15 May 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


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


So, we will try to get through this and then bring out our guest, who, as you all know, will be the UNAIDS Special Representative, Naomi Watts, as well as UNAIDS Deputy Director, Deborah Landey.


**Secretary-General in Seoul


The Secretary-General is, as you know, in Seoul, South Korea, where he made remarks and held a question-and-answer session with students at Seoul National University this morning.  In his remarks, he urged the students to advance the high standard of global citizenship already set by their elders.


He then attended a working luncheon with the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly and other national assembly leaders.


In the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with Korea’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, and they also held a joint press conference afterwards.


Asked about the nuclear programmes in North Korea and Iran, the Secretary-General expressed the hope that peaceful solutions could be found in both cases.


On Iran, he said: “I am encouraged by the intensified diplomatic efforts to resolve this issue peacefully and seek a negotiated settlement.”  And we have the full text of his press conference available upstairs.


** Sudan


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Jan Pronk, arrived in Addis Ababa late yesterday to take part in a ministerial-level meeting of the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.


The meeting was expected to examine the current mandate and the future of the African regional organization’s protection force, currently deployed in Darfur in light of the recently concluded peace agreement in Abuja.


Before leaving for Addis Ababa, Pronk met with the representatives of more than 150 Sudanese non-governmental organizations in Khartoum, as part of his efforts to improve understanding of the recently-signed Darfur peace agreement.


In two and a half hours of lively exchanges of views, arguments and clarifications, Pronk described the peace deal as a fair and balanced start that can always be further complemented and improved in the future.  And we do have more information on that upstairs.


** Africa – Humanitarian


Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland spoke to reporters a short while ago in Geneva.


He said that the period over the coming months was a critical window of opportunity for the international community to respond to such humanitarian crises as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. 


Without proper humanitarian funding and attention these countries risked falling back “into the abyss”, Egeland said.  He added that he could not recall such a time, when the international community had the ability take major steps forward in two of the worst humanitarian emergencies in the world, but were not doing so.  And we have a summary of his press encounter upstairs.


**Security Council


Closer to home, the Security Council held a briefing on the recent fighting in Mogadishu, and they heard that briefing from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Tuliameni Kalomoh.


During its closed consultations this morning, the Council also discussed a draft resolution concerning the mandate of the UN Peacekeeping Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and a possible presidential statement on the presidential inauguration in Haiti, which took place over the weekend.


We also expect a formal meeting to adopt the UNMEE resolution, once consultations have ended, and there may also be a formal meeting to consider the Presidential Statement on Haiti, as well.


And the Council President, we are told, may also read out statements to the press on two issues, the recent violence in Somalia and the attack on a UNICEF vehicle in Afghanistan.


** Afghanistan


And on that issue, a statement was issued over the weekend by Tom Koenigs, the head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan, expressing his sadness at Friday’s attack on a UNICEF vehicle, which resulted in the deaths of a UNICEF driver and an Afghan doctor, and the serious wounding of a second UNICEF staff member.


Koenigs stressed that there can be no reason to justify murder and maiming.  All United Nations staff share a common commitment to seeing Afghanistan at peace, and able to rebuild, he emphasized, adding that he will work to ensure that the individuals responsible for this attack are found and properly brought to account.


Meanwhile, UNICEF’s Executive Director Ann Veneman added, in a separate statement that:  “Any threat to the safety of humanitarian workers around the world is unacceptable.”  And we have both of those statements upstairs.


**Horn of Africa


Also from UNICEF, they today report that, despite rains in April, tens of thousands of children are still at the risk of dying in the Horn of Africa.


While launching an appeal for funds, the agency said that at least 40,000 children are so malnourished that they face the possibility of dying in the months ahead.  The children belong to pastoralist communities where livestock starved to death during the recent drought in the area.


The agency says its appeal for $80 million, which is incorporated in last month’s consolidated appeal for the Horn of Africa -- and that appeal has yielded less than a third of that sum.  And we do have a press release on that upstairs.


**Indigenous Forum


Today, the Secretary-General delivered a video message to the opening of the fifth session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which is currently meeting in the General Assembly.


Among other items under consideration, the Forum will welcome the General Assembly’s adoption of the Programme of Action for the Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People.


The Secretary-General, in the message, said that the programme seeks to help indigenous people build better lives, through full participation and partnerships, and aims to enable them to win respect for their identities, their languages and their cultures.  And that text is upstairs.


A couple more things to flag for you.


**HIV/AIDS


The first regional AIDS conference in Eastern Europe and Central Asia opened today in Moscow.


According to UNAIDS, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions face the world’s most rapidly expanding AIDS epidemic, with some 1.6 million people living with the disease, and 270,000 people infected with HIV in 2005 alone.


We have a press release with more information upstairs.


Meanwhile, in Nairobi over the weekend, Stephen Lewis, the UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, announced that Kenya has clearly made progress in slowing the spread of the pandemic.  He also stressed, however, that the “human consequences of the pandemic continue to be catastrophic”.


**Conventional Weapons


And late on Friday, Liechtenstein and Switzerland deposited their instruments of consent to the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War, which is part of the Conventional Weapons Convention.


And, because of that action, the Protocol can now enter into force on 12 November 2006.


And for those of you who didn’t know what the Protocol was, that includes myself, according to the Protocol, parties to armed conflicts bear responsibility for all explosive remnants of war in territories under their control.  They must, therefore, mark and clear and remove and destroy any of those explosives.


**UNOPS


An appointment to announce today, the Secretary-General today appointed Jan Mattsson of Sweden as the new Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).


Mr. Mattsson has enjoyed a distinguished career within the United Nations system over the past 23 years.  Most recently, he served as Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau of Management at the UN Development Programme (UNDP).  His biography is upstairs.


**Top Ten Stories


And our colleagues at DPI have asked us to announce the launch of the 2006 “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About”.  In its continuing efforts to draw media attention to some issues that tend to slip off the radar screen, DPI is releasing today the new list of the “Top Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About”.


As you may recall, this initiative was first launched in 2004.  As in previous years, the 2006 list covers a spectrum of issues and geographical regions, some of which draw on troubling humanitarian emergencies in conflict situations, while others focus on such vital areas as human rights and development.


The full list is available out on the racks, including links to follow-up resources and contact points in substantive departments on each of these issues.


**Press Conferences


And, in addition to our guest this afternoon, at 2:30, the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo, will hold a press conference to mark the opening of the fifth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  And he will be joined by the Bolivian Foreign Minister and a number of other guests.


And tomorrow, the Head of the UNDP’s Office in Pakistan, Mr. Jan Vandemoortele, will be here to launch a new report on the state of relief, recovery and reconstruction operations in Pakistan following last year’s earthquake.


Before we move on to our guest -- any questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I believe that Louise Arbour is on a human rights trip to Burma right now.  Maybe I’m wrong; I think she’s out of her office.  I know that there’s a new human rights trip that started today, going to the regions around the Western Sahara.  And I just wanted to know if she’s going to be joining that trip -- number one.  And, number two, do they have a number of human rights trips that she does not attend, or does she attend all of them?


Spokesman:  Short answer is I don’t know, and we can check with the Human Rights Office afterwards on all your questions.


[The Spokesman later added that High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour was on a trip to Cambodia.  She would not be taking part in the Western Sahara trip.]


Question:  The Secretary-General had a discussion [inaudible] the Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Korea, Mr. Ki-Moon.  As is well known, the Foreign Minister is an officially announced candidate for the post of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.  Did the Secretary-General discuss that subject with the Foreign Minister?


Spokesman:  As you know, the issue of selection for the next Secretary-General is one left in the hands of the 192 Member States, so we will let them comment on the candidacies.


Question:  Who’s the 192nd?


Spokesman:  191 –- I just wanted to make sure everyone was paying attention.


[Laughter]


Question:  Two questions about Democratic Republic of the Congo, since it’s one of the “Ten Stories the World Should Know More About”.  Over the weekend, MONUC has put out a report of militias attacking a military base.  And the MONUC report, and I guess it’s them -- it’s a UN statement -- that militias in Ituri are regrouping after a series of UN-backed offensives set them back in 2004.  So I guess, what is the UN going to do about this?


Spokesman:  Well, that’s one of the issues MONUC has been focusing on, is trying to -- A, control the militias in the violence they have been forcing on the people, especially in the Ituri province, and the other one is encouraging the disarmament of the militias, and that’s one of the priorities of the Mission.


Question:  There’ve been some NGO statements, but I don’t know if the Secretary-General has said anything about, that, of the $682 million Jan Egeland asked for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, something like $94 million has come in.  The NGOs have actually named countries that haven’t given anything. 


Spokesman:  Well, on all of these appeals, humanitarian appeals, the list of countries that have given is made public.  So by that, by seeing the ones who’ve given, you can infer and figure out the ones that have not given.


Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any statement on those who have not…?


Spokesman:  Give.


[Laughter]


Question:  Two questions.  First of all, what is the UN doing in terms of preparation for this international fund for Hamas?  Are talks progressing, are there any meetings coming up?  What is the UN involvement on this?  Just one other, since we’re told there’s not enough information coming out about Somalia from DPI, could we hear a little bit more about who the UN thinks is backing the various militias who are still fighting it out?


Spokesman:  We’ll try to get you some more information on Somalia.  On your first question, the mechanism is something that’s being put together under the leadership of the European Commission External Relations Commissioner, Ms. Ferrero-Waldner.  And those discussions are now ongoing in Brussels.  And I think they’ve said they hope to have something by early June.


Question:  Just want to second what Mark said on Somalia.  It doesn’t help the cause of peace if an unknown country is shipping weapons.  We have to have that country identified.  Otherwise, why bother putting it in?


Question:  The United States just announced that it will resume diplomatic relations with Libya.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to that?


Spokesman:  We haven’t seen the reports, but obviously the Secretary-General is encouraged by any resumption of diplomatic contacts between any countries.


On that note, I will go get our guest and we will get onto the second part of this briefing.


* *** *


For information media • not an official record