19 November 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.


**Press Conference Today


Following today’s noon briefing, there will be a press conference by Cihan Sultanoglu, UNDP Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Director of the Regional Bureau for Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, who will brief you on activities of UN agencies in the Chernobyl-affected areas, on the occasion of the General Assembly’s debate on the resolution on Chernobyl.  We have press kits available on this in this room.


**SG on IPCC Report


The Secretary-General is back at work at UN Headquarters, having completed a nearly two-week trip that took him to Latin America, Antarctica, Spain, Tunisia and Lebanon.  He will come to the Security Council stakeout at 2:30 today to talk to you about that trip and take your questions.


On his last stop of that trip, the Secretary-General spoke on Saturday at the launch of the synthesis report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in Valencia, Spain.  He said that, during his recent visits to places ranging from Antarctica’s glaciers to the Amazon rainforest, he saw scenes of the changes caused by global warming that were as frightening as a science fiction movie, but are even more terrifying, because they are real.


He said that the synthesis report distils key findings from the thousands of pages of the Working Group reports.  And, it contains one overarching message for all of us:  that there are real and affordable ways to deal with climate change.


The Secretary-General added that the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali next month is the opportunity to provide political answers to these scientific findings.  He asserted, “In Bali, let us not point fingers or apportion blame.  Rather, let us find common ground.”


He said at a press conference afterwards that it is urgent to take global action now, and he urged leaders around the world to provide the necessary political answers.


Today, one of the Secretary-General’s Special Envoys on Climate Change, Han Seung-soo, called on Asian-Pacific countries to find a way to avoid further environmental deterioration while pursuing economic growth.  We have more details in a press release upstairs.


**Bangladesh/WFP


Today, the World Food Programme joined with the Bangladesh Air Force to begin using helicopters to drop high-energy biscuits to people stranded in areas that have been inaccessible since last week’s cyclone.


Within hours after the storm hit, WFP began delivering the biscuits, which are considered crucial when people lack the means to prepare cooked food.  In the next few days, WFP plans to distribute 2,000 tonnes of biscuits, or enough to feed hundreds of thousands of the country’s poorest for 15 days.  WFP also plans to start distributing rice to people returning to their homes and villages.  We have more information upstairs.


** Darfur Peace Process


The Chief Mediators for the Darfur peace process, Taye-Brook Zerihoun for the United Nations and Sam Ibok of the African Union, are in Juba today.


They are meeting with the Movements that have been engaged in the unification process under the aegis of the Sudan Liberation Movement.


They will then travel to Darfur for two days starting Wednesday, where they will also engage some of the non-signatories to the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) that were not present in Sirte.


** Darfur UNAMID Operation


Michael J. Fryer of South Africa has been named as the Police Commissioner of the AU-UN Hybrid operation in Darfur (UNAMID).


The decision was made by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission in consultation with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.


The Police Commissioner will have responsibility for the implementation of all police aspects of the mandate of UNAMID.  There is a bio available upstairs.


**USG Guéhenno Visits China


Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno is currently paying a visit to China.  Today, he is attending a peacekeeping seminar co-sponsored by China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 


During his visit, he will also hold a series of high-level meetings with Chinese Government and military officials, and visit China’s Peacekeeping Police Training Centre.


On Wednesday, Mr. Guehénno will travel onwards to Moscow.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning received a briefing on recent developments in Somalia from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Haile Menkerios.


Today is the first day that the incoming members of the Security Council for its 2008 and 2009 sessions are able to sit in Council meetings and observe the Council’s work, prior to taking up their seats formally in January.  Those incoming members, you recall, are Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam.


** Somalia


The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia today paid tribute to the memory of Madina Mohamud Elmi, a prominent relief worker who was killed in crossfire on Friday.


“ Somalia has lost one of its heroines,” Eric Laroche said.  Ms. Madina was present at the epicentre of the unfolding emergency, assisting aid distribution to her displaced compatriots when she was hit by a stray bullet in a tragic accident.  We have a press statement upstairs.


The World Food Programme has welcomed the safe arrival in Somalia today of two humanitarian cargo ships, the first to be escorted by a French military vessel assigned to protect them from pirate attacks. 


The French Navy vessel left the Kenyan port of Mombasa on Friday, accompanying WFP-contracted ships carrying some 3,000 tonnes of food, and arrived at the Somali port on Monday.


WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran said the operation comes at a critical time for the Somali people, who have been devastated by some of the worst conflict and drought seen in years.  She thanked the Government of France and the French Navy for providing naval escorts to the humanitarian cargos.


** Cambodia


Khieu Samphan, the former Head of State of the Democratic Kampuchea regime, was brought before the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia today, following the execution of an arrest warrant against him.


The Defence Support Section has assigned two lawyers selected by Khieu Samphan from the Courts’ List of Lawyers.  They are Say Bory of the Cambodian Bar and Jacques Verges of the Paris Bar.


** Burundi


In a statement today, the UN Integrated Office in Burundi and members of the international community in that country have expressed satisfaction at the recent consensus among local political actors that led to the establishment of a new Government and Head of State.  They appealed to the country’s leadership to persevere in strengthening democracy.  They also urged all concerned, including the PALIPEHUTU-FNL party, to pursue the implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.  We have copies of the statement upstairs.


** Togo


In Togo, which is still recovering from the flooding that hit more than a dozen West African nations in August, the slow receding of flood waters has allowed UN aid agencies to access some 60,000 affected people, and to provide them with food for the next two months.


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs notes that the most urgent needs have been almost completely covered through the projects of several UN agencies, as well as with the help of a $1.5 million grant from the Central Emergency Response Fund. 


**UNICEF Event Tomorrow


Tomorrow morning at 11 a.m., at UNICEF’s Danny Kaye Visitors Centre on 44th Street between First and Second Avenues, UNICEF will formally announce the appointment of Ishmael Beah, former child soldier, youth activist and author of the international bestseller A Long Way Gone, as UNICEF’s Advocate for Children Affected by War.  We have embargoed copies of the press release on this event available upstairs.


This is all I have for you.  Thank you very much.  We have, at 12:30 exactly, the UNDP briefing, so we still have to leave a little time for Janos to brief you.  Your questions.  Yes Masood.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Michèle, do you know when is the new report by the SRSG in Iraq going to come out, because it has been quite some time.  I’ve been asking this question…


Spokesperson:  Yes, you have been asking the question.  I still don’t have your answer because we don’t know at this point, when the report will be coming.


[The spokesperson later told the reporter that the most recent report on Iraq came out in mid-October and that, in accordance with Security Council resolutions, subsequent reports would come out quarterly.]


Question:  While the SG has been travelling around from Antarctica to Spain and Lebanon, has he been following up the preparations for Annapolis meeting?


Spokesperson:  Yes, he has.


Question:  And what’s the contribution of the United Nations into that because I understand there are so many hurdles in the way of this…


Spokesperson:  Yes, well for the time being the Secretary-General will probably go to Annapolis and be there for the meeting.  However, I don’t have any specifics on his contribution.


Question:  Do you have any idea on when they are going to specify the date?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know yet.  This has to come from the inviting party, as you know.


Question:  Away from attending that, what is his contribution to…


Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  At this point we have to wait for the meeting to actually take place before I can answer that question.


Question:  I know, but Mr. Blair has been doing a lot of contacts.  Is he briefed about the progress on this?


Spokesperson:  Yes, definitely he is.


Question:  And no suggestions from the United Nations about the solution of how…


Spokesperson:  At this point I cannot confirm that there is anything yet coming from the UN side.


Question:  So he’s on the receptive role, just listening to…


Spokesperson:  No, he’s consulting actively with a number of actors on the issue of the Middle East, as you know.


Question:  Does he have specific suggestions on how the meeting will be?


Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have anything on that at this point.


Question:  Michèle, on Cambodia, who decides who is going to be tried for crime against humanity, as they say, because Khieu Samphan, we know.  What about Hun Sen?  He was a Khmer Rouge.  Is he not going to be tried because he is the Prime Minister or what… I don’t understand that.  Who decides?


Spokesperson:  Right now, I’ll try to get more information for you from the Courts, what the exact list is and whether they have asked for the specific arrests of other people besides the ones they have in custody.  We’ll try to get some information for you on that.  All we know is that we just announced one more taken into custody today.  Yes, Matthew Lee.


Question:  Michèle, earlier today, in the Fifth Committee, a number of Member States expressed concern about the waiving of procurement rules for the UNAMID deployment and about the contract with PAE.  Canada said, you know, we urge the Secretary-General to do his utmost to preserve transparency.  Angola, on behalf of the African Group, said it should have been open to competitive bidding.  What is… and some delegations asked for some documents to be released and for their questions to be answered.  What’s the Secretariat’s, I guess, response now that these Member States and the African Group as a whole have raised these criticisms.  What’s he going to do?


Spokesperson:  I think the answer is the same.  That decision was taken on an emergency basis, but of course, any other procurements are going to go through the regular process of procurements.


Question:  They’ve asked for things like Headquarters Committee on Contracts’ minutes to be released and for the contract to be released.  Is the Secretary-General going to do that?


Spokesperson:  Of course.


Question:  He’s going to release those documents.


Spokesperson:  Of course.  To the Fifth Committee, not to the public.


Question:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Yes.


Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  Do you know if Mr. Ban Ki-moon will be speaking to the press after his luncheon…?


Spokesperson:  Yes he is.  I announced it.


Question:  Ah, you announced it.


Spokesperson:  There is going to be a stakeout.


Question:  At what time, do you know?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General… probably around 2:30.


Question:  2:30.  Okay, thank you.


Spokesperson:  You’re welcome.  Yes, Masood?


Question:  Michèle, do you have any announcements of new appointments in the Secretary-General’s Office…


Spokesperson:  No.  At this point, no.


Question:  …at this point in time?  No?  Are there any in the offing?


Spokesperson:  I will know when I have them.


Question:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Thank you, very much.  Yes, Janos…


Question:  Just one other question.  Just now at the Security Council when the President came out, he seemed to indicate that there was a consensus among the Council members, despite the Secretary-General’s report on Somalia, saying that no assessment mission could be sent because it was too dangerous, that it would be important to send such a one and to continue planning for a UN mission.  Is that… if the Secretary-General… does he…  He did a report and his recommendations.  If the Security Council thinks otherwise, will DPKO send an assessment mission?  What’s the…


Spokesperson:  It is a matter for the Security Council to decide.  The Secretariat will follow what the Security Council asks for.


Question:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  Of course.  Janos?


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.  Good to see you all, as always.  Very quick sum up of what’s happening in the GA and GA related actions.  Some things have to do with things that Michèle already flagged, whether it’s Bangladesh, or whether it’s climate change, or whether it’s Chernobyl, or whether it’s the Fifth Committee.  So, here we go.


**General Assembly


The President began this morning’s plenary session in the General Assembly by extending, on behalf of all members of the General Assembly, the deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Bangladesh for the tragic loss of life and material damage that had resulted from the recent cyclone.  He also expressed the hope that the international community would show its solidarity and respond promptly and generously to any request for help.


Then, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution requesting the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly by 25 January 2008 a comprehensive report providing an overview of the activities of the United Nations system in relation to climate change.  And, if you’re interested in the exact wording of that resolution, it’s A/62/L11.Rev.1.


Then, the Assembly took up two items in a joint debate.  One of these items was the “Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian and disaster relief assistance of the United Nations, including special economic assistance”.


The other was the “Assistance to survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, particularly orphans, widows and victims of sexual violence” -- so that’s the two items.  Items 71 and 72 in a joint debate.  The first item includes a number of sub-items, including the one that has to do with our noon guest, and that is the “Strengthening of international cooperation and coordination of efforts to study, mitigate and minimize the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster”.  There’s a related draft resolution, on which the Assembly was scheduled to take action.  That’s the only draft resolution that was before the Assembly concerning these two items.  There will be other draft resolutions that will be coming up, but those are under drafting at the moment.


What else, yes.  Let’s move on to the Committees.


**Main Committees


Three Committees are in action today.


The Third Committee is meeting in full-day open session today with the intention to take action on a number of draft resolutions.  As regards some of the things that you have been following, the specific country-related draft texts, for example the DPRK and Myanmar, those are expected to be up for consideration tomorrow.


Fifth Committee, something Matthew already asked about, is meeting today -– in the morning, it took up the financing of UNAMID.  This was in an open session, and then this was followed by closed consultations.  For that, you have the budget itself, the Secretary-General’s letter and a relevant ACABQ report.  All three of them are the guiding documents on this for the Committee, and all three of them are available for you upstairs on the racks (A/62/380; A/62/379; A/62/540).


Apart from discussing the UNAMID budget, the Committee will continue this afternoon in closed consultations its consideration of the various aspects of the 2008-2009 programme budget.


And finally, the Sixth Committee is meeting today.  It is supposed to wrap up its work with a full day of taking action on various draft resolutions that pertain to its work, including on the three highlighted topics for its work currently, which are:  the Criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission; Administration of justice at the United Nations; and Measures to eliminate international terrorism.


That’s all I have.  Any questions on any of these?  Matthew?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Yes.  In the Fifth Committee, in this discussion of the UNAMID budget, one of the delegations said that the Secretariat has ignored a resolution from the last GA, 61/289, which supposedly called for them to present a new UNMIS…


Spokesperson:  61/2?


Question:  289.


Spokesperson:  289?


Question:  But my question… it called on the Secretary-General to produce a revised UNMIS budget, which they’re now saying… some of that money’s being used for UNAMID, and that this budget hasn’t provided in keeping with the GA’s resolution.  I guess it’s an overall question.  What happens… a GA resolution that tells the Secretary-General to do something, if it’s not done, what’s the remedy?  What actually happens?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think you’ve basically showed already that what happens is that Member States come back to it in the form of whichever particular Committee it is related to, or if it’s immediately related to a plenary, then it’ll come up in the plenary.  In this case, without knowing the specifics, but the procedure is that, yes, then Member States would ask further questions and would call the Secretary-General’s attention to this and would request further information.


Question:  But, I mean, I guess it’s sort of a, it’s an overall question.  They can keep saying it… eventually…  What is their power to actually force compliance with their own resolution as regards the Secretary-General?


Spokesperson:  Forcing compliance is ultimately what we have been saying, especially as regards budgetary matters, is by the Member States who basically vote on the budget, all 192 of them.  So if you bring it down to the wire, it’s in the context of that format of voting on the budget that they pronounce themselves on the various issues that are presented in the budget, which is compiled by and presented by the Secretariat.


Question:  Just one last thing.  If the Fifth Committee asks the Secretariat for documents, is he required… is the Secretary-General required to produce them, and can the Fifth Committee make them public?


Spokesperson:  I think already, if you read very carefully, or if you just take the time to read the ACABQ report on, for example, the UNAMID budget, on that sole source contract that you have been asking about, it is already reflected, in part, on the fact that further documents were asked and those were provided on the basis of which the ACABQ already voiced its opinion.  So, as Michèle was saying, that when Member States asked further information, those will be given, whether in a written form or whether in an oral form, but those will be given.  And if you look at the calendar for the Fifth Committee, you will see that next week there’s going to be further consultations on the UNAMID budget, so there’s plenty of opportunity for Member States to follow up on this, and yes, the Secretariat will provide the necessary documentation, or is supposed to provide the necessary documentation.


Thank you very much.  And over to our guest.


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