16/12/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing

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.


Spokesman for Secretary-General


Good afternoon.


My guest today will be Juan Méndez, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and he will be joining us to brief you on his recent visits to Côte d’Ivoire and the Sudan.


**Deputy Secretary-General


I now have a statement attributable to the Spokesman regarding the Deputy Secretary-General.


The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, has informed the Secretary-General of her intention to leave the United Nations early next year in order to take up a new post as a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada.  The Secretary-General warmly congratulates Ms. Fréchette on her forthcoming appointment.  He has always valued her professional support and friendship and looks forward to continuing to work closely with her on the UN reform agenda over the coming months.


Ms. Fréchette will remain at the United Nations until April 2006, in order to complete her role in coordinating the preparation for the Secretary-General’s proposals for implementing comprehensive UN management reform, as requested in the Outcome Document adopted by the Member States during the World Summit in September of this year.  That report, as you know, is due for submission to the General Assembly by the end of February 2006.


At the Centre for International Governance Innovation, Ms. Fréchette will be chairing a two-year research project on nuclear energy, ranging from political, economic and environmental implications of increased nuclear energy use to the risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons.  In carrying out this initiative, Ms. Fréchette will be associated with the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Canada.


The Secretary-General is particularly pleased to note that she will be devoting her future time and energy to an issue that he regards as critical unfinished business for the UN and the international community.


As you know, Ms. Fréchette assumed her duties as the first UN Deputy Secretary-General on 2 March 1998, after having been appointed by the current Secretary-General.  Prior to joining the UN, Ms. Fréchette was the Deputy Minister of National Defence of Canada from 1995 to 1998.  She also served as the Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations from 1992 to 1995.


We have that statement available for you upstairs.


** Iraq


I also have a statement on the Iraqi elections:


Yesterday’s elections were the third time this year that the people of Iraq have braved difficult conditions and the threat of violence to exercise their right to vote.  I pay tribute to their courage and I welcome the healthy voter turnout and relatively calm atmosphere that surrounded election day, the Secretary-General said.  I also offer my congratulations to the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq for having organized and carried out the election in such challenging circumstances.  I am very pleased that my UN electoral team in Baghdad was able to make a contribution to the electoral process, and I am proud of the role they have played in supporting the Iraqi people. 


The participation by all communities in this historic election is another milestone in Iraq’s progress towards a democratic future and lays the foundation for national reconciliation.  Whatever the results of the elections, there is now an opportunity for a political process that offers all Iraqis the chance to play a part in building a peaceful, democratic, unified and prosperous Iraq.  The United Nations will stand with them in this endeavour.


And this statement by the Secretary-General is, of course, available for you upstairs


**Democratic Republic of Congo


I also have a statement on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:


On 18 December, the citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be asked to vote on a new constitution, in a referendum which marks the beginning of the long-awaited electoral process in the country, after years of conflict, turmoil and immeasurable suffering.  With the full and sustained support of the United Nations and the international community, significant progress has been made towards restoring peace and stability in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. 


With almost 25 million voters registered, Congolese citizens have clearly demonstrated their desire for their country to join the ever-growing family of democratic States around the world.  However, for the democratic process to succeed, it is essential that the Congolese people play their full part.  The Secretary-General appeals to the citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to turn out in large numbers, and in a peaceful and orderly manner, to cast their votes in the referendum, and thus play their part in ensuring that their country continues along the path to peace, democracy and prosperity.


That statement is available upstairs as well.


**Security Council


Security Council members today are meeting in closed consultations to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF.  The Secretary-General has recommended a six-month extension for that Force.  Assistant Secretary-General Hédi Annabi briefed the Council, and the United Kingdom Presidency circulated a draft resolution on the mission’s mandate.


After that, Council members received briefings on the recent developments in Liberia –- first, from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for that country, Alan Doss, and then from Ambassador Løj of Denmark, who chairs the Liberia sanctions committee.  Mr. Doss will speak at the stake-out afterwards.


Then, under the Council’s other matters/agenda, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahim Gambari will provide a briefing on Myanmar, which the Secretary-General will also be attending.


Council members will also have their yearly “family photo” with the Secretary-General today.


** Lebanon


Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution that extended by six months the mandate of the International Independent Investigation Commission that has been dealing with the 14 February killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, as well as 22 other people.


The Council also authorized the Commission, following the request of the Lebanese Government, to extend its technical assistance, as appropriate to Lebanese authorities, in their investigation of terrorist attacks perpetrated in Lebanon since the beginning of October 2004.


**Ethiopia/Eritrea


We have available upstairs a full transcript of a press briefing that Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, held prior to his departure from the Eritrean capital, Asmara, late yesterday.


In it, he notes the decision to relocate some civilian and military staff from Eritrea to Ethiopia, a process that was completed today.  He said, “we really are at a crossroads”, noting that we are looking at a range of possible options for the UN Mission’s deployment and functions.  “If we do not manage to come back to diplomacy”, he warned, “the Security Council “will have to look at the implications.”


As I said, that transcript is available for you upstairs.


** Kenya


Turning now to Kenya, the World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that the number of people in the country’s north and east needing food aid will rise from 1.1 million to 2.5 million, because of a lack of rain.


WFP is therefore drawing attention to its $127 million emergency operation, which is scheduled to run out at the end of June of next year, and has also a shortfall of some $46 million.


**United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


A couple of notes, one from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), the first one on Chad.


Earlier this week, the agency opened a new refugee site in southern Chad to cope with refugees coming over from the Central African Republic.  The new site can accommodate some 18,000 refugees, as well as offer space for agricultural activities.


And in Indonesia, after six years of work in the region, UNHCR is wrapping up its operations in West Timor and is scheduled to end its humanitarian operations there at the end of this year.  The UNHCR has helped in the repatriation of some 225,000 refugees, the majority of whom returned to the now independent Timor-Leste.  The agency also assisted in the integration of some 28,000 people who chose to remain in West Timor.


** China


The UN Development Programme (UNDP) launched the China Human Development Report 2005 in Beijing last night.  Considered the most comprehensive analysis to date of social inequality in China, the report says the country’s extreme income disparities could threaten stability there.  It is the first China Human Development Report to be written entirely by a team of Chinese experts.


**United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)


And lastly, I would like to congratulate your colleague, Masood Haider, who is of the Dawn newspaper of Pakistan, on his successful election as the President of the UN Correspondents Association.  I trust that election was held according to the highest standards.  But seriously, I think that with Masood there were 14 other people elected, and we very much look forward to working with you.  I think there are a lot of issues we have to work on pretty quickly, notably on press access.  So, congratulations, Masood.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you have anything on Mehlis’ successor?


Spokesman:  When we do, we will announce the successor.  We are continuing the process, and that process is going on fairly actively.


Question:  Are you in a position right now to comment on what the Secretary-General’s role will be in setting up the tribunal?


Spokesman:  No, the Council, if I read the resolution correctly, has asked the Secretary-General to come back and report and then study the issue.  We have just gotten the resolution.  Obviously, the Secretary-General will report back to the Council in due time on those issues.


Question:  On the Deputy Secretary-General, is there any reason she decided to leave nine months ahead of the end of the Secretary-General’s term and will she be replaced?


Spokesman:  The reason she decided to leave slightly earlier is that she received this very attractive offer from the University in Ontario, which perfectly fits in her plans for the next phase of her life, which is to go and spend some time in academia after a long number of years in public service.  It is also a chance for her to go back to Canada after living in the US… living abroad for some eight years.  As she told me yesterday, really, it was an offer she couldn’t refuse.  But I think the important thing to stress here is that she will see through the project entrusted to her by the Secretary-General, which is the management reform proposals which are going to the General Assembly at the end of February.  So until she leaves, she will be working full time on that project.


As far as the replacement, due to the relatively short amount of time left in his term –- again, this post, as you recall, is one appointed by the Secretary-General, so it is a very personal choice for any Secretary-General –- but due to the relatively short amount of time left in his term, it is the Secretary-General’s intention to use, where appropriate, and augment his team on the thirty-eighth floor, to cover the functions that are being covered by the Deputy Secretary-General and her responsibilities.  When we have more details on those arrangements, we will come back to you on that.


Question:  With her departure, does that mean that Fréchette’s rebuttal to the Volcker report will be made public?  Will we get access to her rebuttal?


Spokesman:  The answers we have provided you on those question on Volcker, when the report came out, have not changed.


Question:  Meaning what, exactly?


Spokesman:  Meaning that it was her decision to answer the way she did to the Volcker report, and there is really nothing to add.


Question:  Has an agreement been reached between the United Nations and the Volcker Commission?


Spokesman:  No, as I told your colleagues, I think Nick Wadhams, it is something we are working on, and as soon as we have something, we will announce it.


Question:  Is Mark Malloch Brown going to be Deputy Secretary-General?


Spokesman:  No.  As I told you, as appropriate, the Secretary-General may augment his staff on the thirty-eighth floor to cover some of the functions that were done by the Deputy Secretary-General.  As Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Malloch Brown has quite enough on his plate.


Question:  What is the possible relationship in the Secretary-General’s mind between the situation with Ms. Fréchette leaving and the Volcker recommendation for a chief operating officer to be appointed?  What is the Secretary-General’s latest thinking on the wisdom of creating such a post now that he has this vacancy?


Spokesman:  I would say that the two are unrelated.  The proposal put forward by Mr. Volcker is something that would really have to be studied by the Member States in the way that it is outlined in the Volcker report.


Question:  When Fréchette tendered her resignation earlier, in the wake of the bombing of the Headquarters in Baghdad, Annan insisted on keeping her on board.  But here there is a non-controversial situation and he says, by all means go, leave nine months early–- take the job and be happy.  There seems to be…


Spokesman:  No, first of all, it is a different time in the calendar in the Secretary-General’s term.  The Secretary-General, it is clear, would have preferred that she stay on and she finish her term along with him at the end of this coming year.  But he completely understands this is an extremely attractive offer that she has received.  It will be a great new opportunity for her.  What is, I think, most important in all of this is that she is staying on and seeing through the management reform proposals which will go to the General Assembly at the end of February.


Question:  Is the Secretary-General’s press conference on?


Spokesman:  You know, I think this is the tenth time you have asked me.  If somebody asks me an eleventh time, I think we will cancel it.  It is on for the 21st at 10:30.  Yes, Bill.


Question:  Is the Secretary-General still giving a press conference on the…


Spokesman:  Thank you.  I think we will take one last question before we move on to something much more serious.


Question:  Regarding the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has that country asked for UN election monitors?


Spokesman:  The UN is assisting with the setting up of the election.  Unless I am mistaken, and I will be corrected.  But it is the case when we assist in the running of elections, in the setting up of elections, we do not observe or monitor.  What we can do, and what we do offer to do, is to help coordinate both the national and international observers.  But I will get you a bit more detail on our role.


**Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


The General Assembly President intends for the Assembly to take action on the Peacebuilding Commission in plenary next Tuesday.  He has had positive reaction from Member States on the draft resolution he presented earlier this week. 


We have therefore tentatively planned for the President to give a press briefing on Tuesday to give you a heads-up.  We are also going to see if we can set up a possible background briefing on Monday by a senior official or expert, who can give you more detail on how the proposed commission would function.  We will let you know about that.


This afternoon, the General Assembly will meet in plenary to take action on a number of reports from the Third Committee.  Those reports include recommendations that the Assembly adopt draft resolutions on the situation of human rights in several countries, specifically in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Turkmenistan, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Uzbekistan and Myanmar.  Other reports to be considered, cover promotion and protection of the rights of children; the advancement of women; the rights of people to self-determination; indigenous issues; and questions related to refugees. 


Also this afternoon, the Second Committee will take action on a number of draft resolutions, including on financing for development, and will conclude its work for the year.


This morning, the President and several of his co-chairs are holding a briefing for NGOs on the follow-up process to the 2005 World Summit.  Some 100 NGO representatives are participating.


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