22 December 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 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 Saint, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.


Tribute by Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown


Let me just start and let me actually welcome all the Dujarrics to this press briefing, including little Dujarrics in the back there, its great to see the three of you with us because this is a very emotional day for quite a few of us here today.  It’s the last day the Secretary-General and I will be in the office unless events around the Darfur issue bring one or the other of us back in next week.  It’s also the last scheduled noon briefing of the year and, therefore, it means it Steph’s last briefing.


I have known and followed spokesmen intermittently over the last 30 years.  As a young intern, I’d sidle up to the first ones I knew at the bar in the delegates lounge, hoping I’d pick up some of their wisdom on how to become a good spokesman.  In latter years, I’ve worked with quite a few of the Spokesmen -– the outspoken like Sylvana, the more cautious like Fred and, for my mind, the very best, Steph.


He came to this job in the most difficult of circumstances, the real low point of “Oil-For-Food” when there was very little trust in this room towards anything that the UN Management had to say on almost any matter.  And he’s beguiled some of you, remained in intense hand-to-hand combat with others of you, but, has brought a clarity of communication, a speed of response to the incredibly difficult agenda that he has faced as Spokesman, dealing with both war and peace issues in Darfur and Lebanon, as well as all the typical ongoing conflicts, which every spokesman deals with -- while, at the same time, dealing with this extraordinarily difficult agenda for all of us, of Oil-For-Food, procurement and the other difficulties that we have faced inside our Organization over the last two years. 


Whatever the individual moments of high tension that some of you have had with him -- for which you can probably, in general, blame me, not him, as the one sort of calling the shots and working out with him every morning what we could and what we couldn’t say about issues -- I hope you will all agree that’s he brought tremendous wit, sharpness, speed, and nimbleness, but above all -- and this is what matters most in a Spokesman -- integrity to this job.  And, on behalf of the Secretary-General, as well as myself, and of the Chief of Staff, Alicia Barcena, and all of us who work with him every day, I just wanted to come down and share those words, not just with him but with all of you.  And, I hope before the proper briefing begins, you might join in a round of thanks with me for what he’s done.


(Applause)


Spokesman:  Thanks.  Leave us to work please.


Deputy Secretary-General:  I’ll leave you to the real job now.


Correspondent:  (Inaudible)


Spokesman:  I remember.  Thank you very much Mark.  I now have a statement.


Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General


**Statement by Secretary-General on Sentence of Bulgarian Nurses and Palestinian Doctor in Libya


“I have long been following the painful events taking place in Libya regarding the trial of the five Bulgarian nurses, the Palestinian doctor and the fate of the infected children.  I was greatly encouraged by the glimpse of hope offered by the appeals process and by the way the international community had recently come together to provide treatment and medicines for the infected children.


“I am deeply concerned by confirmation of a guilty verdict and a death sentence and, therefore, appeal to the Libyan and the international community to continue working together in a spirit of reconciliation.


“Once again, I offer the support of the United Nations in all efforts to address the needs of the infected children and to find a humane solution for the fate of the medics.”


And that statement is upstairs.


** Somalia Statement


“The Secretary-General strongly deplores the recent outbreak of fighting between the forces of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) near Baidoa.  He is deeply concerned that the escalation of conflict in Somalia will have disastrous consequences for civilians, who are already suffering from the effects of years of instability and deprivation, compounded by the severe flooding that has recently affected parts of Somalia.  He calls on the TFG and the UIC to cease the hostilities immediately and to resume the peace talks initiated in Khartoum without delay and without any precondition.  He further calls on the two parties to respect the commitments previously agreed upon at Khartoum.


“The Secretary-General expresses his grave concern about the continuous reports of the involvement of foreign forces in the current conflict, and he implores all involved to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Somalia.  He urges all the countries of the region to do whatever they can to ensure that the parties return to the peace talks and pursue a negotiated settlement to the crisis”


And that is upstairs.


**Security Council


The Security Council just concluded consultations on Somalia.  A draft presidential statement was introduced and is about to be adopted in a formal meeting.


Prior to the consultations, they held four back-to-back meetings.


In the first, the Council today paid tribute to the outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan by adopting a resolution by acclamation that acknowledged his contribution to international peace, security and development.  The Council President then read a statement on behalf of members expressing their appreciation for him.


Council members then adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone.


And that was followed by a meeting that adopted a resolution that extends the mandate of the independent team that assists the Security Council Sanctions Committee to monitor the implementation of sanctions by States against Al-Qaida and the Taliban and their associates.


Members then adopted a resolution on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that authorizes an infantry battalion, on loan from the UN mission in Burundi, to continue to serve with the UN mission in the DRC until mid-February of next year.


**Secretary-General


The Secretary-General just spoke to the Council, just prior to the vote on Sierra Leone, which he described as one of the success stories as when we worked together.


In that farewell speech to the Security Council, the Secretary-General also spoke on Darfur.  He said he fervently hoped that “we are now, at last, close to rescuing the people of Darfur from their agony.”


He went on to say, “The reports I have received from my envoy in Khartoum, Mr. Ould Abdallah, encourage me to think we may tomorrow receive a green light from President Bashir for a full ceasefire, a renewed effort to bring all parties into the political process, and deployment of the proposed hybrid African Union force to protect the population.”


However, he also cautioned, “after so many disappointments, I take nothing for granted.  What I do know, is that the Security Council will continue to work, ably helped by my successor, on these and many other crises.”


And that statement is upstairs.


** Chad


Meanwhile, from the ground, in the region, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), said that its Chief António Guterres was today visiting strife-torn eastern Chad, where UNHCR and its partners were struggling to maintain the humanitarian lifeline to hundreds of thousands of Darfur refugees and internally displaced persons.


Mr. Guterres had emphasized UNHCR’s commitment to carry on its work in Chad, even in the most difficult of security conditions, but had noted that a stronger international presence was needed to improve security for those affected by the violence and the aid workers trying to help them.


Currently, UNHCR was only able to maintain skeleton crews in half of the 12 refugee camps in the area in Chad.

** Georgia


The UN Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) reports that, last week, it resumed its patrols of the Kodori Valley, together with the Commonwealth of Independent States Peacekeeping Forces.


The joint patrol enjoyed freedom of movement throughout the Valley with security guarantees and full cooperation from both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides.  You’ll recall that patrols in the upper Georgian-controlled part of the Kodori Valley stopped after June 2003, when UN military observers were taken hostage.


The UN Mission says that the resumption should de-escalate further tensions.


I think I need to get a new writer.


I’m told that the Security Council President just announced that the Iran vote is expected to be between 11 and 12 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday.


** Thailand


High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today urged the Thai Government to fully respect its international human rights obligations in relation to some of the 150 members of the Lao Hmong ethnic minority facing imminent deportation to the Lao People's Democratic Republic.


Arbour said the group, which includes 85 children, may be subject to serious human rights violations if returned to their country of origin.  And we have a press release on that upstairs.


Meanwhile, from North Korea, UNICEF says it is afraid there will be severe food shortages in that country by springtime.  The Agency has only received about half of the $11 million it needs for humanitarian aid for North Korea for 2006 and says additional funding is immediately required to ensure basic services next year.


** Haiti


The UN Mission in Haiti conducted a joint operation with the Haitian National Police in Cité Soleil, which is part of the capital, Port-au-Prince.  The objective of this large scale mission, which started early this morning, is to address the current insecurity caused by the recent wave of kidnappings in the capital.


Throughout the week, [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] and the Government of Haiti have been working together to conduct security operations in high-risk areas aimed at arresting suspected kidnappers.  Such operations, so far, have resulted in the arrest of 24 kidnapped suspects and the liberation of 6 victims.  A number of weapons were also seized.


**Post Employment Policy


I had promised you two things before I left.  One is the post-employment policy.


Earlier today, the Secretary-General signed a bulletin putting into force regulations regarding post-employment restrictions.


In summary, it outlines clear limitations on UN staff who have been involved in various levels of “procurement activity”; in the broadest possible sense, this includes signing or managing a contract, handling bids, etc.


There are two different time periods of “restrictions” on post-employment:  1 and 2 years.  First, there is to be 1 year no employment with a company with which a staff member has had procurement dealings, and second, 2 years of no retroactive contact with the UN, if the new job relates to his/her former responsibilities relating to the procurement process in the UN.


The bulletin also sets out sanctions, such as blacklisting of vendors who have hired former staff members with procurement dealings within these time frames, and the placing a note in the personnel file to prevent the future re-employment of an individual who violates these regulations.  And the policy applies to all staff at all levels, in the Secretariat for the time being, but we do expect it to be expanded to the funds and programmes.  And the bulletin is available upstairs; we’ve just put it out for you.


**Oil-for-Food


I had also been promising you the rules regarding the handling of the files of the Volcker Committee.  The mandate of the Volcker Committee, you’ll recall, ends on 31 December.


These rules will ensure the safe keeping and access to the documents, both paper and electronic, so that investigations by national authorities can continue.


And for once, I will try to be honest with you, I just got these regulations before I came down here so I have not yet had a chance to read them fully, but, they are upstairs and we can answer your questions later.


**Secretary-General-Designate


Finally, the new Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is, as of now, scheduled to arrive for his first day of work in the Office on 2 January.


Secretary-General Ban is expected to arrive at the Secretariat entrance at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday.


**Farewell


As some of you may have heard from the Deputy Secretary-General, this is expected to be my last briefing as the Spokesman for the Secretary-General.


There may be unforeseen circumstances, which may force me to be here next week.  In which case, I will not be in a very, very bad mood.  So, I hope I don’t have to brief.


I know this is not the Academy Awards, but I do want to say thanks to a couple of people.  First, obviously, the Secretary-General and the Deputy for the confidence they’ve placed in me.  I’ll try to do this.  I want to thank Marie Okabe for her support and friendship.  Her attention to detail made my life a lot easier and I want to thank my amazing, amazing staff and my Ed McMahon here, who’s been my sidekick but very silent, thank you.  I want to thank all of you for the confidence you’ve placed in me and for giving us a hard time when we deserved it and for doing so when we didn’t deserve it.  And I probably enjoyed it, nonetheless.


I don’t have any announcements for you.  There will be continuity in the Office, there will be regular briefings starting 2 January, but, hopefully, I will not be here doing this on 2 January.  So with that, I’ll take your questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Two questions.  First on Sudan.  The Secretary-General mentioned waiting for some communication from Mr. Ould Abdallah.  Can you tell us when this might arrive and when we might find out what it actually contains.


Spokesman:  Sure.  The communication is in fact a letter that we expect to receive from President Bashir that will be delivered to Mr. Ould Abdallah in Khartoum as a follow-up to the meetings he had earlier this week.  Mr. Ould Abdallah will then send it on to New York, we’ll take a look at it and hopefully have something to announce once we’ve received it.  But, we need to have the letter and hopefully it will contain all the details the Secretary-General is looking for in terms of Sudan’s agreement for the deployment of the force and the details involved in that.


Question:  Can’t there be some way of contacting the lid list or whatever…?


Spokesman:  If there are any statements or announcements, we will do that through the lid list.  And, if there is, as I fear for you, Council action tomorrow, our Office will be staffed.


Question:  The second thing.  I had asked quite a long time ago and I know what the Secretary-General’s plans are for New Year’s Eve -– where he’s going to be.  Are there going to be any photo opportunities, are there going to be any comments, is there going to be any kind of a formal shaking of hands, or anything else?


Spokesman:  Handing over of the nuclear codes?


Question:  Yes.


Spokesman:  No, I’m not aware of any special activity.  There may be work to be done here next week, especially if there is movement on Sudan, but I’m not aware of anything special for 31[December].


Question:  First of all, thank you for your service.  A lot of us appreciated what you’ve done.  Who will be replacing you?  Is there any word as to who the next spokesperson will be?


Spokesman:  No.  I think that will probably be unveiled on 2[January].  But, as I’ve said, I don’t know is the bottom line, which happens to be the truth.


Question:  I’ll second what Frank said.  On behalf of many of us, I’d like to say thank you.  And I have a question on the statement that you read on the Palestinian doctor and Bulgarian nurses.  Is there any sort of direct contact that the Secretary-General has had with the Libyan Government regarding this?


Spokesman:  He has sent a letter to the Government.  But, this is an issue he has been following over the past years and has had conversations with the Libyan leader and obviously conversations with Bulgarian authorities to try and find some solution to the situation.


Question:  But nothing, no direct contact?


Spokesman:  No phone contact recently.  Betsy?


Question:  In my personal capacity, I’d like to say thanks as well.  What’s going to happen to all the material on the websites about the Secretary-General?  Is there a place where it will be archived and available?


Spokesman:  The website will change on the 1[January] to reflect the new Administration.  But, my understanding is that all the previous speeches, press releases, statements by Kofi Annan will remain archived and available for you when you have nothing else to do and you want to read them.  Edie.


Question:  I was remiss in also not thanking you.  Especially for all of your help.  On the Volcker documents, are you going to put out what’s going to happen?


Spokesman:  We’ve have the four-page bulletin and it’s in the Office, yes.  But it’s detailed and complicated, so we can all read it together and we’ll try to answer your questions on it.  Bill?


Question:  Thank you very much for all the help you’ve been and good luck in the future.


Spokesman:  Thank you.  I can answer that.


Question:  It’s been a pleasure.


Spokesman:  It has Matthew.  It really has.


Question:  Two last questions I guess -- Zimbabwe and this revolving door.  On Zimbabwe, there are calls in the country for Robert Mugabe to extradite Mengistu back to Ethiopia.  He was convicted there.  I don’t know if the UN has any guidance on whether people convicted in national courts of genocide should be returned to their own countries.  Any guidance from the Secretariat on this issue, your last day as his Spokesman, on the ongoing human rights situation in Zimbabwe?


Spokesman:  On this, I don’t have anything specific on this case, but it is clear that the Secretary-General has always maintained that there should be no impunity for leaders who violate the rights of their people.  I don’t know the details on this specific legal case but it is clear that people should face justice.


Question:  On the post-employment policy, is it possible, we’ve heard that there was an earlier draft in which not just procurement officials but senior officials, [Assistant Secretaries-General] and up would have been precluded from lobbying or seeking to influence decision-making at the UN and that was taken out.  Can you confirm that?


Spokesman:  I can’t comment on drafts of documents, as everything is a work in progress until it gets approved.  People have different ideas.  The policy as it stands, if you compare it to policies in other Governments, is up there.  It’s a very strong and sound policy and it applies to all staff, at all levels.  And, it is again fairly detailed.  We’ve put it out upstairs, and I would encourage you to read it in full.  Yes.


Question:  Thank you for helping us and good luck to you.


Spokesman:  Irwin?


Question:  I realize Reuters is running a distant third now behind [Associated Press] and Bloomberg…


Correspondent:  As usual.  (Laughter)


Question:  But, I’d also like to thank you and wish you all the best.


Spokesman:  Thank you.  Yes, Jonathan.


Question:  Thanks a lot and look forward to bumping into you in your next incarnation.


Spokesman:  On a personal level.


Question:  Our careers have had a little bit of a parallel, in a strange way, different orbits.  One question on Darfur, because there is so much activity now going on with Darfur, and there is some traction now.  The Secretary-General’s calls, it seems, are now being heard.  Is the Secretary-General still going to go underground, or do you anticipate perhaps…?


Spokesman:  He will continue until next week to follow this very closely.  And if he needs to, he will come in if there is Council action.  So, he’s continuing to follow this until the 31 [December].  But there is a clear change of Administration.  The helm of the UN will switch to Mr. Ban Ki-moon and, in that capacity, he will lead the UN’s effort on Darfur.  As for the Secretary-General’s personal involvement, he will obviously continue to follow it, but I think his plans remain the same -– to take some time off and decide on what his priorities will be, and then we’ll see what he does.  Yes, Linda?


Question:  Steph, I too would like to express best wishes for the future to you and also ask do you expect that the Secretary-General will be present at the Security Council, if sanctions are imposed?


Spokesman:  On the vote tomorrow?


Question:  Yes.


Spokesman:  No.  I do not expect him to be in.


Question:  Thank you.


Spokesman:  Yes, Elissa?


Question:  How unprecedented is the revolving door policy?  Is this the first revolving door policy of any kind to be adopted by the UN?


Spokesman:  Unprecedented.  Unprecedented in terms of the restrictions of post-employment having to do with staff members who’ve worked in procurement.  This is something that has been a problem for us in the past, and it is an issue we’ve tried to address.  Yes, Betsy?


Question:  So, up till now, there has not been any kind of regulation?


Spokesman:  Not with these types of very clear restrictions.


Question:  So, there had been something?


Spokesman:  I’d have to check, but if there was something, it was something that really wasn’t being followed.


Question:  And one last question on that.  Is the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who’s not technically a staff member, also subject to those restrictions?


Spokesman:  No, he’s not, as you say, not technically a staff member, but he will abide by the high ethics that he’s abided by in his 10 years in the office.


Question:  Doesn’t really answer it.


Spokesman:  Well, it applies to all staff members.  He legally is not a staff member so legally, it does not apply to him, but he will follow the spirit of these regulations.


Question:  Also Chris Burnham, when he left, said even though it was going to be enacted after he left, that he would abide by them.  Has your Office heard anything, has anyone that’s left recently also sort of pledged to you to abide by this rule despite its being done on the last day?


Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of.  But, we would obviously expect people to follow those regulations.  George.


Question:  Do I understand this correctly that there has been a clear undertaking on the part of Mr. Ban Ki-moon that he will abide by these staff regulations even though they…


Spokesman:  No, no, no, I was answering for Kofi Annan.


Question:  In other words, you cannot tell us anything because you don’t speak for one.


Spokesman:  Exactly.


Question:  Also, on my own personal behalf, I’d like to congratulate you and give you the very best wishes and say specifically how much I admire your grace under pressure and your admirable cool in the face of all manner of heat.


Spokesman:  Thank you.  On that note, I will leave you.  Thank you very much.


(Applause)


Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President


The General Assembly will meet this afternoon at 3 p.m., in what it hopes will be the final meeting of the main session, to consider the report and recommendations of the Fifth Committee.  On Wednesday, the Fifth Committee approved a number of key resolutions, among them a 17-part draft resolution on human resources that addresses a number of issues of human resources management reform, including recruitment and staffing; the national competitive examinations; mobility; career development; contractual arrangements; harmonization of conditions of service; reform of the field service; building leadership and management capacity; measures to improve equitable geographic distribution and gender representation; accountability; human resources information technology; staff buyout; consultants and individual contractors; employment of retired staff; and other matters.


The Committee, among other things, recommended a review of the staff selection system, with particular emphasis on performance, and suggested a report to verify that the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity are applied in employment of staff, with due regard to achieving as wide a geographical base as possible.  The Secretary-General would also be asked to reduce the period required to fill vacancies, by addressing the factors that contribute to delays.  The Committee recommends not pursuing the Secretary-General’s proposal on a staff buyout, and requests several reports, including one on the implementation of mobility policies and results.


Other highlights of resolutions passed yesterday include the recommendations to approve the Capital Master Plan for reconstruction of the UN Headquarters building, to be completed by 2014, at a cost of 1.88 billion dollars, with working capital of $45 million.  The Plan would be funded on the basis of the regular budget scale of assessments for 2007.


The Committee also provided recommendations to the Assembly on a proposed strategic framework for 2008-2009, which would constitute the Organization’s principal policy directive for the biennium.  Further it approved just over $1 million for the strengthening of the Procurement Division as part of the ongoing procurement reform process.  It also stressed the importance of developing an ethics and integrity programme for procurement staff and the establishment of an independent bid protest system outside of the reporting hierarchy of the Procurement Division to allow vendors to dispute procurement decisions.  The Committee approved all texts without a vote except for a draft resolution on the financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which was approved by a vote of 142 in favour to 4 against (Côte d’Ivoire, Israel, Palau, United States), with 1 abstention.  Details of the voting and the results of the resolutions are contained in Press Release GA/AB/3786.


Also yesterday, the Fifth Committee, in informal consultations reached agreement on the scale of assessments and the apportionment of the expenses of the United Nations.  The Committee is scheduled to formally adopt a resolution on the subject later today (A/C.5/61/L.28).


The President of the Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, will officially close the main part of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly once the Fifth Committee resolutions are approved.  Among the achievements she is expected to highlight is the adoption of the resolution on the strengthening of the [Economic and Social Council], which she says is due to the fact that the Assembly was “united in partnership and overcame mistrust”.  She points to progress made in many other areas on the [General Assembly’s] agenda, including the debate on Security Council reform and General Assembly revitalization, Secretariat and management reform and a new scale of assessment, as well as the adoption of two important international Conventions to protect and promote the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities and to protect all persons from enforced disappearances.  She expresses the hope that there would be movement on Security Council reform in the New Year; and that “we would be able to look at this matter in a fresh and innovative manner”, despite the fact that differences remain among Member States.


She also highlights the successful debate on revitalization of the General Assembly and the informal thematic debate on development [which she cites] as an example of the increasing visibility of the Assembly.  The President also expresses the hope that consensus will be reached on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  She previews the two thematic debates she will hold in March, on gender equality and empowerment of women; and, in the summer of 2007, on dialogue and tolerance among civilizations and cultures.  She expresses the hope that “we can begin the new year by working even more closely together in the spirit of cooperation, mutual trust and collective responsibility”.


And that’s my report for today.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Gail, what were some of the reasons, the arguments given in the Committee over the buyout issue?  Kofi Annan’s desire to, I guess, for lack of a better word, to get rid of dead wood within the Organization.  What happened there?


Spokeswoman:  That, I don’t have the details on, but I can certainly get them for you and let you know as to what were the arguments.  I think we were so centred on the scale of assessments that we missed that one.


[The Spokeswoman has ascertained that there was no support for the proposal among Member States.  This is in keeping with the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, which recommended the following to the Fifth Committee:


“It is the opinion of the Advisory Committee that there is ample room “to improve personnel structure and quality”, as requested by the General Assembly, in paragraph 163 (c) of its resolution 60/1, through the filling of current vacancies, as well as those resulting from attrition owing to retirement.  In this connection, the Committee stresses that the buy out mechanism should not be used to address issues of non- or underperformance, since the course of action to take in these circumstances is already set forth in article 9 of the Staff Regulations and Rules.  The Committee therefore recommends against approval of the resources requested in paragraphs 366 (a) to (c) for the voluntary phase of the staff buyout.   The Secretary-General may wish to make proposals on the targeted phase of the buyout programme consequent to the review of alternate means of service delivery and the relevant outcomes of the mandate review.”]


Question:  Could you give us a rough outline on what the deal is on the scale of assessments?  The dues?


Spokeswoman:  I know that they have agreed on the methodology, that is, on keeping the methodology as it was.  That’s basically the main thrust of what was agreed to, that there will be no major changes.  And the feeling is that the agreement by itself is an achievement, because they were very far apart and, at least, they now have this agreement.


Question:  So, no changes in the base line, no changes in Russia, China…?


Spokeswoman:  No everything, more or less, remains the same.


[The Spokeswoman would like to further clarify this statement.  Though the method remains the same, the results based on the period of an average of the national income data of a period of three or six years has resulted in a change of contribution figures for a number of countries, including the Russian Federation, which voluntarily raised its contribution, and China.]


Question:  So on the buyout, was that a consensus decision, or was there any voting on that?


Spokeswoman:  No, [it was a consensus resolution] the only thing they voted on was UNIFIL -- that was the only resolution.


Question:  Well, I’d also like to get information on…


Spokeswoman:  What was the reason that the buyout…


Question:  …how basically the buyout got rejected.  But, basically every country agreed to this.  Did the US agree to reject the buyout, [did] the EU agree to reject the buy-out, etcetera?


Spokeswoman:  Well, the Fifth Committee resolutions -- I don’t know whether you were here for that discussion -- but there’s been a decision, in general, that Fifth Committee resolutions [are taken by consensus].


Question:  Right, but sometimes people, let’s say, go along with the consensus, but then give a statement to disassociate [themselves] with the consensus or some such.  Was there any of that in this case?


Spokeswoman:  No, I didn’t see any, at least not in the report that I read.  There was no disagreement as far as I understand.  The only [issue] was UNIFIL, as I say, on which they voted.


Question:  On the scale of assessments, is there a ceiling or a new ceiling?


Spokeswoman:  No not as far as I know, I will double-check on that for you, but, what I was told by an expert in the Committee was that they have agreed to the methodology remaining the same.


Question:  So everything on the scale of assessments remains the same?


Spokeswoman: That was my understanding.  George.


[Please see explanation above regarding changes to the base.]


Question:  With reference to the Capital Master Plan: Gail, you said that the total projected budget was $1.88 billion, and it was going to be started with a working capital of $45 million dollars.  As I recall, please correct me if I’m wrong, construction was going to commence sometime during the middle of the coming year, during 2007, and there going to commence construction on a project of that magnitude with, if my math is correct, 2.5 per cent of the total budget in upfront working capital -- is that correct? 


Spokeswoman:  Yes, because Member States have agreed that they will give this amount as [a reserve fund] which they can use for start-up costs [until assessed contributions from Member States] begin to come in.  But you have a long period [of construction], you have until 2014.


[The $45 million dollars is a working capital reserve fund that is over and above the budget allocation of 1.88 billion, and is basically to be used to compensate the funding of the Capital Master Plan until assessments begin to come in from Member States.]


Question:  I understand that.  You’ve got seven or eight years roughly.  Has there been established a clear schedule as to who is going to contribute how much and exactly by what date the Members in question must contribute the amount?


Spokeswoman:  The rest of the money?


Question:  The rest of the money, that’s correct.


Spokeswoman:  That I will have to double-check for you.


Correspondent:  The draft resolution spells it all out.


Spokeswoman:  Thank you. I had forgotten that.


[The Spokeswoman can confirm that, though the resolution [A/C.5/61/l.19] does have certain details, it does not yet establish a clear schedule of who will pay what.  Letters of assessment are expected to be sent out at the beginning of the new year, at which point Member States will be aware of what their exact contribution will be.]


Question:  You’re probably not the one to pose this question to, but would it be possible to have someone from the Capital Master Plan speak to us at one of the briefings soon, just to answer some of the questions that we may have?


Spokeswoman:  We can ask.  I mean are you talking about someone from the Fifth Committee or the Secretariat?  We can convey, as we’ve done before, that there is a request [from journalists for a briefing].


Question:  (Inaudible)


Spokeswoman:  Good question.  That I will also have to check on, whether there’s been a new head named to replace him.


[The Officer-in-Charge of the Capital Master Plan is John Clarkson.]


Question:  After yesterday’s briefing by the President of the General Assembly, her staff said that there were going to prepare, like a comparison, even though now it sounds like the [methodology] stayed the same.  But, a comparison of how the six year or three year periods -- how it would impact the payments of major countries…


Spokeswoman:  You’re talking about the base.


Question:  Yes, if they did it, I’d still like to see it, even if it remained the same.  But, I don’t know, did they do it or not?  Remember him saying it?


Spokeswoman:  He has been in the Committee the whole time.  I will have to check with him and ask him to get back to you on the comparison; on what was agreed to and what the other proposals suggested.


Question:  And on UNIFIL, you’ve heard that some of the troop- and material-contributing countries, like Germany, its not yet established how much they’re charging for the ships they’re giving to UNIFIL.  Did they just sort of pass the resolution saying you can spend up to a certain amount or did they get a briefing on what the actual costs are from countries that are providing equipment?


Spokeswoman:  There wasn’t that level of detail; that I will have to check on as well, specifically, on the costs of the ships, okay.


Question:  On human rights, you’ve mentioned about a dozen different related resolutions.


Spokeswoman:  Human rights or human resources?


Questions:  I’m sorry, human resources.  My mistake.  They are all rolled into that one or is there a document or a way to find out what each one of these spells out?  You’d mentioned a document -- is that the one that relates to human resources?


Spokeswoman:  What I mentioned is the press release.  And yes, they do go into some detail, not on every single one, but most of them.  They do give you a sense of at least what was looked at.


Question:  Has any of that been carried forward into another session or a resumed session or next year?


Spokeswoman:  There are one or two issues, yes, that will go over.  [The Secretary-General has been asked to present a detailed road map on the implementation of proposed contractual arrangements at the second part of the Fifth Committee’s resumed session.  It has also asked for a report from the International Civil service Commission [ICSC] on the proposal to introduce “one staff contract under one set of staff rules”.  The Assembly would take up the harmonization of the conditions of service at its resumed session, pending submission of a relevant ICSC report.]  But the bulk of resolutions, at least on human resources, were agreed to; they were just one or two that I can point out to you afterwards.


Question:  In the spirit of the whole revolving door policy and this sort of stuff, has there been any discussion in the General Assembly, at any stage, as to the appropriateness of Members of the Fifth Committee trying to get jobs through the Secretariat, to whom they give the money for jobs?


Spokeswoman:  As a discussion in the Assembly?


Question:  Yeah.


Spokeswoman:  Well the Assembly hasn’t actually had a chance to look at the Fifth Committee resolutions as yet.


Question:  Okay, just a very simple question.  Does the President of the General Assembly think it might be time to have discussion about appropriateness of Fifth Committee members, or in fact, other Committee members, lobbying to get jobs with the Secretariat?


Spokeswoman:  Well, I’m sure if it is brought up to her, it is something…


Question:  (Inaudible) it would be interesting to see if she would take a position on that.


Spokeswoman:  I will simply put the question to her.  I don’t think that it has been raised before, but I will certainly let her know that it has been raised.


Question:  Thank you.


Spokeswoman:  If there is nothing else, then I’d like to just express my thanks to all of you for your support during my tenure here, and I wish you happy holidays and all the very best for the new year. 


Question:  We’ll see you 2 January?


Spokeswoman:  No, you won’t see me 2 January.  For one thing, I will be on vacation.


Question:  (Inaudible)


Spokeswoman:  Well.  I think that, in the new year, you may have a change.  Yes, because I do have a full-time job.


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For information media • not an official record