|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
On the fourth day of her visit to Sudan, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today met in Khartoum with senior Government officials. According to her Spokesman, she conveyed concerns about restrictions imposed by a new law on non-governmental organizations and the effects of pervasive presence of officials of the State’s security and intelligence services, which was especially evident in Darfur.
Ms. Arbour also asked for more access for human rights monitors to detention centres, including those of the national security services.
Also, the UN Mission in Sudan reports of a demonstration of about 2,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the Kalma camp near the African Union compound in Darfur. The IDP representatives handed over a letter, in which they complained of increased insecurity in the camp. They cited several shooting incidents and the abduction and rape of women, the failure of the African Union to protect the camp, and insufficient humanitarian assistance. They called for UN forces to be deployed, as soon as possible, and to be compensated for their losses.
Amid rising tensions and reported preparations for armed attacks in Chad, the World Food Programme (WFP) today warned that food is becoming a serious issue for some 70,000 people who have either fled the continuous armed incursions in the east of the country or are residents in that part of the country.
A WFP-led food security assessment mission, which has just returned from eastern Chad, said that, while the situation was not yet a cause for alarm, the food stocks of some 50,000 internally displaced people were rapidly being depleted, as they share their limited resources with around 20,000 people hosting them. There is a WFP press release on that with more detail.
Turning to matters closer to home, the Security Council will hold consultations at 3 this afternoon on non-proliferation and other matters. The Council will discuss the report submitted last Friday by the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, on the status of Iran’s compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty. That report has been made available, as you know.
Two appointments to announce. The Secretary-General has appointed Jean-Marie Fakhouri of Lebanon as his Deputy Special Representative for Iraq, with responsibility for Humanitarian, Reconstruction and Development issues. Mr. Fakhouri is succeeding Mr. Staffan de Mistura of Sweden, who, as you know, will be named to head the UN Staff College in Italy.
For over 25 years, Mr. Fakhouri has managed humanitarian operations and complex emergencies, while serving with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). For the past two years, he has been UNHCR’s Director of Operations for Sudan, addressing the needs of Sudanese refugees, returnees and internally displaced persons.
The Secretary-General has also today decided to establish an Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention. This Committee will provide guidance and support to the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Juan Méndez, and contribute to the broader efforts of the UN in that field.
The Committee will be composed of [distinguished individuals] with a diversity of backgrounds related to conflict prevention, human rights, peacekeeping, diplomacy and mediation. It will be chaired by Dr. David Hamburg, President Emeritus of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and will meet at least twice during the year. Its first meeting is scheduled for 19 June. A handout is available in the Office of the Spokesman with more details.
**Secretary-General’s Trip to Washington
The Secretary-General tomorrow will travel to Washington, D.C., where he will address the centennial dinner of the American Jewish Committee that takes place tomorrow evening.
On Friday, he will deliver the inaugural speech in an annual series sponsored by the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, on the topic of the relationship between the United States and the United Nations. The Secretary-General is scheduled to return to New York later on Friday.
Turning now to Kosovo. Tomorrow and Friday morning, the Deputy Special Envoy for Kosovo status talks, Albert Rohan, will chair, in Vienna, the fourth round of direct talks between Pristina and Belgrade.
Like the previous round, these talks will focus on decentralization and the creation of new municipalities, including, but not limited to, those with Kosovo-Serb majorities.
** Sierra Leone
The first report of the Secretary-General on the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone is out as a document. The report says that the overall security situation in the country has remained calm since the departure of the UN peacekeeping mission, UNAMSIL. Currently, it says, the most immediate threat to stability in Sierra Leone is the worsening youth employment situation.
It also notes that there is growing concern that the ongoing trials of the former fighting groups at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and the recent transfer of the former Liberian leader, Charles Taylor, to the Court could also be a source of potential security incidents. So far, the small contingent of UN troops protecting the Court has the security of the Court premises under control, the report says.
**World Press Freedom Day
Today is also World Press Freedom Day, and the Secretary-General has issued a message, in which he says it is tragic and unacceptable that the number of journalists killed in the line of duty has become a barometer for measuring press freedom.
And we have upstairs the full text of that message, as well as one by the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura.
A couple of answers to questions that have been raised over the last few days here. One, we will have a briefing by Mr. Tunku Abdul Aziz, who is the Special Advisor for the Ethics Office. He will be here a week from tomorrow, on Thursday, to brief you on the work of the Ethics Office and its scope.
**Financial Disclosure Forms
Also, I have been asked a number of times about the financial disclosure forms and a number of Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General who had not yet filled out the forms. According to the numbers I was just given, I was told that about 80 per cent of the Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General who have been required to fill out the forms have done so. That is about 80 per cent.
The Deputy Secretary-General is now going to go after those who have not yet filled them out, to get them to do so, as soon as possible.
Under new regulations that came out this year, directors and all staff in procurement, people with access to information regarding accounts or financial information, and anyone else that each department’s executive office deems appropriate, will also have to fill out those forms. The deadline for that is the end of this month. That will implicate about 1,300 people.
Maria Arteta, of the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Coordination for Child Labour Programmes in Latin America, as well as the Director of the ILO’s New York Office, will be here to launch a report entitled The end of child labour: Within reach, which provides the most recent and wide-ranging assessment on the extent of child labour and international efforts to stop it.
At 11 o’clock, in this room, WHO will be launching the report Fuel for Life: Household Energy and Health. Eva Rehfuess, author of the report, will be joined by [Dr. Carlos Carvalan] from the WHO’s Department of Public Health and Environment to discuss how investment in cleaner fuels will save millions of lives and produce a seven-fold economic benefit.
And tomorrow, our guest will be Victor da Silva Angelo, the head of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone, to talk to you about that country.
Questions and Answers
Question: Which USGs and ASGs haven’t filled out the form, and has the Secretary-General filled out the form?
Spokesman: As it had been said previously, the Secretary-General will voluntarily fill out the form, but I do not believe that has yet taken place. I do not have a list of the names of those who have not yet done so.
Question: Why is it that Mr. Annan set up the foundation? Is it that he doesn’t trust the UN to spend money properly on good projects in Africa?
Spokesman: Not at all. The Secretary-General felt he wanted to set up a foundation that would deal with issues that had been very close to his heart, in Africa. No doubt, the foundation will deal quite a lot with the United Nations.
Question: Why would he not trust the UN to be spending the money properly?
Spokesman: He felt he wanted to set up this foundation, and he will do so.
Question: Has Mark Malloch Brown filled out the financial disclosure form?
Spokesman: Yes, he has.
Question: What will the Advisory Committee on Genocide do exactly?
Spokesman: It will provide support and guidance to the Special Adviser. The personalities on the panel include Archbishop Tutu and a number of other high-profile names. Advice will be on how best for the Special Adviser to proceed with his work on the issues of prevention of genocide.
Question: Why was it decided that this was necessary?
Spokesman: I think any backup that can be offered to the Special Adviser on Genocide would be welcome on this issue, which is [very] important.
Question: Did the Secretary-General say…
Spokesman: I think it is a perfectly healthy way for a UN official to have access to people whose experiences can help in his work. It is people from academia, from Government. It is to provide a healthy exchange of ideas.
Question: Is there any sort of tacit acknowledgement in this, as seems to be the case with Darfur, that this notion of “never again” has not really been taken up and nations really don’t really seem, as the Special Adviser on Genocide said himself in this room, to have adopted this philosophy of “never again”, despite preaching it.
Spokesman: The more we remind people of that, the better. Anything that can enhance Mr. Méndez’ work is welcome.
Question: Is this an acknowledgement from Kofi about what he said here?
Spokesman: I would not interpret it that way.
Question: Was the Zayed Award given to Kofi Annan because he is Kofi Annan, or because he is the Secretary-General of the United Nations?
Spokesman: It was given to Kofi Annan for his leadership in the environment field.
Question: As Kofi Annan or as the Secretary-General of the United Nations?
Spokesman: As Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Question: Because there seems to be, now, a separation here, that Kofi Annan is taking the award, not to UN causes, but to a foundation that bears his name and might help him in a political career in the future.
Spokesman: The second part of your question, I would dismiss. I would wait until we are in a position to announce the foundation, and how it would work and the kind of causes it would benefit, to render judgment.
Question: What happens to the interest gained between the time the prize was awarded and the time that the prize is being invested?
Spokesman: No doubt, that will just add to the amount of money that will go to the foundation.
Question: Why was Kofi Annan not the first one to fill in that form?
Spokesman: He will fill out the form.
Question: Is there any expectation that the Secretary-General will make some comment before, in or after the consultations on non-proliferation?
Spokesman: No, I do not expect him to speak out on the issue of Iran today.
Question: There are indications that the elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo will be postponed. Is the Secretary-General concerned about that, or he goes along with it?
Spokesman: It is a decision made by… and the decision has been confirmed as a matter of fact… the Congolese electoral authorities and we would support them and help them along in their decision.
Question: You mentioned that the Secretary-General is filling out the form voluntarily and that he is not required to do so. Is he the only exception?
Spokesman: As he is not technically a staff member.
Question: On Sudan, can you tell us a little bit on who the Secretary-General’s Representative had been talking to, what kind of involvement he has had to get the Abuja talks going, does he have any ideas? What is Jan Pronk doing in terms of participating, or trying to move the process forward?
Spokesman: Mr. Pronk, as you know, was here. He had been called back to Headquarters to appear in front of one of the General Assembly’s budgetary committees, the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ), to defend his mission’s budget. He saw the Secretary-General this morning, and he will be headed to Abuja starting today to follow up on the talks. There have been various contacts through different levels. We are obviously following the Abuja talks very closely. The Secretary-General would continue to urge the parties to redouble their efforts and to agree on a deal.
Question: Has the Secretary-General been personally on the phone to any of the principal parties?
Spokesman: He has had phone contacts. I am not aware of any phone contacts directly with him and the parties, but we do have a small unit working with the AU in their efforts in the mediation process.
Question: Is Mr. Pronk taking back any particular suggestions, initiatives, ideas about a way out of the stalemate?
Spokesman: We don’t want to prejudge whatever negotiating tactics are being used. Our focus is really on getting a deal done.
Question: In Washington, will the Secretary-General have any press availability, or take questions at any of these events?
Spokesman: I can check if there is anything after the George Washington University. We can check with upstairs.
Question: How many people are required to fill out those financial disclosure forms, and are they public?
Spokesman: No, the forms, as Mr. Burnham has explained here, will not be made public. The USGs and ASGs required to fill out the forms are about 125 Secretariat-wide. Under the new rules, which will extend all the way to Directors and anyone else who has access to confidential financial information or sensitive information… we are talking about 1,300 other people.
Question: Why is the Secretary-General meeting with the President of Tokyo University, and why is he meeting with the Spanish Investigative Judge Baltasar Garzon?
Spokesman: Two valid questions. I will try and get answers for you.
[The Spokesman later added that the President of Tokyo University happened to be in town and asked to meet with the Secretary-General. On Judge Garzon, the Spokesman said that Judge Garzon briefed the Secretary-General on the results of his work over the past year, while teaching and researching at the New York University School of Law’s Center on Law and Security. They also discussed the situations in Colombia, Spain and Venezuela. The Secretary-General thanked Judge Garzon for his work in this field, which was of great interest to the United Nations.]
Question: How involved is the Secretary-General now in the UN budgetary and management reforms?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General is quite focused on it. He will be talking to a number of ambassadors, maybe even meeting with them, to discuss how to rebuild the consensus that was lost last Friday, and to see how we can all move ahead on the reform. He will be in contact with the Member States on those issues.
Question: How long will the Secretary-General leave for his long trip at the end of the month?
Spokesman: We have not yet officially announced any travel beyond Washington.
Question: Regarding the Committee on genocide prevention, did Mr. Méndez request help? Will the Committee go out on fact-finding missions, or are they going to send out questionnaires to Member States and wait for them to respond? How is the budget allocated for this, if they are going on fact-finding missions?
Spokesman: My understanding is that they will not be travelling. These people are serving on this Committee pro bono. Whether or not this was requested by Mr. Méndez, I don’t know. I can find out for you, but, as I said, it is a good way for him to exchange ideas and to get fresh suggestions from people who have had experiences in the field of conflict prevention and diplomacy. In addition to Archbishop Tutu, it also includes Roméo Dallaire, who was the head of the UN force in Rwanda, Gareth Evans of Australia, Roberto Garretón of Chile, to name just a few.
Question: If they come into town here, or if they go to Geneva, for example, the UN is not going to foot the bill for them?
Spokesman: My understanding is that the meetings will be in New York. They will be serving pro bono. I will find out who pays for the travel costs.
Question: The letter the IDPs presented, who did they present it to? Did they give it to a UN person in Darfur?
Spokesman: It was presented to the UN mission, to UN staff.
Question: If the forms are not going to be made public, will there be some kind of external scrutiny -- independent auditors to look at theses forms-- or is purely an internal…
Spokesman: It will be handled by the Ethics Office, and that is one thing Mr. Tunku should be able to talk to you about, how the forms will be handled.
Question: So there is no external…
Spokesman: No, that is not what I am saying. I am saying that is exactly the kind of question we can ask Mr. Tunku.
Question: The Special Representative to Afghanistan is meeting the Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister. Could you tell us a little bit about what that meeting is going to be about?
Spokesman: We flagged that meeting yesterday. It has to do with regional issues. As Mr. Koenigs and a lot of Special Representatives do, they meet their neighbours and Iran is obviously…
Question: I mean, sometimes these sort of talks are used as a way to quietly talk about other issues. Will there be any discussion of the Iranian proliferation…
Spokesman: I am not aware that there will be anything, besides Afghanistan, on the agenda.
Question: Did the Secretary-General, or anybody else on his behalf, respond to the letter from the Iranian Ambassador, concerning the perceived US threat being posed to Iran?
Spokesman: Again, I mentioned that yesterday. The letter was sent to the Secretary-General for circulation to the Member States, to the Security Council in particular, and to the Member States at large, and that has been done already.
Question: Well, the letter also asks for the United Nations and the Security Council to take resolute and urgent action.
Spokesman: It is addressed to the Member States for action. That is what we have done with the letter.
Question: Did anybody reply?
Spokesman: The only action that is being done, at this point, is to circulate the letter.
Question: Is there a reason that the Secretary-General has not filled the form out so far? I mean, if 80 per cent have…
Spokesman: As I said, he is not required to by the staff rules. It was said, from this podium, that he would do it, and I believe he will do it.
Question: What is the delay?
Spokesman: The form will be filled out, I have no doubt.
Question: So, you are not going to answer the question?
Spokesman: I am answering the question to the best of my ability, which is what I usually do.
Question: Why would the Secretary-General fill out the form, if he is not bound by staff rules to do so?
Spokesman: To show an example, to be an example to the rest of the staff who need to fill it out?
Question: So why hasn’t he set the same example by abiding by the $250 ceiling for gifts?
Spokesman: I am done with answering questions like that.
Question: The Secretary-General has met this morning with women representatives of non-governmental organizations. What was the subject of discussion?
Spokesman: My understanding is that it was a follow-up to a letter they had sent him on the issue of representation of women within the UN system.
Question: Has he made any presentations on the future hiring of women? That was the objection, wasn’t it, that Mark Malloch Brown was not a woman?
Spokesman: To the best of my ability, I will agree with you, but he was replaced in his previous job by a woman. The Secretary-General has made an effort to put women in senior positions, but, as he has admitted himself, much more can be done on that front.
Question: Did he make any [inaudible]
Spokesman: That much, I don’t know what the outcome of the meeting was.
[The Spokesman later added that the representatives of women’s non-governmental organizations shared ideas on how to make gender concerns more mainstream in the work of the United Nations. They also advised on how to make women’s issues addressed throughout the United Nations, as opposed to in just certain agencies. The Secretary-General responded favourably, saying that the High-level Panel on System-wide Coherence should follow up on the representatives’ ideas.]
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record