30 October 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy 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.


**Guest at Noon Today


Our guest today will be Bruno Cathala, Registrar of the International Criminal Court, who will brief you on the work of the Court in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Uganda and Darfur.


**Secretary-General Trip Announcements


I have two announcements of travel coming up for the Secretary-General.  The Secretary-General plans to attend the expanded meeting of Foreign Ministers of the neighbouring countries of Iraq, to be held in Istanbul, Turkey, on 3 November 2007.


The focus of the meeting will be on ways to promote greater regional dialogue and strengthen the work of the three regional working groups that were established at the last ministerial meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, namely on refugees and internally displaced persons, border security and energy.


The Secretary-General hopes the Istanbul meeting will be an important opportunity for the participants to find mutually acceptable solutions on issues of common concern.


The second trip announcement is his travels next week.  Next week, the Secretary-General is planning to travel to Latin America, Antarctica and Europe.  His trip will take him to Buenos Aires, Argentina, for an official visit, as well as Santiago, Chile, for the Ibero-American Summit.


To help prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, to be held in December, the Secretary-General will also be making several environment-related visits, so that he can see first-hand the effects of climate change and deforestation on the environment.


Stops are expected to include Punta Arenas, Chile, whose residents live with a hole in the ozone layer; Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, where glaciers have been affected by climate change; Antarctica, where he will be briefed by scientists at research stations; and Brazil, where he plans to visit an ethanol plant and meet researchers and indigenous groups in the country’s Amazon region.


The Secretary-General’s journey to Latin America will wrap up with an official visit to Brazil’s capital, Brasilia.


Keeping with the climate change theme, the Secretary-General will also visit Valencia, Spain, on 17 November, where the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will be releasing its latest report.


**Secretary-General Appointment


I also have an announcement, an appointment announcement for you.


The Secretary-General has asked Mr. Max Gaylard of Australia, a senior United Nations official with extensive experience in humanitarian and development coordination, to serve as Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process ad interim.  The Secretary-General has asked Mr. Gaylard to travel to the region this week to lead the United Nations country team in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.


Mr. Gaylard is currently serving as the Director of Mine Action with the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and has previously served as the Humanitarian and Resident Coordinator in Somalia and as the Deputy Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq.  And there’s more information on Mr. Gaylard and his bio upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.


** Middle East


On the Middle East.  The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, is departing New York today, and he will be attending a meeting in Jerusalem on Thursday of the envoys of the Middle East Quartet.  Mr. Pascoe is currently acting as the Secretary-General’s Envoy to the Quartet.


In addition to attending the Quartet envoys’ meeting, he plans to hold meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials in Ramallah and Jerusalem.


En route to Israel, Mr. Pascoe will stop in Bahrain, where he plans to meet with the Foreign Minister and to hold discussions at the US Central Command regarding security conditions concerning the work of the United Nations in Iraq.


He will then also accompany the Secretary-General in Istanbul.


** Somalia


Now turning to Somalia.  The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has welcomed the peaceful conclusion of the crisis within Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government.  Mr. Ould-Abdallah now calls on the Government to continue to seek peaceful solutions to internal differences and encourages all Somali leaders to work for an end to the country’s problems.  These include the implementation of key provisions of the Transitional Federal Charter and the conclusions of the National Reconciliation Congress.


Mr. Ould-Abdallah has also voiced deep concern over the worsening security and humanitarian situation, and calls on the authorities to facilitate humanitarian access.


The security situation in Mogadishu, which the UN refugee agency has called the worst in months, has caused some 36,000 more residents to flee their homes this weekend.  The UN refugee agency reports today from the field that hundreds of families around Mogadishu are preparing to flee, loading trucks, buses and donkey carts with household items.  The bulk of the internally displaced are fleeing to the town of Afgooye, where some 100,000 people have found temporary shelter and continue to be assisted by the UN refugee agency.


** Darfur


Speaking at the Arab League Donor Conference on Darfur in Khartoum today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, says the humanitarian operation in Darfur remains an enormous challenge.


He said continued displacement, ongoing insecurity and limited humanitarian access continue to challenge the humanitarian operation and its ability to respond to the urgent needs of beneficiaries.


A successful humanitarian response is dependent on widespread respect for the basic humanitarian principles of impartiality, humanity and independence of humanitarian actors, he said, adding that he would like to take this opportunity to appeal to all parties involved in that conflict to adhere to these principles.


He went on to say that sustained peace throughout Sudan is the key to ending the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and to moving towards a more holistic goal of recovery and development throughout Sudan.


Meanwhile, Ameerah Haq, the Deputy SRSG for Sudan, who is also the UN Humanitarian Coordinator on the ground, told the same conference that humanitarian needs in Darfur, estimated at $650 million in 2007, remained immense and are expected to increase in 2008 to over $800 million.


Ms. Haq stated that the humanitarian community was concerned about the current insecurity in camps housing displaced people in Darfur, in particular in South Darfur, including proliferation of arms within the camps and increased levels of violence.  She called on all parties to stop the arming of displaced persons within the camps and to respect both the principles of voluntary return and the securing of camps as neutral humanitarian spaces.


**Security Council


In the Security Council -- this is just to recap -- but it has yesterday unanimously adopted a resolution that renewed for another year a ban on diamonds and arms trade with Côte d’Ivoire, as well as targeted sanctions restricting the travel of individuals.


There are no Council meetings or consultations scheduled for today.


And tomorrow, as you know, is the last day of Ghana’s presidency, and they will have a number of mandates that are expiring.


**Principal Organs


In just a few minutes from now, the Secretary-General will be meeting with the presidents of the principal organs of the United Nations -- that is the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council and the International Court of Justice.


He is expected to discuss the UN’s work in Darfur, and he will also outline the work he has been doing to deal with the Millennium Development Goals, climate change and UN reform.


The Secretary-General will tell the heads of the principal UN organs that, to deliver on the vision of a stronger United Nations, we must modernize ourselves.  We need to think freshly about our work and how we get it done.  And we must all work together as one.  And we’ll have those remarks available for you.


** Chad -- UNICEF Update


And turning to Chad, we have had an update from UNICEF on the situation of the 103 children being held at an orphanage in Abeche, following an attempt by a French NGO to fly them out of the country.


UNICEF says the children appear to be in good health and are doing fairly well.  The agency has brought in food and games.  It has also dispatched 10 staff members to Abeche, including the Head of the Child Protection Unit, and is training 40 staff to care for the children.


Investigators are working to determine where the children are from and whether they have living relatives.  UNICEF continues to stress that all processes involving the movement of children should be transparent.  Proper investigations should always take place to trace family [members] and determine if there are options available, such as the child remaining with parents, extended family or appropriate caregivers.


**Central Africa


And the thirteenth Conference of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of Central African States is taking place in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo.  In a message to that conference, which was delivered by his Special Representative for the Central African Republic, François Lonseny Fall, the Secretary-General says he is encouraged by the progress achieved so far in the process of integration of Central Africa, as well as in the promotion of peace.


He notes that numerous obstacles are impeding the region’s development, among them the persistence of several zones of tension in the subregion, the proliferation of light weapons and small arms, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, human trafficking and cross-border insecurity.


The Secretary-General pledged the UN’s support to these States in the region in addressing these issues.  And copies of his remarks are upstairs.


**Counter-Terrorism Meeting


And in Nairobi, the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee opened its fifth meeting yesterday with international, regional and subregional organizations to look at ways that countries can better secure their borders against terrorists and potential terrorist acts, as well as how the UN system can assist in this effort.


The various sessions will focus on such issues as hindering terrorist movement across national boundaries, bolstering the ability of countries to detect illicit arms shipments and preventing the abuse of the refugee and asylum systems.  We have more information upstairs or you can visit their website on the UN website.


**World Food Programme -- Peru


Then finally, turning to Peru, the World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a nine-month operation to feed some 80,000 people still struggling after the August earthquake.


As part of the project, WFP will distribute more than 6 million tons of food over the next nine months.  And there’s more on that upstairs as well.


I’ve been told that the trip announcement was not heard on UNTV.  If you need it repeated, let me know.  Ah, yes…


**Questions and Answers


Question:  On the trip to Istanbul -- how long is that conference going to last?  Is it a one-day, or is it a couple days, or…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the portion that the Secretary-General will be attending is, will be on 3 November.  It’s not a UN conference.  But I will tell you something about this conference.  It is a continuation of the expanded ministerial-level discussions involving Iraq and its neighbours launched in May in Sharm el-Sheikh, as I mentioned earlier, with the Secretary-General in attendance.  It should provide an opportunity to review progress being made through the three working groups that were established in Sharm el-Sheikh on border security, energy and refugees, and the meeting is expected to consider and possibly endorse the establishment of a UN-assisted support mechanism that would promote follow-up decisions taken in the working groups.  Ah, Benny…


Question:  A couple of questions.  First of all, on that, is [Ibrahim] Gambari, who is the coordinator for that group, is he going to be there or is he going to be in Burma or…?


Deputy Spokesperson: As you know, Mr. Gambari is currently waiting to get to Myanmar as soon as he can, and we just announced that Lynn Pascoe, the Head of Political Affairs, will be attending the meeting in Istanbul.


Question:  So, two more questions.  One on the announcement of Gaylard…  Is that in lieu of a Middle East coordinator to replace Michael Williams?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The appointment was an ad interim appointment…  The Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who has recently left the mission.


Question:  So, this Special Coordinator.  How long will that take, do you know?  I mean, any progress on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing to announce on that.  As I said, this is for the Deputy Special Coordinator, who recently had to leave the mission.  We have the General Assembly Spokesperson here, our guest as well.  Yes, but we will get to Matthew first.


Question:  I’ve just got a couple of questions.  One, there’s a controversy in Liberia about the peacekeeping Mission there charging money for people to stay, including Liberian citizens, to stay within its base -- the Pakistani contingent.  Are you aware of this?  And do you think you’ll have any comment on it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Let me look into that for you.  I don’t have anything on that today.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) had strongly protested the allegations against the Pakistani contingent, which has continuously extended free humanitarian and development assistance to all Liberian citizens, especially in areas where the Pakistani peacekeepers are based.  This valuable assistance has been recognized by all, including the Government of Liberia.]


Question:  And the other thing -- this is actually about Pakistan -- whether the UN system is going to be providing any technical assistance or other assistance to the elections.  If the UN system is going to be providing any technical assistance to what’s said to be the electoral process, and if so, is it on a sole-source basis?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I will look into that for you.  If there are no other questions… Yes?


[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that UNDP has a programme to support the work of Pakistan’s Electoral Commission.]


Question:  Here I’ve got is a very big question regarding this meeting…  The Secretary-General with the Algerian Ambassador, Abdallah Baali, is that towards a tête-à-tête?  Is it usual to keep secret subjects of the meeting that was publicly announced?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the meeting ended up as a tête-à-tête meeting and, as you know, we don’t generally give readouts of tête-à-tête meetings, unless the Secretary-General chooses to do so.


Question:  Can you confirm that the Sahara issue was not the subject?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t confirm anything.  As I said, unless we hear directly from the Secretary-General, we don’t get readouts on meetings that are one on one.


Question:  Is it true that the Secretary-General is going to appoint the previous Algerian ambassador to a UN position?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing further than what I’ve told you.  I have no appointments to announce other than the one I announced today.  Masood?


Question:  Unless Matthew or somebody has already asked, it’s a question about this UNICEF worker in India who has been saying that she has been denied justice by the United Nations system and that she’s written so many times.  Is there any update on that?


Deputy Spokesperson:  There is some guidance on that.  I don’t have it with me.  So I’ll give it to you as soon as I get upstairs.


Question:  Just one follow-up to that.  Is the person accused of sexual abuse Cecelio Adorna?  Does your guidance include whether the person is now working for the UN?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have the guidance.  Matthew, I don’t have the guidance with me.  If I had, I would share it with you.  So, I will follow up after the briefing.  Okay?  Let’s get the GA Spokesperson and then we’ll have the ICC.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  Good to see you, as always.  I’ve got lots of paper here -- try to get things in order.  The first thing, just tying in with what Marie said about the Secretary-General meeting with the leaders of the various different organs.  Of course the President of the General Assembly is attending that as well.


**Work of the General Assembly


This morning, the Assembly met in plenary and began its discussion, actually concluded its discussion, on the agenda item “the necessity of ending an economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.  And, if you remember, that is an item that has been on the agenda of the General Assembly since 1991.  And a vote was taken on that issue already, as I was just informed.  I hope I have everything correctly.  The voting sheet, by the way, is something we also have in copies available upstairs for you, as we just got them.   There were all together 184 “Yes” votes; there were 4 “No” votes, and the “Nos” are Israel, Palau, United States, Marshall Islands, and 1 abstention, Micronesia.  And if you want to compare that to last year’s vote, then last year we had 183 in favour to 4 against, the 4 against last year were Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau and United States, and 1 abstention, which was Micronesia.  So there’s one extra “Yes” vote there today.


As regards the afternoon session of the Assembly, it will meet in plenary and it’s going to hear the report of the Economic and Social Council.  It will also discuss the issue of integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the outcomes of the major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields, and will also discuss the topic of culture of peace.


**International Atomic Energy Agency Report


Little bit going back.  Yesterday, the Assembly did conclude its discussion on the annual report of the IAEA and adopted a resolution without a vote on that report, giving its strong support to the role of the IAEA and asking Member States to continue to support the activities of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).


**Work Ahead


Tomorrow, in the morning, the plenary is meeting to discuss “Sports for peace and development”.  And I just want to get this right for you, that, among those attending the meeting, we will have the president of the Beijing Organizing Committee (for the Olympic Games) present and also Mr. Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee, is going to be there.


And, in the afternoon, is something you have been asking a lot about.  That’s when the “peace, security and reunification on the Korean peninsula” item will be discussed and the related draft will come up for a vote.


**Committee Meetings


As regards to the Committee meetings, the First Committee has begun its work on taking action in the course of this week on all the various drafts that it has concerning disarmament issues -- altogether we’re talking about 52 drafts.


The Second Committee is looking at sustainable development.


The Third Committee continues, this morning and this afternoon, its general discussion on the items under promotion and protection of human rights, including human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives.  I know that some of you are interested in whether there’s a draft resolution on Myanmar.  Not yet.  It has not been submitted yet.  The deadline, of course, for that is Friday at 6 o’clock.


Fourth Committee is not meeting.  It’ll start meeting tomorrow on peacekeeping issues.


Fifth Committee is continuing discussions on the 2008-2009 budget.  This morning it is looking at the Development Account, with reports from the Secretary-General and the ACABQ.  All of those are available for you.  In the afternoon, it will have informal consultations on the Capital Master Plan.


Sixth Committee is continuing its discussion on the International Law Commission report.


That’s about all I have in a very quick run.  Oh, shock and awe, no questions.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record