13/01/2006
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


Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon and happy Friday to all of you and all of us.


**Security Council


The Security Council is currently in a closed meeting on Sudan.  The Council’s program began today with a briefing in an open meeting by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Sudan, Jan Pronk.


In his remarks, Mr. Pronk said the implementation of Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement, though slow, remains on track and is moving forward.  Pronk noted that the sense of optimism in the people of the south is “low”.


On Darfur, he said, “Looking back at three years of killings and cleansing in Darfur, we must admit that our peace strategy so far has failed.  All we did was pick up the pieces and muddle through, doing too little too late.”


Regarding the force on the ground in Darfur, Mr. Pronk said a much bigger force should be in place and present everywhere where people may be attacked.  “It should be strong, able to defend itself, able to deter attacks on civilians and able to disarm militias and the Janjaweed, which should have been disarmed by the Government of Sudan in the first place”, he said, adding that “it should be supported by sanctions”.


Pronk will be here, in room 226, to speak to you after he is done with the Security Council members.


And the Secretary-General, who spoke to you on record and at length yesterday on Sudan, among other issues, after the Security Council luncheon, attended the open meeting. 


And also on Security Council-related issues, the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) is just out and should be available to you upstairs.


** Liberia


The Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Fréchette, is scheduled to attend, in Monrovia, the inauguration ceremony of the new President and Vice President of Liberia.  And that will take place this Monday on 16 January.


This historic event, which will be attended by Heads of State and Government, as well as a number of diplomatic missions and international organizations, will mark the end of a two year transition process and the installation of the newly elected Government of Liberia.


**Chief of Protocol


The Secretary-General has appointed today Alice Hecht of Belgium as his new Chief of Protocol, to succeed Aminata Djermakoye, who will be taking up a new post in Geneva


Ms. Hecht comes to New York from heading the Division of Administration for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo.


The Secretary-General is very grateful for the very able and dedicated work carried out by his outgoing Chief of Protocol.  She performed her duties and responsibilities with poise, grace and elegance, combined with a strong commitment to excellence.  The Secretary-General wishes her every success in her new assignment.


**UNHCR Appointments


And also on the issue of appointments, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mr. Guterres, has announced the appointment of two new Assistant High Commissioners to oversee the agency’s field operations and its international protection work for millions of refugees and others.


Ms. Judy Cheng-Hopkins was named Assistant High Commissioner for Operations.  A Malaysian national, she replaces Kamel Morjane, who left UNHCR in 2005 to become the Minister of Defence in Tunisia.


And also, Ms. Erika Feller, an Australian national, has been appointed to the new post of Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.  Both appointments were approved by the Secretary-General and will become effective 15 February.


**Humanitarian Appeal


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that more than 130 participants representing 80 Member States attended the “Programme Kick-off” for the 2006 Humanitarian Appeal, which was held yesterday in Geneva.


However, although substantial number of pledges had been made -- including towards Pakistan earthquake relief, for example -- it was regrettable that pledges of no more than $1 million had been made for countries that were historically underfunded, such as Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea.


** Pakistan


Turning now to Pakistan, in fact, and the quake situation, the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says it is intensifying its winterization drive in relief camps by replacing low-quality tents, distributing heating stoves and relocating people to camps that are better equipped to cope with bad weather.


UNHCR is currently helping the Pakistani Government and non-governmental organizations run those camps, which house nearly 140,000 people left homeless by the devastating quake.


And we will have, if I am not mistaken, also on the issue of the Pakistani quake, Ms. Margareta Wahlstrom, the deputy head of OCHA, come here to brief you on Monday to mark the 100th day since the quake.


**Horn of Africa


The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), meanwhile, today said that unless food aid is provided urgently to the drought-stricken Horn of Africa, it faces a “humanitarian catastrophe” involving millions of people.


Sounding the alarm, the WFP joins other United Nations agencies that have warned that as many as 11 million people in the area are in need of immediate assistance.


And we do have a press release available upstairs.


**Treaty Signings


Two treaties to flag for you that will be opened for signature at United Nations Headquarters starting Monday.  They are the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, and the Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts.


Last month, the Secretary-General urged Member States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Convention on the Safety of United Nations Personnel and to become party to the new Optional Protocol.  He said, “Without security, our work for your people suffers.”


And we have a press release detailing those two treaties upstairs.


**Disabilities Treaty


Also on the issue of treaties, discussion on the first-ever treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities will be going on in this Building, starting on Monday.  Participants will discuss issues such as equality and non-discrimination, accessibility and personal mobility, and equal recognition before the law.


And we do have a press release available on that as well.


**General Assembly


And I do have an announcement from the Office of the President of the General Assembly, which says that the Co-Chairs on Secretariat and Management Reform, Ambassadors Munir Akram and Allan Rock of Pakistan and Canada, submitted to Member States yesterday a comprehensive progress report outlining what has been achieved and what lies ahead on this part of the Summit follow-up process.


Informal consultations of the plenary are scheduled for the morning of Wednesday, 25 January, to hear progress on the preparation of the Secretary-General’s report on mandate review.  Another meeting will be held on the morning of Monday, 30 January, at which the Deputy Secretary-General will give a briefing on progress in the preparation of the report on human resource and financial rules and regulations.


Copies of the report on the Secretariat management reform are available upstairs.  And all its attachments will also be posted on the website of the General Assembly Summit follow-up site.


On other fronts concerning the follow-up to the September Summit, consultations of the plenary on ECOSOC reform are being held this morning, and consultations on development are scheduled for Monday.


Regarding the Human Rights Council, as announced yesterday, following Wednesday’s positive conclusion of the informal plenary consultations, the Co-Chairs, as well as President Eliasson, will now proceed to hold consultations with individual Member States.  Plenary consultations are to resume subsequently at a date to be determined.  Therefore, there will be no formal meeting on the Human Rights Council consultations group this afternoon as announced earlier this week.


And that was from the Presidency of the General Assembly.


**Week Ahead


And we do have the week ahead for you since today is Friday.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On Sudan and Darfur, we’re hearing a lot of warnings from various parts of the United Nations and calls for this more robust force and turning to western nations.  Security Council ambassadors say, well, we have to wait for the African Union to take a decision first.  I’m wondering whether Kofi accepts this idea that responsibility to protect exists only as long as the African Union agrees first, or whether we’ve reached a point where African Union agreement becomes aside from the point that basically the rest of the world has to invoke the responsibility to protect people in Darfur.


Spokesman:  Well, I think, you know the concept of responsibility to protect is obviously everyone’s business.  I think the Secretary-General spoke to you at length on this yesterday, and it is clear that there is a need to support the work of the African Union.  Obviously, they’ve said that they may not be able to go on until after March.  As we’ve said, contingency planning is taking place in case this does become a United Nations peacekeeping force, but obviously, if it does, we will need the robust support of Member States that have the capacity to help.


And that obviously includes, you know, the tactical air support and other equipment that the African Union is not currently getting.  But Mr. Pronk will be here in about 20 minutes or so, and he will be able to answer those questions more fully for you.


Question:  One more question on that though, has the Secretary-General had any indication from any of the developed countries which would have that equipment that they might be willing to help?


Spokesman:  I’m not aware of those discussions at this point.


Question:  An expanded force would require at least the cooperation of the Sudanese Government.  But they seem to be saying that they haven’t been approached by any United Nations officials at all about any change in the force structure.


Spokesman:  Right, I think at this point the African Union mandate is still in force until –


Question:  I’m sorry -- just let me finish my question.  Given that the contingency planning is happening at the moment, it has been for a few weeks, has there been no liaison with the Government on this, with the Government of Sudan at all with the United Nations?


Spokesman:  Again I think that’s a question that Mr. Pronk may be able to answer in more detail, because I don’t have any information on that specific content.


Question:  Have there been any updates on the part of the Secretary-General in terms of meeting -- or I’m sorry -- discussing the current Iran situation?  And do you anticipate that he will participate in any proposed meetings that will be taking place?


Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware of him taking part in any of the meetings that are scheduled with the European Union Three in the next couple of days.  The one thing is that he will be briefing the Chinese Ambassador along the same lines that he did with the European Union Three and Russia and the United States yesterday.


Question:  Do you expect that he will be travelling to Washington any time soon for meetings?


Spokesman:  No, I do not.


Question:  To get a sense of exactly what he was saying there yesterday, on the one hand, you have both the United States and Europe saying negotiations had effectively and in their current form reached the end of the road.  And then Kofi came and basically said, no, negotiations haven’t reached the end of the road.  Is that the message he’s trying to send?


Spokesman:  I think the message he was sending is that he feels that the IAEA discussions should be supported.  He does not want to prejudge, obviously, what the IAEA Board would want to do -- what individual Member States would want to do.  He also insisted to the Iranians that they need to cooperate fully with the IAEA.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record