|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 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 Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.
Good afternoon. Our guest today is Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support. She will be here to brief on the Peacebuilding Fund, which the Secretary-General launched this morning.
In his remarks earlier today, the Secretary-General said that, with the new Fund, the international community now has at its disposal a new and well-designed peacebuilding platform. Used well, it can help countries avoid a relapse into conflict, and enable them to regain –- or find for the first time -– the path to peace. We have of course his full remarks available upstairs, and I think Gail will brief today after I’m done and before Ms. McAskie joins us.
**Secretary-General on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
The Secretary-General on his way out of the ECOSOC Chamber, where he spoke about the Peacebuilding Fund, spoke to you at the stakeout and he was asked a number of questions about the announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea [DPRK] of a nuclear test.
He noted that the Security Council had determined that the Government’s action was unacceptable, and he urged the Council to come together and speak with one voice to take firm action on the DPRK issue.
Asked about DPRK leader Kim Jong-Il, the Secretary-General said “What is clear is that he has not paid attention to the will of the international community and all the appeals that have been made to him.” He urged the DPRK Government not to escalate the situation any further. And, as usual, we are making the transcript available to you in my office.
There are no official meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today. However, experts continue to discuss the draft resolution on the situation in North Korea.
**Violence against Children
The Secretary-General is pleased with the conclusion of the United Nations Study on Violence against Children, led by his Independent Expert, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro. The report will be presented this afternoon to the Third Committee of the General Assembly.
The Study provides a sobering picture of violence against children and proposes recommendations for prevention and response. It brings together disturbing data on the evidence of various types of violence that children experience within the family, schools, alternative care institutions and detention facilities, the workplace and communities. The report is accompanied by a book which provides a more detailed account of the Study. And press kits should be or are available upstairs as well.
And also on that issue, tomorrow at 9:30 in the morning, the Study will be officially launched by Professor Pinheiro, the author of the Study, and he will be joined by [United Nations Children’s Fund] UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman; United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mehr Kahn-Williams; and Dr. Etienne Krug, Director of the Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention at the World Health Organization. And I do believe a spokesperson for the report, June Kanr, is in the room and is available to answer any of your questions, should you have any at this briefing.
Turning now to Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports that, since the 14 August cessation of hostilities, the Force’s Chinese battalion has more than over 140,000 square metres of areas suspected of having unexploded ordnance or cluster bomb units and, destroyed more than 3,800 such items. Additional demining activities are conducted by the French, Italian and Spanish battalions.
UNIFIL’s demining experts are worried about the worsening weather during the winter months, when the soil becomes softer because of the rain and the cluster bomb units then might sink into the ground making the whole issue more dangerous.
In fact, Spokesman Alexander Ivanko said that the UNIFIL teams are trying to remove as many explosives as they can before the winter season. We do have a press release on that upstairs.
The final report of the Panel of Experts dealing with sanctions on Sudan is out on the racks today.
In it, the Panel says blatant violations of the arms embargo by all parties operating in Darfur continue unabated.
It adds that Chadian insurgents are contributing to the conflict by reportedly joining Government forces and the Janjaweed in operations against rebels; and that the Government of Sudan continues to support the Janjaweed through the provision of weapons and vehicles.
The Chairman of the Security Council Committee dealing with sanctions on Sudan says the Committee will consider the recommendations made in the report and then present the Committee’s views on the report to the Security Council.
Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, who was here yesterday to brief you on disaster reduction, is today in Geneva, where tomorrow he will take part in the second annual meeting of the Central Emergency Response Fund’s Advisory Group.
Today, in remarks to the press, Jan Egeland drew attention to Iraq, saying that the violence there had “spiralled totally out of control” and that “all of those who can influence it must do their utmost to stop it.” He also called for more funding for vital UN humanitarian programmes in Iraq.
And Egeland also spoke about northern Uganda and Darfur where, he said, the nightmare was continuing. We do have more on his remarks upstairs.
The Food and Agriculture Organization has warned Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal about new desert locust infestations, which have recently been detected in northwest part of Mauritania.
As you’ll recall, two years ago, a desert locust upsurge caused heavy damage to agriculture in several parts of West Africa, forcing the international community to spend more than $400 million to fight the upsurge and deal with its aftermath.
One more thing on the World Health Organization [WHO]. Simple sight tests, eyeglasses or contact lenses could make a dramatic difference to the lives of more than 150 million people who are suffering from poor vision. Sightedness errors can be easily diagnosed, measured and corrected, yet millions of people in low- and middle-income countries do not have access to these basic services. And there is a press release on that upstairs.
**Secretary-General Lecture Series
Today, the Secretary-General will host another lecture in his Lecture Series. Stephen Schlesinger, director of the World Policy Institute at New School University in New York and a former Director at UN-Habitat, will speak on his latest book, called Act of Creation: The founding of the United Nations. And that will be in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium at 1:30 pm. And the Secretary-General will have remarks at that event. And we have embargoed copies of that upstairs.
Also today, Nicholas Kristof, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and columnist for the New York Times, will deliver the tenth annual Rafael M. Salas Memorial Lecture, and the topic will be: “The Greatest Challenge in the twenty-first Century: Gender Equality and Development.” And that will be at 4:30 p.m. today in the ECOSOC Chamber, and of course you are all invited. The lecture was sponsored by United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). It is a tribute to the first Executive Director of UNFPA who was Rafael Salas.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And tomorrow, besides the press conference on Violence Against Children at 9:30 am which I’ve already spoken about, at 11 a.m., the United Nations University’s Institute for Conflict Resolution will hold a press conference in this room on the two-day roundtable they will be sponsoring here at Headquarters entitled, “Re-imagining Women’s Security: A Comparative Study of South Africa, Northern Ireland and Lebanon”.
At noon, we will have Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, Special Adviser on Africa, who will brief on recent progress in implementing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), and in reducing conflict on the continent.
And at 1:15 p.m., the Permanent Mission of Slovenia will be here to sponsor a press conference to launch “Human Rights Learning – A People’s Report”, with, among others, Justice Richard Goldstone , former Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Do you have, on this devastating report on the American and Iraqi (inaudible)… More than 650,000 people may have died in Iraq since the United States invasion in 2003. Does the Secretary-General have a reaction to this?
Spokesman: Obviously, we’ve seen the press reports on these devastating numbers. The numbers that we have gone by are the ones, I think you’ve seen, published in the regular reports of the United Nations’ human rights office. All these numbers are devastating and are pointing to the critical situation in Iraq and the need for all those who can, to come together and try to bring the situation under control. For our part the United Nations is working actively with the Iraqi Government, whether bilaterally or through the Iraq Compact.
Question: Is it your understanding that the new Secretary-General is going to be sworn in on Friday? Is that right?
Spokesman: That is correct, but I think I will leave all those questions to my dear colleague, Gail.
Question: I wanted to ask you about… [Ban Ki-moon’s] daughter works for UNICEF. Is it your understanding, I mean, a family member of the new Secretary-General working for (inaudible)… ethics problem with that, or afterwards it becomes an issue?
Spokesman: I think as I’ve told you before, I can only speak for one Secretary-General at a time. What is clear is that the staff rules do not prohibit family members who work in the Funds and agencies of having a relative working in the Secretariat. They are different entities. So, the rules are clear on that, and I will leave it at that.
Question: The Congo and [Office of Internal Oversight Services] OIOS. On the Congo, it was announced yesterday by the Government there that militia leaders are now being made colonels, that’s been formalized. One is Nugogola, who is named in a UN report as a user of child soldiers, and the other is Peter Karim, who took the peacekeepers hostage this summer. What is the United Nations position on the integration, finally now, formally of these two individuals into the Congolese Army?
Spokesman: You know that is an issue for the Congolese, it is a decision of the Congolese Government, of the Congolese Army. We have made our position clear on the first gentleman that you mentioned. We have done a report and stated our clear accusations against him for using child soldiers. We would expect the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as we would expect any Government, to ensure that its armed forces respect human rights, including obviously the rights of children. But that appointment is made by the Congolese Army and not by [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] MONUC, and we have made our position clear.
Question: On OIOS, about a week ago… what is the status of them coming to do a briefing, particularly on an issue that arose yesterday with Jan Egeland of how OCHA and other United Nations agencies choose who to work through in times of emergency, whether they might be on UN sanctions lists or otherwise… it seems like an OIOS issue… or do you want to…
Spokesman: Far be it for me to speak for OIOS. I think Jan gave you a pretty comprehensive answer on that. On whether or no they will come down to brief, we are still working on that issue.
Question: They issued a report and OCHA is one of those topics, but this issue of who they work with didn’t come up as part of the audit. I guess I don’t want to ask you to answer for OIOS.
Spokesman: If we do manage to produce them here, you will be free to ask them whatever questions you want. But, we are working on that. We’re working on trying to get them. But I am not the boss of them; they are independent.
Question: I actually went up there and they said for you to ask them. We can go up there together.
Spokesman: We can talk offline. Thank you. Before we turn to Ms. McAskie, Gail will brief on behalf of the General Assembly and then we will have Carolyn McAskie here. Thank you.
Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President
First, I will give you an update on where we are regarding the appointment of the new Secretary-General. On Tuesday afternoon, the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, met with the Chairpersons of the regional groups to discuss a possible date for the appointment of Mr. Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General. The appointment has tentatively been scheduled for Friday afternoon. The regional group Chairs are expected to get back to the President by 5 o’clock this afternoon.
In news of the work of the Committees: The First Committee (on Disarmament and International Security) matters concluded its thematic discussion on nuclear weapons yesterday with the representative of Japan introducing a draft resolution entitled “Renewed determination towards the elimination of nuclear weapons”, one of eight nuclear weapons-related drafts. Japan noted that this year’s version had been retooled to express deep concern over the statement by the Democratic Republic of Korea that it would conduct a nuclear test. The text also emphasized the importance of next year’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review process and called for the immediate commencement of substantive work at the Conference on Disarmament. Many Member States said that the nuclear test announcement by the Democratic Republic of Korea had underscored the urgent need for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban.
In the Second Committee, looking at Economic and Financial matters, the focus this week has been on the outcome of the 2002 International Conference on Financing for Development, which was held in Monterrey Mexico. Delegates in the debate stressed the need for the international community to fulfil the financing commitments in Monterrey, if the living standards of the world’s poorest citizens were to be improved. Although Member States noted that national Governments should take primary responsibility for financing development, they also stressed that international support was essential. Member States also emphasized the importance of partnerships, which they described as “essential” to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
Discussions in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on Tuesday, centred on women’s equality and empowerment. Member States noted that despite national and international efforts, violence against women remained widespread. One Member State also said that the United Nations should take the lead in promoting the advancement of women, not merely in advocacy, but by implementing the goals of 50/50 gender distribution within its own organization.
The Fifth Committee discussed on Monday and Tuesday the 2007-2009 scale of assessments, addressing among other issues, fairness in measuring the capacity of States to pay; whether or not the ceiling level on contributions established in 2000 was appropriate, or what this would mean for some countries which would be faced with large assessment increases in the proposed scale. The Committee also had before it the annual report of the Joint Inspection Unit.
The Sixth Committee, which handles legal matters, began its organizational session on Tuesday, reviewing 14 agenda items, which it will discuss. There are two new items on the agenda: therule of law at the national and international levels, and the comprehensive review of the whole question ofpeacekeeping operations in all their aspects. The General Committee has also decided to have the agenda item on observer status at the UN as a standing agenda item in the Sixth Committee. In this regard, the Chairman called on the Committee to work on the procedural resolution of this topic with a view to adopting it as soon as possible, before each application for observer status is considered.
Today, discussions in the Sixth Committee will move to the issue of terrorism. Some 50 delegations are already inscribed to speak.
And finally, this morning, the President of the Assembly addressed the launching of the Peacebuilding Fund. Sheikha Haya noted the role of the General Assembly in providing overall policy guidance on the use of the Fund, to maximize its impact and improve its functioning. She thanked all Member States who had already pledged their contributions, noting that it was an expression of “strong commitment to help build and maintain peace for the peoples in countries emerging from conflict”.
She will also address the presentation of the UN Study on Violence against Children in the Third Committee this afternoon.
Question and Answers:
Question: Why does Mr. Ban have a meeting with the Secretary-General this afternoon?
Spokeswoman: I think Stéphane is here and will have to address that. Stéphane will have a readout for you.
Question: Will the new Secretary-General in-waiting be meeting with the President of the General Assembly anytime soon, today?
Spokeswoman: No, not today. I am not sure when they will meet, but it’s not today. It’s not on the agenda.
Question: Is it your understanding that half the Member States, I mean the groups, will give you a go-ahead, and then you will ask for a vote on the Secretary-General?
Spokeswoman: Well, the consultations are really about the date; that is, to confirm that the date would be Friday afternoon.
Question: When could you confirm that?
Spokeswoman: As soon as we hear. We’ve given them a deadline of 5 o’clock, at which time the President will move forward with her suggestion if she hears nothing, but I am sure that they will come back to her.
Question: Is Mr. Ban going to be there on Friday to your knowledge?
Spokeswoman: We would expect so, because the scenario for the appointment includes his being there and his being able to speak. Tomorrow, I think, I will give you a clearer scenario of exactly how the ceremony will take place, just so you have an idea of how things will go.
Question: Is there any chance that ceremony can be moved up on Friday. The story is buried. I’m sure it wasn’t deliberate, but it sounds like it.
Spokeswoman: I think it was at the request of the Korean Mission that the time was chosen. I know it’s not the best, but we will try to make sure that you do have an opportunity to speak with him. It’s my understanding that he is very anxious to at least say something to you on that day.
Question: Is the 3 o’clock time of the General Assembly final?
Spokeswoman: I am not sure that we have much negotiation on the time. I doubt that very much. Anything else?
Question: I wanted to clarify. By 5 o’clock, the Assembly President is supposed to know from the Chairs of the regional groups and at that point there is a ceremony…
Spokeswoman: No, all that will happen at 5 o’clock is that the Chairpersons from the regional groups will inform the President whether the time on Friday afternoon is suitable to everyone. That’s what will happen.
Question: What is the time for that meeting exactly?
Spokeswoman: At the moment we are looking at 3 o’clock, on Friday afternoon.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record