27 October 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good Afternoon, all.  We have a statement attributable to the Secretary-General.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


Lieutenant General Vicente Diaz de Villegas y Herrería of Spain, who was recently appointed as Force Commander for the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), has indicated that for personal reasons he will not be able to continue with his assignment as planned.  The Department of Peacekeeping Operations is pursuing arrangements to ensure continuity of command and to replace General Diaz as quickly as possible.  In the interim, Brigadier General Ishmeel Ben Quartey of Ghana will serve as Acting Force Commander pending the appointment of General Diaz’s successor.


As the security situation continues to deteriorate in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it is concerned about the humanitarian situation there.  The upswing in fighting has caused a sharp increase in the number of internally displaced persons, with an estimated 250,000 people made homeless since August.  This is out of some 850,000 IDPs [internally displaced persons] registered in North Kivu before the resumption of fighting.  The displaced are facing significant shortages of shelter, food, water and sanitation, health and protective security measures.


Meanwhile, OCHA and UNICEF have launched a Rapid Response Mechanism to address as many of these needs as possible.  Overall humanitarian access is extremely restricted due to the fighting.  The reduced access is variously blamed on roadblocks, the intimidation of aid workers, the hijacking of their vehicles, and angry demonstrations by civilians in some parts of the regions.  OCHA says it is also concerned that the warring parties are engaging in widespread looting of civilian infrastructure, including health centres.  Serious human rights abuses are also being reported in Province Orientale where some 28,000 people have been made homeless and fled into Sudan after attacks by the Lord’s Resistance Army.


** Somalia


The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has welcomed the ceasefire agreement signed this weekend in Djibouti between the Transitional Federal Government and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.  The agreement also outlines a gradual withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia and measures to avoid a security vacuum.  Those measures involve a joint security role for the African Union peacekeeping mission (AMISOM), the transitional government and the Alliance until there is a possible deployment of UN peacekeeping forces.


According to the agreement, the ceasefire will be effective starting on 5 November.


Special Representative Ould-Abdallah said that with this agreement, “some very important principles have now been established.  The challenge is to ensure that concrete action is taken to show the Somali people how this will benefit them.”  We have copies of a press release from his office upstairs.


**Security Council


The Security Council discussed Côte d’Ivoire this morning, with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Yong-jin, briefing Council members in a formal meeting on the work done by UN peacekeepers in that country.


He said that accumulating delays in Côte d’Ivoire’s electoral process constitute the UN Mission’s primary concern because they may put at risk the entire Ivorian peace process.  At the same time, he noted recent milestones that were reached, saying, “The Ivorian electoral process now seems irreversible.”  Choi called on the international community to redouble efforts to bring timely financial, technical and logistical assistance to the Ivorian identification and electoral process.


The meeting was followed by consultations on Côte d’Ivoire, as well as on the work of the sanctions committee dealing with that country, which is chaired by Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium.


After those consultations, the Security Council discussed “provocations in the security zone”.  On that subject, David Harland of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations briefed Council members on recent events in Georgia.


*Deputy Secretary-General


Tomorrow, the Deputy Secretary-General leaves for Seoul, Republic of Korea.  While there, she will attend the World Leaders Forum commemorating the sixtieth Anniversary of the Republic of Korea and deliver remarks on international cooperation for green growth.


She will also address 100 women leaders in Korea on climate change and the role of women internationally.  The Deputy Secretary-General will give a special lecture at the Kyunghee University on the financial crisis and implications for the UN’s development work.  She will also hold bilateral meetings with senior government officials, including the Prime Minister.


On November 3rd and 4th, the Deputy Secretary-General will visit Santiago, Chile, to open the Regional Coordination Meeting of UN agencies in Latin America and the Caribbean.  In addition to reviewing progress on key inter-agency activities and discussing future work, the focus of discussions will be on the impact of the international crisis and climate change on development of the region.  While in Santiago, the Deputy Secretary-General will also meet with the Chilean President.


** Colombia


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that it is seeing population displacements in several areas of Colombia.


In the southern department of Amazonas, for example, members of the Baro indigenous tribe, which is currently considered at risk of extinction, have fled to the regional capital, Leticia, following the incursion into their territory of an unidentified armed group.  OCHA reports that the displaced are facing difficulties in being registered, as they have no identification documents.  The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has identified the Baro as being at serious risk due to its lack of experience in urban settings.


Also, in the south-western department of Putumayo, nearly 60 indigenous families have been displaced following alleged threats from the Army.  The UN refugee agency is investigating these claims, an inter-agency mission is planned, and humanitarian aid is being distributed.


Meanwhile, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has arrived in Colombia to review the human rights situation there.  This is her second country visit since taking up her post last month.


Pillay plans to meet with President Alvaro Uribe and senior ministers, as well as members of Congress, the judiciary, civil society, and UN colleagues, to discuss a range of human rights concerns.


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has a major country office in Colombia, and while there, Pillay will visit her agency's field operations outside the capital, Bogotá.


Pillay’s week-long trip will be followed next week by a stop in Haiti.


** Haiti


The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development today announced more than $10 million in aid for Haiti’s agriculture sector.  Under the programme, which is being implemented through the FAO Initiative on Soaring Food Prices, hundreds of thousands of small farmers will receive seeds and plants.


The aim is to quickly boost local production, increasing the availability of basic food products in the markets, and strengthening food security in the population at large.  There is more information upstairs.


**Health


The World Health Organization (WHO) today published a new study that provides a comprehensive picture of the global and regional state of health.  The report features health comparisons for 2004 as well as projections up to the year 2030.


The study shows that, with both malaria and HIV/AIDS, Africa accounts for 9 out of every 10 child deaths.  It also says the top five causes of death in low-income countries are:  pneumonia, heart disease, diarrhoea, HIV/AIDS and stroke.  But in high-income countries the list is topped by heart disease, followed by stroke, lung cancer, pneumonia, and asthma/bronchitis.


Meanwhile, men between the ages of 15 and 60 have much higher risks of dying than women in the same age category in every region of the world –- mainly due to higher levels of heart diseases and injuries, including from violence and conflict.  We have more on that upstairs.


**UNEP


All 26 children’s paintings from last week’s UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Paint for the Planet event were auctioned yesterday at the Harvard Club of New York City.  Actually, it was Saturday.  The event raised $21,000 for UNICEF.  The funds will be used to help children in areas affected by climate-related disasters.


The 26 paintings were chosen from roughly 200,000 entries from UNEP’s International Children’s Competition.  There is more information in a press release upstairs and you have the opportunity on Friday to listen to Mr. Achim Steiner about this and you also had two children with you, if I remember correctly.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


There’s a press conference tomorrow at 11 a.m., a press conference by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin of the Russian Federation, on the current issues of the sixty-third session of the General Assembly.


**Press Conference Today


Today at 3 p.m., Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, will brief you here in 226.


That’s for today.


**Security Council Stakeout Tomorrow


And I just got right now a note about the stakeout tomorrow.  Following the Security Council briefing and meeting on the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) tomorrow afternoon, Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will hold a press encounter at the Security Council stakeout.


So you have that stakeout tomorrow, as well as the press conference at 11 a.m. by Ambassador Vitaly Churkin.  And then you also have that press conference today, this afternoon at 3 p.m.


**IMF/Ukraine/Hungary/Iceland


One more note which I just got for you.  Over the weekend, the International Monetary Fund announced separate, tentative agreements with Ukraine and Hungary.  Under the Ukraine plan, the IMF will lend the country $16.5 million over the next 24 months to address economic problems linked to the recent international financial turmoil.  The agreement hinges on the approval of legislative changes to Ukraine’s banking system.


On Hungary, the IMF also announced yesterday an agreement on a set of policies designed to improve both near-term stability and long-term growth.  A substantial financing package is expected to be announced in the coming days.


On Friday, the IMF announced an initial agreement to loan Iceland more than $2 billion over two years.  The funds will support an economic recovery program to help restore confidence in Iceland’s banking system and stabilize its currency.  There’s more information on those upstairs.  And that’s all I have for you today.  Thank you.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Unless you already said it, do you have any update on this dialogue of civilizations that the Saudi Arabian King plans to attend on 12 November, I think it is?


Spokesperson:  Well it is a General Assembly event and I’m sure you’ll get all the information you need from Enrique.


Question:  Ok.  And I wanted to point out, did the Secretary-General have any reaction to the Syrian protests about the American attacks on Syria and also any comments from the Secretary-General on similar American attacks in Pakistan?


Spokesperson:  I have to say on the Syrian situation, we don’t have any information on this incident beyond what we read in the media.  So we don’t have any independent information.


Question:  So he has not said anything…


Spokesperson:  We do not have anything official here in New York.  And I have to add that the United Nations has always encouraged regional cooperation to solve issues of common concern including border security through the extended ministerial process on Iraq and its neighbours.  As you know, that process exists.  And we are committed to helping to promote regional dialogue to bring stability to Iraq and the region as a whole.  So this is the only thing I can tell you at this point because we do not have any specifics on this specific incident.


Question:  If Syria writes the Secretary-General, then will there he react [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  We’re waiting to hear something specific.  Yes?


Question:  On Congo, there are reports that a member of United Nations MONUC opened fire and I wondered if you could confirm that and whether the Special Representative for the Secretary-General had any comment on the anti-UN protests against MONUC not being able to act to protect civilians.


Spokesperson:  Ok. I just got a statement on this.  It just arrived about the situation in the North Kivu. 


The Secretary-General is extremely concerned by the further deterioration in the security situation in North Kivu, and in particular developments in Rumangabo and in Goma and its impact on civilians.  He condemns the deliberate attacks on peacekeepers of United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) by forces of the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP).  He denounces the continued hostilities between CNDP forces and those of the defence forces of the Democratic Republic, in violation of the ceasefire.


The Secretary-General urges the Government and provincial authorities to make every effort to restore calm among the affected populations and to work in close cooperation with MONUC.  He reaffirms that MONUC will take all necessary measures within its mandate to protect civilians and United Nations personnel and property.


Recent developments demonstrate without doubt the need for all parties to implement the Actes d’engagement and to disengage.  The Secretary-General calls on all parties to immediately cease hostilities and pursue in good faith in efforts to resolve peacefully the issues that have thus far hindered progress in the Nairobi and Goma processes.


In terms of your question about the civilian casualties we inquired specifically about them.  We don’t have an answer yet on either confirming that it happened and knowing where the shots came from.  Yes?


Question:  There’s a Bloomberg report saying that the UN peacekeepers opened fire in self-defence on a crowd and that two people are dead.


Spokesperson:  That’s a media report that I cannot, that we have to wait to confirm from the Mission.  I have written to them.  We have called them and we are waiting for an answer.


Question:  Just one thing.  [inaudible] the demonstrators [inaudible] were throwing rocks.  Is it consistent with the mandate of MONUC to shoot fire with live ammunition into a crowd, if that took place?


Spokesperson:  That’s a hypothetical question.  We’ll check the mandate for you.  Yes?


Question:  I have a question related to the Secretary-General’s statement that he made on Friday and I think I’m going to ask similar questions to Enrique later, it’s about financial crisis.  The Secretary-General and also the President of the General Assembly say in statements about the reform of the Bretton Woods institutions which I understand is the reform of the IMF/World Bank.  What specifically does it mean?  Is it correct for me to understand that there is a recognition of a problem on the way that they’re voting?  I know that these institutions they have a, that those who pay more have a greater voice, unlike the vote in the General Assembly or is it a recognition that like the IMF policies have been applied differently to poor countries, remembering those in financial crisis in the past and they’re not doing the same thing to the rich countries.  Where does the recognition of the problem exist to your reform?


Spokesperson:  You’re talking about the Secretary-General.  You’re talking about the President of the Assembly.  The President of the Assembly is having a meeting on Thursday, on the 30th as you know, on the democratization of the Bretton Woods institution and you can get some additional information from Enrique a little later.  In terms of the Secretary-General, he did not talk about specific measures to restructure the Bretton Woods institutions.  It is not part of his mandate.  What the Secretary-General’s concern is mostly having a process.  He is aware of the impact of the crisis on not only the poorest countries, but also on middle-income countries and is calling for an inclusive process.  This is why he attending the G-20 meeting that is going to take place in Washington on 15 November, as you know.  He is also very keen on what will happen in Doha in December on the issue of financing for development.  Maybe these issues will be brought up, but his concern is essentially mitigating the impact on the poorest.


Question:  I noticed with some surprise that he mentioned about the reform of the international financial institutions.  So that does not mean the World Bank/IMF?


Spokesperson:  He’s not himself involved in it in the sense that the IMF and the World Bank have their own governing board.  The Secretary-General and the Secretariat itself does not have any direct impact on the IMF and World Bank even though those institutions are part of the larger UN family.  So you know the Secretary-General is very aware of the limits of his own mandate of how much he can do.  He can of course take part in discussions concerning those reforms but he really has no immediate possibility to act on a reform plan.  Yes?


Question:  A couple of questions.  The briefing by Mr. [David] Harland to the Security Council, when he said it was about the events in Georgia, did he report on South Ossetia, as well as Abkhazia?


Spokesperson:  He probably did.  Those were closed consultations.


[The Spokesperson later clarified that David Harland had only briefed on Abkhazia –- not South Ossetia.]


Question:  Right.  I’m just curious.  If you can explain.  In the Security Council, when they passed the resolution extending the mandate of UNOMIG [United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia] they went out of their way not to use the word Georgia because Russia said it’s no longer clear that Abkhazia is part of Georgia.  So the Council now talks about this without using a name, either Abkhazia or Georgia.  They just say the Mission.  So I’m wondering when you use the word Georgia, is this a conscious, does the Secretary still maintain, unlike the Security Council, that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia are Georgia?


Spokesperson:  Right now I was just letting you know about what was discussed at the Security Council’s consultations, for your own information.  We don’t have, it doesn’t say that there is a specific stand here.


Question:  Also we have heard that Mr. Bassole might also be in New York or made available to the media.  Is that going to take place?


Spokesperson:  I am not aware of it.  But we can ask.


Question:  And finally, you may refer me elsewhere to this.  On the news today of the peace accord in Somalia between the ARS and the Government, there’s a quote from Al Shabab, [inaudible] blaming the UN system for financing the formation of regal administrations propping up what they say is a puppet government.  Does the UN, has the UN system been funding regional government in Somalia and how does it respond to the critique about these insurgences that’s propping up this puppet government?


Spokesperson:  We don’t have anything to say about the criticism that was made by those youth groups that participate in the opposition.  We don’t have any comments to make about this.  In terms of what the mandate is, it is very easy to find out.  Just go to the mandate.  You will get it.


Question:  The mandate is what?  Is a, is a… there’s an envoy but what in terms of funding.  I don’t know what the mandate is, in terms of the UN funding.


Spokesperson:  You can find out.  I’m sure you can find out.


Question:  Where? 


Spokesperson:  Mr. Ould-Abdallah just doesn’t go on his own.  There is a mission.  You can get information.  We can lead you to someone for the information.  Thank you so much.  Yes?


Question:  [inaudible] Gaza crossing.  Do you have any update on that?  Any [inaudible]… Gaza crossing should be open?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any update on that.  What we have is what we told you last time.  We don’t have anything new on it.  Thank you. 


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Thank you, Michèle.  Good afternoon, everybody.  This is going to be a busy week for the General Assembly.  Let me start by providing you details on the final list of experts that will attend the Interactive Panel of the United Nations General Assembly on the Global Financial Crisis which will take place on Thursday the 30th.  The six panellists will be the following:


Joseph Stiglitz from the United States


Sakiko Fukuda-Parr from Japan


Pedro Páez from Ecuador


Prabhat Patnaik from India


Calestous Juma from Kenya


François Houtart from Belgium


The morning interactive session will start at 9 until 12:30 and it will be starting with opening remarks and presentation of panellists by the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto.  And Member States will then exchange their points of view, comments and opinions in a dialogue format.


In the afternoon, we will have another session from 3 to 6 and it will end with closing remarks by the panellists and the President of the General Assembly.


In the middle of it, at 1, we have scheduled a press conference here with some of the panellists and the President of the General Assembly on Thursday.  So I will repeat that.  There will be a press conference Thursday at 1 here.


On another issue, let me also inform you that, last week, the General Committee postponed its session for inclusion of new items without any formal meeting taking place.  Since we missed that last week, I just wanted let you know.


And that is basically what I have for you, unless you have any particular questions? 


**Questions and Answers


Question:  So you have anything further on this dialogue of civilization which is going to, apparently on 12 November?  Lots of Muslim countries, heads of [inaudible] said they were going to attend.  Do you have a list of who’s coming and who’s not coming?


Spokesperson:  Ok.  One by one, of the questions.  The meeting will take place -- I announced it already -- on the 12th and the 13th of November and the meeting will take place under item 45 of the General Assembly “Culture of Peace” and it will have an interactive and inter-dialogue format.  Now, right now, I don’t have a list of participants yet.  I think we will have that in the coming days or maybe next week.  But I have seen the same reports as you and we have confirmation that King Abdullah will be here.  And that is basically it.


Question:  Do you know if he intends to move forward?  I think he will offer this deal for peace in the Middle East… [inaudible… deal he’ll discuss that].  Do you have any idea about that at all? 


Spokesperson:  I have no information on that at all.  As you know, this meeting was agreed, came out at the World Conference on Dialogue which was in Madrid on the 16th and 17th and 18th of July of 2008 under the patronage of King Abdullah, King of Saudi Arabia, and King Juan Carlos of Spain.  At that meeting, the participants agreed to reconvene periodically to promote dialogue and cooperation about religions and cultures.  Now, the President of the General Assembly -- if you want his opinion -- believes that more than dialogue, we should go, move forward and talk about cooperation among the different religions to reach and to work together for the Millennium Development Goals and help the poor people.  That’s basically his standard. 


Question:  The agenda has not been set.


Spokesperson:  Not yet.  It’s been discussed actually right now, these days.


Question:  I also wanted to find out about this global turmoil, in which, on the economic crisis.  I think it was the President of the General Assembly who suggested that there should be the restructuring of the Bretton Woods institutions and of course the United Nations is the head of the Bretton -- so has much talk been given by the President on this or have you just been waiting for that meeting to happen before more [inaudible] given to it? 


Spokesperson:  Let me put this in perspective.  President d’Escoto said in his opening remarks when he started at the General Assembly -- he made it very clear -- that his main priority was going to be the democratization of the United Nations.  And, as such, he divided this in three major themes for some high-level meetings that were going to take place on those three particular items.  The first one was on the restructuring of the financial organizations if you want to call, or the financial institutions, including the Bretton Wood institutions.  The second one was the revitalization of the General Assembly and the third was the Security Council.  Now, in the middle of all that, we had the financial crisis and that made it even more evident that what President d’Escoto was saying was extremely urgent and relevant and he convened this urgent meeting which will take place this Thursday with some experts to address the financial crisis.  And among one of the issues which will be discussed will be the possible restructuring of the organizations of the Bretton Woods institutions, which is in line with what many other leaders are saying, from President Sarkozy to President Bush and now everybody is now saying that, that the financial architecture of the international organizations, as we know them, as they were designed in 1945 or the post-war era, are not suitable for the twenty-first century, which is preciously what President d’Escoto has been saying. 


So, he’s now calling this meeting and, in this meeting, this will be one of the issues to be discussed.  We expect to have enough information to start preparing these experts a document, which will be used as a discussion for the first high level, which will be dealing with the restructuring of the Bretton Woods institutions, for which we do not have a date yet, but it will be very likely at the beginning of 2009.  And, as you know, because I announced it here on some occasions, President d’Escoto has asked Joseph Stiglitz to be the coordinator of a task force whose members we don’t know yet.  We might have an idea after the meeting on the 30th to prepare a document which will be the base for discussion for the reform and restructuring of the financial international institutions, including Bretton Woods.  


Question:  [inaudible -— cell phone interference].  What does exactly the President hope to come out of Thursday’s meeting?  Is there going to be an outcome document?


Spokesperson:  No, what the President expects is that, on Thursday, there will be first, an information session for the Member countries at the United Nations which has not taken place yet.  And he believes that the best experts, including experts from all over the world from different continents, to discuss and to speak and advise Member countries what to do, and what will be the way forward in the future.  What we expect from the experts to have is a clear idea on what the Member States want and a clear idea on what are the options and the best road forward to start preparing the high-level meeting that should be taking place at the beginning of 2009.  Most likely from there, from dialogue with the Member countries, we will have already a position on the components of this panel which will be coordinated by Professor Stiglitz and maybe a document or maybe an idea of a document to start being prepared for such a meeting.


Question:  But actual discussion on restructuring of IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank are taken by who?  Is it taken…?


Spokesperson:  That’s a very good question and it depends upon on who you ask.  Because, certainly, the restructuring of any international organization or the design of a new architecture must be done by the international community.  The international community in 1945 was not the same one that the international community in the twenty-first century.  What President d’Escoto is asking is that the international community decision should be inclusive and not exclusive.  And this is why he believes the place to discuss is neither the G-8 nor the G-20, nor the G-25 or the G-63.  It is the G-192, which is the General Assembly of the United Nations.  And that is his official position as I have mentioned already. 


Question:  When you hold the high-level meeting in the beginning of 2009, will the result of that meeting go to the Secretary-General or will it be a document that you hope will influence his thinking…


Spokesperson:  We need to have the Member countries discuss it and decide themselves what are the steps they want to take.  That’s basically it.  Like any other international negotiation that takes place in these premises.


Question:  Two questions please.  One is about Thursday.  Is the task force going to be established this Thursday, are they going to start working from this Thursday …?


Spokesperson:  We don’t have set a deadline.  So it is not for sure that on Thursday itself we will have a decision on the composition of the task force.  We’re not sure yet.


Question:  So what we know for sure is that Dr. Stiglitz is going to be the leader of the task force and it might be formed or launched not necessarily this Thursday…


Spokesperson:  That’s correct.  In the coming days. 


Question:  My second question is about the democratization of the Bretton Woods institutions.  Does the President have a recognition that an old fashioned Bretton Woods institution is a cause of the current financial crisis or is it not, and, in such an emergency, what do you have to worry about a question that has been there for such a long time?


Spokesperson:  Well, I think he has made it very clear, as I have said in the past.  I’m not saying anything new.  He has not said anything different from day one when he started here.  In his analysis and in his diagnosis, the financial international architecture has done a poor job in resolving the major objectives for what they were created –- to fight poverty.  And they have not done a very good job.  Also on the distribution… let me rephrase that.  They have not done a very good job in fighting poverty and supporting development in the world.  And that has been his position since day one.  Now what the current crisis is showing -- and this is what he said already -- that international structures are not working properly, even as we have seen in this particular case, to prevent and solve the financial crisis.  And it is another argument for the proper democratization of the United Nations.  And he has said that one of the main problems has been that by nature those organizations are not representing the countries as they are today in the twenty-first century. 


Question:  [inaudible -- World Bank]


Spokesperson:  Say that again, I cannot hear you.


Question:  In the World Bank, a decision made -– it’s not one country, one vote, unlike the General Assembly.


Spokesperson:  Correct.


Question:  In the World Bank, if you pay more to the Bank, you have a stronger voice.  Is that the problem for the President?


Spokesperson:  This is one of the elements, as I said, that he had made it very clear, but this is only one of the elements.  The developing countries do not have their voice heard in such a forum properly or enough.  As I said, this is nothing new.  It’s something he has been saying since day one.


Question:  Do you expect opposite task forces, one to come out the United and one that comes out of Washington on the 15th at this point?  Different …


Spokesperson:  No.  Not necessarily.  As I said, President d’Escoto believes all the initiatives are good to solve the problem of the financial crisis.  However, having said that, this is the bottom line.  He believes that those resolutions should be inclusive.  The most inclusive place at the international level is the General Assembly of the United Nations.  Yes? 


Question:  One follow-up on this and then something else.  If the President, Mr. d’Escoto, thinks IMF, for example, has been doing a poor job, even in response to the financial crisis, does he have any comment, for example, on the announcement today between IMF and Hungary that there’s going to be a stand-by agreement to support Hungary.   Iceland [inaudible] is approaching IMF.  Maybe you can get from him, what does he think of those deals or how does he think even in the interim the countries that have these crisis needs and approach IMF for a loan, what should be the dynamic how should the decision be made? 


Spokesperson:  He doesn’t have any particular comments on this particular issue right now.  We’re talking about general framework and the general framework is the one I have just described and as I said he has been very clear about what his position is.


Question:  If there is anything that particularly inflames him if you can let us know, some deal that…  I wanted to ask you about this list of special senior advisers including Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Joseph Stiglitz, whom you’ve mentioned, a couple of things.  How, do these individuals, is it just him, if you could just describe how, did he call them up and say do you want to be my adviser, is there some written contract with them?  Do they receive travelling funds?  I asked last week if they, even if these economists, the one from Ecuador and from India, are they, is the travel to New York paid, stuff like that.  But, particularly on these advisers, what’s the arrangement with them, are they provided any United Nations benefit, and how were they selected and Ramsey Clark, for example, what, why did he select them?


Spokesperson:  I don’t know why, I was convinced you were going to ask this question (laughs).


Question:  I thought you would. 


Spokesperson:  Jokes apart.  Well, first the question on the experts.  This is a group of people that President d’Escoto has known in the past and he believes that they are the right people to give advice at different levels, whether it is by telephone, personally, on an ad hoc basis.  They are experts on water, experts on sustainable development, experts on environment, all different kinds of expertise.  And none of them, let me be very clear, none of them receive any restitution financially from the President of the General Assembly or the United Nations as experts.  Ok?  Now, as you say it, obviously sometimes, some of them have to travel and that travel is covered by a budget that the President of the General Assembly has at his disposal, approved by the Fifth Committee, as any other President of the General Assembly in the past had.  In this particular case, actually it has only been right now the first case where we’re going to have this situation for this meeting.  Out of the six persons -- obviously there are two who are already in New York, so they are not going to get any daily allowance -- but for the other four they will get the ticket and the normal average daily allowance the United Nations does provide in these cases. 


Question:  So, just to be able to nail it down, this, all, whatever, this is going to come out of this $290,000 annual budget of the General Assembly? 


Spokesperson:  Correct.  Correct.


Question:  I didn’t know we were going to go there.  But I want to ask you one question.  This came up previously.  It’s an across the board question.  Mr. d’Escoto himself.  Is he paid out of the $290,000 or he is paid from some other source? 


Spokesperson:  No.  The way it works is that the Mission, the country that is representing, who has been selected to become President of the General Assembly, prepares a special budget.  I think it’s called a Special Mission or something like that.  In this case, it’s Nicaragua, and Nicaragua is providing a budget from the Government to pay the expenses of the President of the General Assembly. 


Question:  Has Nicaragua approached any other countries to assist with either that budget or for other staff members who work for the President?


Spokesperson:  Yes.  This is a standard practice.  Nicaragua, more than Nicaragua, President d’Escoto himself has been talking to several countries and you have right now in the staff, in the cabinet working directly under the President of the General Assembly, three kinds of staff.  One is the staff that has been financed or funded by the Nicaraguan Government which is President d’Escoto himself and I think two other staff.  Then you have people, staff, from other Governments, other Missions that they have put at their disposal, these experts, and they are -- I don’t remember by heart -- 10 or 12.  They come from countries like Holland, Brazil, El Salvador, from several different countries.  And then you have the third group, is people who have been working in the Secretariat, working in the Secretariat or in other United Nations agencies, which are being seconded for the period of the one year, have been, so to say, lent to support the work of the President of the General Assembly, including myself. 


Question:  Thank you so much.  This is just a [inaudible] questions, didn’t think it through.  Is it possible to get a list, you just said you were doing it off the top of your head, of the countries particularly?  I’d really appreciate that.  Transparency.


Spokesperson:  Sure.  But it is very easy.  If you go into the webpage of the President of the General Assembly and you look under cabinet, you will see there the nationalities of the people who come from the different Governments, but I will provide that to you in any case. 


Question:  Does the President have any comments on the cross-border raid that occurred over the weekend in Syria and, if so, what actions does he plan on taking?


Spokesperson:  I cannot hear you very well.  Can you repeat the question? 


Question:  Yes.  Does the President have any comments on the cross-border raid that occurred in Syria over the weekend and eight people were killed and, if so, what actions does he plan on taking as a result?


Spokesperson:  No.  We don’t’ have any comment of President d’Escoto on this issue.  Ok?  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record