5 July 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


I hope everybody was able to have a good day off yesterday.


**Global Compact


Today in Geneva, the Secretary-General opened the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit, which brings together some 1,000 chief executive officers, Ministers and heads of labour and civil society organizations.


The Secretary-General said, “For business to enjoy sustained growth, we need to build trust and legitimacy.”  He added, “For markets to expand in a sustainable way, we must provide those currently excluded with better and more opportunities to improve their livelihood.”  He called on business leaders to embrace the Global Compact as an organizing tool for their global operations and urged Governments to sustain the Compact as an initiative complementing their role.


We have his remarks upstairs.


Speaking at a press conference afterward, the Secretary-General said that the Global Compact’s growth has been remarkable, with the initiative today including more than 4,000 companies and stakeholders in every region of the world.  He said he would continue to support the Compact to the fullest extent possible.


And that transcript is available upstairs.


On the margins of the summit, he conducted bilateral meetings with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and with Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.


** Deputy Secretary-General in Nairobi


Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary-General is in Nairobi, where she began the day by participating in the opening of the International Women's Summit on HIV and AIDS, which was also attended by President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Margaret Chan, the Director-General of WHO and Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS.  This Summit is attended by 1,800 participants from all over the world and will focus on the strategies, skills and partnerships needed to combat rising HIV infection rates in women and girls.


The Deputy Secretary-General delivered one of several keynote speeches and emphasized the changes needed to address the growing impact of HIV and AIDS on women.  "[Change] will require sustained political leadership at the highest levels, combined with energetic and creative leadership in civil society and in the private sector.  We know what that change should look like: real, positive change that will give more power and confidence to women and girls," she said.

"As Deputy Secretary-General -- and as a woman from Tanzania, one of the most affected countries in this region -- I will do everything in my power to ensure that the issue of women and AIDS is high on the international community’s agenda," the Deputy Secretary-General said in her remarks, which are available for you upstairs.


** Sudan


The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson has arrived in Khartoum as part of the ongoing joint effort by the United Nations and the African Union to re-energize the Darfur political process.  The African Union’s Special Envoy, Salim Ahmed Salim, is scheduled to arrive in Khartoum this weekend.


Today, Eliasson is visiting El Geneina, in West Darfur.  Upon his arrival yesterday, he met with the AU-UN Joint Mediation Support Team to review the preparatory work for the upcoming AU-UN-chaired meeting scheduled in Tripoli on the Darfur political process.  And those dates are the 15th and 16th of July.


The purpose of the Tripoli meeting is to take stock of the progress achieved over the last two months, assess the implementation of the Roadmap, and review proposals on the way forward, especially on how to launch the negotiation phase of the Roadmap.


As I mentioned, Jan Eliasson is in West Darfur today, where he met with representatives of political parties, civil society organizations and the local administration involved in the Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation process, as well as representatives of internally displaced persons and the local authorities there. 


Meanwhile, Rodolphe Adada, the AU-UN Joint Special Representative to head the AU-UN operation in Darfur, is scheduled to arrive later today in Khartoum to assume his duties.  Mr. Adada will serve as the Head of Mission of the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS) pending the deployment of the hybrid operation.


There is also the Daily Bulletin from the UN Mission in Sudan, which continues to report fresh attacks and more movements of internally displaced persons in Darfur.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, has condemned the use of military courts to try civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Arbour also criticized the verdict reached in June by the Military Court, which cleared all civilian and military defendants of charges of committing a range of human rights violations in Kilwa, a town in the Katanga Province.


In investigating the events, however, human rights officers from the UN Mission in the DRC had documented summary executions, torture, illegal detention and looting by Congolese Government soldiers when the army dislodged rebels from Kilwa in 2004.


Arbour deplored the fact that eyewitness accounts and material evidence supporting allegations of serious rights abuse were not properly assessed by the court, which concluded that the events in Kilwa were collateral damage of armed fighting.  She, however, expressed relief that an appellate court would now have the opportunity to revisit these findings.


** C ôte d’Ivoire


And then on Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations Operation there says it is ready to support any international inquiry into the attack on Prime Minister Guillaume Soro’s plane, on 29 June in Bouaké.


The announcement made by the mission’s Officer in Charge came after the Ivorian Prime Minister said he would request such an investigation.  During a meeting between the two, Soro also emphasized his commitment to pursuing the peace process and implementing the Ouagadougou Agreement.


**Kosovo


And here, at UN Headquarters, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the work of the UN Mission in Kosovo is out.  It says that, while Kosovo’s overall progress is encouraging, there is a real risk that the progress that has been achieved can begin to unravel if its future status remains undefined.


Sustaining and consolidating the progress made by Kosovo will require concrete prospects for the conclusion of the future status process and the active and constructive cooperation of all involved, he says.


The report includes a technical assessment of progress in the implementation of the standards for Kosovo, prepared by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Joachim Rücker.


The Security Council has scheduled consultations on Kosovo for next Monday.  And as you know, for today there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled.


**Timor-Leste


While we await the final certified results of last week’s parliamentary elections in Timor-Leste, the UN Integrated Mission in that country says that the UN will provide 123,500 tonnes of food to needy Timorese, as the Food and Agriculture Organization has identified six districts as very likely to face a food crisis between October and March 2008.


Meanwhile, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Timor-Leste, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said that both the UN and the Timorese Government predict that conditions for the internally displaced will remain challenging at least until next year, as many IDPs (nternally Displaced Persons) are unable to return to their homes, which either have been damaged or repossessed by others.


**Secretary-General Statements


And then, just to recap, late Tuesday, we issued a statement concerning the discussions in the Guatemalan Congress over the proposal to establish an International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) with the support of the United Nations.


In it, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that Guatemala will seize this important opportunity to use international assistance to strengthen its national judicial institutions in the fight against impunity in a way that is fully respectful of Guatemalan sovereignty.


And as you know, we had a statement issued yesterday from Turin, where the Secretary-General was travelling, in which he expressed his profound relief at the release of BBC correspondent Alan Johnston [in Gaza].


**International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


And just to give you a heads-up International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Mohamed ElBaradei circulated a report this week on Monitoring and Verification in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea), following a visit by an Agency team to North Korea.


The report outlines agreed arrangements for monitoring and verification by the Agency of the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility and the reactor under construction in Taechon, which were reached between the IAEA team and the DPRK during their visit last week.


The report is restricted.  The IAEA’s 35-member Board, however, will consider the report at its next meeting on Monday, 9 July, in Vienna.


**Locusts


And finally, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that swarms of desert locusts from Ethiopia and northern Somalia are expected to cross the Indian Ocean and reach India and Pakistan.  The Governments of these two countries have been warned and are mobilizing field teams, equipment and resources.  FAO is expressing particular concern in light of the heavy rainfall in Pakistan and western India that will create unusually favourable breeding conditions for locusts.


Meanwhile, in Yemen, FAO is organizing an emergency aerial campaign to control the worst locust outbreak the country has known in 15 years.


And we have a press release on this upstairs.


That is what I have for you.  There are no questions for me? There are? Okay.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Do you have any comments by the Secretary-General’s office on the UN position on the cyber-attacks against Estonia?  I don’t know what the policy is.  I wanted to know if your Office has any reaction to threats of the Russians to move missiles into the Kaliningrad region, which borders the two European Union countries, Poland and Lithuania.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any comment on the latter.  On the former, no, there has been no official statement by the Secretary-General, although I’m sure he would condemn any terrorist attack in whatever form it takes.


Question:  Is there any reaction of the Secretary-General to the continuing Israeli attacks in Gaza?  Almost 20 people were killed during the last few days. I wonder if there is any reaction from you.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific reaction today. I think his past remarks would apply in the continuing situation on the ground there.


Question:  Most of the attacks have targeted Hamas and militants, and they killed civilians too.  The lack of comments means that since Hamas are getting killed, it doesn’t matter from the UN’s point of view?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, it does not mean that.  The Secretary-General is always very concerned about the civilian casualties on the ground, no matter where they take place.  The fact that there is no statement daily does not reflect his position on that.


Question:  I hope that you can deny the speculation that the Secretary-General is planning to relegate the Office of Special Adviser on Africa, especially given the fact that two months after the Under-Secretary-General for that Office left, there has been no new appointment.  What is really going on?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, there are a number of senior appointments that are still being reviewed, so I don’t have anything further on that.


Question:  Do you think that the Secretary-General is going to relegate that office?  I understand that there is concern among African diplomats that this is going to happen.


Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing further than the fact that some senior appointments are still being reviewed.  We hope to have the announcements of as many of them as possible as soon as possible.  


Question:  I want to ask you about two of the items that you read out.  One is about the Ivory Coast, where you said that the UN will support any international… First of all, has Mr. Soro made his request either to the Mission in Ivory Coast or to the Secretariat?  Have you gotten a request?  Because the UN said they would support it.  I was just wondering if the wheels were in motion to actually do such an inquiry.


Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, they met.  The two met, and the result of the meeting was the…


Question:  Okay, the request was made.  Also, there is a quote from the Deputy Chief of Staff of the New Forces blaming the UN troops for the shoot-down of the plane, not saying that they shot it down, but saying that they should have secured the airport better.  Is there a UN response to that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I believe there is a press release on that as well, that essentially says that the UN mission in Côte d’Ivoire is not responsible for the security of any airport in the country, except concerning UN flights, when it is requested to provide security.  So the airport security in Bouaké is the responsibility of the Forces nouvelles.  But this is a guidance that I received on Tuesday, so there is an updated press release from the mission.  If you could take a look at that, upstairs.


Question:  Okay.  Mr. Soro said he knew who shot down the plane and it is not the Forces nouvelles?


Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the guidance that we have, but there is a press release upstairs.


Question:  And let me ask you about the Global Compact, what you read out.  About the transcript of what Ban Ki-moon said afterwards.  He was asked how can it be more credible, how can it actually enforce things on corporations.  And he said somehow that it was going to become stronger, and I quote, “We are going to strengthen its accountability and transparency”.  But it seems that all he says is that companies would be de-listed if they don’t file reports in two years, which is already the case.  So I am wondering, is he referring… is there anything new that he is saying?  There have been headlines, saying like Ban Ki-moon calls for stronger… is there something new?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the fact that he has chosen to attend the global Compact Summit in Geneva, in and of itself, shows his support for this initiative.  As you said, in his remarks and in his transcript, he is calling on the cooperation of these companies in many ways, including in one of his top priorities: combating global warming. As for the issue of accountability, I just wanted to mention to you that the Global Compact does request participants to disclose actions undertaken in support of their commitment. Should companies fail to produce a communication on their progress after two years, as you mentioned, they are publicly de-listed.  So far, approximately 600 companies have been publicly de-listed.  Obviously, this is a step towards trying to enforce that.


Question:  Isn’t there some human rights group that says there should be some enforcement?  Currently, as long as a corporation puts out something it calls a report, there is no substantive review if there is anything in the report.  If there is actually any compliance or performance or anything.  So I was wondering, what is his view on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the Global Compact Office is doing the best that it can, and I am sure, as Georg [Kell] has mentioned to you in his press conference, that his office is undertaking a number of measures to try to reinforce those measures.


Question:  There were press reports on some sort of clashes between UNIFIL and local residents in south Lebanon over some traffic accident.  A car full of soldiers [inaudible].  Is there any reaction or some sort of settlement of this issue?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I know that there was a traffic accident involving a UNIFIL vehicle, I believe it was on Tuesday. It was a road accident involving a UNIFIL logistics convoy and a civilian vehicle, that resulted in four civilian fatalities and two Polish soldiers being wounded.  UNIFIL and the Lebanese Armed Forces were immediately dispatched.  Obviously, this was two days ago.  UNIFIL has commenced an internal inquiry to determine the circumstances of the accident, and it is cooperating closely with the Lebanese authorities.  UNIFIL’s Force Commander on that day, Major-General [Claudio] Graziano, did issue a statement expressing his sadness about the tragic loss of life, and he conveyed his sincere sympathies and condolences to the families of the victims and the entire village.  I don’t have any further update on that, but we certainly can look into that today.


Question:  There are no more any sort of confrontations?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not heard of anything, but let me look into that from the Mission after this.


[The Deputy Spokesperson was informed that there had been no confrontations since the day of the accident.]


There are no other questions? Have a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record