|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon, all.
**Deputy Secretary-General - Appointment
First, I have a statement by the Secretary-General on the appointment of Deputy Secretary-General.
“I have decided to appoint Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, as Deputy Secretary-General. Minister Migiro served previously as Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania for five years. In her academic career, she rose to the rank of a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar-es-Salaam.
“She is a highly respected leader who has championed the cause of developing countries over the years. Through her distinguished service in diverse areas, she has displayed outstanding management skills with wide experience and expertise in socio-economic affairs and development issues.
“I have deep confidence in and respect for her, and intend to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues, under a clear line of authority to ensure that the Secretariat will function in a more effective and efficient manner.”
We have her CV available upstairs.
The Secretary-General spoke this morning, for your information, to Dr. Migiro and with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. She is presently… Dr. Migiro is presently in Lesotho, where she is chairing a conference. She will try to be in New York in the next few days.
**Formation of New Team
Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on the formation of the new team:
“In continuing the process he began a few days ago regarding the formation of his new team of senior Secretariat officials, the Secretary-General, yesterday, requested all Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General, except those whose appointments are subject to action/consultation by or with the appropriate intergovernmental bodies, to voluntarily offer their resignation from the appointments they are holding. This would allow the Secretary-General the flexibility he needs in forming his new team. He will review the offers of resignation and may decide to retain the experience of some senior officials to assist him in the discharge of his responsibilities.”
For your information, about 60 USGs and ASGs under the Secretary-General’s direct authority have received that letter. All those officials who turn in their resignations will continue to serve in their current positions until the Secretary-General has completed his review and has taken a decision on each specific case.
**Financial Disclosure Forms
Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:
“The Secretary-General voluntarily submitted his financial disclosure statement to the Ethics Office on his first day in office. His statement will be reviewed, like those of all staff members required to file such statements, by the external financial firm -- Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Upon completion of the review, the Secretary-General has also decided to publicly disclose the statement.”
Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on Fiji:
“The Secretary-General has noted the recent changes in Fiji, by which President Iloilo has been restored and the leader of the military takeover, Commodore Bainimarama, has become Prime Minister. The Secretary-General reiterates the previous call of the United Nations for the immediate reinstatement of the legitimate authority in Fiji and its return to constitutional rule and full democracy.”
On the Sudan, as part of the Secretary-General’s focus on efforts to seek a peaceful solution in Darfur, he is meeting now with his Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union’s Mediator on Darfur. Jan Eliasson will brief you at the Secretariat lobby stakeout immediately after that meeting. That is expected to be at around 12:45 p.m.
**Chad/Central African Republic
On Chad and the Central African Republic, available today is the report of the Secretary-General on the multidisciplinary technical assessment mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. As you would recall, the technical mission team has a mandate from the Security Council to study the potential threat to regional peace and security posed by the situation in Darfur and its possible impact on the protection of refugees on the Chad-Sudan border. Among the mission’s preliminary findings, the Secretary-General notes, is the confirmation of a clear threat to regional peace and security due to cross-border activities by rebel groups and a persisting humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2.3 million people.
And the Security Council has scheduled consultations on 10 January to consider the recommendations of the report.
The UN refugee agency said Friday that the deteriorating security situation in eastern Chad had resulted in the displacement of up to 20,000 Chadians over the past two weeks and was posing a direct threat to refugee camps housing thousands of Sudanese from neighbouring Darfur. At least 100,000 Chadians are now displaced within their own country, which already hosts some 230,000 Darfur refugees, most of them in 12 UNHCR camps spread across the east of Chad.
On the Security Council, the Security Council will meet for the first time with Ban Ki-moon in his capacity as the new Secretary-General, in a formal meeting next Monday morning. The meeting, on threats to international peace and security, offers Council members an opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General about his plans during his time in office.
This afternoon, at 4, the Security Council has scheduled consultations so that it can discuss arrangements for next Monday’s meeting, as well as consider the text of a possible presidential statement that it could adopt on that day.
On Somalia, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, took part in the meeting in Nairobi today of the International Contact Group for Somalia, which issued a communiqué calling the current moment “a historic opportunity” for Somalia. The Contact Group, which includes the United Nations as a member, also welcomed a commitment made by President Abdullahi Yusuf to inclusive governance and to preventing a resurgence of “warlordism” in the country. It stressed the importance of launching without delay an inclusive process of political dialogue and reconciliation, while emphasizing the urgent need for the deployment of a stabilization force based on Security Council resolution 1725.
I have one correction for you. Yesterday I told you that Under-Secretary-General for Management, Alicia Bárcena, had met with the Staff Council. What I meant to say was that she had met informally with the President of the Staff Union. And that was on Wednesday evening.
**Secretary-General’s Press Conference
For your planning purposes, the Secretary-General is planning his first press conference on Wednesday, January 10th. We will come back to you with the place and time as soon as they are finalized.
And we have upstairs the Week Ahead at the United Nations.
That’s all from me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Secretary-General, when he spoke to staff, said that his criteria for appointments would include “meritocracy”, with due regard to geographical distribution and gender balance. Now, I understand that Ms. Migiro is an African and there needs to be Africans in the senior ranks at the UN, and that she is a woman, and there needs to be women in the senior ranks at the UN, but I don’t quite understand what her qualifications are as a manager. Can you point to her achievements, or any concrete achievements on her record, as a manager, so we can describe why she should be the person to run the UN?
Spokesperson: Well, we have her CV upstairs and we have quite a few details there about why she is qualified. And, in fact, the Secretary-General underlined to me that he has worked with her and he underlined the fact that she was named not because she is an African and because she is a woman, but essentially, because of her qualifications.
Question: The way you described her record, she seems to be an academic, who spent five years as the Community Development Minister. It does not seem that she has ever -– beyond the Community Development Ministry in Tanzania –- had to manage a large organization.
Spokesperson: Well, she was the Chairman, until about a few weeks ago, of a regional conference for the Great Lakes Region in Africa, and I think, she has shown definitely that she has the ability to manage.
Question: Just as a follow-up to James’ question: are you saying that the Secretary-General thinks that [inaudible] that since the other two criteria that you mentioned, that you ruled out somehow?
Spokesperson: I did not.
Question: But you mentioned that they are, on the secondary point –- from the secondary point of view -- that there is no better person to run -– to be first to take care of the management here at the UN?
Spokesperson: This is the way the Secretary-General feels, and he has studied a number of candidacies, and he has gone through a long process, as you know, before making a decision, and I think, his decision is based on her abilities to do the job.
Question: You said that he worked with her, and I may have missed it at the top -– where did he work with her, how often have they met? And you stated at the top, the Secretary-General is saying he will delegate much of the administrative work of the Secretariat –- does this mean he does not see himself now as what the US said they want –- a CEO? That she is running the shop and he is going to be free to be a diplomat and travel the world?
Spokesperson: No, this is not what he said. But he said that there will be clear lines of responsibility. That is what he is saying.
Question: But he is also making it public that he will delegate much of the administrative work in the Secretariat…
Spokesperson: Yes, indeed. That is because he feels that …
Question: So he does not see himself as the CEO then…
Spokesperson: Well, he is definitely going to have an overview of the whole thing.
Question: What about how often have they worked together where?
Spokesperson: He did mention to me today that he had worked with her. I don’t… They have met several times at international conferences and they have worked together when he was Foreign Minister and she was Foreign Minister. I will ask for you how often they met and, you know, additional information, if you need them.
Question: On the working together -– she has only been Foreign Minister since January 2006, so this would mean that they only met as Foreign Ministers in the last year. Did they meet when Mr. Ban went to Tanzania to lobby for support for his own candidacy for the Secretary-Generalship?
Spokesperson: I do not know. I assume he did.
Question: I guess, still the question is: it would be one thing if the UN had some clear blue skies the last 5, 10, 20 years, but the Organization faces massive problems, staff morale being down, Capital Master Plan –- the building being renovated, questions about corruption in procurement… It’s a huge job. Why is someone who has spent years as Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children’s Affairs remotely the best candidate for this?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you should probably give her a chance to show it. And, you know, you have … you know, it was the Secretary-General’s opinion that she is a highly qualified person and among the people he was choosing from, she is the best qualified.
Question: I just wondered if you could specify more clearly -- when he intends to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues –- could you flush out what that actually means?
Spokesperson: Well, I am waiting first for the Secretary-General to meet with Dr. Migiro, before I can give you a clear line on that. In the next few days -- she is right now in Lesotho, so I don’t know how soon she will be able to come here.
Question: Is that when she will be taking up her duties?
Spokesperson: If she can make it this early, yes. Not immediately next week, at the beginning of the week –- definitely not. But within the next ten days, she probably will try to come to New York within that time. But we have absolutely no date set yet, because –- you know -- she gave her agreement today and we don’t have a clear line on when she can make it, when she can leave what she is doing right now, to make it to New York.
Question: What role did the head of the Group of 77 play in lobbying for this job?
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think that role was very important, because they were only recently informed.
Question: About the financial statement, if I can. What will be on it -– will there be –- obviously, all of his holdings, his contributions to charities? Religious organizations? Will that be stated?
Spokesperson: He is planning to state everything, to be transparent.
Question: A lot of public officials put their holdings in a trust, a blind trust, so there is no conflict of interest. Is that something the Secretary-General is considering doing?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the details right now. I do know that he wants to make his statement public. That’s all I can say.
Question: How would you feel about making Kofi Annan’s statement public, in the interest of transparency for the Organization?
Spokesperson: How can we put someone else’s statement out?
Question: Well, he is the boss, he controls the documents, he could do that, couldn’t he?
Spokesperson: This was a voluntary choice on his part.
Question: Actually, I feel that this choice for Deputy Secretary-General and the choice for management may be good choices, because they point in the direction of sustainable development. Now, my question is a follow-up to the questions of yesterday. And I found materials that, in this room on 20 December, Professor Jeffrey Sachs presented to us. Among the things he said to us at the time -- there are important treaties, real treaties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. By and large, those treaties are not being fulfilled right now; they are not being implemented. Then he also said: “So I think this is a huge challenge the incoming UN SG will have to face. This challenge is very serious in a very serious way.” The commitments are already there, they need to be fulfilled. If they are not, the world will suffer large consequences as a result. Now, Professor Jeffrey Sachs is a gentleman who is Adviser to the Secretary-General who was able to take the MDGs and to make them into something that can become a reality. My question is, if the Secretary-General is ready to look into this material from Jeffrey Sachs…
Spokesperson: Well, he has met with Jeffrey Sachs and definitely, they are talking.
Question: Now, he has met with Jeffrey Sachs on MDGs. Now, this is about global warming and sustainable development -– has he discussed those subjects with Jeffrey Sachs?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the information right now. I will try to get it for you, what was exactly the subject of his discussion with Jeffrey Sachs.
Question: We were expecting a statement by the Secretary-General on the situation in the Palestinian Territory yesterday. Is there any reason why it has not come out?
Spokesperson: Actually, I can say that, recently, there have been some positive developments, such as the long-awaited Olmert-Abbas meeting, the Israeli decision to release some Palestinian VAT funds, and the meeting today in Sharm el-Sheikh, hosted by President Mubarak. We will hope that all parties will act with restraint to encourage the small steps back towards dialogue and away from violence such as the Israeli military incursion into Ramallah yesterday. This is what I have.
Question: I was looking on the Web for a picture of the Tanzanian Foreign Minister and noticed you had interviewed her recently. Is that when the Secretary-General met her, two weeks ago?
Spokesperson: No, actually, which picture are you referring to?
Question: You had interviewed her for UN Radio.
Spokesperson: Oh no, that’s because she was… I am sorry, she was interviewed by me. It was at the Great Lakes Conference in Nairobi. It was in her capacity as Chairman of the Great Lakes Region Conference. That’s why. It was not because we had any inkling then that she would be named Deputy Secretary-General.
Question: Did the Secretary-General interview her in person since he was appointed Secretary-General, for this job, or he just appointed her on the basis of what he already knew about her?
Spokesperson: He appointed her on the basis of what he knew about her.
Question: Have they met?
Spokesperson: Well, they met before.
Question: I know, but they have not met since Mr. Ban became Secretary-General?
Spokesperson: No, no.
Question: Is the Secretary-General going to encourage or require the people that he is appointing at the level of DSG and USG to also disclose their financial disclosures?
Spokesperson: Well, those who want to can do it. However, I would underline the fact that the General Assembly specifically decided that financial statements should remain confidential, and they may only be used for the limited purpose of –- you know, in case the Secretary-General requires financial disclosure in the interests of the Organization. So, if they voluntarily want to do it, I guess, they could do it. However, they are not in any way forced to do it. The Secretary-General said he wanted to give an example. He has disclosed his statement and he will make it available, so he is just encouraging people to be as transparent as possible. However, as you know, there are restrictions within the house itself on disclosures.
Question: Just one thing: the President of Serbia has now called on the UN system not to release its status proposals for Kosovo after 21 January, but to wait until a new Government is in place in Serbia. Is there any response from the Secretary-General to that?
Spokesperson: Well, nothing has changed from Ahtisaari’s last statement in November. It is still his intention to present his Kosovo status proposal to the parties without delay after the parliamentary elections in Serbia. I don’t know when the Security Council will take up Kosovo. Actually, it is not currently on the Council’s programme of work.
Question: Just a point of clarification on the formation of the new team. He asked all the Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General to voluntarily offer their resignation. Does that mean if they don’t want to offer their resignation, they can stay in the job?
Spokesperson: No. That’s one way to approach it. This is a new way of approaching it.
Question: So they have to voluntarily offer their resignation.
Spokesperson: A number of them have already submitted their resignations.
Question: I made a question two days ago about the United Nations cooperation with Israel on nuclear issues. I am still waiting for a response on that. Do you have it?
Spokesperson: We have put your question through, and we are still…
Question: Why is it taking so long? Two days!
Spokesperson: You are right, you are right.
Question: It was even published in the Israeli press.
Spokesperson: I will check on that.
Question: Another thing: Mr. Walid Jumblatt made a call very openly, publicly, the Lebanese Druze leader, calling for the assassination of President Bashar al-Assad. Does the United Nations continue to make contacts with your envoy in Beirut, dies he continue to make contact with Jumblatt after his calls for assassination of Bashar al-Assad?
Spokesperson: I am not aware of this and I’ll find out.
Question: Picking up on that same train James and I are on -- and I know we can ask him that on Wednesday -– but you would think with the importance of the Organization, that the person who would be running things, that Ban Ki-moon would meet with this person face to face before selecting the person for the job. Because they could not have met that much, since she has only been the Foreign Minister for a year, on the other side of the ocean, two oceans. How is that possible?
Spokesperson: I can tell you what he has told me, that he has a deep respect for Dr. Midiro. He has been in contact with her for a long time, and he knows her. The fact that they have not met since the decision was taken to appoint her, I don’t think that’s…
Question: Before. Before the decision was taken…
Spokesperson: Before the decision… as I said, they have met several times. I don’t know how many times, and I can check for you on how many times they met, but he feels that he knows her and he has the deepest respect for her.
Question: Was he sounding her out while he was campaigning? Do we know?
Spokesperson: I don’t want to interrupt this, but I was just informed that Mr. Eliasson is on his way to the stakeout at the Secretariat entrance, so those of you who …
Question: So when was that decision made to appoint her -– was it before he came here?
Spokesperson: No, no. It was done within the last ten days.
Question: After 1 January he decided this
Spokesperson: Well, no, no –- it was … the decision was taken after 1 January.
Question: Did he have a phone interview?
Spokesperson: Yes, he did. He did speak to her on the phone.
Question: Michèle, you pointed to her work with the Great Lakes Conference. Forgive my ignorance, but is the Great Lakes Conference –- does it have any staff, does it have any bureaucracy, and is it known as a very well managed organization?
Spokesperson: Well, it was a regional conference. I don’t know about the number of staff, but she was dealing with a number of countries in the region.
Question: Was that a management post, or was that a diplomatic post? It sounds to me that managing a regional conference –- that it’s a diplomatic post.
Spokesperson: Yes, indeed, but she had management experience within her own ministry.
Correspondent: I see.
Question: I won’t be around to ask him this question, but again, he had three months at least, he knew he would be in the job -– so why wouldn’t you have a Deputy Secretary-General appointed, so you’d start fresh 1 January, hit the ground running?
Spokesperson: Because he said he wanted to consult… to have additional consultations, which he did this week.
Question: Why is he announcing her today, when she is in Lesotho? Why didn’t he wait several days for her to come from Lesotho, so she could actually be here, make her own explanations to these difficult questions we are asking you?
Spokesperson: Well, they are not that difficult. I think, she has…
Question: But you have trouble, Michèle, explaining what management experience she has. She might have a better way of answering…
Spokesperson: Well, she will be here, definitely, to answer your questions, whenever she comes here.
Question: So why was the appointment made today, when she is apparently going to be in New York in several days, and we could have asked her all these questions ourselves…
Spokesperson: I must say, most of you have been insisting that that appointment be disclosed as soon as possible. So, I mean, he is pleasing you by doing so, isn’t he?
Question: Any news on Ms. Bárcena appearing here?
Spokesperson: Yes, yes, she is willing to come, and she will be coming, probably next week. We’ll try to find a suitable date for her, because, as you know, she has just started her new job. She is very willing to come and talk to you.
Question: How long was the shortlist? Were they all Africans on the list?
Spokesperson: No. There were several countries on the list and they were not all women.
Question: Do these resignation letters apply to Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, as well?
Spokesperson: No, they do not.
Question: What is going to be done with them? Do they just go on?
Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, yes. For the time being, what is being aimed at is restructuring the Secretariat, and decisions are going to be made first on the Secretariat.
Question: I noticed on his schedule that he met with Kemal Derviş today at 10:00. Do you have any readout on that meeting? What was the purpose of the meeting?
Spokesperson: Not yet.
Question: Was he planning to keep Kemal Derviş in his post?
Spokesperson: I don’t know.
Question: A follow-up on the Middle East, please. Is the Secretary-General worried about this latest incursion?
Spokesperson: He is very concerned.
Question: What is he calling on the Israelis to do?
Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, he expressed his concern. That’s, you know, what he could do at this point, since we are expecting further discussions on the situation in the Middle East.
Question: We haven’t heard anything about the humanitarian situation in Somalia after the Ethiopian invasion -- uninvited invasion? What is the Secretary-General’s follow up on that? Are we expecting any reports on the humanitarian situation there?
Spokesperson: We should have one shortly. In fact, we could ask the people over there what they can send us. We just have the political situation today.
Question: We do not yet have any condemnation of this attack. I mean, Ethiopia is taking liberties; they are invading a country, and this is the country that is supposed to be protected, or security and safety of the country should be safeguarded by the United Nations. We don’t hear any criticism of that -– why?
Spokesperson: Well, you know, the Secretary-General is discussing these issues with the African Union, and we…
Question: People are dying here. We need a clear statement on that.
Spokesperson: Well, his statement will certainly be forthcoming.
Question: And still, you have no idea how many people have perished as a result of that attack?
Question: I think, you might have partially answered Matthew’s question on this, but are you saying that the one dollar year salaried Special Envoy group -- will they still keep their jobs?
Spokesperson: For the time being, yes.
Question: And then…
Spokesperson: This is a process that will take some time. Right now, we are dealing with the USGs and ASGs, who are most of them here in the building, right here in the Secretariat. And it’s a process that will take some time. As you know, there are more than a hundred USGs and ASGs, and it will take some time.
Question: But why wouldn’t they fall under the same category as the USGs?
Spokesperson: Because you have missions in the field that have to continue functioning, and you have a number of things that have to continue to function in the field. It’s one step at a time.
Thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record