DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
22 October 2007
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon all.
The Security Council this morning adopted a presidential statement condemning in the strongest terms the bomb attacks that took place in Karachi, Pakistan, last Thursday. The Council underlined the need to bring the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of the bombings to justice, and urged all States to cooperate actively with the Pakistani authorities in this regard.
The Council then received a briefing in an open meeting on Côte d’Ivoire by Abou Moussa, the Secretary-General’s Principal Deputy Special Representative for that country. He noted the progress in implementing the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement and the restoration of State authority throughout the country.
The Council is now holding consultations on Côte d’Ivoire.
**Security Council -- Women and Peace and Security
Tomorrow, the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate on Women and Peace and Security. The Council will discuss implementation of resolution 1325 (2000), on addressing gender-based violence against women and including a gender perspective in areas of peace and security.
This afternoon at 2 p.m., here in Room 226, there will be a briefing by Rachel Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; and Joanne Chandler, the acting Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The Government of Myanmar has confirmed that it has agreed to the visit by the Secretary-General’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Mr. Paolo Sergio Pinheiro.
In a letter to the Secretary-General on Friday, Myanmar’s Foreign Minister suggested that Mr. Pinheiro’s visit take place before the ASEAN summit meeting, scheduled to open on 17 November.
** Sudan -- Eliasson
As you know, on 27 October, UN-AU-led peace negotiations on Darfur are set to begin in Libya.
We are arranging for Jan Eliasson, the UN’s Special Envoy for Darfur, to brief you by video link later this week. I hope to have Mr. Eliasson as the guest at Wednesday’s briefing.
** Sudan -- Immunization
On Sudan, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF announced that they will launch, together with the Sudanese Federal Ministry of Health, a major polio immunization campaign in all of Sudan this week and again next month.
According to WHO, a confirmed poliovirus case in Sudan was found in a 30-month-old boy from South Darfur, with the onset of paralysis reported last month. The virus has been genetically linked to the virus circulating in Chad, where six cases were confirmed this year.
Prior to the confirmed poliovirus case, Sudan has been certified polio-free, with no cases reported since August 2005.
According to WHO, Sudan will implement coordinated and cross-border outbreak-response activities, as Chad synchronizes its response in the next two months, and UNICEF stressed the importance of national support for these campaigns and emphasized that every effort must be made to ensure that all children are fully protected, including a firm commitment from those involved in the ongoing conflict in Darfur to guarantee safe access and movement for vaccination teams.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan reports that “a large number” of people were moving away from the Kalma camp housing displaced persons to Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, following a shooting incident there late last week. The mission says the internally displaced persons fear renewed fighting and shooting.
On Somalia, the World Food Programme (WFP) has condemned an attempted pirate attack off the coast of Somalia, which occurred yesterday. The agency says that it received a distress call from a Somali contractor early yesterday morning, when the contractors came under attack from pirates in two speedboats some 60 miles off the Somali port of Brava, south of Mogadishu. The ship had just unloaded some 7,000 tons of food and was sailing back to Mombasa, Kenya.
Though the vessel and its crew escaped unhurt, WFP says it remains very concerned about piracy off Somalia, and appeals to the international community to help secure the waters off Somalia and protect humanitarian deliveries. Arrangements are now being made for a French naval vessel to escort WFP cargos next month.
Meanwhile, discussion continues with the Somali authorities to obtain the release of the agency’s Officer-in-Charge for Mogadishu, Idris Osman, who has been detained without charge since Wednesday. And UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura also spoke out about conditions in Somalia by condemning the assassination of Bashir Nor Gedi, an executive with the private Shabelle Media Network, who was gunned down in his home on Friday.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
According to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), the military stand-off continues in the Democratic Republic of the Congo between Government and rebel forces. On Saturday, a UN patrol was obstructed by some 500 internally displaced persons near a cantonment site for recently disarmed fighters near the town of Rumangabo. The protesters chanted anti-UN slogans, threw stones at the patrol and demanded that the peacekeepers take direct military action against dissident General Laurent Nkunda.
On Turkey/Iraq, last Friday, we issued a statement expressing the Secretary-General’s concern about the decision by the Parliament of Turkey enabling the Armed Forces to take cross-border military action in Iraq against PKK targets.
While noting that recent attacks by the PKK inside Turkey have been rightly condemned by the international community, the Secretary-General strongly urged all sides to demonstrate restraint at this delicate juncture. He also called on the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to ensure that Iraq’s territory is not used to mount cross-border attacks.
**Greece/Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
We also have upstairs a statement by the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the Greece/former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia talks, Matthew Nimetz. He says he will meet with representatives of the two parties in New York on 1 November. He hopes that the groundwork can be laid for more intensive discussions that will find a mutually satisfactory resolution of the name issue and related matters. He adds that both parties have indicated a sincere desire to reach a solution. A second statement will be issued at the conclusion of the meeting.
**Occupied Palestinian Territory
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it is very concerned about reports from the Gaza Strip that a shortage of anaesthetics, caused by Israeli import restrictions, has resulted in the closure of surgery rooms and health-care centres. OCHA is also concerned about the inability of people with emergency conditions to leave the Gaza Strip to obtain medical care elsewhere.
OCHA further notes that closures and restrictions have resulted in increasing shortages of many basic food items and supplies in Gaza. “The economic noose continues to tighten around the necks of the people of Gaza, who are being manifestly punished as part of a political strategy,” says Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes.
On Lebanon, the Foreign Ministers of France, Spain and Italy over the weekend paid a visit to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
In Naqoura, they met with UNIFIL Force Commander Major General Claudio Graziano, who briefed the Ministers on the work of the peacekeepers, as well as recent developments in the peacekeeping Mission’s area of operations.
Graziano said at the end of their visit that it was the support of countries such as theirs, which made possible the swift and effective deployment of the enlarged UNIFIL. That deployment -- together with the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces south of the Litani River -- has allowed for the establishment of a new strategic environment in southern Lebanon.
We have a press release with more details upstairs.
On Afghanistan, over 100 families who had been internally displaced in Afghanistan returned to their homes in Balkh Province late last month, and the UN refugee agency says that more than 1,500 internally displaced people have returned to their homes so far this year. An additional 2,500 people will be returning home in the coming weeks, UNHCR says. We have more details in today’s briefing notes from Kabul.
**Press Conferences Today
Today at 1.15 p.m., there will be a press conference by Robert Pollock from the Office of the President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, and Oscar de Rojas, Director of the Financing for Development Secretariat at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, to be held from the 23rd to the 24th of October.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
Tomorrow at 11 a.m., there will be a press conference by Barbara Adams of UNIFEM and members of the civil society, on Financing for Development and gender equality.
And this is all I have for you, thank you. Yes Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, since the statement that you issued on Iraq, the Secretary-General’s statement that you read again, is there any other update on Iraq-Kurd border, because the situation seems to be getting worse than ever before?
Spokesperson: Well we don’t have any new developments, any new statements on this.
Question: There is no new update as yet?
Spokesperson: No, no new update.
Question: Okay. I did also want to find out from you, this thing that you just said about the OCHA statement and you mentioned what specifically one particular area, either drug or shortage of what special stuff?
Spokesperson: Well it was mostly health related, anaesthetics was the one thing that they lacked the most, which forced the closure of some health centres. Yes?
Question: Do you have the statement of the SG about the Iraq/Turkey border?
Spokesperson: We gave it on Friday. It came out on Friday.
Question: I mean, do you have this statement?
Spokesperson: No, we already said what we had to say on Friday.
Correspondent: It’s on the website.
Spokesperson: Yes, Benny?
Question: Speaking of Iraq, there are reports that the Secretary-General’s son-in-law has been promoted to become the Chief of Staff in Iraq. Can you confirm, deny or sidestep?
Spokesperson: I already addressed the issue on Friday. I’m sorry you were not here on Friday. But you can always refer to my briefing on that day.
Question: Oh I’m so sorry. In that case, do you have any, does the Secretary-General have any comment on Lebanon, the postponement of the presidential elections?
Spokesperson: What? I can’t hear you.
Question: Lebanon. The postponement of elections in Lebanon.
Spokesperson: No we don’t have anything yet on that.
Question: Are you going to say anything later on today?
Spokesperson: Well, we are still discussing with the people on the ground to find out any additional information. Okay, yes?
[The Spokesperson later said that it was if crucial importance that presidential elections take place on time and in accordance with the timeframe and procedures stipulated in the Constitution.]
Question: The Secretary-General on Sunday had a telephone call with the Chinese Foreign Minister. What were the issues they discussed on Myanmar?
Spokesperson: Well, the issue of Myanmar was the main reason for the phone call, and I can confirm that he did have a telephone conversation with the Prime Minister of India on this.
Question: Did he talk to just the Prime Minister of India or…?
Spokesperson: And the Foreign Minister of China. Both on Saturday.
Question: And what were the issues they discussed?
Spokesperson: Myanmar and Darfur mostly.
Question: Any further on the Myanmar issue?
Spokesperson: No, just that the Secretary-General has been calling, as you know. He has been working the phones to talk to different leaders in the area, regional leaders, to discuss the issue. Same thing for the Darfur issue. Yes?
Question: Is the Secretary-General following up the negotiations carried on by Ms. (Condoleezza) Rice regarding the coming conference on the Middle East? Is he making any inputs into the dialogue of the American-Palestinian-Israeli?
Spokesperson: Well, he spoke to Ms. Rice on Saturday. Simply, it was just an exchange of information, that’s all.
Question: But, is he trying to facilitate or trying to mediate between the different parties or in any way contacting them and trying to facilitate?
Spokesperson: Not at this point. Not at this point. Yes, Matthew?
Question: This may be a follow-up to the previous question. There’s a story in Sunday’s Washington Post about the hiring by the Secretary-General and it says, statistically, it says this jump from 54 people from the Republic of Korea to now 66, it calls it a 20 per cent increase but also quotes the Secretary-General saying that he has intentionally deliberately tried to distance himself from Korea. What explains the 20 per cent increase? What’s the Secretary-General’s understanding of that? Is it simply more people in Korea becoming…?
Spokesperson: Well the Secretary-General’s understanding is that they are still under quota, considering the contribution of Korea to the Organization, so this is not really an issue. Those people are qualified people who have been, who have come through a competitive process and…
Question: No, I don’t dispute any of that. I guess I’m just wondering the connection between his quote and the number. Does he feel that there’s any -- whether it’s good or it could be a positive thing -- is there any relation between him being Secretary-General and the 20 per cent leap in Republic of Korea staffers?
Spokesperson: Not directly, no. I think it’s linked to the fact that Korea has increased its contribution to the UN.
Question: Okay, there’s also a very strange -- and which maybe you can just shoot down -- there’s an article in the Canadian press over the weekend saying that Montreal made a $2.2 billion proposal to the UN to move the UN to Montreal. Have you ever heard of that?
Spokesperson: I’ve heard of it, we are aware of those reports.
Question: Is it true?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of.
Question: There was never a proposal made?
Spokesperson: Well, maybe there was a proposal made but it was not accepted if it was made.
Question: But to whom would it have been made? I mean, would you just write a letter to the Secretary-General and say…?
Spokesperson: Well I don’t know exactly how it was made but I can check on that for you, sure. Yes, Masood?
Question: Michèle, on this Middle East talk, I mean process, that Washington has called, is the Secretary-General going to be an active partner when the talks do happen in Washington or is he going to be on the sidelines?
Spokesperson: At this point, no. He’s not going to be a direct actor.
Question: At this point, you don’t know. And on this statement on Pakistan that was issued, that was adopted today, this was available on Friday?
Spokesperson: No, the Security Council was today. That statement was today. Yes?
Question: Okay, there was a report yesterday in the UK papers speaking about 190,000 lost small arms in Iraq that found their way on the black market in Beirut or in Lebanon. This is a very serious matter. Is there anything that the United Nations will be doing about that, to verify that?
Spokesperson: We don’t have any confirmation, independent confirmation, of that. We don’t have anything from UNIFIL on that either.
Question: Yeah, but there is widespread militias, everyone knows that these militias are emerging and the market there is ripe, the black market in small arms is very vibrant in Lebanon at the moment, and there is evidence that a lot of these pistols and small guns are of Iraqi or American origin coming from Iraq. Is there a way that you can try to investigate it? This is a very serious violation…
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think we can try to investigate it. As you know, UNIFIL’s mandate is very specific and covers a specific area and UNIFIL cannot go beyond its mandate. Yes?
Question: The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Nepal, he’s here. Would he be able to meet with the media?
Spokesperson: We’re asking. We’re asking for him to come and speak to you, but we don’t have an answer yet. Yes?
Question: A similar thing like that, I think at the end of this week the Chief Executive Board (United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination) the CEB meeting begins. Because of issues like the Ethics Office and its jurisdiction, and other things that have come up in the interim, I don’t know who could speak, but is there some way to get a briefing on -- either at the end or better yet at the beginning -- of what issues would be discussed there and what the Secretary-General’s…?
Spokesperson: I think you’re most likely to get one at the end, after the meeting.
Question: Okay I guess that’s a request when that happens.
Spokesperson: Yes. Yes, George?
Question: With reference to your citation in the increase in Korean staffers and Korean contributions, are staff allotment prorated by the percentage of contributions and should I therefore assume that roughly, give or take, that roughly 22 per cent of the staff of the Organization, of the whole UN, are Americans?
Spokesperson: Well, I can check for you, but you know it’s just the number of it depends on how many applications you get. Some, not everyone, is interested in working for the UN for the simple reason that you know the UN salaries are not competitive with some countries.
Okay thank you very much. Janos?
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Since you’ve already heard that there’s going to be a special briefing on Financing for Development -- and that’s at 1:15 p.m. -- I’ll try to just give you a brief run-down on some of the things going on.
**High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development
Tomorrow and Wednesday the Assembly will hold a High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development. The theme of the event, as has been communicated on a number of occasions, is: “The Monterey Consensus: status of implementation and tasks ahead”. The format will be in plenary sessions and six round tables. The round tables basically follow the themes contained in the 2002 Monterey Consensus. The participation is to be on the level of finance or development ministers, central bank governors or the highest possible level that Member States accord or are able to accord to this meeting. Senior officials of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the UN Development Programme are expected to attend, as well as representatives from the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations.
The meeting will be opened by the President of the Assembly and the Secretary-General is also going to address the meeting. And the whole purpose of the High-Level Dialogue or High-Level meeting is to create momentum for preparations for the Doha 2008 review conference on the Monterey Consensus, which is going to happen in Doha sometime at the end of 2008. No date is set yet; that’s going to be decided later by the Member States.
And, as I said, at 1:15 p.m. we’re going to have a press briefing on this issue, with more details from the Secretariat side, as well as from the Assembly President’s Office.
And, in connection with that High-Level meeting on Financing for Development, this morning, the Financing for Development Office of DESA organized an informal interactive hearing with representatives of civil society on the subject of Financing for Development. The President of the General Assembly addressed that meeting, and in his statement he stressed that, since Monterrey, we had all come to realize that a global partnership for development could not be achieved without the full and constructive engagement of all relevant stakeholders, including national Governments, international institutions, civil society and the business sector. He noted that, in order to implement the Monterrey Consensus, it was imperative that the views of civil society be fully understood and duly taken into account.
The Assembly will also meet briefly this afternoon in a plenary format to consider the second report of its General Committee.
If you remember, on Friday I gave you a detailed account of what the General Committee discussed as far as allocating new items to the agenda. This is the meeting that approved the idea of allocating to the sixty-second session the topic of, for example, peace, security and the reunification on the Korean peninsula. There was also discussion on the financing of the United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad, and also two requests for observer status. If you remember, the General Committee adopted a report on that and this is what is going to be taken up in the Assembly this afternoon very briefly.
On the work of the Main Committees, it’s pretty well detailed in the Journal; it’s also up on the website. I don’t want to spend too much time going into details as to what each and every one of the six Main Committees are doing. All of them are pretty active and, of course, all of them are very important as far as their work is concerned, but I want to single out two things for you based on the questions we have received and the interest that you have shown in the past couple of weeks.
One is the Third Committee. As of tomorrow, the Third Committee will be looking at human rights issues within the context of specific themes and specific country situations, and it’ll be listening to special rapporteurs for the specific themes or for the specific country situations. A very detailed run-down of what’s happening as regards those rapporteurs, who they are, when they’re addressing the Committee, is in today’s Journal on page 12.
Another item of interest is coming up in the Fifth Committee. This is something that has been asked about, and we flagged it on Friday. And that’s the discussion in the Fifth Committee on the fifth progress report on the Capital Master Plan. This has been brought forward from the beginning of November, and it’s on the Fifth Committee’s calendar for tomorrow and Wednesday.
So those are probably interesting developments that you may want to keep track of.
One final thing -- it relates to something that’s going to come up in about 20 minutes -- and that’s a book launch. That’s going to take place in the United Nations Bookshop, which will be hosting Dr. Han Seung-soo, former President of the General Assembly -- that was during the fifty-sixth session -- and the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change. Dr. Han is to introduce his new book which is entitled Beyond the Shadow of 9/11: A Year at the United Nations General Assembly. He will be introduced by Mr. Kiyo Akasaka, Under-Secretary-General for Public Information, and he will participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience. He will then sign copies. That event, as I said, will be at the UN Bookshop from 1 p.m. onwards, for about half an hour.
And that’s about it and I’m ready for your questions. I beg you not to go into the Financing for Development, because we will have that at 1:15 p.m. in more details. Anything else, though, I’m happy to discuss. Please.
**Questions and Answers
Question: No questions on the Financing for Development?
Spokesperson: Unless you cannot make it at 1:15 p.m., Masood. There’s going to be a detailed background on it, including also a press packet for you, so we’ll have all the details then with the substantive people.
Question: Can you just quickly tell me about this Capital Master Plan, which was supposed to have begun last year but was delayed indefinitely and now apparently the funds, have the funds been finally approved and has the, have they acquired the necessary financing for the Master Plan?
Spokesperson: First of all, a couple of things. There is a report out -- the so-called fifth progress report on the Capital Master Plan -- from the Secretary-General. Although I’m not speaking on behalf of the Secretary-General, that gives you details on the background. That report is out already on the racks, and it gives you all the details on what you’re looking for. The document number for that is A/62/364. And, if you remember -- I think it was in December 2006 that the General Assembly approved the funding for the strategy, in resolution 61/251, according to what was presented. So now there’s an update, the fifth progress report, and there’s going to be discussion on that. Already, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) last week discussed the report and basically had some comments, and the report of the ACABQ should be out today. Check the website, it’s pretty informative. That’ll give their take on it.
Tomorrow morning, as I said, within the Fifth Committee, Member States will hear the formal presentation on where things stand with the Master Plan. They will also have the ACABQ report with them, and then they’ll start discussing this issue and decide which way they want to go, ask questions, etcetera, from the person who is going to introduce the report, which I think is Mr. (Michael) Adlerstein, the head of the Capital Master Plan office.
And just one addition to that, because, again, that goes back to something that has been discussed, asked, requested by you in the past couple of weeks -- and that’s a briefing from the Secretariat. Again, I’m not talking for the Secretariat, Michèle does. But we’ve coordinated on this -- we are trying to get people from the Secretariat side to give you a briefing on the Capital Master Plan and on that angle. But, as we discussed at the time when you requested this -- we said, first, let them brief the Fifth Committee, let it be the Member States hearing it from them first. Then they’ll come and brief you. We’ll try to find the right time for that soon. Thanks.
Question: Do you know who you’re trying to get? Is it the Executive Director of the CMP or Ms. (Alicia) Bárcena of Management?
Spokesperson: We’re checking. I don’t know who Michèle will be able to get. Either one of those two, maybe both, we’ll see.
Question: I wanted to ask you just one thing, this strange report on the Canadian press about the proposal to move the UN to Montreal.
Spokesperson: I’ve heard the question, right.
Question: I guess I was just, and maybe you don’t know it offhand, but it’s reported that this presentation was “recently made to UN officials”, so I’m wondering if the President of the General Assembly has any awareness of it and also legally or structurally who would decide on a proposal like to the, a business proposal in a sense, to the UN. Is it just the Secretary-General or does the GA have a role? If this was shot down, who shot it down? And I guess, why or what’s the process if a city makes a proposal like that and says we have $2.2 billion, come to our city, who is it that says no, we’re not coming? If that took place.
Spokesperson: Well, first of all, Michèle already mentioned to you that she’s going to look into it.
Question: Right. I guess I’m just wondering…
Spokesperson: I understand, but you know this is a little bit in hypothetics.
Spokesperson: If we assume that there’s a formal request in the form of some kind of draft resolution of some sort, I would assume that is the way it should come from the Member State, sponsored maybe by others, in this case let’s say the Canadians sponsored by some other Member States, to ask the UN to move to Montreal. Obviously the next step would be for the Member States to discuss this proposal and then also look at the details, etcetera, and again it’s the whole usual procedure within the UN that we have discussed with you, whether it’s something completely different, not something like this. It is ultimately up to the Member States.
Question: I guess I’m, it’s just this, when they say they presented it to UN officials and they report that it was recently turned down, obviously nothing took place in the GA but I’m just, if you could find out if the GA…
Spokesperson: I am not aware of any kind of a formal proposal within the GA for the United Nations to be moved. I have heard of press reports, yes, of suggestions, etcetera, but in what format that came, whether it was in the format of when we talked about or when there were discussions about the renovation of the UN or whether it was in some other kind of context, some bilateral discussions, or whatever format, I don’t know. Michèle is going to follow up on that, but what I can follow up on was whether there was anything formal introduced into the workings of the GA.
Question: How about, is it fair to ask you if the President of the General Assembly, as such, received a letter or a proposal, or even if it’s just a letter, if something to this effect was submitted to the President of the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: I’m absolutely not aware of anything of this sort coming to the President’s Office.
Thank you very much and see you at 1:15 p.m.
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For information media • not an official record
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