8 May 2006
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

 


The 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


Good afternoon.


**Secretary-General Statement on Violence in Sudan and Chad


The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the recent attacks on staff of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and of international humanitarian organizations working both in Darfur, Sudan, and in Chad.


He particularly deplores the killing of an AMIS staff member, as well as the earlier attack against a national staff member of an international NGO, in Kalma camp, and the critical wounding of a UNICEF international staff member in Abéché, Eastern Chad, which I just referred to.


While expressing his condolences to the victims and their families, the Secretary-General calls on all parties to adhere to, and abide by, the Darfur Peace Agreement signed on 5 May, and to refrain from any further violence.


And that statement is upstairs.


**Sudan/Humanitarian


Turning to Jan Egeland, who, as you know, is currently on a visit to Darfur to review the humanitarian situation and to work on issues of humanitarian access, as you heard this morning there were some incidents regarding his visit in Kalma camp.


As for the details as to what happened, what we have been informed at this point is that there were two attacks.  The first one occurred during Egeland’s visit to Kalma.  The specific attack was against a national NGO staff member, which prompted the immediate departure of Egeland and his entourage from the camp.  After Egeland left, the African Union compound in the camp was destroyed by camp residents.


Egeland is arriving back in Khartoum today and will be holding meetings with local UN humanitarian workers and NGO officials.  And on the 10th of this month, in two days, he will head to Chad.  We are currently on the phone with Mr. Egeland’s team so we hope to have more details shortly.


** Chad


Meanwhile, the UN country team in Chad has condemned and expressed regret over the increase of violence in that country, which led to the serious wounding of a UNICEF worker in the eastern town of Abéché on Friday.


The UN in Chad notes that this is the twenty-fourth case of carjacking of a humanitarian vehicle in Chad and that so far no one has been arrested.  In that context, the UN calls on the Chadian authorities to do whatever they can to ensure the safety of all civilians, including those in the humanitarian community, in order to maintain humanitarian operations in the eastern part of Chad.  And we have a press release from them upstairs.


** Sudan -- Political


Also, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, is heading Tuesday to Darfur in his first visit to the area since the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement by the Government of Sudan and the Sudanese Liberation Army (SLA) -- the main rebel movement there.


Pronk’s three-day visit to Darfur will involve extensive discussions with top local officials, community and tribal leaders and commanders of rebel movements on the peace deal signed in Abuja.  He will renew attempts he made during the marathon mediation efforts in Abuja to prod rebel leaders, who failed to sign the Agreement, into joining the peace process.


And at a press briefing in Khartoum earlier today, Pronk hailed the Agreement and called the text a fair compromise.


After returning from Darfur, Pronk intends to travel to Addis Ababa to attend an important meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council next Monday that will discuss the future of the African Union’s protection force in Darfur following the breakthrough in Abuja.


** Sudan -- Funding


And on a related note, we’ve had quite a few questions in this room on the money the Secretary-General received from the Zayed Prize.  And now I have a statement to read out on this issue.


“To highlight the urgent need for contributions to the humanitarian appeal in Darfur, the Secretary-General has decided to contribute the $500,000 Zayed Prize he was awarded in February to the UN-led relief effort in Darfur.  Currently, contributions stand at 20 per cent of need, with devastating implications on the ground.  As he said last Friday, he hopes that not just Governments but, as with the tsunami relief effort, also ordinary citizens, as well as corporations and other actors will step forward to meet the very urgent needs there.  He hopes his decision will help encourage other donors to contribute.


“The Secretary-General had previously announced, upon receipt of the Prize, that it would serve as seed money for a foundation he had planned to establish to promote girls’ education and agriculture in Africa.  Given the massive shortfall in contributions to the Darfur relief effort, he now feels that the money is more urgently needed there.  However, the Secretary-General is still proceeding with plans to establish a fund along the lines he had announced.”


**Secretary-General Travels


Also to continue on the Secretary-General, we’ve also been getting questions on his upcoming trip.  And we can now confirm that he will travel on Wednesday to Austria and then on to the Republic of Korea, Japan, China, Viet Nam and Thailand in that order.


In Vienna, he is expected to deliver a keynote address at the opening session of the Summit of Heads of State and Government of the European Union, and Latin America and the Caribbean.


And in Seoul, Tokyo and Beijing, he will meet with top Government officials, as well as with students from leading universities.


Then he will travel on to Hanoi, where he expects to meet with the President, and other senior Government officials.


And in Bangkok, he addresses the High-Level Panel on Human Development.


And we expect him to return to New York over the Memorial Day weekend.


Spokesman:  Are you stretching or do you have a question?


Question:  I have a question.


Spokesman:  Alright, can I finish?


Question:  I didn’t realize you weren’t finished.


Spokesman:  Thank you.


**Security Council


The Security Council is today holding consultations on Eritrea/Ethiopia.  Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, briefed on that subject.


The mandate of the UN Mission in those two countries is due to expire a week from today.


**Secretary-General Messages


A couple of more things to flag for you.  We have upstairs messages from the Secretary-General to the 24th Ministerial Session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which is meeting today, and another to the 114th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which began on Sunday.


And we have copies of the commencement address given by the Deputy Secretary-General earlier today at NYU here in New York.


**Tuesday Schedule


And tomorrow, unfortunately, will be a busy day for all of you and all of us.  Just to go through the planning of your schedule, as we know it, beginning at 9 a.m., the Secretary-General and the other principal members of the Quartet will meet in Conference Room 8 -- and there will be a photo op -- to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East.  You’d also asked about who else would be attending that session.  We can confirm now that the Foreign Ministers of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan will participate.


The Quartet principals will also hold a separate meeting together in the Secretary-General’s conference room at 3 p.m., without the regional partners.


Then, at 5 p.m. down in Conference Room 3, there will be a press conference by the Quartet principals.


The Human Rights Council, as Pragati will also tell you, the human rights elections are also scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. tomorrow in the General Assembly Hall, for the election of the 47 members of the Human Rights Council.


And in the afternoon, at a time to be determined, the Security Council Presidency is planning a meeting on Sudan to be chaired by the Foreign Minister of the Congo.  And we do expect other foreign ministers to participate in that meeting.


**World Bank


And if that wasn’t enough, our colleagues at the World Bank wanted you to be aware that the World Bank will be launching the “Little Green Data Book 2006”, a pocket-sized quick reference guide on key environmental and development data for over 200 countries.


The launch will take place tomorrow afternoon at 1:15 p.m. across the street at the Institute for International Education.


And that is it for me.


**Questions and Answers


Yes, Masood?


Question:  I just wanted to find out about Mr. Egeland’s visit.  This person who was killed, this NGO staff who was killed, was along with Mr. Egeland?


Spokesman:  It is my understanding that it was in the same incident.  But as I said, I was a little late because we were still on the phone with Mr. Egeland’s team.  So we’ll try to get more details to you.


Question:  And when did the Secretary-General make this donation to Darfur?


Spokesman:  This is something that he has been thinking about recently as Mr. Egeland and others have highlighted the drastic humanitarian shortfall in Darfur.  And he thought this would be a very good use for the money and he also thought it would set an example to others who he would like to see contribute money.

Yes, Mark?


Question:  I just wondered if you had any response right now to President Bush’s announcement a few minutes ago, including that Secretary Rice is going to come and push for faster moves toward deploying peacekeeping forces?  Specifically, where is the UN now in identifying potential contributors to a peacekeeping force now that the Sudan says we can go in?


Spokesman:  I don’t have any direct reaction to what Mr. Bush had said because I think it just happened as we were coming down.  But on the planning, it is clear that we are now moving ahead.  As the Secretary-General said he will be in touch with the Sudanese authorities specifically on getting the assessment team into Darfur for the peacekeeping planning.  As we have said over the last few weeks, it’s also important for countries who have the capabilities to start thinking about what they will be able to offer us.  Obviously we still need to get to the stage of where we know exactly what we need in detail.  And the Security Council, as you recall, has been given a number of options for the planning on that so they will be discussing that in the days ahead.


Question:  Hold on to that for a minute then, a sort of double follow up.  Number one, has there been any indication from the Sudanese Government since the deal that the planning team can have visas and go?  And number two, does the UN still maintain its appeal to the United States, amongst other countries, to provide assets for the peacekeeping force in Darfur?


Spokesman:  The press reports we’ve seen over the weekend have been very positive from the Government.  And we will expect them to allow our peacekeeping assessment team unfettered access to Darfur.  As for the United States specifically, as we’ve said repeatedly, all those who have the necessary assets should start thinking about what they can offer the UN.


Yes, Nick?


Question:  Does the Secretary-General’s decision to give the Zayed money to Darfur have anything to do with criticism he had come under about taking a $500,000 gift and not using it until after his term was over?


Spokesman:  It has to do with the obvious shortfall in the humanitarian funding for Darfur.  In 2001, as you may recall, he was given $100,000 by the Philadelphia Liberty Prize and he gave that to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS.  And that was the first contribution to the Global Fund.  So he does hope that his contribution will spur others -– private individuals, corporation and of course Governments –- to donate.


Question:  Just a follow-up question.  Given the criticism surrounding the fact that he was not going to spend this prize until later and on this foundation, does this decision have anything to do with the criticism that he received over his intention for using the Zayed prize?


Spokesman:  His decision to give this money to Darfur is linked and was spurred by the tremendous humanitarian shortfall in the humanitarian appeal for Darfur.


Question:  So it has nothing to do with (inaudible)?


Spokesman:  The motivation for him is to show an example and to encourage others to give.


Yes, Richard?


Question:  Just for people who are not that familiar with the trail here on Sudan, how fast really can the world expect military assets and help to go after all this contingency planning into Darfur?  That’s number one.  And number two, and I’m sure you’ve told them, but the World Bank should be advised to not have their activity, and if there’s any way of Pragati indicating, has the GA considered delaying their vote on human rights, which will just get snowed under by everything?


Spokesman:  I will let Pragati answer that.  For your information we did advise the World Bank.  Obviously on Darfur and peacekeeping, there are two parallel tracks to follow.  The UN peacekeeping planning can take a few months.  As you’ve been told, we need to finish the planning.  And then obviously after that, once we know exactly what we need, we will address to Member States requests for military assets.  But in the meantime it is crucial that those countries that have the capability, whether it is in assets or financial, also support the work of the African Union force which is currently in Darfur and, as we know, undermanned and underfunded.


Question:  To follow up on that, is there a specific plan to strengthen AMIS since it’s going to be the only actor on the ground for a while?


Spokesman:  The plan, as far as we’re concerned, is to encourage the international community, donors and those with military capability to give whatever support they can for AMIS until an eventual transfer to a UN force.  The UN Mission in Sudan has done, I think we announced this last week, has worked with AMIS to strengthen some of its capacities in terms of human rights work and protection of civilians.  But obviously it also is financial and an assets issue.


Question:  If nothing has been agreed among your Member States, nothing specific?


Spokesman:  Well, AMIS is there with the African Union.  It is clear that it is underfunded and understaffed and needs to be assisted while the UN peacekeeping force is put together.


Yes, Neil?


Question:  The aid group Save the Children released a report today about Liberia saying that young girls are being sexually abused by UN peacekeepers, giving them food in exchange for sex.  I’m wondering what your response is.


Spokesman:  Yes, we have, in fact we were informed by the Mission in Liberia that the Mission does maintain a serious “zero tolerance” policy on sexual abuse.  It is committed to preventing this horrible practice.  It has enacted a number of measures in order to stop these practices and there are a number of investigations currently going on in Liberia.  And UNMIL is working with a number of NGOs, including Save the Children, in order to prevent these practices and to also staff a number of protection monitors who review these cases.  But obviously the Mission welcomes the report of any violation of these policies and they are being looked into.


Question:  My understanding is that four years ago this problem was first raised and that the UN really tried to bring in safeguards.  Why aren’t your safeguards working?


Spokesman:  The interesting thing is that the Save the Children report looks at a number of cases last year, but since then the Mission says that the cases that have been reported has been going down.  Obviously, we’d like to see a situation where none of these cases exist, but in the meantime the Mission is constantly trying to strengthen its safeguards.


Yes, Benny?


Question:  Does the Secretary-General Annan still intend to set up a foundation for girls’ education in agriculture?


Spokesman:  Yes, as he mentioned in the statement, the planning will continue for that.


Yes, Evelyn?


Question:  On Liberia, when the sex and peacekeeping first broke it was the BBC in Congo and then the UN came clean.  And now we’re hearing -- whether it was last year or this year -- why isn’t the UN revealing it because it’s only through name and shame that this will stop rather than through –- well we’re not quite sure if it’s still going on -– and the reaction peacekeeping just gave you.  Are we going through that again where we can go ask every NGO what is really happening?


Spokesman:  From here, we flagged a number of cases in the last several months about peacekeeping and sexual allegations.  When these investigations are started, we try to flag them as much as possible.


Question:  (inaudible).


Spokesman:  Oh, I think we have, we’ve mentioned a few in the last month in West Africa.


Question:  Secondly, on Sudan, everything you’ve said, you could have said today on the peacekeeping mission was true before the agreement.  Is there anything we can say now that there is an agreement, that you have a heightened awareness here (inaudible) Khartoum to let this mission in or what?  Because all the other things about helping AMIS and so forth, because we’re going to have Rice dominating that story tomorrow.


Spokesman:  As we said on Friday, as we’ll say again today, as you know the Secretary-General said he would be in touch very quickly with the Sudanese authorities and that we expect them to give us unfettered access to Darfur for the planning of the peacekeeping mission.  The planning is continuing.  Obviously, the peace agreement removes a big roadblock and the planning will continue full steam ahead.


Yes, Mr. Abbadi?


Question:  The note on the Quartet meeting tomorrow speaks about several ministers from the Middle East taking part.  You indicated that there would be Saudi Arabia’s and Egypt’s and Jordan’s Foreign Ministers present.  Are there any other foreign ministers from the Middle East taking part?


Spokesman:  No, not that I an aware of.


Question:  And also, the Secretary-General will be meeting this morning with the Foreign Minister of France.  What is the subject matter?


Spokesman:  Both his meeting with the Foreign Minister of France and the new Foreign Secretary of the UK were at their request, the Ministers’ specific request.  We will get a readout afterwards.


Yes, Mr. Baris?


Question:  With all the activities in Darfur, what is the actual capacity of the UN in Darfur right now?


Spokesman:  In terms of?


Question:  Humanitarian.


Spokesman:  UNHCR, OCHA, the WFP have been working in providing assistance in the camps for the tens of thousands of IDPs.  Obviously, especially WFP’s activities have had to be curtailed due to the funding shortfall which we hope people will contribute to.


Yes, Nick?


Question:  Is the Secretary-General, or in the peacekeeping department, discouraged -- I didn’t hear anything in that statement -- discouraged or concerned that after so much attention to this issue they still haven’t been able to get a clamp down on it?  We know they have a “zero tolerance” policy, but obviously the “zero tolerance” policy has not been 100 per cent effective.  So how concerned are they about the fact that these things continue to crop up?


Spokesman:  Every case of abuse is of great concern.  What the Liberian Mission told us is that in the past several months, as they have enacted stronger measures, they’ve seen these cases go down.  This is something that each mission tries to deal with proactively in terms of education of the peacekeepers, of the civilian staff and to investigate each case thoroughly.


Pragati, all yours.  Thank you very much.


Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  This afternoon the General Assembly will meet in plenary to take action on a number of reports from the Fifth Committee, including the report on management reform issues.  We are not expecting many statements on that item to be made by delegations.  At the conclusion of the action on that item, Assembly President Jan Eliasson will make a brief statement, which we will circulate to you, and he will also speak to the press at the stakeout outside the General Assembly Hall, probably around 3:45 p.m. or 4 p.m. this afternoon.


Also at this afternoon’s plenary, the Assembly is expected to take action on a draft resolution setting out the procedures and regional distribution of seats for the Assembly elections for membership in the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission.  And those elections are scheduled to take place on 16 May.


Tomorrow, starting at 10 a.m., as Steph mentioned, the Assembly will meet in plenary to hold the first elections for the 47 members of the Human Rights Council.  There are currently 64 Member States that have declared their candidacy.  I urge you to check the website regularly because there are some last-minute changes.  A stakeout will be set up outside the General Assembly Hall all day.  And we expect that the Assembly President will speak to the press at the stakeout when the elections are completed, but it is difficult to predict when that will be exactly.  It is possible that the elections could run into Wednesday.


**Questions and Answers


Yes, Evelyn?


Question:  I’m just trying to read this, coordinating what you’re doing with the Quartet, right?  So, you don’t have the voting at the same time?


Spokesperson:  It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen tomorrow.  We may be able to give a better scenario after the first round of balloting.  We’ll see where it stands.


Question:  I just wanted to ask you a logistical question because there are so many things happening tomorrow.  How are you going to announce the results of the first round?  And are you going to have it squawked, or are you going to hand out papers, or are you going to have something available at the documents counter?  Just so that we will know.  We’re going to be running around a lot.


Spokesperson:  The President will announce the results of each round.  It will be televised so that if you’re in your offices you’ll be able to see it.  Maybe we could e-mail it around to everyone, if that’s the best thing to do.  And we’ll make it available in hardcopy in the Spokesman’s Office.


Question:  Could you e-mail us if you have –- I don’t know if you do -- the list of candidates of each of the regional groups?


Spokesperson:  We could e-mail you the link for the websites.  That’s probably the easiest thing.  I know there were some changes this morning.  There was one withdrawal.


Question:  Who withdrew?


Spokesperson:  I think it was Honduras.  So there may be some last-minute changes there, too.


Yes, Nick?


Question:  Is the GA President coming to the stakeout today at 3:45 p.m.?


Spokesperson:  Yes, after the action on management reform.


Question:  Where is that, I’m sorry?


Spokesperson:  The stakeout outside the General Assembly Hall, around the corner on the second floor.


Yes, Masood?


Question:  At 3:30 p.m.?


Spokesperson:  It will probably be at 3:30 p.m. or 4 o’clock.  It’s after the action is completed.  We’ll have it squawked so you can get there for it.


Masood, yes?


Question:  I just want to find out, I forget, on the peacebuilding commission.  How many members are there and do you have any candidates for that also?


Spokesperson:  The draft resolution they’re taking action on today is procedural.  It doesn’t list the actual candidates, just the distribution of seats by region.


Yes, Mr. Abadi?


Question:  What kind of day does the President expect for tomorrow, for a long, procedural vote or a short day?


Spokesperson:  Tomorrow on the Human Rights Council?


Question:  Yes.


Spokesperson:  That’s quite hard to predict.  After the first round of balloting, it would take around 90 minutes to tally the first round.  So after noon we might be able to give a better scenario depending on how many seats are filled in the first round and how many are left to fill.


Thank you very much.


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