19 September 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 SPOKESWOMAN 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 by Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General


**Secretary-General - General Assembly


The Secretary-General, as you know, today opened the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, telling the gathered world leaders that the three great challenges the world has faced during his 10 years at the helm of the United Nations -– an unjust world economy, world disorder, and widespread contempt for human rights and the rule of law -- have not been resolved.  As a result, he warned, “we face a world whose divisions threaten the very notion of an international community, upon which this institution stands”.


In response, the Secretary-General said, “I remain convinced that the only answer to this divided world must be a truly United Nations”.


He said that, as he travelled through the Middle East over the past few weeks, he saw again the legitimacy and reach of the United Nations.  Its indispensable role in securing the peace in Lebanon has reminded us all how powerful this Organization can be, when everyone wants it to succeed, he asserted.


The Secretary-General drew attention to the need to resolve the situation in the Middle East, saying that, although we might like to think of the Arab-Israeli conflict as just one regional conflict among many, it is not.  “No other conflict carries such a powerful symbolic and emotional charge among people far removed from the battlefield,” he said.


He also drew attention to the challenge that Darfur presents, where the continued spectacle of men, women and children driven from their homes by murder, rape and the burning of their villages “makes a mockery of our claim, as an international community, to shield people from the worst abuses”.


Reflecting on his decade in charge of the United Nations, the Secretary-General said, “It’s been difficult and challenging, but at times also thrillingly rewarding.”  And he said “While I look forward to resting my shoulder from those stubborn rocks in the next phase of my life, I know I shall miss the mountain.”  And we have copies of his speech upstairs.


And, the Secretary-General has a number of bilateral meetings this afternoon.  We will provide you with readouts of those meetings as they become available.


UNITAID


This afternoon, he will address the official launch of the International Drug Purchase Facility, known as UNITAID, and that will take place at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 3.


He is expected to congratulate the Governments of France, Brazil, Chile, Norway and the United Kingdom in their leadership in developing this life-saving initiative, which he calls a “shining example of an innovative source of funding that can help us reach the Millennium Development Goals”.  And, we have embargoed copies of his remarks upstairs.


** Iraq


Yesterday afternoon, he opened the high-level meeting on Iraq, telling the gathered foreign ministers and other senior officials that Iraq and its leaders are now at an important crossroads.  If they can address the needs and common interests of all Iraqis, the promise of peace and prosperity is still within reach.  And we issued that speech out to you yesterday.


Speaking after the meeting, which brought together some 14 ministers among the officials from 31 countries and organizations, the Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, said that there was a lot more that united the group than divided it.


He said the key development was that each of Iraq’s neighbours made a commitment to help the Government in Iraq succeed and prevail over the internal insecurity challenges, and all of them condemned the terrorism that is occurring.  We have copies his remarks upstairs.


**UNHCR


Meanwhile, from the field, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that Somali refugees are continuing to flee to Kenya.  Yesterday, UNHCR transported some 662 refugees who arrived in Kenya over the weekend to a UNHCR camp in the northern Kenyan town of Dadaab.


Since last Wednesday, some 3,400 Somalis have escaped the growing tensions in their country and found refuge in neighbouring Kenya.


We have more on that in briefing notes from UNHCR, as well as information on the agency’s latest statistical report, which says the downward trend in asylum applications in most industrialized countries continues unabated.


**Press Conferences


And, for your interest, we have three very important press conferences this afternoon.  In fact, all the press conferences we have here are very important.  12:45 p.m., the President of France; at 3:30 p.m., the President of Sudan; and 4:30p.m., the President of Liberia, will be here in 226.


Before we turn to my colleague Gail, who will speak on behalf of the General Assembly, I will take any questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you have any sense… President Gbagbo of the Ivory Coast… there’s been all this talk of a meeting on the 20th about the Ivory Coast with the Secretary-General.  Is that meeting going to take place?  And is the President of the Ivory Coast actually going to attend?


Spokesman:  Well, I think we’ll have to wait and see if the President actually shows up.  Indications are that he probably will not.  But, the summit will go ahead.  It will determine the agenda for further discussions at the regional level among the African Union and ECOWAS, as well as possible further UN Security Council deliberations about the peace process.  It will also address the issue of governance ahead of the 31 October deadline for the elections.


Thank you very much.  Gail, it’s all yours.


Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President


The General Assembly, this morning, concluded its high-level meeting on the midterm comprehensive global review of the Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2001-2010 by unanimously adopting draft resolution A/61/L2.  The Assembly heard from some 75 speakers on Monday.


Closing the meeting, Her Excellency Sheika Haya Al Khalifa said the meeting had provided the international community with insights on both progress made and the constraints encountered by least developed countries as they try to put in place the seven commitments of the Brussels Declaration and the Programme of Action.  Warning that time was of the essence and the challenges facing LDCs were daunting, the Assembly President called on the international community to rise to redouble their collective efforts to deliver “dramatic and urgent change in the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.”


Following a short adjournment, the Assembly began its sixty-first annual general debate.  Following the UN Secretary-General’s introduction of his report on the work of the Assembly, we now have Brazil, traditionally the first speaker, who is at this time addressing the Assembly.


In her opening statement to the debate this morning, the Assembly President Sheika Haya Al Khalifa acknowledged the achievements of the sixtieth session of the Assembly, noting that the challenge for this sixty-first session is to ensure that its decisions made a more lasting difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.  She stressed that, in the face of increased poverty, especially in developing countries, the international community must rally to ensure the effective implementation of its development agenda as reflected in the Millennium Development Goals.


She emphasized that the focus of the general debate would be on the theme “Implementing a Global Partnership for Development”, and in that context noted the need for the Assembly to now examine practical measures and strategies in order to achieve consistent progress.  She further noted that making our world more secure will require the UN to take a more proactive role when addressing the many armed conflicts within and amongst states.  She, therefore, called for further progress to be made in the area of conflict prevention, noting that a high-level debate would be imperative in trying to attain “an actionable outcome”.  She also urged Member States to work towards effective implementation of the comprehensive Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and called for a redoubling of efforts towards reaching consensus on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.


I want to mention once again the launch today at 4 p.m. of the counter-terrorism strategy in the Trusteeship Council.  We have with us a number of fact sheets that DPI has put out, and they are on the table.  I hope that you will read them because they have been prepared for your benefit on this particular issue.


Yesterday you asked, Matthew, for a readout on the meeting on least developed countries.  And the feeling was that there was general agreement that, at the current pace, the least developed countries will not achieve the goals of the Brussels Programme of Action by 2010 or the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.  At the same time, the meeting acknowledged the efforts of LDCs to undertake economic and political reform, to promote good governance, economic growth and to reduce poverty.  They also looked at support of the development partners in the form of increased ODA to the LDCs, debt cancellation and market access.  However, both LDCs and their development partners agreed on the need to expand and accelerate these efforts.  Development partners on their side pledged to work toward achieving the ODA target of 0.2 per cent of their gross national income.  And at the same time, the LDCs pledged to continue their own efforts to help themselves.


You asked about oil producing countries.  There are five oil-producing LDCs.  They are Angola, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Sudan and Yemen.  The main reasons for the high prevalence of extreme poverty in these countries are the following:  Conflict is one -- many of these countries are either in conflict or emerging from conflict, in particular Angola, Chad and Sudan.  Their development efforts, of course, have been hampered by this, because they have had to divert a lot of their resources from the development sector to security.  One of the other reasons of course is the absence of good governance, because though there has been movement towards democratic governance in these countries, for a long time, there was been an absence of good governance, both at the local and central levels.  And so, this has meant that the poor did not have opportunities to participate in the political process and to influence social and economic policies, resulting in the misallocation of resources, including oil revenues, allegations of corruption, etc.  Of course, in such a situation, oil revenues, therefore, have tended to largely enrich the elite rather than improve the conditions of the poor.


I hope you’ll look at the declaration because, as I said before, Member States have recommitted themselves to meeting the special needs of LDCs towards poverty eradication, peace and development.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  What can you tell us about the change in schedule for the Thai PM?  We know that there are events now ongoing in Thailand, we’ve seen reports, and the fact that the PM has declared a state of emergency, what can you tell us about the change of the speaking order, and what you know about that?


Spokeswoman:  Well, I haven’t been given anything official on that, so I will have to check for you and find out whether this in fact has had an effect on the change in schedule.  Usually, for a change in schedule, there can be any number of reasons.  Perhaps the Head of State had not been able to arrive at the time that he had informed us, for example; but, I don’t know what the situation is in the particular case of Thailand.  So why don’t I find out and get back to you.


Question:  And then, maybe just to tax your encyclopaedia of knowledge on the subject, can you think of any prior instances, similar instances, in which there has been a sudden political shift that forced a change during the General Assembly general debate?


Spokeswoman:  I think that is almost customary that -- if there is a problem, the speakers change.  That’s the norm.  I don’t think that’s extraordinary at all.  That happens for every Assembly session.


Question:  But, in specific, I mean, dramatic political events that cause a shift during the GA.


Spokeswoman:  I can’t think of one off the top of my head, but I certainly can find out what precedents there are.


Question:  It’s sort of related -- the Head of State of Somalia was scheduled to speak but, I think there was an assassination attempt on him over the weekend.  I don’t know if you can -- assuming he’s not going to speak, but can you find out if he’s going to speak?


Spokeswoman:  Sure.


Question:  Thank you, that’s great, and thank you very much for that readout.


Spokeswoman:  Well, I hope that we’ll see you at the launch at 4 o’clock, because we’d certainly like you to be there.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record