15/09/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

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

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


AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


**La Francophonie


Earlier this morning the Secretary-General spoke at a meeting of Heads of State and Government from French-speaking countries here at the UN.


In his remarks, delivered in French, the Secretary-General said that the last 10 years had witnessed a real and undeniable progress in democracy and human rights in a number of Francophone countries.  But he also noted that in some other countries there had been failures on the road to democracy and even setbacks.


He congratulated the Parliamentary Assembly of La Francophonie for its decision not to invite to its summits any leaders who had toppled democratic institutions.  And the full text of that speech in French is available upstairs.


Secretary-General’s Meeting with Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey


The Secretary-General met this morning with Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero of Spain and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, to discuss the Alliance of Civilizations.  They affirmed that the Alliance initiative is important at a time of mounting tensions between societies, including those between the West and the Muslim world.


The task ahead, they agreed, is to make this initiative concrete.  Both Prime Ministers said that they would help the High-Level Group to produce a report and plan of action by the end of 2006, and would also otherwise assist in making the plan a success.  We have that available upstairs as well.


Sources of Financing


In a statement issued yesterday, the Secretary-General welcomed moves taken by a number of countries to implement two new methods to raise additional sources of financing for development.


The initiative involves issuing bonds for an immunization fund and a voluntary levy on plane tickets.


In the statement, the Secretary-General says that in a few months time they’ll start saving the lives of millions of people around the world.  He also encourages other countries to join these initiatives.  And we have copies of that available upstairs.


**Treaty Event


Heads of State and Government, as well as other officials, are continuing to sign international treaties today, as part of the Focus 2005 Treaty Event.


Among the event’s highlights, Ecuador became the thirtieth country to ratify the Convention against Corruption just a few minutes ago.  That treaty will now enter into force in 90 days.  Antonio Maria Costa, the Head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, will be coming to this room shortly after the noon briefing to tell you more on that Convention.


Also, yesterday, 36 States undertook 54 treaty actions related to 14 treaties, and so far, 33 countries have been represented at the Head of State or Government level.  The treaty on nuclear terrorism, which opened for signature yesterday, has already received 44 signatures.  The signing is currently taking place near the delegates’ entrance at the bottom of the escalator and we have upstairs a schedule of the future signings.


**Security Council


There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today or tomorrow.  There are a couple of reports to the Security Council out as documents today -– Iraq and Sudan.  Both reports are scheduled for discussion next Wednesday.


** Sudan


In his report on Sudan, the Secretary-General notes that the death of First Vice-President John Garang dealt a cruel blow to all the people of the Sudan, in particular the Southern Sudanese people.


But he also notes that it was gratifying that the parties’ reaction to the loss of Mr. Garang revealed a remarkable capacity to recover from such a setback and a determination to stay the course in the peace process.


The report outlines the daunting challenges faced by the UN Mission in Sudan as it tries to help the parties consolidate the peace between North and South.


The Secretary-General also flags continuing threats to humanitarian operations, violence against civilians, violations of human rights and little progress at the political level in Darfur.  He appealed to all parties and partners to work to radically improve the prevailing conditions.


Finally, he underlined the role of international partners and donors -- a role he says will never be more important than at the present time.


** Iraq


The Secretary-General, in his latest report to the Security Council on Iraq, says that the constitutional process has engaged the Iraqi people in an unprecedented debate on key challenges facing their country.  However, he adds, the process could have been made more inclusive, participatory and transparent, and responsive to the needs and aspirations of the Iraqi people.


The United Nations, he writes, will continue its efforts to provide the necessary support for the upcoming referendum and national elections.


The Secretary-General continues to be gravely concerned about the increasing number of civilian casualties and serious injuries.  Virtually no Iraqi has been left untouched by the violence, he says.


He adds that the Iraqi Government must ensure the appropriate and legitimate use of force by its security sector and protect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Iraqi citizens.


Niger


Turning to Niger, the World Food Programme (WFP) reports that it is ready to start a second round of food distribution that will target the 1.7 million people most in need of assistance.  Although WFP has been able to reach more than 1.2 million out of a target of 1.8 million, the situation remains difficult with young children continuing to die.  According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) just half of the United Nation’s Flash Appeal for Niger has been funded.  There’s a current shortfall of some $40 million.


Afghanistan


Today in Kabul, the final report was issued by the UN Mission in Afghanistan and the country’s Independent Human Rights Commission on political rights before this weekend’s elections.


Filippo Grandi, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative in the country, said that, given the circumstances, Afghans so far have been able to exercise their political rights.  The main concern continues to be security, and the report also mentions concerns about the intimidation of candidates and voters and of partiality by Government authorities.


As for the participation of women, Grandi said that campaigning by women has been much better and more active than initially thought.  We have more details in the press conference from Kabul.


Meetings and Press Conferences


That is it for me, just a flag that we have a number of press conferences today.  After the briefing we’ll have Antonio Maria Costa on the Convention against Corruption, at 12:45; Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin of France, at 1:15; at 2:45, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan; at 4, Prime Minister Paul Martin of Canada; and at 5, a briefing on “Humanitarian Reform and the Central Emergency Response Fund; and at 5:45, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.  And that’s all in 226 right here, and in Conference Room 2 at 5:15, we’ll have a briefing by the Spokesman for the Prime Minister of Japan.


Security


Just an update on security.  I know yesterday there were some severe problems for a number of you getting in.  Security have told us that they have increased the number of machines and I think the problem this morning was basically resolved and security has promised us if there is an overflow at the 48th street entrance, they will direct you to the 46th street entrance for those correspondents without equipment.  But you should first go to 48th and if needed, they will tell you to go to 46th.

** Nigeria ’s Peacekeeping


I have one statement I was given which I have to read into the record concerning peacekeeping operations.


“Following allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse by some members of a Formed Police Unit from Nigeria in Kinshasa, the Government of Nigeria has decided to recall the unit from the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), without prejudice to the decision of the United Nations investigation and review process.


“The Secretary-General welcomes this decision by the Government of Nigeria.  Furthermore, the United Nations will provide all appropriate assistance to the Government of Nigeria as it undertakes measures to address this matter at the national level.


“The Secretary-General acknowledges the outstanding contribution of Nigeria to United Nations peacekeeping operations.  Indeed, Nigeria is a longstanding African peacekeeping partner and an important troop- and police-contributing country.  The Government of Nigeria and the United Nations share a commitment to a policy of zero tolerance regarding sexual exploitation and abuse and any other forms of misconduct by peacekeeping personnel.”


That’s it for me.  Before we turn to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Any update on Terje Roed-Larsen’s meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud on resolution 1559?


Spokesman:  No I do not, but I would be happy to see if I can get something for you on that.


Question:  I know the plane ticket issue has been kicking around for a while, but what would be required for that to go into force?  How many nations would have to accept that and what sort of amount would they be looking at?


Spokesman:  I think the initiatives that were discussed yesterday are national initiatives or a number of Governments getting together but it’s obviously for those Governments to decide exactly the mechanics of how these monies would be voluntarily handed over or collected.  But it would not be a UN authority or body that would collect any voluntary contributions through plane tickets or any other means.


Question:  Is the Secretary-General disturbed by some comments the Iranian President made with the Turkish Prime Minister that said Iran would be willing to share nuclear technology with other Islamic nations?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General was obviously not party to that bilateral meeting but he will be meeting the Iranian President this afternoon and no doubt the nuclear issue will be on the agenda for their discussions.


Question:  Looking at UN reform, I have been doing some research and the whole key about the UN is one vote, one country.  However, I’m curious as to why the Commonwealth countries are able to operate inside the United Nations because they represent 54 countries or the potential of 54 votes and they have that kind of representation throughout the whole United Nations infrastructure, with the exception of the Security Council, where there’s only one Commonwealth country.  If you add any other countries represented by the Commonwealth and the Security Council, then really the United Nations almost appears to be more a Commonwealth organization than an independent, voluntary, organization of independent countries.


Spokesman:  I’m not sure I completely understand your question but on the issue of Security Council representation, besides the five permanent members, the 10 non-permanent members are elected on the basis of regional groups and I don’t believe any issues of Commonwealth or any other groupings comes into play.


Question:  The President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia announced that Mr. Nimetz is ready to start the talks again.  Do you have anything to tell us?


Spokesman:  No, but now that you’re back here with us, I’d be happy to look up that issue for you.


[It was later announced that, on Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM, Ambassador Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the Greece-FYROM talks, met with the President of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia yesterday, at the President’s request.  They discussed the name issue and the status of the talks.  Ambassador Nimetz assured the President that the talks would continue and hopefully be intensified.]


Question:  Do you know what the schedule for Chinese President Hu Jintao is?


Spokesman:  No, the only thing I can give you is the schedule in terms of his meeting UN officials but his other meetings I would check with the Chinese Mission.


Question:  How come China’s journalists were not accredited?  We were sent an e-mail that said one of China’s journalists was not accredited.


Spokesman: I’m not aware of it.  I haven’t seen the e-mail but we can check with media accreditation afterward.


Pragati, all yours.


Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The World Summit continues today, with statements being made by Heads of State and Government, in both morning and afternoon plenary sessions.


**Round Tables


Regarding the round tables, at his press briefing yesterday, Prime Minister John Howard of Australia gave a short summary of the first round table, which he chaired.  He said that several points came through from the leaders:  although there was mixed reaction to the outcome document, there was no sense of despair about the future of the United Nations.  There was criticism of the lack of reference to non-proliferation; the Peacebuilding Commission was warmly welcomed; there was recognition of the overwhelming importance of poverty reduction, and that trade liberalization was even more important than direct ODA.


The second interactive round-table discussion is taking place this morning, chaired by the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwaśniewski.  He will be giving a press briefing tomorrow at 11:15, where he will summarize the round table.


The third round table will take place this afternoon, chaired by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Winston Baldwin Spencer.  Unfortunately, he had to cancel his scheduled press briefing.


The fourth round table will take place tomorrow morning, chaired by President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.  We’re still waiting to hear about a press briefing on that.


Tomorrow evening, after all Member States have made their statements, a draft resolution will be put before the high-level meeting for adoption, with the text of what will be called the “2005 World Summit Outcome”.  It is expected to be adopted by acclamation.


**Cost of Summit


Regarding the cost of the Summit, to respond to questions asked yesterday, the General Assembly did not provide any additional funds in advance for the Summit.  Departments were encouraged to redeploy existing resources, and according to UN budget documents, it is estimated that just over $1 million ($1,060,700) was redeployed to the Summit.  The General Assembly took note of this estimate and asked the Secretariat to come back in December if it could not absorb all the costs within existing resources.  These are costs to the United Nations –- not including security costs absorbed by the host country and New York City.


**Some Numbers


One small correction to what was announced yesterday:  a total of 151 Heads of State and Government are expected to speak during the World Summit, including the Holy See.  This figure still makes the Summit the largest-ever gathering of world leaders.


As of this morning, a total of 4,915 passes have been issued for delegations and 2,167 for media.


In case you didn’t notice, last night the Empire State Building was lit up blue and white, in honour of the UN World Summit, and it will be again tonight.


**Questions and Answers


Question: Given the fact that it’s about 12:30 and they’re only about halfway through the speeches, is the GA President disappointed that these Heads of State seem physically incapable of limiting their speeches to five minutes, and can he do anything about it?


GA Spokesperson:  I haven’t heard any comment by the Chairs about that, it’s an ongoing situation here at the UN.


Question:  When the document’s adopted tomorrow night -- last night things finished at 8:45 -- so that would be after the final speech ends, presumably around 8:30 or 8:45?


GA Spokesperson:  It’s hard to estimate.  I’ll try to look at the list of speakers and get a better estimate of what time it would be.


Question: On a scale of 1-20, how many goals proposed by the Secretary-General were achieved until now?


Spokesman: I would hate to put a number on what was achieved.  There are a lot of tremendous achievements in this package, notably on the question of responsibility to protect, on democracy and on development.  There are some glaring holes.  Disarmament and non-proliferation.  So I’m bad with numbers.  Don’t box me in on numbers, but one should not overlook the achievements contained in this declaration.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record