|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES 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, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
**Secretary-General - Holocaust Remembrance Day Resolution
The following is a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General, concerning the adoption by the General Assembly of Holocaust Remembrance resolution:
“The Secretary-General welcomes today’s decision by the General Assembly to designate 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. He sees this annual commemoration as an important reminder of the universal lessons of the Holocaust, a unique evil which cannot simply be consigned to the past and forgotten. He also looks forward to taking the measures which the Assembly has requested from him, to establish a programme of outreach on the subject of ‘Holocaust and the United Nations’ and to mobilize civil society for Holocaust remembrance and education, in order to prevent future acts of genocide.”
The Secretary-General yesterday wrote to the Security Council of his intention to appoint Martti Ahtisaari, the former President of Finland, as his Special Envoy to lead the political process designed to determine the future status of Kosovo.
As you recall, on 24 October, the Security Council had endorsed the Secretary-General’s conclusion, which he had conveyed to the President of the Council earlier in October, that the time had come to move to the next phase of the political process in Kosovo.
Mr. Ahtisaari’s excellent negotiating skills, proven leadership, previous experience with the United Nations and knowledge of the Balkans make him the ideal person for this endeavour. The Secretary-General also conveyed to the Security Council his intention to appoint Albert Rohan, the former Secretary-General of the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as Mr. Ahtisaari’s deputy.
The future status process will be carried out in the context of resolution 1244 and the relevant presidential statements of the Security Council. And, we have Mr. Ahtisaari’s biography available upstairs.
**Human Rights - Cambodia
The Secretary-General has also decided to appoint Yash Ghai of Kenya as his Special Representative for human rights in Cambodia, following the resignation of Peter Leuprecht.
Mr. Ghai is a distinguished academic and renowned constitutional lawyer, and is currently teaching human rights and public law at the University of Hong Kong. And we have more information on that in the bio upstairs, as well.
Today, the Russian Federation assumed the presidency of the Security Council for the month of November, and Ambassador Andrey Denisov is holding bilateral discussions today with other Council members on the programme of work for this month.
Tomorrow, after the Council discusses its programme of work, Ambassador Denisov will talk to you in this room about the Council’s activities this month. That briefing will take place some time tomorrow afternoon. We’ll let you know exactly what time once we’re informed by the presidency.
Yesterday afternoon, following the meeting on Lebanon, the Security Council held another meeting in which it adopted a presidential statement strongly condemning the bomb attacks that took place in New Delhi on Saturday. The Council stressed the importance of bringing the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of those attacks to justice.
The UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea reports the situation on the ground as tense.
Regarding the situation in Eritrea itself, the Mission reports that restrictions on freedom of movement are continuing, both in the Central and Western Sectors. Night movement of our patrols is also being curtailed. This, in turn, has seriously constrained the Mission’s ability to monitor the remaining 40 per cent of the Temporary Security Zone and adjacent areas, according to the Mission.
**Security Council Visit
This weekend, the Security Council will begin a mission to the Great Lakes region of Africa.
From 4 to 11 November, Council members will travel to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
The intent of the Mission is, in part, to stress the importance of achieving sustainable peace, security and stability for all countries in the region. The mission will also underscore the importance of the resources committed by the UN to peacekeeping to that part of the world. And you can find copies of the mission’s terms of reference upstairs, as well as the list of ambassadors and other diplomats who will be travelling.
And Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France, who will lead the mission, will brief correspondents tomorrow at 3:30 pm.
**South Asia Earthquake
Turning to the aftermath of the earthquake in South Asia, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says that, in all, it has provided 20,000 tents among other materials to Pakistan. But that is “just a drop in the bucket”, according to the agency.
UNHCR is working with the Pakistani military and other partners in 12 camps that have a combined population of more than 15,000 people. And more people are coming down from the mountains daily, according to the agency.
From Sudan, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Jan Pronk, met with the Sudanese Minister of Interior today and raised with him the issue of cooperation between the United Nations and Sudan.
Mr. Pronk expressed satisfaction at the significant improvement in the cooperation with the Sudanese police and the United Nations civilian police contingent.
He raised the situation in West Darfur where security remains problematic and continues to hamper UN movement. Humanitarian assistance is still being provided by air, and the roads from and to Geneina are still "no-go" for United Nations staff and humanitarian workers.
From Kosovo, yesterday a Pristina District Court panel -- presided over by an international judge but also involving two judges from Kosovo -- found a UNHCR official, Rashidoon Khan, guilty of one count of sexual abuse of persons under the age of 16 and one count of falsifying official documents. Khan’s sentence is three years in prison.
The UN Mission in Kosovo says the ruling demonstrates both its zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse and the independence of the judiciary in Kosovo.
The Mission stresses that, if in any case there are credible allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of any UN staff, investigative and prosecutorial measures will be undertaken in accordance with applicable law in Kosovo.
From Myanmar, the UN Office of Drugs and Crime says that opium cultivation in that country, the world’s second largest opium producer, fell by more than a quarter in 2005 from the year before, and is now 80 per cent lower than in the peak year of 1996. UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa has welcomed the decline in cultivation, but has warned that the rapid eradication seen in the past decade could be undone if growing poverty among farmers is not addressed.
One event to flag for you this afternoon. The Secretary-General and the Prince of Wales will be here to attend a special forum of business leaders here at UN Headquarters on the global challenge of youth employment.
They’ll emphasize the crucial role of the private sector in developing countries in creating jobs for young people, and will challenge them to come up with new ways of training young people to help them to set up their own businesses. Today’s event is co-hosted by the United Kingdom Mission and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), in association with the Prince of Wales Business Leaders Forum and Youth Business International.
The discussion will include business leaders, civil society, UN representatives and ambassadors of UN Member States, and presentations by young entrepreneurs identifying the challenges of youth employment.
And, as I announced yesterday, David Nabarro, who leads the coordination of the United Nations’ response to avian flu, will be holding a press conference in this room on Thursday. This will take place at 1:15 p.m. following the special meeting of the Economic and Social Council on avian flu. Dr. Nabarro will be joined here by the ECOSOC President, Ambassador Munir Akram of Pakistan.
And, at 1 p.m. today, the wife of UN Messenger of Peace Muhammad Ali and Mike Fox, the CEO of the Muhammad Ali Center, will brief on the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center for Education and Communication, which opens in Louisville, Kentucky, on 21 November. And Shashi Tharoor will preside over that press conference.
And at 3 p.m., there is a press conference sponsored by the Mission of Japan on a musical that will be performed at the Dag Hammarskjold Library at
7 p.m. tomorrow. And, lastly, the much-awaited briefing by Chris Burnham, the Under-Secretary General for Management, will take place at noon here tomorrow.
That’s it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Stéphane. Again. Tomorrow, the Roed-Larsen report will be presented to the Council?
Spokesman: The Council is still working on its programme of work. You can check with me after the briefing. We may have more details.
Question: Stéphane. The other day, I asked you about Diana Mills-Aryee and you said she’d been rotated out of the procurement office. Is that, as far as you know, still the case or has that been changed?
Spokesman: I don’t remember mentioning her by name at this briefing. As I’ve said, and I’m sure Mr. Burnham could also talk about tomorrow, a number of people are being rotated out of the procurement division as part of a general policy of regularly starting to rotate staff out of that division. But I would stress that rotation of staff out of that division does not imply any wrongdoing on the part of those staff.
Question: If you could just clarify, what is her position at the moment? Has she been rotated or has she not been rotated?
Spokesman: As far as I know, she’s still employed at the UN. As far as where she exactly works, I don’t know off the top of my head.
Question: Steph. I just wanted to ask you about the announcement you just made about Mr. Kahn, who was indicted for sexual abuse in Kosovo. First of all, he’s a national of where? And what jurisdiction does he come under? You said something about Kosovo was going to apply laws to him that means that he would not be transferred back to his home country?
Spokesman: That’s correct. I believe he’s a national of Pakistan.
Question: On Diana Mills-Aryee. After the briefing the other day, I was greeted by a very nice gentleman, called Edwin Nhliziyo, who apparently works for something called the UN Panel of Counsel, who said he was representing Ms. Diana Mills-Aryee, and one of his complaints was that the Secretary-General had prohibited her, Ms. Diana Mills-Aryee, from speaking to the press. Is that true?
Spokesman: I know of no -- I don’t have the specifics of that. The general rule is that UN staff are allowed to speak to the press in their areas of expertise.
Question: So, just to clarify. So, Diana Mills-Aryee, as far as your understanding, is allowed to speak to the press.
Spokesman: UN staff are allowed, if they so wish, to speak to the press in their general areas of expertise, and that is the general guidelines.
Question: And procurement, obviously, would be one of her areas of expertise?
Spokesman: She works in procurement.
Question: Can you just double-check for us that there’s no special bar, as her representative says, by the Secretary-General for her to speak to the press?
Spokesman: I know of no such bar.
Question: Steph. When is the SG planning to go to Iran?
Spokesman: I think last we said some point in November. We should have something more official to announce towards the end of the week.
Question: On the case of Mr. Khan, could you specify a little more clearly what his job was and what he’s accused of? You sort of rushed over it a little bit.
Spokesman: I’ll repeat what I said. He worked for the UN refugee agency.
Question: What did he do for it?
Spokesman: I do not have those details in front of me, but we can provide you with those upstairs as soon as we’re done.
Question: The tension is still continuing along the Eritrean/Ethiopian borders and we know that Eritrea is very suspicious of the work of the UN. Is the Secretary-General prepared to look into the work of the Mission itself?
Spokesman: In what way?
Question: To find out why they are so suspicious.
Spokesman: The Eritreans have yet to give us an explanation as to why they are behaving this way in terms of limiting our movement both on the peacekeeping and the humanitarian side. We would be curious to know exactly why.
Question: And so far, they have not given any reasons for this?
Spokesman: No sir.
Question: Nora Dias, who was secretary in the procurement department, is she still employed by the UN, and has there been any effort or aborted effort to separate her employment from the UN?
Spokesman: James, I do not have the list of every UN employee and who they are or where they work. I will try to help you out in the best way that I can.
Question: I just want to make sure there’s no retaliation against people, or protection of people who deserve punishment if they protection higher up, that’s all. So, maybe you could check on that Nora Dias.
Thank you very much.
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
As Steph mentioned, this morning the General Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution on Holocaust remembrance, resolving that the United Nations designate 27 January as the annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. The resolution was co-sponsored by 104 Member States; and we have a list of the co-sponsors upstairs.
At the close of the meeting, Assembly President Jan Eliasson reiterated his opening statement that “the Holocaust also reminds us of the crimes of genocide committed since World War II. It must, therefore, be a unifying historic warning around which we must rally; not only to recall the grievous crimes committed in human history but also to reaffirm our unfaltering resolve to prevent the recurrence of such crimes. We cannot continue to repeat saying ‘Never again’ -– after Cambodia, Rwanda and Srebrenica.”
Today, informal consultations of the plenary on the Human Rights Council are being held both in the morning and in the afternoon, to discuss rules of procedure, working methods and transitional arrangements for the new Council.
And, on Wednesday afternoon, tomorrow, informal consultations of the plenary will be held on the Peacebuilding Commission, to review a new text circulated by the Co-Chairs. They are aiming to circulate a draft resolution towards the end of next week.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Two things. On the Peacebuilding [Commission]. Can we have a copy of the new text and is there a text on the Human Rights Council?
Spokesperson: On the Human Rights Council, they’re not yet at the stage of circulating a text. I believe the peacebuilding text is considered a negotiating text, and the Member States want to keep it informal. When a draft resolution comes out, we’ll be able to circulate that.
Question: I see. That’s not so transparent. OK. And, then just in terms of the Holocaust thing. I’m sorry I haven’t been following it very closely. Did you say it was adopted, the resolution?
Question: Who voted against it?
Spokesperson: There was no vote.
Question: There was no vote. It was done by acclamation. How does that work?
Spokesperson: It was adopted without a vote. By consensus.
Question: How do they establish the consensus? Do they raise hands?
Spokesperson: There was no vote requested. The President asks, “Do I take it this resolution is adopted?”
Question: Do they have something where, if you object, you say within a certain amount of time or something?
Spokesperson: Some Member States spoke in explanation of position after the adoption of the resolution.
Question: Which ones?
Spokesperson: I don’t have a whole list. I know one of them was Egypt and the webcast is a useful record of who spoke. [Other speakers explaining their position were Venezuela, Malaysia and Indonesia.]
Question: After that meeting between Mr. Volcker and the GA membership the other day, the informal meeting, there were some requests about whether it was going to be distributed, the Volcker report to the Assembly membership. Has the Volcker report been distributed to the General Assembly membership?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. That was not actually a General Assembly meeting, I understand. I inquired.
Question: Some people did ask at that meeting about that question.
Spokesperson: It’s not a General Assembly process, so I’m not familiar with how the report was distributed.
Question: Have discussions been concluded on the composition of the Council?
Spokesperson: What Council?
Question: The Security Council. The composition of the Security Council. Is [the GA President] still discussing this item or is it finished?
Spokesperson: Elections for membership in the Security Council were held a couple of weeks ago.
Question: I’m talking about the reform of the Council.
Spokesperson: They are scheduled to have a day-long debate on Security Council reform on November 10, next week.
Question: Just to check in terms of the streamlining in all of this process of the General Assembly. How many of the multiple agenda items have actually been taken away this year, have been removed, or are we still with all the agenda items we’ve always had?
Spokesperson: I think two years ago there was a discussion of cutting back the number of agenda items.
Question: What has happened on that?
Spokesperson: I think the President is focusing on the follow-up to the Summit process. He feels that the way to revitalize the Assembly is to really make it achieve something significant.
Question: So, all the agenda items, which have been largely criticized as just a massive time sink, they all still remain actively discussed?
Spokesperson: He’s not actively seeking to restrict it.
* *** *For information media • not an official record