|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:
** Sudan Statement
I have a statement on the situation in the Sudan.
“Yesterday, the Secretary-General received a letter from President Bashir giving a positive response to the initiative of the United Nations and the African Union regarding United Nations support to the African Union Mission in the Sudan, known as AMIS. This assistance package is detailed in a joint letter addressed to President Bashir by the Secretary-General and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare, which was sent on 22 September of this year. The project is aimed at enhancing AMIS’s capacity to carry out its mandated tasks under the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA).
“The Secretary-General welcomes President Bashir’s acceptance of the initiative. He very much hopes that the proposed support package can be implemented expeditiously, in consultation with the African Union and with the full cooperation of the Government of the Sudan. The Secretary-General also welcomes the expressed readiness of the Government of the Sudan to pursue its dialogue with the United Nations in the interest of an early and lasting resolution of the Darfur crisis. And that statement is available upstairs.”
Meanwhile, from the field, the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) says it has received reports that a convoy of eight commercial trucks carrying United Nations relief items was attacked two days ago by four armed men on camels near the town of Abu Humeira, in North Darfur. One driver was reportedly killed. The Mission has also received reports of a total of 41 cases of gender-based violence in 5 camps in West Darfur. Meanwhile, in South Darfur’s Seisabane camp for internally displaced persons, the number of people has risen from 1,840 to 3,400 people – and when interviewed, the internally displaced people expressed no desire to go back to their areas of origin. And we do have more upstairs on that.
Meanwhile, back here, the Security Council began the day with a meeting for troop contributing countries to the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which was followed by consultations on the same subject. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Georgia, Jean Arnault, introduced the report.
Also, on the consultations agenda today is the letter from Japan to the Security Council regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and a draft statement as well as other matters.
A meeting is scheduled following consultations on the Sudan to vote on the extension of UNMIS, which expires this Sunday.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Meanwhile, the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo reports that the official launching of the campaign for the provincial elections took place this morning in Kinshasa in the presence of William Lacy Swing, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in the Congo, as well as other members of the international community.
At that event, the President of the Congolese High Authority on Media paid tribute to the international community for its continued support of the democratic transition in the Congo. And Special Representative Swing, for his part, thanked the High Authority on Media for its efforts to keep hate messages out of the media.
Swing appealed to all Congolese parties to respect the “Acte d’engagement”, which they freely signed a month earlier, and by which the parties agreed to refrain from resorting to insults, violence or hate messages during the electoral campaign.
** Bakassi Peninsula
Also from Africa out today is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council on progress in the work of the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission on the implementation of the agreement on transfer of authority in the Bakassi Peninsula.
In his letter, the Secretary-General says the United Nations observer team, which is tasked with oversight of the demarcation exercise, has reported that the situation remains calm along the border between the two countries and that some 462 kilometres have so far been demarcated.
The Secretary-General also notes that the Commission will not be able to fully complete its mandate by the end of 2007 and he appeals for voluntary financial contributions to the Commission.
**Human Rights Council
From Geneva, the Human Rights Council is adjourning its second session in Geneva today. Earlier today, the Council decided to defer consideration of its draft resolutions until a resumed session, which will take place on 27 November right before the opening of the Council’s third session.
And that decision was taken to allow enough time for due and balanced consideration of the high number of proposals that were tabled – which numbered nearly 50.
Also from Geneva, colleagues at the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) say that the agency is concerned that the number of Somali refugees fleeing to Kenya has risen dramatically in the last two days pushing to more than 30,000 the total number of new arrivals this year. If the arrival rate of more than 1,000 people a day continues, it will severely strain UNHCR’s limited capacity in northern Kenya.
And in eastern Chad, UNHCR says the security situation there remains extremely volatile as unidentified armed groups continue to operate in the region and frequently target humanitarian workers in the area.
Today being a Friday, we have the Week Ahead for you, but before we get to next week, this afternoon at 1:30 p.m., Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the President of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, will brief on the session’s work programme.
And at 3 p.m., the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic will be sponsoring a press conference on the Caribbean Sea in the context of sustainable development.
Next week, two things I wanted to flag is that on Monday, José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Rachel Mayanja, the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women will be our guests to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on violence against women.
And the Secretary-General is scheduled to launch the newly created Peacebuilding Fund next week. The Fund is designed to support the critical peacebuilding challenges in countries emerging from conflict. Donors have already pledged some $122 million but the target is $250 million.
And Carolyn McAskie, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, will be our guest at noon on Wednesday to speak about this event. And she will also brief you on the first country-specific meetings of the Peacebuilding Commission, which as you know are Sierra Leone and Burundi which will take place on Thursday and Friday, respectively. And that is it for me, any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On this transition process, I have a couple of questions. Is it your understanding that all the Under-Secretaries-General (USG), the top officials who are working for the Secretary-General will resign, giving opportunity to the next Secretary-General the chance to appoint its own people? Is that the way it is going to be done, or they will they all (inaudible) by attention?
Spokesman: That is an issue that will have to be dealt with by the next Secretary-General when he takes office on 1 January. The contracts of a number of senior under secretaries, USGs, traditionally, I think, run out in February, but it will be up to him to handle that transition.
Question: In the backdrop of these reports which are coming out that there are some backdoor deals being made by the incoming nominee and that some departments are being distributed, so basically, has that been done in the past?
Spokesman: There is one Secretary-General at a time. I speak for the current one, Kofi Annan. I do not speak for whoever will be elected Secretary-General. I can’t comment on whatever reports you are seeing about the discussions on senior appointments.
Question: What’s the precedent, I wanted to ask?
Spokesman: The precedent is that the Secretary-General gets to choose and appoint senior officials based on ability and obviously it is key that the senior appointments reflect the nature of the United Nations -- that they reflect the world as a whole.
Question: On the Congo and the Secretary-General. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo there is a lot of uproar about unmanned predator—aerial observer of the European Union force that crashed and killed a woman in Kinshasa. I guess, one question is, does the Secretary-General have anything to say about that? Why if there is peace, as United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says, why are unmanned drones being used over Kinshasa?
Spokesman: I don’t have the full details of the operation of the unmanned drone. We obviously expressed our condolences to those civilians who died as a result of this tragic accident. It is part of the work the European Union [European Union] has been doing -- very effective work I might add -- in trying to keep the calm in Kinshasa. A couple of days ago, I spoke to you about this operation “ Kinshasa without Weapons”. It is a surveillance tool. It should not be seen as anything else. The European Union presence has been key in supporting the work of MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo], notably in the events that occurred after the first term presidential elections with the fighting between the forces -- the security forces of Vice President Bemba and President Kabila.
Question: Earlier today, United States Ambassador Bolton said that the financial disclosure form not only of Kofi Annan but also, he implied, of the incoming whether it is Ban Ki-Moon or not should be made public. And he said United States officials do it and he saw absolutely no reason that it wouldn’t be. Could you say why it shouldn’t be?
Spokesman: First of all, the United Nations is an intergovernmental Organization. It is not a national Government. The forms are an internal control mechanism. They were filled out by about 1,000 staff members under the understanding that they would remain confidential. They are being handled by the Ethics Office and being reviewed by the Ethics Office. There are privacy issues when it comes to international civil servants and I think both Mr. Burnham last year and Mr. Tunku Abdul Aziz, the Special Adviser on the Ethics Office, who comes from Transparency International, addressed that issue in full. And as for the Secretary-General, he has fulfilled all his requirements from the General Assembly and the Security Council when it comes to financial disclosure whether it is on this issue or on the Volcker Committee and he has gone even beyond what is required of him.
Question: On the answer from President Bashir, could you spell out for us what it actually means? Is it going to be some more talks or…?
Spokesman: What it means is that President Bashir has given a positive nod to the package, the assistance package, which totals about $22 million and involves close to 100 personnel and equipment that the United Nations will furnish to support the work of the African Union Mission in the Sudan. That included equipment and personnel. It is a key development in our efforts to support the current work of the African Union Mission.
Question: Does it mean that additional personnel that don’t belong to African countries can participate?
Spokesman: That’s the whole point. About 100 or so United Nations personnel will work with the African Union Mission in Darfur in support of their work.
Question: In the earlier press conference that we just had with George H.W. Bush and the minister from Pakistan, one substantive question and one question some other reporters asked, the non-substantive one is why the security seemed to be tighter in terms of journalists not being able to leave the room, than even it is for the Secretary-General. Was the United States Mission in charge of that or who decided that?
Spokesman: The security is something that we would not comment on from this podium. The security of visiting dignitaries within the United Nations compound is the responsibility of the United Nations and the decisions are taken by us.
Question: Also a question that wasn’t able to be asked at that press conference, there are reports of United Nations agencies delivering aid to refugee camps that are controlled, one by the al-Rashid Trust and another by the Jamaat ud-Dawa. The first one is on a Security Council Al Qaeda sanctions list. The BBC just did an expose on this that was just released and they quote a United Nations humanitarian aide in Pakistan, Jan Vandermoortele, acknowledging that this is how the aid is delivered. One of the questions is -- obviously there are great needs there -- what safeguards are in place within the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) or otherwise to make sure?
Spokesman: I have not seen the specific report that you refer to, but as a general rule of thumb, the humanitarians deal with the officials, municipal, local officials in a country to try to get the aid to where it needs to go, but I have not seen the particulars of that report.
Question: The BBC says that neither group was very strong in the area hit by the earthquake and that they sort of capitalized on the aid coming in and set up shop. The question I had, and it probably would have been for Anne Veneman as well, what safeguards are in place within United Nations agencies?
Spokesman: The safeguards are that they make sure that aid gets to the people it needs to get to whether it is distributing it themselves or working with local [non-governmental organizations] NGOs, in which they trust they will get the aid to the right end user and obviously there are audits and surveillance of that. But I would have to look further into the specific case that you are mentioning. Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record