9 February 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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.  We have our regular briefing, and I’ll take some of your questions.  The Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Vijay Nambiar, will be coming in a few minutes to announce some senior appointments, and he will answer three or four questions. 


** Middle East


On the Middle East, the Secretary-General, in a statement we issued yesterday, welcomed the announcement, in Mecca, of an agreement on a Palestinian national unity government, and commended the initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to help bring about this very important step forward. He hopes that this agreement will curb the violence, creating a better future for the Palestinian people.  The full text of the statement is upstairs and on the web. 


This morning, the Secretary-General had preliminary consultations by phone with his Quartet partners. They all agreed that the initiative by King Abdullah was commendable and welcome. A Quartet statement will be issued later today. The Envoys are currently discussing the draft of a statement.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning is holding consultations on Cote d’Ivoire, to receive a briefing from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Pierre Schori.  Mr. Schori will hold a press conference in this room at 3:00 this afternoon, to discuss the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, as well as his final impressions after close to two years as the UN’s top representative there.


Under other matters, the Security Council will also hear a briefing on the situation along the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon, from Lisa Buttenheim, Director of the Asia and Middle East Division of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations.


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, yesterday briefed Council members on an incident that took place near the Blue Line on Wednesday night. 


Afterwards, the Council President, Ambassador Peter Burian of Slovakia, told the press that the members of the Council expressed deep concern about this incident.  They look forward to the ascertaining of all the facts by the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and to the forthcoming tripartite meeting asked for by UNIFIL Force Commander.


The Council President added that Council members appealed to all parties to respect the Blue Line in its entirety, to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any action that could further escalate the situation.


** Somalia


On Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, is today attending a meeting of the International Contact Group on Somalia in Dar-es- Salam, Tanzania.


Participants at the meeting, who include representatives from the African Union, the European Union and the League of Arab States, are expected to discuss the need for reconciliation through an inclusive dialogue between the Somali parties, the proposed deployment of the proposed African Union peace support mission and international development assistance to Somalia. And, we will update you Monday on the conclusion of that meeting.


**Sudan/Human Rights


The Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission to Darfur announced that it will be leaving tomorrow from Geneva, making a first stop in Addis Ababa. From there, it is expected to head to Sudan.


While in Addis Ababa, the five-member team, appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council last month, will meet with officials from the African Union.  From there, the team says it will proceed to Khartoum on the 13th and eventually to Darfur to carry out their mission, which will continue until the 21st


In my Office, we have more information about the mission, as well as a summary transcript of this morning’s press conference in Geneva by team leader Jody Williams.


** Sudan


On the Sudan still, the UN refugee agency also reports today that the volatile security situation continues to pose serious constraints to relief work in Darfur.  Road access to large parts of Darfur is severely restricted with a rising number of attacks on UN staff and aid workers as well as banditry and car hijackings.


UNHCR's Assistant High Commissioner for Operations, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, is currently visiting Darfur and during her visit to camps housing internally displaced persons, camp leaders told her they urgently needed water supplies, latrines and better access to schools for their children.


** Iraq


On Iraq, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, was in Syria today, on the final leg of a weeklong mission to the Middle East region, which had focused on the plight of Iraqis displaced by the conflict in their homeland. 


Last month, UNHCR had issued a $60 million appeal for its protection and assistance programmes for refugees and internally displaced people affected by the conflict in Iraq.  We have more in today’s UNHCR’s briefing notes. 


**Chad


A fresh wave of refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR) has crossed over the border into southern Chad in the last month fleeing a string of attacks on villages in northern part of the country.


In January, some 400 refugees arrived in a border village 30 kilometres south of Goré -– the main town in south Chad.  Refugees told UNHCR they fled their villages after brutal attacks in mid-January.  They also reported numerous attacks by anti-Government forces on villages.  They told UNHCR attackers tortured and in some cases executed villagers; some women were raped and children were taken for ransom. They also reported villages were burned.  You can read more about this in UNHCR’s briefing notes from Geneva.


** Nepal


On Nepal, the World Food Programme (WFP) says it will extend its food aid operations in Nepal to drought-hit and conflict-ridden parts of the Eastern Terai region. This is in addition to the assistance it is already providing to drought survivors in western Nepal.


The move follows a request for additional support from Nepal’s Government. That request was based on a recent assessment by WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization, which warned of impending food grain shortages.  We have a press release on that. 


**Press Conference


Following the noon briefing, at approximately 12:45 p.m., the former President of Lebanon, His Excellency Mr. Amine Gemayel, will be here to brief you.


That’s all for me for today.  We are expecting Mr. Nambiar to come at any time now for the senior appointments.  Are there any questions? Yes, Richard?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I know, not necessarily out of here, but do you have information on the IAEA’s suspension of technical aid programmes that involve Iran?


Spokesperson:  I can check on that for you, Richard.  I don’t have it with me.


Question:  Can you give us Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s position on his reaction to Louise Arbour’s decision to intervene in the judicial case in Iraq?


Spokesperson:  Yes, well, I don’t have it direct, but I know that he supports what she has been doing.  As you know, he supported her appeal in the first two cases.


And, I would like to introduce Mr. Vijay Nambiar, our Chef de Cabinet.


Announcement by Vijay Nambiar, Chef de Cabinet


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. The Secretary-General has accepted the offer of resignation of several senior officials.  He has conveyed to them his sincere appreciation for their long-serving career in and contribution to the United Nations.  In making these decisions, the Secretary-General has taken into account various factors, among others, the need to apply change with continuity, ongoing discussions on restructuring plans, and the need to promote mobility at all levels.  The resignation of the following officials will take effect on the expiry date of their current contract between the end of February and the month of June, unless otherwise decided:


At the Under-Secretary-General level, the concerned officials are:  Mr. Nobuaki Tanaka, Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament; Mr Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Mr. Jian Chen, Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly and Conference Management; Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Mr. Shashi Tharoor, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information; Mr. Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Africa; Mr. Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Ms. Mervat Tallawy, the Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA); Mr. Hak-su Kim, Executive Secretary, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).


At the Assistant Secretary-General level, the officials whose resignations have been accepted by the Secretary-General are: Mr. Hedi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General, Department of Peacekeeping Operations; Mr. Patrizio Civili, Assistant Secretary-General, Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Mr. Carlos Lopes, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of Political Affairs, Executive Office of the Secretary-General; Mr. Toshiyuki Niwa, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF; Ms. Rima Salah, Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF; Mr. Kunio Waki, Deputy Executive Director for Programmes, UNFPA.


The Secretary-General has also made decisions regarding new appointments of senior officials at UN headquarters in New York.  These are:  Mr. Sha Zukang from China to head the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Mr. B. Lynn Pascoe from the United States. to head the Department of Political Affairs; Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka from Japan to head the Department of Public Information; Dr. S. Muhammad Shaaban from Egypt to head the Department for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management.


Other senior appointments not announced today, including those posts subject to ongoing discussions with Member States, will be made in due course through a consultative process. 


The Secretary-General has decided as a policy that terms of appointment at senior levels should not normally exceed five years.  He is therefore reviewing appointments in the light of this policy decision. 


As of today, therefore, the composition of the Secretary-General’s senior management team at the Under-Secretary-General and above levels is, as follows – and I probably am at risk of repetition – is:  Ms. Asha-Rose Migiro of Tanzania as the Deputy Secretary-General; myself, Vijay Nambiar, is the Chef de Cabinet; Ms. Alicia Barcena of Mexico will be Under-Secretary-General for Management; Mr. John Holmes, United Kingdom, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs; Mr. Lynn Pascoe, United States., Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs; Mr. Sha Zukang, China, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka of Japan, the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information; Nicolas Michel, Switzerland, will be Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs; Mr. Jean-Marie Guehenno, France, will be Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations; Mr. Muhammad Shaaban, Egypt, will be Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs.


Mr. David Veness of the United Kingdom will be Under-Secretary-General for Safety and Security; Ms. Inga-Britt Ahlenuius of Sweden will be Under-Secretary-General of Internal Oversight Services; Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Sri Lanka, will be Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict; Mr. Antonio Maria Costa of Italy will be Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna; Mr. Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Russia, will be Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva; Mr. Thoraya Obaid, Saudi Arabia, will be Executive Director of the UN Population Fund; Mr. Ad Melkert of the Netherlands will be Under-Secretary-General and Associate Administrator of the UNDP; Mr. Marek Belka, Poland, will be Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); Mr. Jose Luis Machinea of Argentina will be Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and Mr. Aboulie Janneh of the Gambia will be Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).


These are the appointments as they stand today.  That’s it.


Spokesperson:  We’ll take just a few questions.  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  You said there are still appointments to be made.  Can you put us -– you’ve given us some numbers here, can you give us a number for that? I mean, how many more high-level appointments need to be made before the full ranks are filled out?


Chef de Cabinet:  Well, I think that one can’t put a number to it.  This will depend, actually –- he’s already made a few suggestions for restructuring, and depending on what happens on that, I think the numbers will change.  But, I don’t think the numbers will be very much less or more than, considerably less or more than exists now in terms of the senior appointments at Under-Secretary-General level or even Assistant Secretary-General level.


Question:  Still on numbers -- if there is agreement on the fact that there were 55 or 54 resignations submitted and 17 have been accepted, does that mean the other ones will get work, or not necessarily?


Chef de Cabinet:  Well, in a sense, he’s taking on, I think his process of appointments has been systematic in taking various stages.  At the first stage, he has filled the vacancies that have already, the [inaudible] vacancies, that is, of the Deputy Secretary-General, the Chef de Cabinet, the Department of Management and the official Spokesman.  He’s come to the second stage when he’s made some of the major Under-Secretary-General level appointments.  He will follow this up with the remaining Under-Secretary-General appointments and the appointments of the ASGs, as it goes along, and then he’ll go along to the appointments of the SRSGs.


Question:  Sir, a couple of very quick questions.  First, will you be making available shortlists for each of these positions, and also the criteria by which the new people were selected? And, second, if I understand UN staff rules, those not continuing on as USGs or ASGs, they may still continue in the Organization at other levels or other posts – some of those that have not been renewed? Can you clarify that? Will all of those people who are out of their present jobs be leaving the Organization, or will they be potentially appointed to other posts?


Chef de Cabinet:  Well, I think some of them will have, I think the Secretary-General will want to utilize the experience of some of the senior officials, and so he will keep this fact under advisement as he goes along making his appointments in the future.  What was the first question, I’m sorry? [talkover].  The shortlist.  The Secretary-General has actually proceeded along the established practice; he has [inaudible] to make his senior appointments, and I think this is in accordance with the practice.  Where, the shortlists are required under legislative mandate, I think he’ll do it.


Question:  Can you clarify, did you say that anyone that’s been serving in a senior position for more than five years will have to leave? Does that apply to DPKO? Does that mean that Jean-Marie Guehenno, once his five years are complete, he’s going to have to move into something else?


Chef de Cabinet:  Normally, I said.  I used the word “normally” because we would have to take into account some exigencies, including restructuring and others, and I think the idea is that, in most cases, he will be looking at a five-year tenure for senior appointments.


Question:  So these people you announced, like Jean-Marie Guehenno or Nicolas Michel, does that mean that they are going to stay on or…


Chef de Cabinet:  Yes, they are going to stay on if the appointment has been mentioned. 


Question:  I am the only one here – this is the first time [inaudible].. question.. been here 45 years, and you are giving..to other people.


Spokesperson:  We’ll be getting to you very soon.


Correspondent:  No, I don’t want it anymore.


Chef de Cabinet:  Sorry.  Please carry on.  Please ask your question.


Question:  European [inaudible].  Can we have the list?


Chef de Cabinet:  Yes.  It will be given to you.


Question:  I apologize for my European origin.  First of all, to clarify the answer to Jean-Marie Guehenno, how much longer he stays on – his contract will have to be renewed presumably in February.  How long does that contract get renewed for – is it a two-year contract? That’s the first question.  Then, the second one is – could you just explain to us, on say some of these major posts, what it is that the appointments to DPA, DPI and DESA – what are the qualifications of these candidates for these jobs? Thank you.


Chef de Cabinet:  I don’t think I should go into individual cases.  The general principle is, except where they are required for [inaudible] any requirements of restructuring and things like that, his idea has been to give two-year contracts in continuation of senior officials who have [inaudible] in the Secretariat in case they are to reach five years.  I think the understanding he believes is he could give them a one-year contract, if, in the course of that year, they’re going to complete a five-year term. 


Now, in terms of the specific qualifications, the Secretary-General has satisfied himself of the requisite qualifications of each of the persons he has appointed.  The detailed bios perhaps have been circulated already.  They are available for you to look at, and it is for you to satisfy yourself, if you think that, in your opinion, they are qualified or not.


Question:  When the Secretary-General decides USA -– because that’s the way it’s done here – you know, USA gets DPA, or Japan gets DPI -– is more than one candidate interviewed, or are these countries allowed to select whom they think they have available or whatever?


Chef de Cabinet:  The Secretary-General has undergone, has undertaken a wide range of consultations from a wide range of countries, both belonging to, well, the entire geographical spectrum [talkover], and he has looked at the requirement… sorry?


Question:  Did they provide a list with a few countries, or it was all one country… ?


Chef de Cabinet:  He has looked at wide range of candidates and he has selected based on geographical representation, gender representation and other issues. 


Question:  Was there more than one American candidate for DPA and more than one Japanese candidate for DPI?


Chef de Cabinet:  My impression is that he has looked at more than one candidate.


Question:  Are you sure for the Americans that there was more than one candidate offered?  Because we’ve been told that there was one candidate offered by the Americans.


Chef de Cabinet:  I’ve been told that he has looked at a wide range.. number of candidates.


Question:  … from the same country?


Chef de Cabinet:  [talkover].


Question:  I’d like to have the implication of the fact that the Special Adviser on Africa, his resignation has been accepted and you have not made any announcement as to the replacement.  I want to know whether Mr. Ban is going to reduce that office or he’s still going to reduce that appointment or retain the appointment of Under-Secretary-General of that office.  Number two, I’d like to know, what is the fate of USGs like Mr. Shashi Tharoor who is staff, you know, who became USG – I understand he still has time before he reaches retirement age?


Chef de Cabinet:  With respect to the Special Advisor on Africa, I think the Secretary-General is still in the process of completing his appointments, and I’m sure that question will exercise his mind as he goes along.  We’ll have to see how things eventually develop in terms of the appointments he’ll have to make.  I would not want to go into specific cases, but where there have been instances of contracts which have certain conditionalities, I suppose he will look at – these are [inaudible] questions raised by these contracts in the proper manner.


Question:  [inaudible]


Chef de Cabinet:  My understanding is that he has been looking at more than one Japanese candidate.  He’s examined the suitability of candidates for various positions.


Question:  The world is looking for changes at the United Nations.  How significant are these appointments in that context?


Chef de Cabinet:  Well, I think the starting point of the Secretary-General’s appointments is to be able to impart a certain dynamic to his own tenure and if he’s able to be able to get together a team which will work to implement, to realize his own vision of the changes he wants to make.  And he has been fairly clear that the appointments are going to be his appointments and not appointments on the basis of just political arrangements.


Question:  Mr. Nambiar, how much are you and the Secretary-General concerned that, through this restructuring and through these appointments, the United Nations can lose some of its best people?


Chef de Cabinet:  He’s conscious that he needs to take advantage, and in a sense, utilize the experience that is there.  He’s also conscious of the need to build new talent and experience.


Question:  What is the fate of those who are out of a job right now? What sort of remuneration do they get? Is there a severance? How does that work? And just another question – will the new USGs and others be coming to us in this briefing room more regularly than in the past?  Because we’ve had very, very rare and far opportunities to speak to people.


Chef de Cabinet:  I think the requests can be put to the new senior personnel.  As far as the remuneration, etc., I think those will be dealt with in accordance with the existing rules, and this Organization has a very large set [inaudible] rules, and I’m sure that each of the officials who will be leaving will be treated with the, very scrupulously, with all the severance benefits that they will be entitled to. 


Question:  [inaudible].


Chef de Cabinet:  I’m afraid I don’t have those details.  I will have to, or somebody will have to – we can give you those details, or somebody will have to, I think you can consult the staff rules.


Question:  Sir, what is the thinking on OHRM – Human Resources Management – given that there is such an emphasis on staff mobility and restructuring?


Chef de Cabinet: There is a lot of thinking, how do you want me to respond? I think I can say that in the course of restructuring, the Department of Management is affected, and I think, particularly considering the fact that today a predominant element of the UN – the people, the officials who work for the UN – are in the field, there is a lot to be, a lot of emphasis on being able to service the requirements.  And, I think the OHRM’s functions are going to be looked at from that light. 


Question:  The Secretary-General appears to have not chosen to come here to make these announcements.  Can you respond to the criticism inside the building, and some outside, regarding the pace and length it took for these appointments – the staff, the high-level officials were kind of twisting in the wind – and that the Organization hasn’t had that jump start – forget about a honeymoon for your boss – because of various stumbles that have taken place, including the staffing issue?


Chef de Cabinet:  As I mentioned to you, this has been following certain stages.  There has been a slippage in terms of the time he has required, but that has been due to a variety of reasons, and I think he is conscious that he has been, he needs to make these appointments as quickly as possible.  More than anybody else, he’s interested in having his team together.


Question:  You already had a question I think that deals with ASG Jan Beagle, of whom the Staff Council passed a vote of no confidence, and I think was communicated – she wasn’t on the list of acceptances, nor on the list of that you read out of approvals.  So, one, if you could somehow say what your thinking is on that, and two, on the mobility posts that were posted on ISeek back on January 19th for people to apply.  How many people applied, and we’ve heard – there seems to be a sense among staff that some of those posts were already sort of given out – what’s the status of the people seeking mobility at the staff level of the people who applied for those positions from D2 down to…


Chef de Cabinet:  I think there were in excess of 500 applicants, and I think they have been shortlisted, and we are in the process of selecting the people for the 12 positions in the Executive Office.  And, I think this is unprecedented in many ways, so we hope that – the selection process is following the normal procedure – so I don’t think, we hope to be able to come to a kind of a closure in terms of appointments soon. 


The other one that you said – I wouldn’t want to deal with individual cases, but I would say that there we have laid out certain policy guidelines, and we’ve been following them as scrupulously as can be done in these circumstances.


Question:  Just a follow-up on Beagle.  Has there been no recommendation though, I mean, why are we…?


Chef de Cabinet:  I don’t think I should mention individual cases.


Question:  On major announcements, I’ve already missed my Asia edition today, and I’ll probably have to scramble this together for my European edition, which means it won’t be written as well as it could be – could be please, as I’ve appealed for five years, in major announcements, those not working with an American deadline, have a reasonable amount of time…[talkover]


Chef de Cabinet:  I will try to be as [talkover] as possible. 


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