|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 Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Spokesman of Secretary-General
The Secretary-General arrived in Geneva a short while ago from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Around midnight last night, he announced the conclusions of a meeting on Darfur, which had brought together the five permanent members of the Security Council and a number of African countries, including, of course, Sudan. And that meeting was co-chaired by the Secretary-General and the Chairman of the African Union, Mr. Alpha Konare.
The group considered three areas: the requirement to re-energize the peace process, the establishment of a strengthened ceasefire and the way forward on peacekeeping for Darfur. On peacekeeping, the final communiqué, which we distributed to you yesterday, states that a UN-AU hybrid operation is also agreed to in principle, pending clarification on the size of the force.
The Sudanese delegation requested that they be given time to consult on the appointment of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Force Commander. And the AU Peace and Security Council will meet on 24 November for further consultations.
At a press conference, the Secretary-General described the meeting as “very constructive” and said that he thought “we had come a long way.” All the participants came with the right spirit, the right mood and a determination to find a solution, he said.
Tomorrow, the Secretary-General travels to St. Gallen in Switzerland, where he will deliver a speech on biotechnology and human security and where he will accept the Max Schmidheiny Foundation Freedom Prize.
** Sudan -- Egeland
Also on Darfur, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Jan Egeland, returned to Khartoum today, two days earlier than scheduled, after he was denied permission to travel beyond Darfur’s state capitals by the Government of Sudan, for unspecified security reasons.
Egeland had originally planned to visit six locations in Darfur to meet with actors on the ground and review the humanitarian situation in those critical areas. But, when the Sudanese Government said no to four of those locations, Egeland cut short his trip with regret, saying “that he refused to go and just sit in the offices”.
He noted that, his humanitarian colleagues in the field, who do the lifesaving work, face such types of restrictions on their movement and operations on a daily basis.
And we have a press release from Mr. Egeland upstairs.
Chad/Central African Republic
Also, a team of UN experts will be travelling to Chad and the Central African Republic over the weekend as part of a technical assessment mission to both countries. The team will gather information necessary to deliver options for the possible establishment of a multidimensional UN presence in Chad and the Central African Republic. As you’ll recall, this is in line with the Security Council resolution 1706.
Meanwhile, that team is made up of political, military, police, humanitarian and other civilian experts. They will meet with key interlocutors in both the Central African Republic and Chad over a two-week period before reporting back to the Secretary-General. And, the Secretary-General will, of course, in turn, report those findings to the Security Council.
On a related note, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees reports continuing displacement along the volatile Chad-Sudan border, with recent refugee arrivals from Darfur, as well as thousands of Chadians being forced to flee ongoing violence. This morning, UNHCR staff in eastern Chad began moving the first of some 1,500 newly-arrived Darfur refugees away from the Sudanese border to a UNHCR camp near in the town of Guereda.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, UNHCR will begin airlifting emergency supplies this Sunday for thousands of refugees made homeless by the massive flooding in Kenya’s Dadaab region.
And, we have more upstairs on that, as well.
Turning to the Middle East, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon observed and reported 14 Israeli air violations this morning by Israeli aircraft. Eleven of those occurred in the area of operations of the French battalion with UNIFIL in the central sector.
The anti-aircraft, at one point after over-flight by two Israeli jets at low altitude, anti-aircraft units of the French battalion reportedly took initially preparatory steps to respond to these actions, in accordance with UNIFIL’s rules of engagement and Security Council resolution 1701.
Major General Alain Pellegrini, the UNIFIL Force Commander, strongly protested to the Israeli authorities and asked them to cease these actions, which are unacceptable and in violation of resolution 1701, said General Pellegrini. He obviously also informed Headquarters about these incidents.
And, back here, the Security Council this morning is holding closed consultations on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Dmitry Titov, the Director of the Africa Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Council on the situation in that country, following the runoff round of presidential elections. Preliminary results were announced earlier this week, with final results set for 26 November.
And the Council President, Ambassador Jorge Voto-Bernales of Peru, I think, just read out a statement to the press on the situation in the DRC.
And, a mission led by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, will travel to Baidoa on Monday to discuss the situation in the country and the way to preserve peace, security and unity with President Abdullahi Yusuf.
Ambassador Fall will be accompanied by representatives of the Somalia Advisory Contact Group, which was established earlier this year to support the peace process.
And, we have a press release with more information upstairs.
And, from Geneva, Louise Arbour will pay her first visit as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory from this Sunday, which is the 19th of November, until the 24th of this month.
The mission will give Arbour an opportunity to examine developments on the ground, first-hand, and discuss the situation with people affected by the violence, as well as authorities, her UN partners, representatives of civil society and non-governmental organizations.
**Guest at noon on Monday
A couple more items, on Monday, our guest here at the briefing will be Ibrahima Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, who will brief you on his recent mission to the Central African Republic.
**Event this afternoon
And, this afternoon, from 3:00 to 4:30 in Conference Room 4, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown and other senior officials will pay tribute to this year’s winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. Mr. Yunus will deliver the keynote address, and the ceremony will be presided over by Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the President of the General Assembly.
And, I hope I didn’t say something that Gail would have liked to announce herself, but, there you go.
Today is Friday. We have the Week Ahead for you.
Just if you’re planning your week next week, Thursday is a holiday. We will be closed -- it’s Thanksgiving.
On Friday, the UN will be open, but unless there is breaking news, we will likely not have a noon briefing on Friday, but you’re all welcome to come into the office.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I hope you’re able to resolve this conundrum, which is this southern Somalians making appearances on behalf of Hizbollah in Lebanon, alleged by some UN officials in the report, which you basically said you were not aware of. Now the Israeli Ambassador in the press conference this morning did confirm that Israeli police, that there were 700 Somalians in the Lebanese area. Can you in any way clarify or resolve this contradiction, whether they were there or not there?
Spokesman: This information is based on this report done by three independent experts for the Security Council. It is being discussed in the Security Council Sanctions Committee today. As I said, we are trying to see if these experts can come down and speak to you about their report. They’re the only ones who can speak about the methodology of the report and how they gathered the information. So, I really can not speak to the report, which has not yet been released.
Question: But, it was prepared on behalf of the United Nations…
Spokesman: It was prepared for the Security Council Sanctions Committee. It is at their request -– it is a report made for that Committee.
Question: You mentioned, and we’ve gotten, several e-mail bulletins yesterday afternoon, about this agreement in principle, subject to whatever, to have a joint AU-UN force in Darfur. Is there any text of the agreement or resume of that agreement available?
Spokesman: Yes, it was made available late yesterday afternoon and it is upstairs.
Correspondent: Thank you very much.
Question: The Israeli aircraft violating Lebanese airspace. The French troops are preparing to respond. Are you aware of that?
Spokesman: Yes, that’s what I just said, that they had been preparing to respond. Thankfully, nothing happened. There was no serious incident in terms of anyone firing or anyone getting hurt, but this obviously underscores the importance for these overflights to stop. We have made demarches to that effect with the Israeli authorities. They’re not only in clear violation of the resolution, I think this is a very tense moment, and we would hate to see any incident happen.
Question: About this report on Somalia. How much did you pay to get this report prepared? I mean, how much the United Nations spent on that report?
Spokesman: Again, this report was done for the Security Council. I’m happy to check what the experts were paid. They were hired at the request of the Security Council following standard UN pay procedure. I’ll have to see at what level they were hired.
Question: Can you elaborate a little bit in terms of what the possible French response would be to these overflights?
Spokesman: Obviously, you know, the resolution gives UN troops the right to self-defence if they are attacked from whichever quarter. This was a very, very tense from the information we’ve gotten from UNIFIL. These overflights are dangerous in terms of the chance that things could get out of control, and that’s why we’ve asked -– we’ve clearly again repeatedly asked for the Israelis to cease these overflights.
But I will stress that they were overflights. The French did take some precautions, but that it stayed at that level.
Question: Uganda claims they didn’t get any letter from the Monitoring Group asking about the charges. It says, “They’re complaining to the UN”. So I’m wondering, has the Secretariat received any response from the countries named in that report, even though it’s still pending?
Spokesman: My understanding is that, you know, let me do this. Let me check exactly. I understand we did, there were some demarches made to the Secretariat about the report. I will check from which country they came. What I will –- without speaking to the substance of the report -– what I will reiterate yet again, is that this was not a report done by the Secretariat –- it was not done at the request of the Secretariat or by the Secretary-General, or in his name. It was a report done at the request of the members of the Security Council, particularly the Security Council’s Sanctions Committee dealing with Somalia.
Question: I just want to state one thing…
Spokesman: Masood, let him…
Correspondent: [Inaudible] but it’s called a UN report.
Question: Lonseny Fall has repeatedly said, I can’t speak about facts in Somalia because the Monitoring Group is doing that. So the Secretariat has been leaning on that Monitoring Group. Again…
Spokesman: I’m not sure that’s a fair assessment. The Security Council has a number of sanctions committees. They often ask for experts to write their reports. I think for any questions regarding this particular report -– as I said, we’re trying to see if we can get these experts to come down, or you can raise these issues directly with the Member States that are members of the Sanctions Committee.
Question: Two other questions. We’ve just had the Ambassador of Israel here. There were two things I wanted to ask. He said that in terms of the Gaza power plant, Israel is building a high pressure cable for Gaza to provide electricity. So I’m wondering if the Secretariat is aware of whether there are any plans afoot to rebuild the power plant.
Spokesman: I don’t have any information to that effect. You know, I need to refresh my memory. If I recall, Mr. Egeland did mention some update on the power plant. We’ll see with OCHA if they have any information.
Question: When asked about the cluster bombs dropped in the last final days of the conflict, he said he wasn’t aware of it at all. So I’m wondering, I know the UN has spoken about it, Jan Egeland has spoken about it, were these in fact conveyed to Israel? Is there any basis for Israel to say we are unaware [inaudible]?
Spokesman: I did not listen to the briefing by the Ambassador, and I’m not going to get into tit-for-tat with him from here. I think we’ve spoken very clearly on our concern about the cluster bombs and we’ve made those concerns known, and we’ve made those concerns known very publicly.
Question: On Sudan, we’ve had so many false starts and promises. What is the feeling in senior UN management about this agreement with headlines about UN peacekeepers to be part of a force? You included an agreement mentioned in principle. How serious a step forward really is this?
Spokesman: This was a very important step forward. There’s a lot of diplomacy that still needs to be done to bring this agreement into place. But for once, you had the Sudanese Government agreeing, in principle, to the deployment of a hybrid UN-AU force. We’re waiting to hear back from the Sudanese Government on a number of details, but I think this was a very significant step forward with a lot of work still needing to be done by a lot of the parties.
Question: I had a question about Darfur. I just want to understand the timeline. When Jan Egeland was refused access to those four places you mentioned earlier, was that after the Secretary-General had made that statement that there was this joint force in principle? And also, [inaudible] was that access given before and then taken away? I’m just trying to get an idea.
Spokesman: The issue with Mr. Egeland happened this morning, as far as I’m aware. And it dealt with the local Sudanese authorities on the ground.
[The Spokesman later clarified that Mr. Egeland had been told in Khartoum on Wednesday by high-level Sudanese officials that his itinerary might have to be changed. Mr. Egeland proceeded on to Darfur, hoping he would be able to gain access to his desired destinations. This clearly did not happen, however.]
Question: Would you know if that response from the Sudanese authorities has anything to do with the Sudanese Foreign Minister, who is not exactly in agreement with the statement that the Secretary-General made?
Spokesman: I think, on what the Sudanese Foreign Minister said, the communiqué that was released last night was fairly clear, was agreed upon by all parties present in the meeting, including the Sudanese. We are waiting for an official response back from the Sudanese Government and a response will also go to the African Union.
As to why the Sudanese authorities –- the local authorities -– denied Mr. Egeland that access -– I can’t speak to that. I think you would have to ask them. But it definitely underscores the issue of humanitarian access, which has been very lacking in the area of Darfur recently and with the effect that it’s had.
Question: On the investigation on the Greek funding to DESA, can you tell us who’s in charge of that audit? When do you think it will be completed and when will it be available for review?
Spokesman: These audits are being done by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). It is in the process of being finalized. In line with General Assembly rules and regulations, these audits are then made available to Member States on request. I do not have a timeline that I can speak to.
Question: Recently some of these reports have been left in limbo. Can we have some sort of assurance…
Spokesman: One of the lessons learned from Volcker was exactly that –- not to leave these audits in limbo. We now have a system in place, where if issues can not be resolved by the departments at hand, there is an internal audit follow-up committee, to make sure that audit conclusions are followed up on. And I think, we’ve seen that a lot recently, where there are a number of audits and investigations that have taken place –- investigations have taken place because of audits that raised red flags, and we move forward on it. So, I think there’s clearly a new and improved culture in the house on following up on audits.
Question: Did the Israelis make any request of the United Nations, of the UNIFIL forces, which the UNIFIL forces have not been able to fulfil with regard to their presence in south Lebanon, therefore they carry on with these aerial sorties?
Spokesman: I can’t explain why the Israeli air force continues these sorties. You’d have to ask them. What is clear is that since the implementation of the cessation of hostilities, UNIFIL has worked diligently with both the Lebanese Armed Forces and the Israeli Defence Forces to ensure their withdrawal and the deployment of the Lebanese Armed Forces, and that process has going very well. We’re almost there, except for a small part –- for the northern part of Ghajar and some areas around it – the Israeli withdrawal is almost complete. And, I would have to say that UNIFIL work with the IDF in that department has gone on well.
Question: Still on Darfur, I’d like to know whether the Secretary-General actually has any kind of assurance that President El-Bashir is not trying to use this new [inaudible] “agreement in principle” to again delay the process because of the new focus on Sudan in terms of the rising crisis. Does he have a hint of assurance that this is something that is reliable? Secondly, I’d like to know also which are the other African countries that [inaudible] and at what level? Were they at the ministerial level or the presidential level?
Spokesman: They were at the ministerial level. I will give you the list. I should have the list in front of me, but I don’t. You know, the Secretary-General has been in touch with President El-Bashir on a number of occasions recently. I think it was noteworthy that this meeting with the Sudanese you had all the members of the P-5. In fact, the Chinese were represented by their Permanent Representative here, and there was a clear willingness on all parties, including obviously the Sudanese party, to move forward. I think we have a very important agreement, communiqué, that was agreed to in Addis. We’re waiting for more details, and I think everyone grasped the seriousness of the situation and the need to move forward, and the need to move forward decisively.
Question: With reference to this Lebanon episode with the Israeli overflights and the French defensiveness measures, I just want to make sure that my impression is correct. Do these small bases, such as the one over which this took place, do they have a large painted, oversized UN flag somewhere that indicates what kind of base it is? And just out of curiosity, do they also fly somewhere on the premises the flag of the particular country whose troops are manning that base, in addition to the UN flag?
Spokesman: I will stand corrected by my colleagues in DPKO if I misspeak, but these are UN outposts. These are national troops that serve under the UN flag. They fly the UN flag. These posts, especially the sector headquarters, are clearly marked. Not only are they clearly marked, but, as we do in all peacekeeping missions, we make sure all the countries involved clearly know where the UN posts are. Whoever attacks a UN post, overflies it, knows exactly what they’re doing.
Question: When is the next report of the Secretary-General on resolution 1701 going to be out? Next week?
Spokesman: It is due, I believe, on the 30th of November, but we’ll check and see if we can get you a more detailed date.
Question: The DESA situation. We’re told that at least three DESA employees who were disciplined have grievances pending. So I’m wondering, I understand that process is not generally public, but if anybody monitors whether employment grievances or the justice system actually -– that was an early warning of the scandal. So who monitors that? And, also, it seems that a new scandal broke, that Greece was funding programmes in its own country through DESA. It was an entirely Greek-funded thing. So, if you can explain why, how someone could funnel money through the UN for projects entirely devoted to their country.
And, on the DESA website, there are a lot of projects for which there’s very little description, I don’t know what you could say about that. It seems like a serious thing. Where’s that going to go and why do countries do that?
Spokesman: We obviously, I think, it’s clear that the UN to implement its programme relies on funding from Member States. The Centre was to be used for the benefit of countries in the Balkans -- in that area. It was located in Greece, but it was there for the benefit of countries in that Mediterranean region. I cannot speak to whatever internal justice process may be going on in DESA with specific employees, especially as there is an audit going on.
On the issue of internal justice in general, the Secretary-General is on record as saying that this is a system that needs to be completely overhauled and one in which the employees and the managers have faith in. And that is something that is up to the General Assembly, as Mr. Burnham explained recently.
Question: Do you have any update on the negotiations going on between the United Nations special representative, who will remain unnamed [inaudible] the Israeli soldiers. Is there any update on that?
Spokesman: The facilitator? No, he continues his work.
Question: I just want to reiterate and say something. No matter how you look at it… you try to differentiate that this is not a UN Secretariat job, but a report from the Security Council Committee, but everyone deems it a UN report [inaudible]. One cannot define the [inaudible]. Somehow we have to resolve this. This is what I say.
Spokesman: Thank you.
Question: Turning to another subject, Iraq. It appears that Iraq has again requested an extension of the Multinational Force in Iraq. Do you have any details regarding that, in a letter or however it was communicated? And, secondly, how would you describe the state of UN involvement in Iraq these days?
Spokesman: I do understand that a letter has been sent, requesting that extension. That is obviously something for the Security Council to take up.
UN involvement in Iraq with a small footprint, due to security concerns, is intense on the political level, on the human rights level, where we’re working closely with Iraqi institutions to assist them in the human rights area. It is also through the Iraq Compact, which the United Nations is co-chairing in trying to bring the whole -- Iraq and its neighbours –- to bring Iraq’s neighbours in support of its efforts to stabilize its country and also increase its economy. We are working under the mandate of the Security Council, and obviously with the Compact in doing whatever we can to help the Iraqis.
Question: How many people are on the ground?
Spokesman: That, I don’t have off the top of my head but I can get them to you after the briefing.
[The spokesman later added that, as of 1 November, there were 332 international staff in Iraq, including 2 United Nations guard units (162 in Baghdad and 60 in Erbil).]
Question: After the calling on General Aoun, to disobey the Lebanese Government, did your representative in Lebanon brief you about the situation there and how…
Spokesman: Mr. Pedersen, who is doing an excellent job, obviously reports back regularly. Those are internal reports and internal analysis. So yes, we are fully aware of what is going on in Lebanon.
Question: Does that affect the international tribunal?
Spokesman: You know, the tribunal. I’ve spoken about that quite extensively in the last few days. It is now in the hands of the Security Council. Once we get the green light from the Security Council, we will then transmit the proposal for the tribunal back to the Lebanese Government. They will then follow their constitutional procedure to finalize and ratify that accord.
Question: I know you don’t want to speculate. Do you think it’s fair to conclude that Sudan is going to throw Kofi Annan a public bone about Darfur, knowing that he’s leaving office and Jan Egeland will be out of office too – big proponents of action in Darfur -– and there’s a new person in charge with other priorities? What’s to say that…
Spokesman: You’re right. I can’t speculate, but what I do know is that the Secretary-General will work extremely, extremely hard on the issue of Darfur until 31 December at 11:59. He has made it one of his priorities to see that this process moves forward, and he will do whatever he can until he leaves office.
Question: Yesterday, the Third Committee passed a resolution trying to say that there should be no more country-specific human rights resolutions in the General Assembly. So, does Kofi Annan think that having country-specific resolutions on human rights during his tenure as Secretary-General…
Spokesman: I’m not going to comment on what is currently going on in the Third Committee. It’s up to the Committee members to decide. That being said, I would refer you back to what the Secretary-General has said a number of times on the Human Rights Council, that he believes that the Human Rights Council should start by taking a look at the record of its own members and do a self assessment, as the Council was designed to do, and that it needs to broaden the way it looks at human rights.
Question: Given that the Chair may be Mexico, there’s an issue. At what level has the UN spoken about that and what has it tried to do?
Spokesman: I’m not aware of any specific initiatives on this Mexican situation, but I can check.
[The correspondent was later informed that the Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Issues had made a statement on the situation in Oaxaca last month. In addition, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Office in Mexico was monitoring the situation and was in contact with the authorities. They also issued a statement condemning the violent acts in late October.]
Thank you very much. Have a great weekend. And you can sit down and Gail will brief you on the General Assembly.
Briefing by Spokeswoman of the General Assembly President
Good afternoon everyone.
This morning, the President is presiding over the resumed tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly to consider the “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, especially the Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip, in particular the killing of Palestinian civilians in Beit Hanoun on 8 November. So far, the Assembly has heard from the Observer of Palestine; the Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, who also held a press conference; the Ambassador of Senegal, in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People; and Cuba , on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement. A draft resolution was introduced by the Ambassador of Qatar. Twenty-six speakers were inscribed to speak before the vote on the draft resolution.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) took action on Thursday on a number of draft resolutions that would have the General Assembly take positions on a variety of issues including the right to food; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination; racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the effects of globalization and the staffing of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The results of the voting are contained in press release GA/SHC/3873. Voting on six other resolutions continued today – including the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea; which just been adopted with 91 votes in favour to 21, with 60 abstentions.
The Sixth Committee (Legal) unanimously approved a draft decision calling for a resumed session of the Sixth Committee, to be held in March 2007, to continue considering recommendations for a new, decentralized system to administer justice in the United Nations. According to the report of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations system of justice, the current system was outmoded, dysfunctional and ineffective”. The Panel also expressed the view that effective United Nations reform could not take place “without an efficient, independent and well-resourced internal justice system that would safeguard the rights of staff members and ensure effective accountability of managers and staff”.
The Committee also unanimously took action on a draft resolution on the 2006 report of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Organization. By terms of the draft resolution, the Assembly would decide that the Special Committee will hold its next session from 7 to 14 and 16 February 2007. On the rule of law at national and international levels, the Committee acted on a draft resolution which calls for the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on those issues and report back to the sixty-second session in 2007.
This week the General Assembly took a major step forward on implementing another one of the important actions called for in the 2005 Summit Outcome, by finalizing the resolution on the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council. Negotiations had been going on for almost a year and through the good offices of the General Assembly President, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, the matter was finalized on Tuesday, 14 November. The Assembly is expected to adopt the resolution on Monday, 20 November. This is an important step towards reforming the role of the Council as the central body in charge of policy and coordination of development activities. It also underscored the importance of development issues as one of the principal pillars of United Nations activities. There were three significant aspects of the resolution:
First, it sets the stage for implementing the two new functions of ECOSOC, namely, the Annual Ministerial Reviews of the United Nations development agenda and the establishment of the biennial Development Cooperation Forum. The Development Cooperation Forum is the first multilateral forum of its kind which would, among other things, review trends in aid flows. The meetings of both the Annual Ministerial Review and the Development Cooperation Forum would be held in Geneva during ECOSOC’s substantive session in 2007. However, starting in 2008, the DFC would meet in New York.
Second, the Assembly has also recognized the Council as a Charter body which is entitled to convene meetings as and when needed with full substantive and conference services – and this in fact will put ECOSOC on par with other Charter bodies.
Third, the Council has been given the mandate to convene “ad hoc meetings” on humanitarian emergencies. This is a step towards giving ECOSOC a more visible role in responding to crises as and when they happen. Such meetings are expected to promote engagement of all stakeholders in support of international relief efforts.
The President of the General Assembly on Thursday sent a letter to Member States informing them of this development.
That’s my report for today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: What is the best interface for NGOs, particularly human rights organizations, to relate with the General Assembly? I ask this questions because of the elections that took place yesterday I understand that a lot of Nigerian Human rights groups sent petitions on the Nigerian candidate to the General Assembly, but those petitions were not forwarded. So I want to understand what is the interface between the NGOS and the General Assembly?
Spokeswoman: The Office of the President is holding a meeting next Tuesday and that question of the interface between the NGOS and the General Assembly will be addressed, because it is a very loose relationship at the moment. Yes, there were some difficulties with the letters of protest that were sent out. May I add that they were sent at the last minute. The protest letters were coming not just to the Assembly President; many of them were being sent to Member States. Of course the people protesting could also protest to the International Law Commission itself, because that was the office this particular person was running for. In actual fact, it is an election process so the possibility existed that he may or may not have gotten elected. But, at least, the letters were forwarded to the General Assembly President, which I was asked to do. But the President could not take any action on these letters, because, as I said yesterday, these were experts who are being put forward by their countries in their individual capacities.
Question: Did they, in fact, forward their petitions to the International Law Commission?
Spokeswoman: I am sure that many of the people who contacted me that’s what they intended to do?
Question: You mentioned this protest regarding NGOs and obviously there is a particular protest against a particular candidate, for a particular elected position. But you also mentioned that there is a meeting being called by Sheika Haya, the President next week, Tuesday I think you said, about the relationship with NGOs. Is that the relationship with NGOs in general and has there been particular or specific criticism about NGO operations at large?
Spokeswoman: I think, in general, NGOs have had some concern about how they get issues of importance to them acknowledged and considered by the General Assembly.
Question: Is this criticism by NGOs of the manner in which the Assembly deals with them or is this criticism from the outside of how NGOs behave or…?
Spokeswoman: I would not say criticism necessarily, but concern at having some sort of relationship where they could their views heard.
Question: So it is NGOs who are protesting? It is not outside parties who are being critical of NGOs?
Spokeswoman: No, that’s not the impression I have.
Question: I have seen on the website who was elected and who was not. The United States candidate Martheson was not elected. Were the results posted? Was the voting somehow secret or do we know how?
Spokeswoman: There was nothing secretive about them. The results are there. [published in a press release] and they actually gave the numbers.
Question: I just want to know, how much did he lose by? There were 44 candidates running for 34 slots?
Spokeswoman: The results show clearly the winners and losers. The voting was done by a simple majority, so you can see those who got the highest number of votes got the seats.
Question: I guess I would actually like to know how many votes the US candidate received?
Spokeswoman: It is in the press release.
Question: Did you say that the election was not a secret ballot?
Spokeswoman: No. I’ll have to double check on that. My colleague has confirmed that it was a secret ballot.
Question: Yesterday you were asked what would happen if the resolution about no more country specific human rights resolutions passes. Remember this question from yesterday? Now that it has passed the Third Committee, when these things all go to the General Assembly, if it passes saying no more country-specific resolutions, would it moot all the other resolutions, like the North Korean one [the resolution on the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea] that was just passed today? Would that have no effect anymore? What the…
Spokeswoman: My assumption is that the other country specific resolutions stand on their own. They were recommended as individual resolutions including the one on Korea, which was voted on this morning. At this point, it would be up to the Assembly now when it considers the recommendations of the Third Committee it would have to look at whether this is really a problem or not.
Question: But if the General Assembly voted on this one first, would it even hold a vote on the other ones?
Spokeswoman: I don’t think the language of the resolution says that it precludes other resolutions on country-specific human rights situations from being considered. The resolutions clearly states that it “stresses the need to avoid politically motivated and biased country specific resolutions on the situation of human rights.” So I don’t think this language indicates that it will have an effect on the other country specific resolutions.
Question: Are you going to brief us on the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting by the office of the President?
Spokeswoman: We have arranged for one of the organizers to brief correspondents at the noon briefing on Monday. Some 50 ambassadors and about 150 NGOs have expressed an interest in participating in the meeting. So there is a lot of interest and we are looking forward to holding this. The meeting is on Tuesday.
* *** *For information media • not an official record