|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 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.
Following his consultations with regional leaders, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Myanmar, Ibrahim Gambari, is set to visit Myanmar from 3 to 8 November at the invitation of the Government.
During his forthcoming visit to Myanmar, Mr. Gambari will follow up on his offer to facilitate implementation of the recommendations made to the Government during his last mission, including immediate steps to address human rights concerns in the wake of the recent crisis and a framework for meaningful and time-bound dialogue between the Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi as a necessary part of an inclusive national reconciliation process. Mr. Gambari will also follow up on implementation of confidence-building measures, including the possibility of establishing a participatory constitutional review mechanism and a broad-based poverty alleviation commission.
Mr. Gambari will consult with a broad range of representatives of Myanmar society, including all the groups, which he was not able to see last time. He looks forward to the continued cooperation of the Myanmar Government in this regard.
And I will add that Mr. Gambari will meet -- before he goes to Myanmar -- will meet with the Secretary-General in Istanbul before going on his trip to Myanmar, which will be Friday.
The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, is conducting talks with representatives of the Government of Sudan, the various movements and regional partners today in Sirte.
In a joint statement issued last night with his African Union counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, the envoys said the opening of the Sirte talks marked the first stage of a three-phased peace process, which they regard as irreversible. They said that they regretted that leaders of some of the movements chose not to attend the opening session and reiterated their hope that they will soon join the process.
They welcomed the Government of Sudan’s unilateral declaration of a cessation of hostilities, and called on all parties to the conflict to make a similar commitment without delay. The parties cannot talk and fight at the same time without tragic consequences to the population of Darfur,” the joint statement said.
Over the next few weeks, preparations for the substantive negotiations will take place in Sirte and elsewhere as appropriate. Throughout the process, the envoys will be supported by their Chief Mediators, Ambassador Sam Ibok of the AU and the UN’s Taye-Brook Zerihoun.
On Sudan also, Rodolphe Adada, the UN-AU Joint Special Representative for Darfur, today marked the official opening of the joint mission’s headquarters in El Fashir. Adada inspected the communications systems and established contacts by phone and satellite with UN Headquarters, the AU Commission in Addis Ababa, the UN Mission in Khartoum, as well as the Nyala and El Geneina regions of Darfur.
In a statement, Adada said it was only three months ago when the Security Council adopted resolution 1769, which established an AU-UN Hybrid operation in Darfur, incorporating the African Union mission (AMIS) personnel and the UN Heavy and Light Support Packages. He said the United Nations and the African Union are currently conducting predeployment visits to some of the troop-contributing countries to inspect the troops and their equipment. But he also flagged the lack of pledges for specialized units in areas such as aviation and land transport.
**SG Statement on Democratic Republic of Congo
We have a statement attributable to the spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and its impact on the region. He has decided to dispatch Mr. Haile Menkerios, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, on a special mission to the region. Mr. Menkerios previously served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC. Mr. Menkerios will leave for the region this evening.
Mr. Menkerios will consult with the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo and other leaders in the region, as well as the DRC’s bilateral and multilateral partners, to find ways to resolve the immediate crisis and to address its underlying causes. In carrying out his mission, Mr. Menkerios will coordinate closely with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and with international partners currently engaged in initiatives to help resolve the crisis.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo estimates that some 200 children are currently serving among the Congolese Army troops deployed to fight dissident soldiers in the North Kivu province. The Mission reminds the authorities that the use of child soldiers contravenes international agreements to which the Congo is a party and urges them to immediately cease the practice of recruiting children into their ranks.
The Mission, meanwhile, has praised the judicial and military leaders of the Bukavu region for their determined efforts to end the jailing of children by military jurisdictions. It is unclear how many underage detainees were released in Bukavu following the adoption of this decision. But the Mission cited as an example which should be followed by other Congolese jurisdictions, in particular that of the North Kivu province where accused child soldiers are frequently jailed.
UNICEF, for its part, has begun a vast anti-measles immunization campaign that will benefit some 30,000 children in the town of Kalembe and another 3,000 in Lukala.
The Security Council is scheduled to hold two formal meetings at 3 this afternoon to vote on resolutions that would extend the mandates of the UN Mission in Sudan and the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara by six months each.
Today is the last day of Ghana’s Presidency of the Security Council. Tomorrow, Ambassador Marty Natalegawa of Indonesia assumes the Council’s rotating presidency for November. We expect that they will talk to you in this room immediately following the Friday noon briefing about the Council’s programme of work for November.
On Somalia, in the wake of increased fighting around Mogadishu, the UN Refugee Agency now reports that some 88,000 Somalis fled the city between this past Saturday and Monday, or more than left the city in the past four months.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs notes that entire districts have been emptied of inhabitants. There is widespread fear among the population, as daily attacks become better-organized, various authorities issue evacuation orders and conduct house-to-house searches, and large-scale detentions continue. Deteriorating security has also hindered the work of aid agencies.
So far this year, UNHCR has delivered aid to 78,000 people in Afgooye, the town some 30 kilometres west of the capital where many people have fled. The World Food Programme has also been providing assistance. Both agencies say they are prepared to carry out more distributions.
On Lebanon, in a report, which has now come out as a document, the Secretary-General informs the Security Council that Lebanon has continued to experience political crisis and instability in recent months. He notes the recent challenge posed by the Fatah al-Islam group, and commends the Lebanese Government and Armed Forces for successfully weathering a critical test on the road to a truly free and sovereign Lebanon.
The Secretary-General, in his report on the implementation of resolution 1559, says that there must not be a constitutional void at the level of the presidency, nor two rivalling Governments. Political dialogue must enable the election of a new president before the constitutional deadline of 24 November, he says. He also expresses his concern at signs that most political parties in Lebanon are apparently preparing for the possible further deterioration of the situation, and says that Lebanon must preserve its comprehensive and conciliatory political framework.
The members of the Security Council today received the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of resolution 1701, also on Lebanon.
On Afghanistan, senior international counter-narcotics officials are meeting in Kabul today and tomorrow to improve the efforts to stop the flow of deadly drugs out of Afghanistan. The meeting is organized by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
That Office says that Afghanistan had a record harvest of 8,200 tons of opium in 2007, a 34 per cent increase in production from the previous year. UNODC says that Afghanistan’s opium economy would be equivalent to a little more than half of the country’s legal gross domestic product. We have a press release upstairs with more details.
The Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee today wrapped up its three-day meeting at the UN Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
The meeting, which brought together some three dozen other international, regional and subregional organizations, focused on strengthening the ability of countries to prevent terrorists from moving across their borders and to boost security along the border. We will have more information later today, including a joint statement outlining a series of proposed steps to have the Member States of the United Nations on this issue.
**World Toilet Summit
Sanitation -- several UN programmes are taking part in the World Toilet Summit, which opened today in New Delhi, India. While we take toilets for granted, more than 2.6 billion people, or 40 per cent of the planet’s population, have no access to them.
In a message to the event, UN-Habitat’s Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka says that “being deprived of adequate sanitation facilities is the most direct and dehumanizing consequence of poverty”. She notes that the correlation between urban poverty and poor health is largely a result of inadequate sanitation facilities, combined with inadequate or unsafe water supply. She urged national Governments to adopt low-cost technology that would allow expanded coverage to broad segments of society.
Improvement in global sanitation and access to clean drinking water is one of the key Millennium Development Goals. In addition to UN-Habitat, the World Health Organization, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and UNICEF are also taking part in the Summit.
Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General will chair the fourth Board meeting of the United Nations Global Compact in Conference Room 8.
The Global Compact Board is a 20-member body appointed by the Secretary-General and is the UN’s highest-level business and civil society board.
Board members present at the meeting tomorrow will include, among others, Mr. Toshio Arima, Director and Executive Advisor to the Board of Fuji Xerox in Japan; Mr. Jose Sergio Gabrielli, President and CEO of Petrobras in Brazil; Mr. Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, Chairman and CEO of Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization in Egypt; Ms. Anne Lauvergeon, Chair of the Executive Board of Areva in France; Ms. Ntombifuthi Mtoba, Chair of the Board of Deloitte in South Africa; Mr. Mads Oevlisen, Chair of Lego in Denmark; Mrs. Ying Chen, Deputy Director General of the China Enterprise Confederation in China; and Mrs. Habiba Al Marashi, Chair of the Emirates Environmental Group in the United Arab Emirates. There will be a stakeout outside Conference Room 8.
Following the meeting, seven of the Board’s company representatives will address a General Assembly Special Event on the Global Compact, to be held in Conference Room 2 in the afternoon. This Special Event is expected to provide further input to the Second Committee for a resolution on the mandate of the Global Compact Office.
Outer Space -- the UN Outer Space Affairs Office has opened a new office in Bonn, Germany. That new office, the first of many expected to open around the world, will be tasked with pursuing the implementation of the UN Platform for Space-Based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response. It is called UN-SPIDER.
The Deputy Director-General of the UN Office at Vienna, Franz Baumann, said that UN-SPIDER will help countries and organizations access space-based information and services in the areas of disaster management. UN-SPIDER is also expected to greatly improve on how space-based information is used in dealing with disasters around the world. Other UN-SPIDER offices are expected to open in Beijing and in Geneva.
**Press Conference Today
At 2 p.m. today, there will be a press conference by Ambassador Irakli Alasania of Georgia to brief on the recent developments in Georgia.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Tomorrow at noon, here in Room 226, the UN Development Programme, in partnership with Google and Cisco, will unveil the MDG Monitor, a new online resource that tracks real-time progress toward the Millennium Development Goals in nearly every country in the world. Briefing on the launch will be the Secretary-General; UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis; Google Chief Technologist for Google Earth and Maps Michael T. Jones; and Cisco Senior Vice-President Carlos Dominguez. There will be no noon briefing by the Spokesperson tomorrow because it will be replaced by this event.
Before all this, this afternoon after 3 p.m. today, the Secretary-General and the President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly, will proceed to the stakeout following the General Assembly’s adoption of the resolution on the peace, security and reunification on the Korean peninsula. This is all I have for you. Any questions? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On the Afghanistan situation with the drugs, has the Secretary-General spoken to any of the surrounding countries that are recipients through the various smuggling routes?
Spokesperson: Well, definitely, UNODC does just that. They have been going around and they have submitted a full report on the situation and you can have more information on that upstairs. And consulting with regional countries is part of their mandate. Yes, Masood.
Question: Any update on the situation in the Occupied Territories since yesterday? I think the Israeli court overturned a decision to stop fuel and supplies to the Occupied… Gaza. So, do you have any update since then?
Spokesperson: No. No. I think we gave you pretty much everything we had two days ago and we don’t have anything more on that. Yes?
Question: Michèle, how long is the General Secretary in Turkey? Do you have any…
Spokesperson: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear…
Question: How long is he staying in Turkey?
Spokesperson: Mr. Gambari?
Question: No, the General Secretary.
Spokesperson: The Secretary-General, just two days.
Question: Two days?
Spokesperson: Just two days. Yes?
Question: Yeah, Michèle, I wanted to, to… I’m sorry to go back to the incident that happened Friday… of the crash and the two security officers that were injured. I just… I wanted to ask if the vehicle they were using requires a license in New York State and if the two of them had been given the training and had a license. It’s something I asked your Office on Monday. I’m just trying to get a yes or no answer on that.
Spokesperson: Well, from what I gather, they had. They had the license for it. Okay? You mean the scooter with the three wheels?
Question: Yes. And are you aware of any inquiry either by the NYPD Precinct or the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of, no.
Question: Michèle, in the communiqué that was issued by Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Ahmed Salim regarding the discussions on Darfur, it is said they would continue to hold substantive discussions in Sirte and other places as appropriate. Has any other country invited them to hold those discussions?
Spokesperson: No, but as we said two days ago, a mission from the support team is going to Darfur to speak to some of the rebel movements that could not make it. We announced that two days ago.
Question: How about if there is any other candidate?
Spokesperson: No, I’m not talking about another country, but from Sirte they are sending a mission to talk to the people who haven’t come. Yet. Yes?
Question: Is Mr. Gambari visiting Burma tomorrow?
Spokesperson: Pardon me?
Question: Is Mr. Gambari visiting Burma tomorrow?
Spokesperson: No, Mr. Gambari is going on Friday. He is meeting with the Secretary-General first in Istanbul, then he is proceeding on the 3rd, which is Saturday, is proceeding to Myanmar on the 3rd and coming back the 8th. Yes, Masood?
Question: Michèle, do you know anything on the… Any update on the crisis that could develop on the Turkey-Iraq border, especially as far as those…
Spokesperson: No, I don’t think I have anything more on what we already had, yesterday. Yes?
Question: Michèle, just a very light-hearted question. There is a rumour that VH-1 has been filming a documentary on awards and the Secretary-General was filmed for it. I was just curious. What’s it about?
Spokesperson: I can check for you what exactly the Secretary-General’s role is in that video. I’ll get that information for you. Yes?
[The Spokesperson later added that the video included remarks by the Secretary-General on MTV’s award to Jay-Z for his work to raise awareness about water and sanitation.]
Question: On this Chief Executive Board meeting… At a briefing today by a Member State, they said that they didn’t… They weren’t clear what was happening with internal audits, the availability of internal audits to, to Member States that are on the Executive Board. Is there a readout now that the meeting is finished on what either Mr. Ban’s position was in the meeting or what is going to happen now with the funds and programmes in making audits available?
Spokesperson: Well, you have this, I think, pretty clearly said in the final statement that they had. I hope you got the statement.
Question: A major Member State said today it’s unclear to them what that means. That’s why I’m asking, for clarification.
Spokesperson: Okay, we can get more for you on this. You won’t get the readout. This was a closed meeting. What we get is the final statement. I can ask additional information for you on those two specific issues. I guess you are referring to the audits and you are referring to the Ethics Office, which you have asked about before. Okay, sure.
Question: Michèle, anything on the Capital Master Plan? The press conference, which was scheduled for last week?
Spokesperson: Yes, well, as you know, it has been difficult because the different people responsible for those briefings were either travelling or working with the committees on that. But as soon as we can get someone free to come and do the briefing for the Capital Master Plan. We had also promised a briefing on the reforms in DPA, which are linked to the budget… You’ll have both shortly, I hope. But in the case of the second one, Mr. Pascoe had to travel. And in the case of the first one, he was waiting for the Committee’s work to free Mr. Adlerstein. Yes?
Question: I’m sorry if I missed this in the beginning, but were there any specifics on where Gambari will be able to go when he’s in Myanmar and who specifically he is going to meet with?
Spokesperson: We don’t have that information yet, okay? We’ll know shortly, and we will let you know as soon as we find out exactly who he’s meeting and when. But we did clearly say what his objectives were and what he was planning to do. Yes. Thank you very much. Janos?
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon. Good to see you all. Let’s start with the General Assembly.
The General Assembly is holding a plenary meeting this morning to debate the role of sport for peace and development. And it has before it a related report from the Secretary-General and it is also expected to take action on a draft resolution on “building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”. The document number for that draft is A/62/L.2.
And if you’re wondering about the background on all of this. It was since the 58th Session of the General Assembly that this item “Sport for Peace and Development” has been on the agenda the General Assembly. As regards, the resolution concerning the Olympic Ideal of Building a Peaceful and Better World through Sport – that has been something that has been part of this agenda item “Sport for Peace and Development” since the 58th Session and it has been taken up every second year.
The President of the Assembly, in his opening statement on this issue stressed that the convening power of sport is unsurpassed, even by the United Nations. While the UN has, as you know, 192 Member States, the Association of National Olympic Committees has 205 members.
He also noted that sports helped to break down social, religious and ethnic barriers by promoting tolerance and mutual understanding and that sports contributed to economic and social development, improved health and personal growth in particular for young people and provided real alternatives to violence and crime.
He concluded by stressing that “if we are going to build a world with greater tolerance, mutual understanding and peace, sport must continue to be used to channel energies away from aggression and self-destruction and into learning and self-respect.”
Amongst the speakers, in fact the speaker who introduced the draft resolution from the Chinese delegation, was actually Mr. Liu Qi, who is the President of the Organizing Committee of the Beijing Olympics and also, amongst the speakers, although later on in an informal segment of the plenary session will be Mr. Jacques Rogge, who is the President of the International Olympic Committee.
Some other issues, yes I think Michèle already mentioned what’s going to happen in the afternoon, which is – as most of you already know and have prepared for it – is action from the Assembly on the item on “Peace, security and reunification on the Korean Peninsula.”
As regards tomorrow for he Assembly in a plenary session what will happen is that there will be a meeting on the reports of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. And now a very quick rundown of the Committees.
The First Committee is continuing its work on adopting its draft resolutions. Yesterday, it adopted 21 resolutions under disarmament and international security agenda items, 14 of these were with recorded votes. Others without a vote, of course.
The Second Committee is scheduled to continue this afternoon its general discussion on sustainable development.
The Third Committee continues this morning its general discussion on items under promotion and protection of human rights, including human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives. And I know that because you were asking about Mr. Gambari, there’s a link here, of course, and that’s the so-called draft resolution on Myanmar. That has not been tabled yet in the Third Committee, so that is still upcoming, but most likely, it will come.
The Fourth Committee is meeting this morning on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects.
The Fifth Committee is holding informal consultations on the programme budget for 2008-2009
And the Sixth Committee is continuing its discussion of the report of the International Law Commission. That’s what I have for you. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: What indicated the President to be called in high importance or high priority to the subject to the theme of sport for peace, development because it brings tolerance and peace? What measures are being taken to strengthen the Office of Sport for Peace?
Spokesperson: I think for that, the details would be in the Secretary-General’s related report and that is out and that is being discussed. So I would think you would have to find the details for that in there. As far as I know, the President in his speech -- and I should have mentioned it that the full speech of the President is available for you upstairs and I will certainly give you a copy -- does go a little bit into detail as regards some of the measures that have been mentioned in the Secretary-General’s report and the type of close cooperation that, for example, the United Nations has with the International Olympic Committee to develop strategic partnerships with the sports community to promote education, health, HIV/AIDS prevention, gender equality, environmental protection, peace and reconciliation. But more details would be in the report and the speech.
Question: Has the President of the GA been invited to attend the Olympic Games?
Spokesperson: That’s a very good question. I don’t know. I have to check on that. I would not venture into speculation. Yes, please, in the back.
Question: In the Third Committee, which country is bringing the draft resolution, Burma, and this is about what issue?
Spokesperson: Well, since it has not been brought, therefore, I cannot tell you who would be the ones sponsoring this resolution, who would table it. What I tried to just mention to you -- because I know most of you were interested in this -- that so far, as we can detect, this has not been introduced.
If no more questions, then thank you very much.
* *** *For information media • not an official record