North, West and South Darfur has improved, although in all three States there are still many incidents of vehicles and residences being looted.
On the Security Council’s agenda for this afternoon, they will be meeting at 3 p.m. for consultations on Sudan to discuss the Secretary-General’s report, which we flagged for you yesterday.
They will also hold consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as other matters.
From Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) tells us that there has been an exchange of fire between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defence Forces, in the Shab’a farms area.
The hostile activity began in late afternoon, local time, and is ongoing, with an Israeli Defence Force’s air raid into the vicinity of Shab’a reported in the last half hour. There are conflicting indications and claims from both sides as to who commenced fire. UNIFIL, the United Nations Force, is in contact with both sides trying to obtain a ceasefire and is in the process of ascertaining the facts on the ground.
On Somalia, in a quarterly report on the situation in that country, which is out on the racks today, the Secretary-General says that there is an urgent need for Somali leaders to enter into a serious dialogue to search for consensus on issues regarding relocation of the Transitional Federal Government and institutions from Kenya to Somalia. This would ensure credibility with the people of Somalia and with the international community, he maintains.
The Secretary-General also welcomes the efforts of the leaders in Mogadishu to restore stability in the capital, and urges the international community to provide the necessary technical and material support to improve the quality of those efforts.
**United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
Today the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, or UNODC, is launching its 2005 World Drug Report. According to the Report, some 200 million people between the ages of 15 and 64, or five per cent of the world’s population, have used illicit drugs over the last 12 months. That represents an increase from the previous year by about 15 million people. The report also notes a global increase in cannabis use, and says that the $320 billion global retail market for illicit drugs is larger than the gross domestic products of 90 per cent of the world’s countries.
We’re fortunate to have here Simone Monasebian, the UNODC’s representative in New York. She can answer any questions you have about the survey after the noon briefing and she’s in the back. And she’s also brought copies of the report and additional materials to share with you.
**Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Geneva
Today in Geneva, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) presented its Mid-Year Review of the United Nations Consolidated Appeals. Among other issues, it notes that more than $2 billion has been mobilized through the appeals. But nearly $3 billion is still needed to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of 30 million people in 29 countries.
Also, eight appeals are less than 30 per cent funded -- namely the flash appeals for Djibouti, Benin, Niger and Guyana, as well as the appeals for the Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire and the Republic of Congo. And we have more information upstairs on that issue.
**World Health Organization
Also upstairs we have an embargoed statement by Stephen Lewis, the United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa. And he is to deliver that speech today in Nairobi at a meeting of civil society organizations on the World Health Organization’s Report on Access to Treatment for AIDS.
Turning to press conferences, this afternoon at 2 p.m., Dr. Ebby Elahi, the Founder and Executive Director of the Stolen Faces Project of the Virtue Foundation, and Joseph Salim, the Executive Director of the Virtue Foundation, as well as Cindi Broadus, the author of a book called A Random Act, and Hanifa Mezoui, Chief of the Non-Governmental Organizations Section of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will be here to discuss a new documentary film called “Stolen Faces”.
And tomorrow morning at 10:15, President Tarja Halonen of Finland will speak about the High-Level Segment of the ECOSOC. And at 12:30, Ambassador Munir Akram, the Permanent Representative of Pakistan and President of the ECOSOC will also discuss the High-Level Segment of ECOSOC, and that will be of course here in 226.
Before we turn to Mr. Ocampo, any questions? Yes, Sylvian?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Nabih Berri has been re-elected for his fourth mandate as the head of the Lebanese Parliament. He immediately stated that he will oppose the disarmament of Hezbollah, as asked by the international community. Do you have any comment on that?
And also, I would like to have some more information about the discussion between Ms. Rice and Mr. Annan on Lebanon, specifically on further steps to implementation resolution 1559.
And I also wanted to ask a third question, whether there was any update on the Hariri investigation. Do you have…
Associate Spokesman: I’ll try to take your numerous questions backwards. On the Hariri investigation, as we’ve said before, the news will come out of Beirut. Mr. Mehlis’ work is ongoing.
The Secretary-General and Secretary of State did discuss Lebanon, as they had done in Brussels last week. And the implementation of 1559 is ongoing. The Secretary-General has his Special Envoy, Mr. Roed-Larsen. It’s a work in progress, and it’s moving forward.
On Mr. Berri, we’ve taken note of his election by the Parliament, but I have not seen his statement, so I won’t comment on -- I haven’t seen it.
Question: I want to refer the two Human Rights Watch reports on Israel last week. In purview of the resolutions 242 and 338, which mandates the United Nations to take into consideration the fact that Palestine [inaudible]…the Human Rights Watch report says that thousands of Palestinians, who were killed by the Israeli forces and who were not taking part in the uprising were not investigated enough by the Israeli authorities, and that has given the Israeli soldiers impunity, that they can get away with murder. And also they have reflected concern about a bill in the Knesset that could deny the victims of the OccupiedTerritories any compensation.
Associate Spokesman: You know, I think on the issue of Palestinian civilians, the Secretary-General has spoken out forcefully and numerous times, calling on Israel to protect civilians in that ongoing conflict. So, I think his view and his position on that has been clear and he’s made that appeal numerous times.
Question: This report raises especially the question about the Israeli Government authorities’ inability to investigate less than 5 per cent [inaudible]. It says that it is not doing the job and the so-called Palestinian Committee [inaudible]…
Associate Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General’s position on that is well known. He’s called for Israel to do its utmost to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians.
Question: The Secretary-General met with Condoleezza Rice yesterday and they talked about the role of the United Nations in Iraq. But given the challenges faced by coalition forces there at the moment, was there any talk between Kofi and Condoleezza about the military role in Iraq right now?
Associate Spokesman: I’m not aware specifically of discussions on the military role. The Secretary-General had, in his meeting in Brussels and yesterday, briefed the Secretary of State on the United Nations activities in Iraq, which include assistance with the constitutional drafting, the ongoing assistance with the upcoming elections and the referendum, as well as the humanitarian work in Iraq, which includes the distribution, for example, of over 6 million textbooks to elementary and intermediate school students and the provision of the majority of the chemicals needed for de-chlorination of water, to give you just two examples.
Question: I have another question also. United Nations workers are saying they haven’t voted on any agreements with VSG. What’s the newest update about that with VSG and the engineering union?
Associate Spokesman: My understanding is that the negotiations went on until very early this morning, and the Union now has -- the United Nations engineers now have before them a contract offer which they need to vote on. I don’t know when they’re voting on it, but it’s up to them to vote on it.
Question: There was a characterization of Anna Tibaijuka’s talks with President Mugabe as “very constructive”. I’m wondering what “very constructive” refers to. Is there any indication by Mr. Mugabe to Ms. Tibaijuka that he would stop throwing people out of their homes with no recourse and wrecking their lives with no recourse to anything else or not, or does “constructive” simply refer to the fact that she’s been allowed to be in the country rather than actually stopping a humanitarian atrocity.
Associate Spokesman: I think, from what I’ve been told, he was, he basically told her she could go wherever she wanted. Her mission is to be the Secretary-General’s eyes and ears on the ground and to report exactly what is going on, what the Government’s policies are, what its effects have been, what the plight of the people has been as a result of these forced relocations. It’s a situation that’s of very grave concern to the Secretary-General. That’s why he sent her there. She will then report back quickly to the Secretary-General and then we’ll see what next steps are taken.
Question: Two questions. First, Condoleezza Rice told the Secretary-General that the United States wants to see progress first on key reforms including management, administration and a number of other issues in his proposal before Security Council reform is tackled. Is the Secretary-General going to take this into account and revise his call for the issue of Security Council reform to be decided before the September Summit? And then I have another, different…
Associate Spokesman: This issue is now the focus of negotiations amongst Member States. And that’s really where the debate is. They’re discussing the President’s draft, the General Assembly President’s draft, and that’s where the focus of the discussions is.
Question: But the impetus for taking this up before the September Summit was actually the Secretary-General’s own recommendation and what I’m asking specifically is -- is he going to re-examine that recommendation?
Associate Spokesman: This Summit is a key moment for very important decision-making. And decisions need to be made on a whole range of issues, and we hope the Member States do make those decisions.
Question: I have one other quick question as a follow-up on the contract negotiation. If the contract is voted down, have provisions been made to keep up the services here, because from what we’ve been told, there wouldn’t necessarily be any engineers here to operate any of the equipment.
Associate Spokesman: We do understand that provisions are being taken, but we are hopeful that the union will agree to the contract that’s before them. But it’s obviously an ongoing negotiation.
Question: The contract, I understand, eliminates seniority for the engineers that are here. And it’s the fear of the engineers that people will be fired that are earning higher salaries. Is it the United Nations stance that, because this is a subcontractor, they don’t have to step in and try to help these engineers.
Associate Spokesman: At this point, it is an issue between the engineers and the contractor. And, as we said yesterday, we expect the contractor to provide us with excellent service. We also expect them to treat their employees fairly and in accordance with labour standards.
Question: On the Secretary-General’s rep in Zimbabwe, does she intend to visit the people whose lives have been affected?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, she’s done that today already.
Question: And there’s nothing to report on that yet?
Associate Spokesman: No, you know, this is an ongoing process. The mission is ongoing. She’s gathering information first-hand from the people affected.
Question: With regard to management reform, two questions. One, two years ago, the General Assembly gave the Secretariat the power to move 50 posts from anyone place to any other. It still hasn’t done any of them. I’m wondering if we’re actually going to see any movement by the Secretary-General to actually take those decisions. For example, maybe Mr. Ocampo here, have you identified a number of posts in DESA that you’d be willing to hand over to the Secretary-General to reprioritize, because the way I understand, is all the Department heads say we need everyone we have [inaudible].
And my second question is, the Secretary-General proposed a one-time staff buyout. Where are we with that, because I haven’t heard anything more about that?
Associate Spokesman: My understanding is, on the staff buyout, we’re still working on the modalities, but I haven’t checked on that in a while.
Question: 50 posts?
Associate Spokesman: And 50 posts, I’ll try to see if I can get some guidance on that.
Question: And, maybe just, I don’t know…
Associate Spokesman: We’ll continue and then we’ll go to Mr. Ocampo.
Question: Has the Balkans question been mentioned yesterday in the briefing with Ms. Rice, and if yes, in what terms?
Associate Spokesman: No, I’m not aware that it was.
Question: The new Under-Secretary-General for Management, he’s taken over, right?
Associate Spokesman: Yes, he has.
Question: Why can’t we have a briefing with him and talk about contracts and so forth, because I’ve heard -
Associate Spokesman: Which contracts?
Question: I mean, all kinds of contracts we’re talking about. I’ve heard that he said that anytime he has to look for anything that the United Nations has to contract out, he will look at the yellow pages. I’ve also been told that he is telling his staff –
Associate Spokesman: I’m not aware of those comments, but I’m sure that in some point, in the coming weeks, we can bring down here and introduce him to you.
Mr. Ocampo. Welcome.
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