19 October 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


And the spokesperson for the General Assembly president

 


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, all. 


**Security Council


Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council, in an open meeting on Iraq, that there is an opportunity in that country today that is not to be missed.


Pascoe briefed the Council on the Secretary-General’s recent report on Iraq, which notes the expanded role of the UN Mission in that country, as well as the small increase in UN staffing in Baghdad and Erbil.  He stressed that the United Nations must be afforded the necessary political and humanitarian space to implement the new mandate, and the ability of the Organization to talk with all sides must be protected and respected. 


We have statement to the Council upstairs, and the open debate on Iraq is continuing with all Security Council members and Iraq due to speak.  Mr. Pascoe intends to speak to you at the stakeout afterwards.


Prior to the Iraq meeting, the Council President, Ambassador Leslie Kojo Christian of Ghana, read out a presidential statement voicing concern at drug trafficking in Guinea-Bissau and expressing the Council’s intention to consider that country’s request as a possible candidate for the Peacebuilding Commission.


** Pakistan


On Pakistan, we put out a statement yesterday afternoon that expressed the Secretary-General’s shock at the attack on former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s convoy, shortly after her arrival in Karachi, which killed more than 100 people and injured many more.


The Secretary-General strongly condemns this terrorist attack and expresses condolences to the families of the victims.  He trusts that all political forces will act together to strengthen national unity.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN refugee agency has begun the transfer of Congolese civilians displaced by the latest upsurge in violence in North Kivu.  The internally displaced are being moved from a congested makeshift settlement with very difficult living conditions to a new camp with essential facilities.


Some 500 IDP’s were transferred yesterday from the makeshift Ndosho settlement to a new camp in Buhimba, just outside of the regional capital, Goma, where the displaced people continue to arrive, with some 500 families reaching the camps in the last 10 days.  Aid agencies estimate over 370,000 people have had to relocate to humanitarian camps in North Kivu since December 2006.


Meanwhile, Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, has expressed grave concern over the escalation of forced child recruitment and sexual violence in North Kivu by Laurent Nkunda’s armed forces, the FDLR and allied militias. 


We have a press release on that upstairs.


**Côte D’Ivoire/Group of Experts Report


On Côte d’Ivoire, the latest report of the Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire is out as a document.


In it, the experts note that impartial forces were increasingly being denied permission to conduct inspections of the embargo on arms and related material.  They also noted a discrepancy between weapons lists provided by defence security forces and the national police and their actual capacities.


The experts further noted a lack of transparency in the management of revenues in the coffee, cocoa and hydrocarbon sectors.  They also uncovered possible violations of the embargo on diamond exports.


The panel recommends that the UN Mission there (ONUCI) require the armed forces to provide an inventory of all the arms in their possession.  It also calls for the implementation of programmes to disarm combatants and dismantle militias.  The Group further calls upon Ivorian authorities, as well as those in all the neighbouring countries, to prevent the export of Ivorian diamonds.


**Capital Master Plan


The Secretary-General’s latest report to the General Assembly on the Capital Master Plan is out as a document today.


In a nutshell, the report proposes an accelerated strategy to renovate the Secretariat.


It proposes the construction of the temporary Conference Building on the North Lawn as planned in early 2008, but would be able to complete the entire renovation by mid-2013, instead of mid-2016 under the current strategy.


For this accelerated strategy, the proposal is to empty out the Secretariat building completely and move more staff offsite –- almost 2,600 instead of only 1,100.  As a consequence, fewer staff would remain onsite during the renovation –- 2,200 instead of almost 3,700.


The proposal is to renovate the Secretariat building in three years instead of six, starting early in 2009; the GA building in two years –- instead of two and a half, starting mid-2011; and the Conference building in two years –- instead of three, starting mid-2009.


In addition to the lease signed so far for space for 750 staff members, and the leases that are currently being negotiated, office space would need to be found for almost 1,500 other staff.  The CMP office is already looking in Midtown Manhattan and Lower Manhattan.


The CMP office was able to come up with the accelerated strategy as a result of Skanska being appointed as the Pre-Construction Manager.


Michael Adlerstein, the Executive Director of the CMP, is expected to brief the Fifth Committee on this report early next week, and we are trying to arrange a press briefing on the same day.


** Central African Republic


Yesterday in Bangui, the International Criminal Court entered a protocol agreement with the Central African Republic.  The agreement, signed between ICC registrar Bruno Cathala and the Justice Minister, in the presence of Prime Minister Elie Doté, covers the conditions of operations for ICC teams on the territory of the Central African Republic.


It ensures that ICC investigators, security and witness protection officials can rely on full Government cooperation and protection in conducting the investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity opened in May 2007 by Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo.


**WFP -– Somalia/Sudan


The World Food Programme’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, today condemned the continued detention of WFP staff member Idris Osman, who was seized by armed men in Somalia on Wednesday.


Noting that it has become extremely difficult for her agency to feed hundreds of thousands of Somalis, Sheeran said that WFP needed the Somali Government to protect humanitarian workers.


Regarding Sudan, where there has been a series of attacks on WFP convoys over the last week, she said such attacks severely limit WFP’s ability to distribute vital food assistance.  She noted that more than 3 million Sudanese are relying on WFP for their survival. 


We have more on that upstairs.


**Liberia/School Resource Centre


Turning to Liberia, the Pakistani contingent of the UN Mission there (UNMIL) has opened a resource centre for schools in Tubmanburg, about 60 kilometres west of Monrovia.


The Pakistan-Liberia Friendship Centre has 20 computers, a library and sewing machines.  The Centre will provide technical and vocational training for about 600 students in the area. 


We have more information upstairs.


** Myanmar


And we have also some additional details to share about Ibrahim Gambari’s itinerary.  Mr. Gambari will be heading to New Delhi, India, over the weekend, on the fourth leg of his six-nation regional tour.  From there, he is scheduled to visit Beijing and Tokyo.  He’s expected to be in Beijing on 24-25 October, and in Tokyo after that.


**Press Conferences on Monday


At 1:15 p.m. on Monday, there will be a press conference by Robert Pollock from the Office of the President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly; and Oscar de Rojas, Director of the Financing for Development Secretariat at the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, on the upcoming High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, to be held from the 23rd to the 24th of October. 


**Week Ahead


The week ahead, Saturday and Sunday the Deputy Secretary-General continues her trip to London before travelling to Rome for meetings with Italian and Vatican officials as well as Rome-based UN agencies.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the General Assembly plenary is scheduled to hold a High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development, but I’m sure Janos will tell you a lot more about it.  And on Wednesday, it is United Nations Day as well as World Development Information Day.  At 5:30 p.m. in Room 226, there will be a press conference by Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar.  At 7 p.m., still on Wednesday the twenty-fourth in the GA Assembly Hall, the 2007 United Nations Day Concert takes place.  This is all I have for you.  Thank you.  Yes?


**Questions and Answers


Question: Thank you Michèle.  Any update on the 1559 report and when Mr. Roed-Larsen is scheduled to brief the Council?


SG Spokesperson: As far as we know, next Monday we expect the Security Council members will receive the Secretary-General’s next report on the implementation of resolution 1559, which also concerns, as you know, Lebanon.


Question: What are the reasons of this delay?


SG Spokesperson: There is no specific reason.  Basically it was being examined and looked at and that’s all.  It was not ready for release yet.


Question: Is it…  It has to be with the, with the date of October 23 as the date of the election of the President?


SG Spokesperson: No, no, no, no.  It has nothing to do with that.


Question: Another thing, there is a three-part mission in Lebanon – French, Italian and Spanish.  Do they…  They are now in Lebanon for this election or trying to help in the election.  Did they get in touch with Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General…


SG Spokesperson: Not that I know of, and I don’t think it’s a mission which is linked to the UN.  It’s a mission of ambassadors.


Correspondent: No, Foreign Ministers.


SG Spokesperson: Well, Foreign Ministers.  No, as far as I know, the UN probably is consulted on the ground, but I don’t know…


Correspondent: They are going to give…  They will be…  They will have a press conference at the UNIFIL.  The three of them.  It has to do with the UNIFIL and Ban Ki-moon too.


SG Spokesperson: Well, of course I will try to get more information on that for you from the field, but at this point, I don’t have anything, really.  Yes?


Question: About Ivory Coast, has a discussion occurred yet about sanctions being placed on the Ivory Coast?  I’m asking about the report on the Ivory Coast.  When will the Security Council be discussing the report, on Monday?


SG Spokesperson: I don’t know exactly when.  Are you talking about the latest report of the Group of Experts on Côte d’Ivoire?  It’s out as a document.  The report is out as a document.  I don’t know when it will be presented for discussion in the Security Council.  You should consult the Security Council on that.


[The Spokesperson later added that the Council had scheduled consultations on the report for 25 October.]


Question: One Somalia and two Ban Ki-moon questions.  On Somalia, I know we had Eric Laroche earlier, but he said he couldn’t answer any “political” questions.  So about the SRSG, who represents the Secretary-General there, is there any thought on when the SRSG might actually move his office or have an office in Somalia?  And also, is the UN…   It’s been reported that, that the basis on which, the stated basis on which the Government arrested the WFP uh, uh, worker there was for distributing food through mosques.  Can that be confirmed by the UN?


SG Spokesperson: We cannot, at this point, confirm.  The Government has not said specifically why they are keeping him in detention and we don’t have definite information about what he’s being charged with -– if he’s being charged with anything.


Question: And the thing of moving an…  I mean Mr. Fall was always based in Nairobi but Mr. Larochesaid there was some thought of moving it there, so I’m wondering, on the Secretariat side, what the steps are.


SG Spokesperson: It’s going to be based essentially on security conditions and the ability for them to function there.


Question: And there’s a report that I feel I just need to ask about, saying the son-in-law of the Secretary-General is being named the chief of staff of Mr. de Mistura in Iraq.  One, is that true and two, was it a competitive process, or what’s the Secretariat’s statement on some questions that have been raised?


SG Spokesperson: Well, it’s simply a matter between Mr. de Mistura, who had worked with Mr. Chatterjee in Iraq during the first Gulf War, and he asked him to be his chief of staff.  It’s something that is strictly Mr. de Mistura’s decision.  It would be a lateral move, not a promotion for Mr. Chatterjee, and as you well know, Iraq is an extremely dangerous environment to operate in.  And we shielded the publication of any information that increases the risk to any staff member and to the mission as a whole is not very helpful.


Question: So you’re saying The Washington Post publishing this post puts people at risk?


SG Spokesperson: I’m saying what I said.  Okay.  Because the Secretary-General has always stressed the security needs of the people over there, particularly –- in any mission, actually –- but particularly in Iraq, where, as you know, the security conditions are particularly difficult.  That’s all I said.  Yes, any other questions?


Question: In Burma, the Government of Burma, has appointed a committee to draft the constitution.  The committee doesn’t have any member from the opposition or NLD, as was recommended by the Secretary-General and the Security Council.  What is the Secretary-General’s view on that?


SG Spokesperson: Well at this point, if you are talking about Myanmar, we are still in the process of, as you know, our special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is still meeting people in the region, nothing is yet set in stone and we are not going to have any reactions until we have a full report from Mr. Gambari and how he assesses the situation now.  So he still has meetings to go through and, as you know, he plans to go back if he can -– as soon as he can –- to Myanmar.  So, you know it’s a fluctuating thing.  We are not going to have an opinion on every single action taken by the Government at this point.


Question: Any follow-up on when Mr. Gambari is going to Rangoon?


SG Spokesperson: We do not have the information yet.  And it probably will be decided while he’s on the road. 


Okay, thank you very much.  Yes?


Question: When is Mr. Gambari expected to give his report?


SG Spokesperson: Well, it depends on when he comes back.  We don’t know yet when he is coming back.  At this point we know what his next stops are, and I mentioned those stops, and we don’t know exactly when he is coming back.  Okay?  Thank you very much.  Janos?


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  Good to see you, as always.  Let me give you a little run-down on what’s happening as regards the work of the General Assembly, the Committees, the President.


**General Committee


Let me start with the General Committee.  This morning the General Committee decided to recommend four additional items for the General Assembly to consider putting on its agenda for the sixty-second session.  These are:  peace, security and reunification on the Korean peninsula –- this was proposed to be allocated to the plenary; the financing of the United Nations Mission in Central African Republic and Chad –- this was an item proposed for the Fifth Committee; and two requests for observer status -– one for the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia and another for the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.  And both were proposed for the Sixth Committee.  There was also another, a fifth item, on the question of the Comorian Island of Mayotte, and that was proposed to be deferred to the sixty-third session.


The Assembly will take up these recommendations of the General Committee at its meeting on Monday, 22 October, in the afternoon.  And then we’ll see what happens to these items, how they become officially on the agenda of the Assembly.


**General Assembly Plenary


The Assembly itself will meet this afternoon in a plenary format to continue its discussion on development and conflict resolution issues in Africa, and also on the reviewing of progress as regards rolling back malaria in developing countries, especially Africa.  Yesterday, on the discussion we had close to 30 speakers.  Today, in the afternoon, this is supposed to wrap up –- we have seven inscribed speakers, but there may be more, so that’s going to continue in the afternoon.


**General Assembly President


A few words on the President and the President’s programme.  The General Assembly President met this morning with representatives of the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, and in that meeting the President noted that the issues of greatest concern for the group –- meaning climate change and the Millennium Development Goals –- are in fact the priority issues for the sixty-second session of the Assembly.  He stressed that he intended to work in an inclusive and transparent manner to address these issues and was looking forward to active support, assistance and advice from the group to advance on those issues, as well as other issues on the agenda of the General Assembly, including UN reform.


**High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development


I want to flag something that Michèle has already flagged, and that’s the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development.  That’s going to happen next week on Tuesday and Wednesday –- so that’s the 23, 24 October.  And the theme of the event is:  “The Monterey Consensus:  status of implementation and tasks ahead”.  The format will be in plenary sessions and six round tables.  The round table themes follow the six themes contained in the 2002 Monterey Consensus. 


Participation is to be on the level of ministers -– probably finance or development -– central bank governors or the highest possible level on the part of Member States.  Also, senior officials of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the UN Development Programme are expected to attend.  The meeting will also include representatives from the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations.


The meeting will be opened by the President of the Assembly, and the Secretary-General is also expected to make a statement.


The purpose of the meeting is to create momentum for preparations for the Doha 2008 Review Conference on the Monterey Consensus.  There’s no date set for that –- it’ll be sometime in the second part of 2008, more so toward the end of 2008.


We will have, as Michèle mentioned, a pre-event press briefing with all the details on Monday at 1:15.


**Main Committees


A few words on the work of the Main Committees.  The First Committee concluded its thematic debate on nuclear weapons and it is meeting this afternoon to begin the thematic discussion on other weapons of mass destruction.  As you know, after its general debate, now the First Committee is meeting on the issues of disarmament and international security from the perspective of thematic discussions.  So we had nuclear, now we have other weapons of mass destruction. 


We will also have outer space, conventional weapons and other disarmament measures and international security, as well as regional disarmament and security and disarmament machinery.  These will be the thematic debates.  So today it’s the thematic debate on other weapons of mass destruction and also the committee is listening to, is having introductions of a variety of draft resolutions.


As regards the Second Committee, it concluded its debate on operational activities for development, including operational activities for development of the United Nations system, the triennial comprehensive policy review of operational activities for development of the UN system, and the South-South cooperation for development.  And it is on the triennial comprehensive policy review that this morning the Committee held a round table discussion.  The Committee will meet again on 22 October, to take up the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and of the Arab population in the occupied Syrian Golan over their natural resources.  That will mean a Secretary-General report on that issue, which will be introduced by the Executive Director of ESCWA.


The Third Committee is continuing its discussion as regards the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  Yesterday, the Committee also looked at a number of draft resolutions in the form of introduction, but also approved two draft resolutions –- one on technical assistance as regards the implementation of international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, and another one on holding the twelfth United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Congress in Brazil.


The Fourth Committee is looking at questions relating to information.


The Fifth Committee is meeting in informal consultations on items that have already been introduced into the Committee.


And the Sixth Committee is looking at the issues of diplomatic protection -– or the question of diplomatic protection -– and looking also at a number of requests for observer status for a number of entities.


That’s all I have.  I know it was a bit exhausting, but I’m read for any questions you may have.  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Correspondent: I have a softball for you.


GA Spokesperson: Okay, okay.  Can I dodge it?


Question: This afternoon, I believe, there’s going to be a presentation by up to 1,000 NGOs calling on the General Assembly to establish an Office of the Representative on violence against children.  And, two things:  does the President of the Assembly have any initial position on, on the wisdom or need of such an Office and also get after… after that request was made what, what, what then happens in terms of the General Assembly considering establishing such an office?


GA Spokesperson: I don’t have any answer for you on that.  It just simply means that if Member States decide that they want such an office to be established, then they would have to propose that and that would have to be adopted.  I would assume it would be, have to be through the Third Committee.  The Third Committee is the one, I think, I’ve just read to you that it was discussing the issue of children, so it would probably have to come from them. 


It would probably have administrative and budgetary implications –- that means it would have to be looked at within the Fifth Committee.  But I would assume that when we’re talking about the establishment of such an office, there would have to be some kind of a study or concrete proposal of how that office would look like, how that position would look like, what kind of budgetary implications that would have, what kind of administrative implications that would have, and then the Member States would have to look at that, whether they’re willing to accept that, etcetera. 


So that’s just on the technical aspect of it.  But as we reach that technical level, obviously it becomes, at the very beginning, a political issue, right at the beginning, whether Member States feel there is a need for such an office.  In that sense, yes, the President of General Assembly is aware of this issue and is looking at what Member States are going to do with this issue, what comes out of this issue –- whether there’s going to be a proposal on that or not.  So basically, that’s what I have. 


Question: He likes children, right?  For the record.


GA Spokesperson: For the record, yes, the President likes children.  Yes, very much.  He has three boys.


Question: On the Capital Master Plan.  Michèle mentioned this new…  Given the GA had already approved one version of this Capital Master Plan, can you describe…  I guess this is a revision…  What now…  Does the GA have to approve this new, this new version of it for them to make that change?  And how long do, do you think it will take…?  What are the steps for them to consider agreeing to this new, new Capital Master Plan?


GA Spokesperson: Well, I think what Michèle said was -- if you remember for the past -– I think this question came up from you and from the others two weeks ago -– and then we discussed that.  According to the original plans, the Fifth Committee was slated to discuss this issue in the frame of the so-called Fifth Progress Report on the Capital Master Plan at the beginning of November.  Now what we’re hearing -– and this is at the moment being discussed informally within the Fifth Committee –- whether to move that discussion forward.  There is a chance that yes -– as Michèle has announced -– it may happen sometime in the course of next week.  We will announce it to you the moment we know officially whether there has been a decision taken on moving this date forward. 


What happens is that basically the ACABQ had looked at this Fifth Progress Report, had given its views –- that’ll go to the Member States along with the report of the Secretary-General –- and then the Member States will discuss in the format of the Fifth Committee and we’ll see what they want to do with it.  Michèle basically gave you the run-down on what the main pushes of that report, and then from there on it’s up to the Member States to approve it, ask questions, have their views, etc.  Okay.  Yes?


Question: Do you have a list of organizations requesting for observer status in the General Assembly? 


GA Spokesperson: If you follow the work of the Sixth Committee, then you will see… because according to a resolution sometime ago, it was decided by the General Assembly that, as regards the review of criteria to meet observer status, it is supposed to be looked at within the framework of the Sixth Committee.  So all of these requests go to the Sixth Committee.  So when, when I just mentioned to you that there was within the General Committee this review on whether to accept a request for observer status for those two organizations that I mentioned at the beginning of my briefing and where to allocate it -– it automatically was allocated to the Sixth Committee. 


Now in the Sixth Committee, if you look at –- and I’m going to give you the page number here, it’s right here, actually, yes -– if you look in the Journal on page five, it gives you a pretty detailed account of what the Sixth Committee is looking at as regards what those organizations are that have asked for observer status.  So it’s right there with the relevant documentation number, so you can look at in more detail why they’re asking and what is their background.  But basically, what it simply involves is that once these observer status requests are approved then these organizations are able to attend the meetings of the General Assembly and the Main Committees and observe what is going on.  That’s basically what it means.


Thank you very much.  Have a lovely weekend.


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For information media • not an official record