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
16 September 2009
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean-Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon all.
Our guests at the noon briefing today will be UN Legal Counsel Patricia O’Brien and Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director of the New York Office for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. They will brief on the upcoming 2009 UN treaty event, which will take place next week at UN Headquarters.
And at 2:30 p.m., John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, will be here to provide a general humanitarian overview, focusing on situations in Sri Lanka, Yemen, some Horn of Africa countries and Guatemala. So, you have a lot coming ahead.
**World Food Programme
The World Food Programme (WFP) is warning of a growing food crisis for the world’s hungry. In the week that marks the first anniversary of the global financial crisis, there are more hungry people in the world and less food aid than ever before, says Executive Director Josette Sheeran in a statement. As the green shoots of economic recovery are appearing, WFP makes a plea not to forget those who are most in need, and who have been hit hardest by this crisis.
The Executive Director also says that of its $6.7 billion budget to feed 108 million people in 74 countries this year, WFP has only received $2.6 billion as of today. At our current funding levels, we will -- in October -- have to cut our services throughout the world, adds Sheeran. She says WFP urgently needs an additional $3 billion to meet the needs of the world’s hungry. We have her full statement upstairs.
** Sri Lanka
The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs has arrived in Sri Lanka, where concerns remain about the pace of progress since the Secretary-General’s visit to the country, including on the issues of internally displaced persons, the political process and a possible accountability mechanism. He spoke to you before he left. He is expected to visit internally displaced persons camps and stay in the country through Friday.
Rashid Khalikov, the Director of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (OCHA), ended his mission to Yemen today. He briefed members of the humanitarian community in Sana’a, telling them that widespread deep poverty and previous fighting have stretched people’s coping mechanisms to the limit in northern Yemen.
He said that he had travelled to camps where he saw people who have fled with nothing. The approximately 150,000 internally displaced people urgently need all the essentials of life: food; water and sanitation; shelter; and health care. Khalikov said that the lack of potable water is a particular worry. A flash appeal issued on 2 September to respond to the current crisis still has not received any funding. We have a press release upstairs with more details.
**Women and AIDS
As you know, we issued a statement yesterday, in which the Secretary-General welcomed the General Assembly’s new resolution on system-wide coherence -- and its agreement to consolidate all women-specific entities into one stronger UN entity.
The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) also echoed the Secretary-General’s sentiments. Today, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has added its voice to the chorus, noting that women are disproportionately affected by the AIDS epidemic. UNAIDS has pledged to work alongside the new women’s agency to advance the delivery of critical maternal and child health services to women and girls at the grass-roots level. We have more on that in my office.
And today is the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. Noting that this Day comes some 80 days before the Copenhagen climate conference, the Secretary-General says that this year’s observance marks a milestone, with the deposit of the instruments of accession to the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer and its Montreal Protocol by the youngest democracy in the world, Timor-Leste. Now, the Convention and Protocol have achieved universal participation -- a unique status among the hundreds of treaties deposited with the Secretary-General, he adds.
In his message to mark this Day, the Secretary-General stresses that the example of the Montreal Protocol sends a powerful message that action on major global challenges is not only possible, but that the financial and human benefits invariably outweigh the costs. We have his full message upstairs.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
Again a reminder that the Secretary-General’s press conference is at 11 a.m. tomorrow, so there will be no noon briefing tomorrow.
In order to facilitate your coverage of next week, don’t forget to attend the technical briefing on media arrangements at 2:30 p.m. here tomorrow. It will be a technical briefing on media arrangements, off the record, for the upcoming high-level event on climate change and for the sixty-fourth general debate.
And we also plan to have “The Week Ahead” ready for you tomorrow to better plan for next week. So I think this will help you. We’re also getting ready a list of press conferences scheduled. As soon as we have them confirmed, of course, you will be informed so you have ways to plan next week, which will be a very difficult week for all of you, I know.
And this is all I have for you because I’m going to have in a few minutes Jean Victor, who will be talking for the General Assembly, and then we’ll have our guests for the day. Yes, Mr. Abbadi.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, later on, the Secretary-General is scheduled to receive a number of representatives from Arab countries. What is the subject?
Spokesperson: Nobody heard you. The question was the SG is expected to meet a group of Arab countries and what would be the subject. I don’t have this at the moment. I will try to get a readout for you after the meeting.
[The Spokesperson later noted that the subject of that meeting was the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).]
Question: Michèle, thank you. I wanted to ask you about the climate change summit that the SG will host. What kind of outcome do you expect out of this meeting, because…?
Spokesperson: Well, you had a full briefing on this with Mr. [Robert] Orr and with Mr. [Janos] Pasztor last week. You can see the notes that were from that meeting and I think that’s your best bet at this point, because I am not going to go back to everything that was said then. I know you were away, so you’ll need to catch up, Khaled. Yes, Masood.
Question: Michèle, question one is that yesterday after Mr. Goldstone, during Mr. Goldstone’s press conference…[inaudible]…one of the reasons that the Israelis is holding back in opening the Gaza crossings and so forth to alleviate the suffering of the Palestinians over there is that they had one soldier being held by the Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, and in the same time, whilst there are about eight-and-a- half thousand Palestinians in jails. So have any talks been initiated in order to ask Israel to open up this Gaza crossings and release of the Israeli solider and…?
Spokesperson: I think I have answered this before, Masood. I have said the Secretary-General has constantly asked for the opening of the crossings and the possibility of getting more humanitarian aid and more reconstruction aid inside Gaza. So this is a constant and the Secretary-General has never stopped. All his special envoys on the ground have never stopped talking about it. In terms of the Goldstone report, you know I cannot talk for Mr. Goldstone; he was with you yesterday and had the opportunity to answer your questions. In terms of the Palestinian prisoners, we have also been raising this over and over again. Yes.
Question: But I just wanted to confirm it that as Israeli authorities, the only UN authorities, that one of the reasons that they have stopped opening the Gaza crossing is that one Israeli soldier and their…?
Spokesperson: No, I’m not aware that this was officially ever said to the UN Secretariat.
Question: So it is not linked?
Spokesperson: Pardon me?
Question: It is not linked with the release of the Israeli soldier?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. I cannot answer for the Israeli Government. I think you should ask the question to the Israeli Mission. Yes.
Question: …[inaudible] a lot of contact with the Israelis were his; does he get that message that on this Mr. Shalit, because they have expressed that openly…?
Spokesperson: Well, I am not aware of that. Of course you can ask Mr. [Robert] Serry whether he had received, whether he had had exchanges and discussions on that specific subject.
Question: Well, since the water situation in Gaza is getting very bad, and of course the contamination is very high and at least that 1.5 million people are at risk here, is. Is there any initiative the United Nations can do in order to bring about some solution to that?
Spokesperson: Well, there have been several things on the water situation raised by UNRWA on the ground, and it has been raised with the authorities, I am sure.
Question: Here at the United Nations, the General Assembly is due and many leaders are here. Is the [inaudible]…to do anything about it?
Spokesperson: Well, it’s going to be raised by not only the Secretary-General, but by Member States of this Organization of course. Yes, Khaled.
Question: When is the SG going to hand the Goldstone report to the Security Council and what’s the process?
Spokesperson: Before the Secretary-General does that, he has to get the mandate from the Human Rights Council. The actual report is going to be given, as you know, to the Human Rights Council, and one of the recommendations of the report -- you read it yesterday -- was that the Human Rights Council ask the Secretary-General to, under Article 99, to follow up with the Security Council. So right now, until the end of the month, we don’t have anywhere to move on this until the Human Rights Council has seen the report and has acted on it.
Question: Michèle, the Israelis have already rejected all the recommendations made by the fact-finding mission, including that the Security Council ask Israel to conduct an inquiry into the Gaza [inaudible]…?
Spokesperson: Well, this was asked of Mr. Goldstone yesterday, and I think he answered that question. Yes.
Spokesperson: I am telling you what the UN can do.
Question: What my colleague meant is that Israel has already announced, you know, that they reject the report; they’re not going to make any investigation committee. So, what’s the UN reaction to that…?
Spokesperson: Well, the UN does not react to reactions. What we’re doing right now is waiting for formal answers and formal directions from the Human Rights Council and the Security Council on this specific subject. Yes.
Question: Michèle, on Cyprus, this is I think is one of the first, is the first time the Secretary-General is holding a meeting with presidents of both sides. Since it’s high-level -- and Mr. Pascoe the other day was very hopeful of the outcome of the meeting -- what should we expect after the Secretary-General has met with both sides? And why is it separate, why is he not bringing them together? Is there any reason for that?
Spokesperson: Well, as you know Mr. [Alexander] Downer is here; he is supposed to meet the Secretary-General [tomorrow] afternoon and they’re going to be discussing the approach. You know that the UN has been working very closely with both [leaders] to help find a negotiated settlement. How this is going to be done, let’s see what’s going to happen in the next few days. Yes, Masood.
Question: On this opening of the annual general debate, do you have a list of Heads of State and Government coming?
Spokesperson: Why don’t I give the floor to Jean-Victor Nkolo, my colleague, who will answer your question? Yes.
Question: Michèle, US special forces conducted a raid on Somalia and killed what they said was an Al-Qaida leader. I’m wondering if that’s...in the Secretariat’s view, is this authorized by Security Council resolutions? Does the UN have any comment on one country conducting a military raid into another …[inaudible] a standing Security Council resolution?
Spokesperson: Well, at this point I don’t have any additional information on exactly what happened. I don’t have any independent confirmation of what happened. Yes.
Question: And I wanted to ask, and this is… DPKO said it was unaware of this report that a shipment of arms to MONUC was hijacked in Kenya and has gone missing. Have you had anything on that?
Spokesperson: No, nothing new.
Question: That’s in the Daily Nation of Kenya and hasn’t been…
Spokesperson: No, the answer you heard from Mr. [Alain] Le Roy yesterday. I don’t have anything.
Question: Is there going to be some way that they’re going to say that this is not true? I mean, it seems like if the UN’s weapons are taken by…
Spokesperson: Well, if you find out that it’s true, Matthew, of course, you will know about it. You know we have to get the facts first. Yes, Mr. Abbadi.
Question: Michèle, according to tradition, during the General Assembly, the Heads of State and foreign ministers go up and speak to the Secretary-General on the thirty-eighth floor. Has President Obama scheduled any such -- ?
Spokesperson: Yes, the Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with President Obama.
Question: On the thirty-eighth floor?
Spokesperson: I don’t know where yet. Those have not been confirmed, the places. A number of meetings take place at the Office of the Secretary-General behind the General Assembly; some take place on the thirty-eighth floor, so we have different venues depending on the circumstances. As you know, it could be a very tight day on the 22nd; and it could be a very tight day on the 24th. So, let’s see how it works.
Question: Any date for the Quartet please, Michèle?
Spokesperson: I don’t have that yet. As soon as I have confirmation also I’ll let you know. Yes.
Question: There was a discussion between Ambassador Kai Eide and his deputy about the election in Afghanistan and how to handle that. What’s your comment about it?
Spokesperson: Well, we already answered that one yesterday. My colleague Marie Okabe answered that. We said that Peter Galbraith remains an integral part of the Mission leadership. And we said that -- and Mr. Le Roy said it also yesterday -- that with any hotly contested election there is bound to be difference in opinion. And that is to be expected. The leadership of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) remains committed to supporting a credible election outcome that is accepted by voters. Mr. Galbraith is currently on mission and he will join Kai Eide later this month in New York at the briefing of the Security Council, after which he is expected to return to Afghanistan. And this is all I have really, which we said yesterday. Yes, Masood.
Question: So the other day Mr. Pascoe, in his press briefing, has said that it has not been [inaudible]… something to the effect that the Secretary-General whether he will attend Friends of Democratic Pakistan meeting or not as yet. Has a decision been made by the SG’s office…?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of. You know the schedule of the Secretary-General for the next two weeks is still fluctuating and we have a number of things that are not confirmed. So I cannot confirm anything at this point. Thanks, all.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Greetings to all.
Maybe I should start with an update on the general debate. As of 14 September, this is what we have: 86 Heads of State; three Vice-Presidents, 36 Heads of Government; eight Deputy Prime Ministers, 55 Foreign Ministers, two Vice-Ministers, two Chairpersons of delegations, and two observers.
I would like to provide the list of the Vice-Presidents of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Of course, the President is His Excellency Mr. Ali Abdussalam Treki of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya. Now, the Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly, 21 in total, are as follows: African States, five -- Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, South Africa, Sudan; Asian States, five -- India, Kazakhstan, Maldives, Nepal and Turkmenistan; Eastern European States, one -- Slovenia; Latin American and Caribbean States, three -- Barbados, El Salvador and Venezuela; Western European and other States, two -- Belgium and Finland, plus the five permanent members of the Security Council.
I can confirm that the General Assembly President will hold a press briefing with you as requested yesterday. Actually, shortly after attending, with the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General, the Dag Hammarskjöld wreath-laying ceremony yesterday, a ceremony commemorating the forty-eighth anniversary of the death of the former Secretary-General, Dr. Treki actually indicated that he would be more than happy to meet with you, the UN-accredited press.
Now, another question was asked yesterday at the noon briefing regarding the staffing of the Office of the President of the General Assembly. I would just like to state the following: We have an international team in the Office of the President of the General Assembly. The Office of the President also has, as provided by the budget, five posts. These posts have been filled. We are very pleased that a number of Missions from different parts of the world have volunteered to second staff to the Office of the President of the General Assembly. However, we have no international staff on the payroll of Libya.
Finally, I just want to indicate that we have material on the President, as well as on the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly, in English, French and Arabic available. My office is on C-176C and I am still waiting for the confirmation of my cell and extension number. But this will be given to you very soon.
Any questions? Yes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I just want to have a clarification. When is the President going to be giving a press briefing?
Spokesperson: We’re working on the date. We hope that this will take place on Friday or any other day. But we have to work, we have to coordinate this with Michèle’s office, the Office of the Spokesperson.
Question: And did I hear you say that some Missions have seconded their staff to the President’s Office, and if that is the case, has there been a precedent?
Spokesperson: It is standard practice. As far as I know, it happens quite regularly and it has been happening over the past years. Yes, Matthew.
Question: I have a follow-up on that, but I wanted to ask you first, on the question of seating Honduras in the upcoming general debate, has there been any discussion? I know that in Geneva there has been a situation where the Ambassador, the Human Rights observer, was thrown out. Where do things stand in terms of who will represent Honduras?
Spokesperson: We’re not talking here about ambassadors or representatives. You’re talking about Member States. And Matthew, for your information, this list was submitted months ago. So this is a process that has been ongoing, only formalized yesterday.
Question: And I wanted to [inaudible] when I tried to ask yesterday, and there is precedent of all kinds on this, but Mr. Treki himself, will he be compensated by Libya during this year or will he receive no compensation? How is he actually going to be paid this year?
Spokesperson: The work and the treatment of the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly will not be different from past practice and ongoing procedures in the United Nations.
Question: Does that mean that his native country will be paying him? That’s all I am asking.
Spokesperson: It only means that what Mr. Treki will be doing and the context into which he will be working will not be different from what has been going on and from what is in line with the budgetary and United Nations practices as we know them.
Correspondent: Not everybody knows them.
Correspondent: Yeah. And there have been differences…
Spokesperson: Then I’ll come back to you and provide them to you.
Correspondent: Thanks a lot.
Question: I have a question, please. There have been some reports of attempts by some groups to set restrictions on the movements of certain presidents who might not be, you know, might have some protests against them when they come. Would you be involved in any of this? Is the President of the GA?
Spokesperson: If it is something related to what is going on in the host country, I think you have to ask the Permanent Mission of the host country. Yes, Masood.
Question: As I, yesterday in his speech to the General Assembly of the General Assembly said that one the primary objective of his presidency will be to move forward the Security Council expansion process. Now, of course, in… towards that end what measures is he taking, or is he about to take, in order to move the process forward, and will he be letting us know how… because, of course, we have to start [inaudible]…
Spokesperson: Masood, I would just like to refer you to the statement that President Treki made yesterday with regard to this important reform of the system, starting with the reform of the Security Council. I think Dr. Treki is a consensus builder, and someone who will be working very hard in order to bring all the Member States to the goals that they have with regard to the reforms. He will play the role that is devoted to him as the President of the sixty-fourth session. Yes.
Question: Are there any countries in arrears who cannot vote in the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: Can you repeat your question, please?
Question: Are there any countries in arrears who cannot vote in the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly?
Spokesperson: I am not sure it works exactly that way. I’ll come back to you on that question. But I think there was a mention yesterday on the question of the dues to the GA. But I’m not very sure I can provide you right now a specific response. I can come back to you on that. Yes.
Question: I’m not sure I heard you when you said that… Did you say that only five African Heads of State are attending this assembly?
Question: Not at all. I was mentioning five African countries among the 21 Vice-Presidents of the General Assembly. But there are many, many more African Heads of State who are among the Heads of State confirmed so far, certainly.
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For information media • not an official record
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