14 April 2008
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 President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon.


**Press Conferences Today


We are expecting Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, who is still in Security Council consultations now.  Hopefully, she will get here after the briefing and after the General Assembly’s Spokesman’s briefing as well.


At 1.45 p.m. today, there will be a press conference by John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, on his recent travels in the Gulf region.


And later today at 2.30 p.m., Philippe Douste-Blazy, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Innovative Financing for Development, will brief you on today's high-level meeting of the Economic and Social Council with the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the UN Conference on Trade and Development.


**The Secretary-General’s Speech to the Economic and Social Council


The Secretary-General today addressed the high-level meeting, convened by the Economic and Social Council, that brings together the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization and the UN Conference on Trade and Development UNCTAD), and he told them that the rapidly escalating crisis of food availability around the world has reached emergency proportions.


The Secretary-General said that we need not only short-term emergency measures to meet urgent critical needs and avert starvation in many regions around the world, but also a significant increase in long-term productivity in food grain production. He noted that World Bank President Robert Zoellick said last week that the crisis could mean “seven lost years” in the fight against worldwide poverty.


The United Nations needs to examine ways to lead a process for the immediate and longer term responses to this global problem, the Secretary-General said.  He added that, in less than eight months from now, world leaders and decision makers will gather in Doha, Qatar, to take stock of the Monterrey Consensus. What the senior officials decide at today’s meeting will help guide and inform world leaders when they meet in November.


We have the full statement by the Secretary-General available upstairs.


** Haiti


The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) has strongly condemned the execution-style killing on Saturday of a plainclothes UN Peacekeeper in the capital Port-au-Prince. The peacekeeper was driving through the Bel-Air neighborhood with three colleagues when unidentified individuals stopped his vehicle, dragged him out and shot him to death. The tragic incident came hours after the Prime Minister was deposed by the Senate in a vote of no-confidence amid violent street protests over rising food prices. Haitian police and the Mission have launched an investigation into the killing of the 36-year-old peacekeeper.


The Mission has also called on Haitian authorities to quickly appoint a new Prime Minister and cabinet in order to address the grave situation now facing the country.


We expect to have a statement from the Secretary-General on the developments in Haiti shortly.


The Secretary-General learned with shock of the violent killing of one member of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) on Saturday, 12 April 2008.


The Secretary-General expresses his sincere condolences to the officer’s family, the Nigerian contingent and the Government of Nigeria.


The Secretary-General reiterates his appeal for calm and urges all demonstrators to refrain from any further acts of violence.  He emphasizes that peace and stability constitute essential conditions for social and economic development, as well as to promote investments and job creation, which, together with the immediate measures announced by the Haitian authorities, constitute the best ways, in the medium term, to fight against the increase in the cost of living.


Meanwhile, over the weekend, the World Bank announced a $10 million grant to help the Government of Haiti respond to the impact of rising food prices on poor families.  The grant will be used to provide food for poor children and other vulnerable groups, partly through expanding the Bank’s existing school feeding program.  A team of bank experts will be traveling to Haiti in the coming days to help put the emergency assistance in place. 


The World Bank has provided approximately $220 million of support to Haiti since 2005.


** Afghanistan


On a different subject related to the food crisis, the World Food Programme (WFP) today said that, as of now, the appeal it launched in late January for food for poor Afghans has essentially been fully resourced, with donors providing some $70 million out of the $78 million that the agency had asked for food.


WFP said that the appeal was intended to provide some 88,000 tonnes of food that would go to 2.5 million people in Afghanistan, and it expects the first round of food distributions to be completed in Kabul by next Sunday. While it welcomes the contributions to its appeal, WFP remains concerned that the high price levels for wheat in Afghanistan are not going to drop anytime soon.  There are more details in the briefing notes from Kabul available upstairs.


**Security Council


Ellen Margrethe Løj, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, told the Security Council in an open meeting this morning that significant progress has been made in that country in recent months. On the basis of the progress achieved, she said, benchmarks for the drawdown phase of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) have been developed in close consultation with the Liberian Government and international partners.


She went on discuss Liberia further with Council members in closed consultations.


We expect Ambassador Løj to come here soon to brief you about recent developments in Liberia.


Then, starting at 3 this afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled a closed meeting, followed by consultations, on Georgia.


** Darfur , Sudan


The United Nations and African Union envoys heading international efforts to resolve the Darfur conflict will start a four-day visit to Sudan, starting tomorrow, to consult with the non-signatory movements in Darfur.


The visit by the UN’s Jan Eliasson and the AU’s Salim Ahmed Salim follows consultations last week in Khartoum and Juba with the Government, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) and one of the movements present in Juba (URF).


The purpose of these consultations is two-fold: to brief the parties on the issues discussed during the informal consultations held in Geneva with regional and international partners last month, and seek their views on the way forward.  In particular they will focus on the serious need to improve the security situation which affects not only the peacekeeping and humanitarian operations but also the political process.


The Special Envoys reiterated their call for the urgent need for the parties to cease all violence and prepare for the substantive talks. The parties cannot fight and prepare for peace talks at the same time. A reduction of violence is absolutely necessary if we are to make progress on the peace process.  And that is from the Special Envoys for the Darfur peace process.


**Deputy Secretary-General


The Deputy Secretary-General is in Cape Town, South Africa, today. She is attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, whose theme is “Pushing Back the Frontiers of Poverty”. In remarks to the Assembly, the Deputy Secretary-General expressed concern over the negative impact of soaring food prices on the livelihood of millions of people in developing countries, particularly in Africa. She called for urgent action in that regard. She also called on Parliaments to translate political will into legislation and budget allocations so that the Millennium Development Goals could be reached.  We have her full statement upstairs.


Tomorrow, the Deputy Secretary-General will travel to Copenhagen, Denmark, to attend the first meeting of the Danish Prime Minister’s Commission on Effective Development Cooperation with Africa. She will also meet with Danish Government officials.


** Côte d'Ivoire


Available today as a document is the midterm report of the Group of Experts on Côte d'Ivoire. On the arms embargo, the Group expresses deep concern that sites held by the Garde Républicaine have yet to be inspected by the UN Mission and that the Ivorian authorities routinely deny access to these sites on the claim that such inspections are outside of the Mission’s mandate.  The Group says it has gathered credible information that members of the defense and security forces on both the government and the rebel sides are being trained on the territories of other UN Member States, in violation of Security Council Resolution 1572 (2004).


On the diamond embargo, the Group of Experts notes that Mali has thwarted a December 2007 attempt to export 31 rough diamonds of Ivorian origin through Bamako airport.  Since Mali is not a member of the Kimberley Process, the Group recommends Kimberley Process experts visit Mali to examine the gems.


The report to the Security Council on this independent report by the Group of Experts is available on the racks.


** Nepal


Nepal’s Election Commission has updated its list of polling stations where re-polling will be required to 98.  The re-polling will be completed within a week. Meanwhile, ballot counting is underway in 132 constituencies, mostly focusing on the results for the first-past-the-post ballots, the UN Mission in Nepal says.  There is more information on this upstairs.


** Greece - The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, will be flying to the region later this week to reactivate the process of settling the name issue.  His present plans are to be in Skopje on Thursday and Athens on Friday. A follow-up round of discussions will then take place, probably in New York.


**Clean Development Mechanism


Only two and a half years into its existence, the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) has just registered its one thousandth project.  It’s an energy efficiency project in Andhra Pradesh, India, that is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 34,000 tons annually.  So far these projects have generated certified emission reductions equivalent to 135 million tons of carbon dioxide.  There is more information on this upstairs.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by the President and Foreign Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, on the situation in that country.


At 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Regional Advisor of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; and the Director of the UN University Office in New York, on the University’s latest study entitled “International Mobility of Talent.”


And later at 4 p.m., there will be a press conference by the Ambassador of Georgia on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.


** Kenya Statement


The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by President Mwai Kibaki on the agreement on the composition of the Grand Coalition Government, bringing both parties to the Kenyan crisis together. The Secretary-General encourages both parties to urgently address agenda item 4 of the Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation in order to find a solution to the root causes of the crisis.


And that is what I have for you. The Special Representative for Liberia is here.  Any questions from you before I turn it over to Janos?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Just a question about this business again of the Pakistan Legislature asking the UN for an investigation into the Bhutto killing. Do you have any further information on how that process might work on the UN side once/if you receive a letter?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I saw the news item and I can say, as I mentioned before the briefing, that no letter has been received, so let us take it one step at a time.


Question:  The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests sent a letter to the UN today, calling on the UN to investigate Pope Benedict’s role on sex crimes against children.  They want the UN to take action on the Pope’s refusal to release documents on these cases, since the Pope had signed the Charter on the Protection of the Rights of Children. Have you received this letter?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.


Question:  Once you receive it, do you know if the SG will respond to it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Let me check if such a letter has been received.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that no such letter had been received.]


Question:  As you quoted the Secretary-General regarding the food crisis, which, as you said, could mean seven years of loss in the fight against poverty worldwide. He also said that it had larger political and security implications and that the UN should take short-term as well as long-term measures.  Has he seized the Security Council with this crisis, since it has political and security aspects, or does he intend to do so in the future?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The statement that he made today went to all Members of the United Nations, that is all 192 Member States, so hopefully, the message is being heard loudly and clearly.  By the way, it was not the Secretary-General’s quote, it was the World Bank’s President’s quote on the lost years.


Question:  About the peacekeeper who was killed in Haiti, is there any nationality?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have it here, but it may be contained in the press release from them, or I will check for you.


[Later it was announced that the peacekeeper’s nationality was Nigerian and that a Statement from the SG was available upstairs.]


Question:  On Zimbabwe:  the UN is already involved in Kenya and other places that are having election problems.  Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General on Zimbabwe?  Does he intend on Wednesday meeting…


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond the statement we issued on Friday on Zimbabwe. He is obviously monitoring the situation very closely.


Question:  Has the Secretary-General received a formal request from the French Government concerning the formation of an international naval protection force under UN mandate?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I will check for you.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the reporter that no such request had been received.]


Question:  On Kosovo, has the SG heard from the Serbs regarding some claims in Carla del Ponte’s new book regarding some 300 Serbs that went missing during the conflict and that they may have been killed for their organs?


Deputy Spokesperson:  No, I have not seen anything like that.


Question:  Does the UN have any update on these peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army? There is something where Chissano was quoted as saying that the talks maybe falling apart. What is the status?


Deputy Spokesperson:  On northern Uganda, we have been doing our best to support the peace process and the work of the Chief Mediator of the Government of Southern Sudan, and we will continue to do so.  After what happened, and this is what you mentioned last week, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Mr. Chissano will be making contact with the key parties to assess the situation to see what can be done. We were obviously expecting a different outcome. We don’t have, as of yet, a full assessment of the situation.  In the best of cases, this will only be a temporary setback to the process, but we cannot say at this point. And that is all I have on that.  So with that…


Question:  Stephen Lewis, the former UN Envoy on a variety of issues, gave a speech in New Orleans, very much criticizing the UN, Mr. Ban and MONUC for not doing enough about sexual violence in the Congo, for participating in a treaty with N Kunda that did not really mention the issue.  Is anybody within the Secretariat aware of this speech by the former envoy, and what is the response to it?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General, as I mentioned to you last week, did issue a report to the Security Council very recently on the Democratic Republic of the Congo and it does outline the various challenges that the UN is facing. As for Mr. Lewis’ statement: as a former UN official, he is entitled to express his opinion on the subject.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon, good to see you all.


**General Assembly President in Qatar


General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim is in Qatar on an official visit.  Yesterday evening he was the keynote speaker at the opening of the eighth Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade.


In Qatar he had bilateral meetings with the Emir and also with the Prime Minister of Qatar.  The discussions with the two focused on the role of Qatar in the work of the United Nations, especially as regards the activities of the General Assembly, as well as on the priority issues of the sixty-second session.  In particular they addressed the preparatory process leading up to the review conference on the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus on Financing for Development to be held in Doha from 29 November to 2 December this year.


During the opening of the Doha Forum, the President also met with some of the key dignitaries who took part in that event, including the Prime Minister of Turkey and the Foreign Minister of Israel.


In his statement to the Forum, the President noted that globalization had further accentuated and strengthened the nexus of relations between democracy, development and free trade, increasing our mutual interdependence, the complexity and density of relationships between our economies, societies, politics and individuals; and the speed at which we need to face changes and interact with each other.  This had led to a proliferation of actors in the international arena.  Influential individuals, civil society groups, think tanks, corporations and religious institutions operate internationally and have created new social and economic networks.


The solutions to the global problems we face today, such as climate change, terrorism and sustainable development, could no longer be realized within a rigid international system that puts the interests of States above all others.  Therefore the President called for a new kind of internationalism that puts the well-being of the individual and communities at its centre.  He called for a change in attitude, a recognition that our shared goals demand that we think and act not just on behalf of immediate concerns, but strive for long-term stability and prosperity.


This is precisely why the United Nations remains relevant and important, according to President Kerim, and why the General Assembly is the pre-eminent global forum which should be both a playing field and a catalyst for a new approach to work with each other and deal with our common problems based on basic human values of freedom, solidarity, equality, respect, tolerance and shared responsibility.


He concluded by stressing that, in order to take full advantage of the opportunities globalization offers and to overcome the challenges we face, we must ensure that the responsibility of all States, international institutions, as well as civil society and the private sector, is to work together in solidarity to provide every individual with equality of access to rights and opportunities.


**Informal Review Session on Financing for Development


Member States will hold their next, the fifth, informal review session devoted to the six chapters of the Monterrey Consensus tomorrow and Wednesday.  This will be focusing on chapter IV which is on “Increasing international financial and technical cooperation for development”.


The last informal review session is scheduled for mid-May.  The sessions are chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Egypt and Norway as facilitators of the process.  The review sessions are an integral component of the preparatory process on the road to the Review Conference in Doha from 29 November to 2 December.  The summaries of the review sessions, some of them are already up on the President’s website, will form the basis of the draft outcome document that the General Assembly President is expected to issue at the end of July.


You will see in the Journal that there is also an informal consultation on “System-wide coherence”, set for 17 April.  That is a process that is led by the Permanent Representatives of the United Republic of Tanzania and Ireland.  This upcoming meeting is going to be focusing on governance issues.


**Ad Hoc Committees of the Sixth Committee (Legal)


The Ad Hoc Committee on Criminal Accountability of UN Officials and Experts on Mission concluded its week-long work on Friday adopting its report which includes the a summary of discussions and a recommendation to the Sixth (Legal) Committee of the General Assembly to set up a working group at the next session, the sixty-third session, of the Assembly to continue discussions on the legal issues concerning this topic.


The Ad Hoc Committee on Administration of Justice is continuing its work until 24 April.


**The President’s Website


The website of the President has a new addition.. There is a new letter out by the President sent to Member States on the preparatory process for the review as regards the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS, which is set of 10-11 June 2008.  The letter contains some background if you are preparing to cover that event in more detail.


That is about all I have.


**Questions and Answers


Question: You quoted the President’s speech in Qatar, saying that he called for new internationalism.  Has the President worked out in his mind or in writing what kind of internationalism he is advocating.  For example, would that cover new international institutions?


Spokesperson: He is basically thinking of radical reformation of the institutions that already exist.  And as regards the details, he has been advocating this idea of new internationalism, a new culture of international relations, ever since he took his Office on 18 September 2007.  If you look at his website, you will see there are a couple of speeches where this is somewhat spelled out. The first one is the one that he delivered to the Carnegie Council.  He also talked to the Harvard Business School.  Most recently, he had an Op-ed in the Al-Hayat newspaper. Those give an idea of how he is approaching this issue in a more flexible, fluid way, where the individual is more at the centre, rather than States.  It is more about equilibrium of interests rather that balance of power. But I don’t want to hijack this meeting and go into details, because I know that  SRSG Løj is here to give you a briefing, but we can certainly discuss this further.


Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record