|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, the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General
**Secretary General Trip
Good afternoon. The Secretary-General is leaving New York this weekend for Turkey, Kenya, Ethiopia and Switzerland.
In Istanbul, the Secretary-General will receive the final report of the High-Level Group of the Alliance of Civilizations, an initiative of the Secretary-General, co-sponsored by the Prime Ministers of Spain and Turkey. He will deliver a speech about the need for concerted social and political action to repair relations between people of different traditions and cultures.
In Nairobi, he will address the high-level segment of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where he will stress the need for leadership and urgent action on a global threat that grows more alarming with every passing day.
And then in Ethiopia, in Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General will attend the opening of the Fifth African Development Forum, where he will deliver his last major address on the issue of development.
In Saint Gallen, Switzerland, the Secretary-General will deliver a speech on biotechnology and human security, discussing the need to ensure that advances in biotechnologies are used for the public good, and shared equitably around the world, while managing the potential risks. Also in Switzerland, he will accept the Max Schmidheiny Foundation Freedom Prize, which is presented to individuals and institutions that have made special contributions to the maintenance and development of open societies. He has directed the $100,000 prize to be given directly to the United Nations Refugee Agency.
His programme in Switzerland also includes the inauguration of the UNAIDS/WHO building and remarks to the opening of the Sixth Review Conference of the Biological and Toxic Weapons Convention. And we do expect to have the Secretary-General back in the building on Tuesday, 21 November.
Meanwhile back here, there are no official meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today. But I do want to flag a couple of documents and developments.
The Security Council mission to Afghanistan, led by Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan, is on its way to Kabul. Out as a document is a Council letter with the composition of the delegation and the terms of reference of the mission. That mission returns to New York on 17 November.
And in another letter to the Secretary-General, the Security Council President informs him that the members have decided to send a mission to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to attend a consultative meeting on Darfur on Monday 13 November, organized by the African Union. That mission is being led by Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom.
And the Assistant Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Heidi Annabi will be attending that meeting sponsored by the African Union.
Also on Sudan, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today warned that, unless the Sudanese Government curbs and disarms militia in West Darfur, there could be more attacks like those around the Jebel Moon area that left more than 50 civilians dead and thousands displaced late last month.
Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expresses serious concern about the decision of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) on having to withdraw from Darfur and the implications of this development on those they were assisting. NRC has played a key role in the largest and most difficult camp housing displaced persons in Darfur, Kalma camp, and the largest concentration of internally displaced persons concentration in the region, which is located in the town of Gereida.
And Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland, as you know, is currently en route to the region, and he is scheduled to visit the Sudan and Uganda.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, held a number of meetings today with representatives of diverse groups participating in Myanmar’s National Convention, and also briefly witnessed the Convention in session at its location outside of Yangon.
In the course of his discussions, Mr. Gambari stressed the need for a more inclusive and transparent political process in Myanmar, one in which all of Myanmar’s people can find their voices, including those groups not represented at the Convention. In response to appeals made by representatives of ethnic groups, Mr. Gambari made it clear that the United Nations stands ready to provide humanitarian assistance to all regions of the country.
And on Kosovo, the United Nations envoy for the Kosovo status talks, Martti Ahtisaari, has said that, after consulting with the Kosovo Contact Group today, he has decided to present his proposal for the settlement of Kosovo status to the parties, without delay, after the parliamentary elections in Serbia, which are scheduled to be held on 21 January of next year.
We have his full statement upstairs, as well as one by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, who says that, while awaiting Ahtisaari’s proposal, he expects Kosovo’s leaders to continue to speak with one voice.
And from Lebanon, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reports that 129 troops from the Indonesian Battalion have arrived in Lebanon today, bringing the force’s total troop strength to about 9,700. Twenty-one countries are now represented in UNIFIL.
On the humanitarian side, more than 700 civilians received medical and dental treatment from a number of UNIFIL battalions over the past week. Also, UNIFIL engineers conducted 58 controlled demolitions of unexploded ordnance.
Meanwhile, UNICEF and the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International have launched a television series that is the first of its kind in the Middle East region. Airing twice a week, Sawtna (“Our Voice”), is created and produced by young people aged 15 to 21. We have a press release on that upstairs.
Turning to Uganda, we have upstairs a statement by the Acting United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in that country.
He expresses grave concerns about the escalating violence and loss of life, property and human dignity in Uganda’s north-eastern Kotido District. He urges national and local authorities to undertake all measures required to protect the civilian population, and notes that the United Nations has been handing out food and basic supplies to civilians affected by the violence. And we have that statement upstairs.
**Department of Peacekeeping Operations
A couple of things to flag for you, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations says that United Nations peacekeeping deployment reached a historic high at the end of October, with some 80,900 military and police personnel and some 15,000 civilians serving in peace operations around the world.
The current surge began in October 2003, with the deployment of major operations to Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Haiti, Burundi and the Sudan, as well as the expansion of the mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
And we have more on this upstairs, including statistics and charts provided to us by the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
And this afternoon at 3, in the ECOSOC chamber, the Secretary-General will mark the 60th anniversary of the Commission on the Status of Women.
In his remarks, he is expected to say that the world is finally starting to grasp that there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women and girls.
He is also expected to say that, although this will be his last time addressing the Commission as Secretary-General, it will not be the end of his fight for the empowerment of women. After he leaves office, he will add, he hopes to make the advancement of women and girls a main theme of his efforts, particularly in Africa.
Dr Margaret Chan of China will be the next Director-General of the World Health Organization, following the confirmation of her appointment last night by the Assembly of the World Health Organization.
The United Nations Webcast team is providing live and on-demand webcast coverage of the climate change conference now underway in Nairobi. The Secretary-General will attend the High level meeting that begins on Wednesday 15th November. We have information on that upstairs.
** Lech Wa łęsa
And for your information, the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the “Solidarity” movement in Poland, Lech Wałęsa, will be at the Security Council stake-out to talk to you, right after the noon briefing, after I’m done and, of course, after Gail gets done. And we do have the week ahead for you because today is Friday. That is it for me, now I will take some of your questions.
Questions and Answers
Question: Israel continued to do provocations to UNIFIL and to Lebanese territories violating all agreements of Security Council Resolution 1701 regarding the sorties over Lebanon, and they have caused frictions with the French battalions. Suppose the situation escalated and the Lebanese retaliated to the Israeli violations, whether it’s the Lebanese forces or Hizbollah fighters; what is the position of UNIFIL? Would they fight, like, for the Lebanese or would they stand by like they are doing right now when the Israelis are violating 1701?
Spokesman: First of all, I am not going to speculate on what may or may not happen. It is clear for us that we are dealing with these violations along the political and diplomatic lines. There were a series of air violations on the 31st of October. They did fly over a number of French positions; we have made strong protests to the Israelis regarding these violations. We’ve asked them to cease these actions, which were in violation of 1701. We do very much hope that all parties, and obviously in this respect the Israelis, will cease these air violations. The resolution is clear and we’ve asked them to cease these violations and we protest them every time they happen. As for the threats to UNIFIL, I think I will refer you to the resolution and its mandate, which are fairly explicit.
Question: But the Lebanese Army have so much (inaudible) but in regards to Israel?
Spokesman: But you have, and I know that you have been following these briefings over the past few weeks. UNIFIL has been actively working with the Lebanese Army to ensure their full deployment all over Lebanon. In fact, except for a small part of the northern part of the village of Al-Ghajar and a small part of the area around that village, the Lebanese and Israeli forces have completely withdrawn and UNIFIL assisted the deployment of the Lebanese armed forces. So we are working extremely closely with the Lebanese in helping them deploy and we are working with both sides and obviously extremely closely with the Israeli side to try and convince them to stop these violations of 1701. We have protested repeatedly these violations and will continue to do so.
Question: During the day-long session of the Security Council yesterday, there were many calls for an impartial international investigation of the Israeli attacks into the Occupied Palestinian Territory. How is the Secretary-General reacting to this?
Spokesman: There is a discussion currently under way with Council Members on a draft resolution, which may pertain to that, so we will on this point leave it to Council Members to decide on the way forward on this issue.
Question: Do you know if we will hear today?
Spokesman: There are no official consultations. We have to check with the Council Members on how these discussions are going. Thank you very much and have a good weekend, and I’ll leave you in Gail’s hands.
Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly
Thank you very much. Good afternoon everyone. The General Assembly this morning is discussing the report of the Human Rights Council. The report was introduced by the President of the Human Rights Council, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba of Mexico. There are some 15 speakers inscribed to speak on this item.
Meanwhile in the news of work in the main Committees: on Thursday the Third Committee approved by consensus a draft resolution on trafficking in women and girls that called for a more gender-specific approach to the global problem of human trafficking in persons. The resolution calls on Governments to, among other things, eliminate the demand for trafficked women and girls; to devise, enforce and strengthen effective gender-sensitive and age-sensitive measures to combat all forms of trafficking in women and girls; and to take all appropriate measures to ensure that victims of trafficking are not penalized for being trafficked.
Some 15 draft resolutions addressing human rights, the right of peoples to self determination, the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and country specific reports addressing human rights situations in the Democratic Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Uzbekistan, Belarus, Iran, and the United States, and the situation of indigenous peoples and immigrants in Canada. During the introduction of the draft texts, several delegations took the opportunity to challenge the legitimacy and effectiveness of country-specific resolutions. Today the Committee will take action on a draft resolution on hostage-taking, which was postponed from Thursday, as a result of time constraints.
The Fifth Committee began its debate on Thursday on the financial situation of the United Nations. Speakers focused on the cash-flow situation of the Organization at the end of the current year, the rate of unpaid assessed contributions to both the regular and the peacekeeping budgets; the debt owed to States, which had donated troops and equipment to peacekeeping operations and the practice of what is termed “cross-borrowing” among accounts. The Committee was briefed by the United Nations Controller Warren Sach. (See Press Release GA/AB/3771 for details.)
The Sixth Committee was unable to complete its work by November 9th, as was expected, and has requested the Assembly to allow it to have one further meeting, on either the 15th or 16th of November, to do so. The Assembly this morning approved this request. On Thursday, the Sixth Committee approved six draft resolutions, including one establishing an Ad Hoc Committee open to all United Nations Member States or specialized agencies, to consider a report of a Group of Legal experts, which deals with the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts serving on United Nations missions. By the terms of the draft resolution approved without a vote, the Ad Hoc Committee would meet next April and would report on its work to the 62nd General Assembly session.
This morning, the Chef de Cabinet, Ambassador Ahmed Al Haddad, delivered a statement on behalf of the President of the Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, at the meeting to mark International Human Solidarity Day. This Day was proclaimed as an initiative in the fight against poverty. The keynote address was given by Mr. Lech Wałęsa, former President of Poland and Nobel Peace Laureate. In her statement the President highlighted what she described as the two keys to peace, namely solidarity and development.
Assembly President Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa will also address this afternoon a round-table to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Commission on the Status of women. The President in her statement will highlight the achievements of the Commission since its establishment in 1946. However, she notes that this does not imply that we no longer face challenges. She says it is sad to note that today women account for two-thirds of the 1.2 billion people currently living in extreme poverty. She is expected to comment that the 61st session of the General Assembly will continue to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women; and in this regard she notes her intention to hold an informal thematic debate on gender in the coming months.
She is also expected to conclude with an appeal to those gathered to renew their commitment to work together to ensure that gender is given even greater recognition. “For without this commitment, we will not be able to make substantial progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and help secure better lives for women all over the world,” she warns.
That is my report for today. Any questions?
* *** *For information media • not an official record