22 June 2009
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 General Assembly President.


**Haiti


On Haiti, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, welcomed the second round of senatorial elections in Haiti, which took place yesterday.  It said that the elections proceeded calmly in the nine departments in which they were held.  The Mission hopes that the calm and the sense of responsibility that have been observed so far will prevail until the final results are published.  We have the press release from the Mission, in French, upstairs.


**Security Council


B. Lynn Pascoe, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council in an open meeting this morning on the Central African Republic, which he recently visited.  He said that he was able to see for himself the impact of years of instability and insecurity in the country, but also witnessed the profound faith that the Government and people of the country had in the United Nations.


The Secretary-General, Pascoe noted, has called on the authorities in the Central African Republic to ensure that elections are held on schedule in order to prevent a constitutional power vacuum, which could further complicate an already fragile political environment, including the possibility of renewed violence.  He added that the Secretary-General’s latest report proposes that the UN peacebuilding office in the country (BINUCA) becomes fully operational by 1 January 2010.


The Security Council also heard from Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium, who visited the country last month as head of the Peacebuilding Commission’s country-specific configuration for the Central African Republic.  And the discussions on the country have continued in closed consultations.


**Secretary-General in Birmingham, United Kingdom


The Secretary-General was in Birmingham, UK, yesterday, to receive the Polio Eradication Champion Award from Rotary International.  In his remarks to the 100th Rotary International Convention, he spoke of the prospect of a polio-free world, saying, “Now is the time to finish the job.”


The Secretary-General added that we can cut back on health expenditures and see massive losses in lives.  Or we can invest in health and spare both people and economies the high cost of inaction.  He also paid tribute to Rotary International for its work in helping to stamp out polio. We have his full remarks on our website.


**Internal Justice in United Nations


This afternoon, the Secretary-General will witness the swearing-in of the 15 judges of the new UN Dispute Tribunal and the UN Appeals Tribunal.  The judges were appointed by the General Assembly earlier this year, and are now in New York for a one-week induction programme and internal meetings.


These tribunals are part of the new internal justice system that will become operational as of the 1st of July.  For the first time, the UN will have a two-tier judicial system to address work-related disputes.


After several years of negotiations and preparations, the statutes of the new tribunals were approved by the General Assembly in December 2008.  It is hoped that the new system will be more professional, independent and expedient.


The Secretary-General hopes the new system will enable us to deal with internal disputes more quickly, fairly and transparently.  The system should also lead to greater accountability.


**Iraq


Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned in the strongest terms the bombing that took place on Saturday in Taza District, south of Kirkuk.  That bombing resulted in the killing of more than 70 civilians and the wounding of more than 180 others.


De Mistura called the bombing a “horrifying and wicked crime against innocent civilians, destroying more than 80 homes and businesses and severely damaging a mosque”.  Although the bombing was designed to spark tensions among Iraq’s communities, he added that the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people, including in the Kirkuk governorate, have opted for dialogue and compromise to resolve whatever differences they may have.  We have his statement upstairs.


**Pakistan


On Pakistan, Abdul Aziz Arrukban, the Secretary-General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy, wrapped up a two-day fact-finding mission to Pakistan, saying that the situation of displaced people there is unprecedented in terms of both speed and scale. With some 2 million people having left their homes since last August, he said, the health-care, sanitation and water systems in north-west Pakistan are under enormous strain.


Arrukban said that the humanitarian community will not be able to sustain its activities unless it receives greater support from donors.  The UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan, which seeks some $532 million for projects this year, has been 35.5 per cent funded to date.


**Darfur


On Darfur, the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) has welcomed 95 new police officers from the Gambia into its ranks over the past week.  The 92 male and 3 female officers will be deployed across Darfur after they complete induction training in El Fasher.


Meanwhile, the Mission says that unidentified armed men yesterday carjacked a vehicle belonging to a UN agency in El Geneina.  The men ordered the driver and two staff members out of the car and drove away.  No one was injured.  The Mission says it has alerted Sudanese police and national security officials to the incident.


**Rwanda


On Rwanda, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda this morning sentenced Callixte Kalimanzira, a former official of the Rwandan Interior Ministry, to 30 years in prison.  He was found guilty of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide, and aiding and abetting genocide.


The Tribunal says that Kalimanzira was a planner and executioner [sic] of a large-scale massacre of Tutsi civilians in Butare in April 1994.  The Tribunal found that he led killing mobs, including police and soldiers, to a hill where thousands of Tutsis had sought refuge.  He was also found guilty of involvement in other, similar incidents.


The Tribunal took custody of Kalimanzira, who voluntarily surrendered in November 2005.  He will receive credit for time served before today’s sentencing.


**Greece-The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia


Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, met with representatives from the two sides in Geneva today.  The main purpose of today’s encounter was to prepare for his meetings in Skopje on July 6th and 7th and in Athens on July 7th, 8th and 9th.  No new proposals on the “name issue” were made, but Nimetz said he pushed hard on some of the areas that have been blocking agreement.  We have more on that upstairs.


**UNAIDS


On UNAIDS, today in Geneva, the governing body of UNAIDS started holding its twenty-fourth meeting.  It is the first time that Michel Sidibé is addressing the board as UNAIDS Executive Director.  The meeting focuses on the HIV-related needs of mobile populations, including migrants and refugees.


According to UNAIDS, as global movement patterns are becoming increasingly complex, improving such people’s access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, is essential for achieving universal access.  Reducing the vulnerability of mobile populations to HIV is an issue that often falls between the cracks and that requires intergovernmental cooperation, UNAIDS says.  We have more on that upstairs, and some of you had the opportunity to speak with Michel Sidibé last week.


**Disarmament Workshop


A regional workshop on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1540 (2004) is set to begin tomorrow in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  The workshop is jointly organized by the Government of Sri Lanka and the United States, in cooperation with the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs.  The objective of the workshop is to promote capacity-building on national and regional levels to advance full implementation of resolution 1540.


**UN-Habitat


UN-Habitat’s Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka, is one of the three winners of the 2009 Göteberg Award. She shares the award with the former Mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, and with Soren Hermansen ‑‑ who was named a 2008 Hero of the Environment by Time magazine.


The Göteberg Award, also known as the “Nobel Prize in Environment”, recognizes strategic work for national and international sustainable development.  The Award ceremony will take place in November in Göteberg, Sweden.  There is more in a press release upstairs.


**Public Service Awards


And tomorrow, 12 public institutions from around the world will be awarded with the United Nations Public Service Awards, here at Headquarters. The award ceremony will be presided over by the Secretary-General in Conference Room 4, from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.  The institutions are being recognized for the impact that Government services can have on the day-to-day lives of ordinary people.


**Giuliani


And then, I regret to inform you that François Giuliani, a former Spokesman for the Secretary-General whom many of you knew very well, died this morning at the age of 70, after a brief illness.  Mr. Giuliani joined the United Nations French Press Section in 1971 after working for 10 years for Reuters in London and Africa.  He served as Spokesman for three Secretaries-General:  Kurt Waldheim (1976-1981), Javier Perez de Cuellar (1982-1991), and for Boutros Boutros-Ghali during his first year in office in 1992, when he moved to the Department of Public Information. François left the UN in 1996 to take up the position of Director of Press and Public Relations at the Metropolitan Opera ‑‑ opera was his passion.  And he retired from the Met in 2006.


**Background Briefing Today


At 3 p.m. today representatives from the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit and the Department of Safety and Security will be here to give you a background briefing on media arrangements for the forthcoming Conference on the Economic Crisis, which begins tomorrow.  This briefing is for information purposes only and will not be covered by UNTV.


**Press Conferences Tomorrow


At 11 a.m. tomorrow, here in Room S-226, General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann will be here to brief you on the first day of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development.


At 12 noon, the Secretary-General and Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City, will hold a joint press conference to highlight major events this fall to promote action on climate change:  the 22 September Summit at UNHQ; and Climate Week NYC from 21-25 September.  The press conference will take place at the Dag Hammarskjöld Plaza, located on First Avenue and 47th Street.


At 1 p.m., here in 226, Joseph Mutaboba, Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau, UNOGBIS, will be here in 226 to brief you, following his briefing to the Security Council.


And I will take very few questions because Enrique is already here, and he will be joined by Paul Oquist, from the Office of the President of the General Assembly, to brief you on the upcoming Summit, which all of you are awaiting.


Yes, Kathleen.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Question on Iran.  Protesters have continued throughout the weekend … protests have continued throughout the weekend in Teheran.  Official figures now say there are 17 dead and unofficial ones talk about more than 100 people possibly dead.  And the authorities have acknowledged that there have been irregularities in the election process.  What is the Secretary-General’s reaction to what’s going on in Iran right now?


Spokesperson:  Okay.  There is a statement, right now in the works, and you should have it in, I hope, in a few minutes.  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  Quick question.  One is ‑‑ the incident last week in Haiti, where I saw the statement that the peacekeepers had fired into the air, did they use rubber bullets or live ammunition?  Is that known?


Spokesperson:  I think the demonstrator was not killed with a gun.


Question:  Yeah, but I’ve seen reports saying that is was unclear whether they were using live ammo or rubber bullets to control the crowd?


Spokesperson:  Okay.  You can direct your question to DPKO.  They can get the answer for you from MINUSTAH.


Question:  I also wanted to … it emerged over the weekend that two more UN staff members had been detained by the Government of Sri Lanka.  Reportedly, a driver for UNOPS and a driver for UNHCR.  Is OCHA aware of that?  And what’s being done to find out why they were detained?


Spokesperson:  Okay.  I’ll try to find out more on that.  Very soon.


Question:  Yes.  With regard to Iran, is the Secretary-General planning to hold any meetings with the Iranian first Vice-President, who’s here for the Economic Summit and to talk about the elections in Iran?


Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you, to see whether there is a meeting being planned.  I have to give up the room.  Last time, I’m sorry, I kept it too long.  So I’m giving the floor now to Enrique.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


**Economic Crisis Conference


Okay.  Good afternoon to everybody.  My colleague will be here any moment to brief you on the negotiations.  Let me give you a brief update on where we are on other issues at the Conference.  In terms of attendance we have the same numbers as we had Friday that I’m going to repeat.  We have a total of 126 participants and 21 in the group of Heads of State and Heads of Government, including vice-presidents.  We have three deputy prime ministers, we’ll have 32 ministers, that is one more than last week, 27 vice-ministers, 36 chairmen of delegations and still we have five delegations to confirm the level of participation.


In terms of the upcoming activity from the media point of view.  As Michèle already told you, this afternoon we’re going to have a technical briefing by the Media Liaison and security for logistics for the media for this Conference.  Then we will have tomorrow, at 11 a.m., the President of the General Assembly will make a press conference.  In the afternoon at 2:30 p.m., we will have the NGO briefing, tomorrow Tuesday.


On Wednesday, at 11 o’clock, the Secretary-General of UNCTAD will have his press conference.  Then we will have, most likely on Wednesday in the afternoon at 2 o’clock, the Commission of Experts and probably Dr. Stiglitz, giving a press conference, but that is to be confirmed.  Then on Thursday, we will have President Correa from Ecuador at 11 o’clock and President Morales at 12:30 from Bolivia, and at 3 o’clock we will have a group of Heads of States from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region.


And on Friday we expect to have the closing press conference, the traditional one.  Let me also mention briefly, that we have the press kit available for you.  All the information is online on the page of the President of the General Assembly.  There you will be able also to find the list of parallel events.  There are several parallel events taking place.  And also the full list and participants of the four round tables that I gave you last Friday.


And now let me now give the floor to Mr. Paul Oquist, who is in the Office of the President of the General Assembly, the General Coordinator of this upcoming Conference.  And I understand this has been a very busy weekend.  What can you give us on the negotiations, please?


Speaker:  Thank you very much, Enrique.  The negotiators, as many of you know, worked on Saturday through 4 o’clock in the morning Sunday so they finished a second reading of the outcome documents that is being negotiated in the members-led negotiating process.  I think it’s important to realize that this entire Conference has been approved and led by all the members of the General Assembly. There have been some reports appearing as if this Conference was Father d’Escoto’s Conference.  But if you look at the history of this, it was approved in the Doha II December Declaration of the countries that attended the Doha Financing for Development Conference.  And it was stated there by the members, both North and South, that the President of the General Assembly would organize the meeting.  That was approved by consensus.  Then on the 24th of December in resolution 63/239, the full General Assembly approved by consensus the holding of the meeting and that the President of the General Assembly would be the organizer of the meeting.  Once again, the approval of the meeting is by consensus, of all of the Member States, including the North, including the South, all 192.


Subsequently, as you also know, there was intensive negotiations on the modalities of the meeting and that culminated in the 7 April United Nations General Assembly resolution 63/277, which determined the modalities of the Conference.  The question or debates over the scope of the Conference were addressed by consensus of all Member States in that modality resolution, whose second paragraph states, that among other things the Conference should do, it should analyse the international financial and economic system and architecture.  So the question of the analysis of the international financial system and architecture has been approved as part of the modalities resolution by all of the Member States.  Subsequently, there was the co-facilitator’s document.  Then Father d’Escoto had admitted another document.  As you all know, there was an impasse at that time.  And then there was a compromise.  And the compromise was that a third document was produced.  And that third document was the basis upon which the negotiations have been held in a members-driven process.  And it’s on the basis of that document that the negotiations has proceeded through 4 o’clock in the morning of Sunday.


Subsequently, the two co-facilitators have produced a summary of how they would piece together all that has been debated, all that has been discussed, and a new document that was circulated by e-mail at 4 o’clock in the morning, this morning, Monday morning.  So 4 o’clock in the morning seems to be the key time in all of this process.  So that was sent by e-mail to all of the Member States.  As we speak, the negotiating groups are discussing that.  Some countries are consulting their capitals also on the new text and this afternoon, the intergovernmental negotiations will resume.  And today is indeed a very important day.  Because the first statements by the different negotiating groups once the negotiating recommences will give us a clue of whether the co-facilitators text has managed to bring the two sides closer together.  And it will also point to where there are still outstanding contentious issues that need to be dealt with in the course of today and tomorrow, if need be, in order to get a consensus document prior to the initiation of the Conference, which would be highly desirable by all lights.  So that that document that then could be discussed by the assembled Heads of State and Government and other high representatives who would be heads of delegations to the Conference on the 24th, 25th and 26th of this month … during the course of this week.


So this is a very crucial tie in the entire member-driven and co-facilitator-driven negotiating process.  The Office of the President of the General Assembly has committed itself to steering this process in such a way that there would be a consensus document.  So that is what the President wishes … for a consensus to be arrived at.  A consensus that is balanced, a consensus that has a good give-and-take on both sides.


However, having said that, this quite obviously is the forum of the G-192.  And it is very important and many leaders of the developed world realize this, that this Conference reflects positions of the developing countries.  The developed countries have several forums in which to express their opinions, they have the G-7, the G-8, the G-20, there’s the IMF Board of Directors, the World Bank Board of Directors, there’s the Bank of International Settlements, there’s the Financial Stability Fund, recently promoted to Financial Stability Board.  There are multiple instances, multiple entities within which they can express their points of view.  They should express them here, too, and there should be a balanced document.  But it would be very important to make sure that that balanced document does reflect important positions for the developing countries, since for many countries, this is the only forum in which their voice and representation will be real.


So, I think that summarizes.


Spokesperson:  Thank you very much.  Any questions?


Question:  Several questions.  First, can you tell us how long the document is, what the most contentious issues were going into this final negotiations, and can we get copies of this draft that went out at 4 a.m. today … a summary?


Mr. Oquist:  I’m not the one who can authorize distribution of that.  So, I’m the wrong person to ask about that.  But, it’s under the consideration of the Member States.  I can’t answer questions regarding the distribution of that document.  What I can say is that the document is 15 pages long.  I think you are aware of what the major issues are.  I happen to see on the internal UN Television a brilliant press conference given of Martin Khor of the South Centre; you got the best possible summary of the major issues, not only in terms of the internal debate within the preparation of the United Nations Conference, but in the wider context of what’s going on in the world of which this dialogue, these negotiations, form a part, which Martin Khor mentioned.


And so several of those issues are very high on the agenda here, the question of the stimulus.  Because of the $1.1 trillion approved at the G-20 meeting in London.  Only $50 billion of that $1.1 trillion is for the developing countries.  That’s recognized by G-20.  And the need for a global stimulus to address the global crisis is an issue on the agenda and needs to be discussed and worked on.  There’s another issue, the reform of the existing institutions and perhaps the creation of some new ones.  There’s a very widespread consensus that there needs to be a reform of the Bretton Woods institutions.  And, as Martin mentioned, these issues like that that have a broad consensus at that level, need the work of ministers and technical people within a working group to be able to get into the details.  And, of course, the devil is always in the details in these matters, and that’s what needs to be worked out.


Because the different positions on how to reform the IMF and World Bank cover an extraordinary broad breadth … from strengthening them to practically ending their existence.  And all types of intermediate positions.  What is viable?  What is practical?  What can be worked out?


All of these things can be bridged.  That by all lights there should be a follow-up.  Most everyone would agree with that … that this should not be a one-off conference.  And the dramatic situation that is existing in the developing countries.  Many countries are burning through their reserves … the squeeze is on in developing countries … the need of resolution is very real … we hope that this conference can make a meaningful contribution.


Question:  A follow-up on your statement that the final document should reflect more the needs of the developing nations.  Isn’t it an indication, as some people have said, of the failure of the conference in advance that developing nations’ views could be expressed at NAM at 77, that we’re not really heading toward a successful conference in the first place?


Spokesperson:  You have a G-20 document that reflects countries that have 85 per cent of the world’s GDP.  So, what happens to the other 15 per cent of the countries … the rest of the world, the 172 that are left out?  Very important that their points of view are reflected.


Question:  You mentioned possible creations of other mechanisms or other organizations; that many are failing the needs of the developing world.  Is the document that was completed or the conference address the risk of social unrest as a result of this economic tsunami or catastrophe?  As a follow-up, there has been a discussion of the possible creation of an economic security council at the United Nations to deal with situation such as this.  The Security Council is the only body with any teeth or power.  Are these two going to be linked in any way?


Mr. Oquist:  What is being discussed in this conference is an economic coordinating entity within the United Nations.  They (Commission on Experts) recommended an economic coordination entity linked to the United Nations, so as to coordinate the different entities and concentrate the information necessary for early warning of when there were systemic risks that could affect the economic financial and economic system.  That is another one of the themes under review.  These themes are on the table and are being debated as we speak.


Question:  Mr. Khor made reference to reports that the PGA’s flowery language might have led to some different reactions among countries.  Now it’s on track?  Does the PGA still stand by the first proposal that he put out that talked about the taxation of cyberspace taxation authority?


Mr. Oquist:  The whole conference moved on from that, when a compromise document was admitted.  No one is discussing the co-facilitators’ document.  No one is discussing the document admitted by Father d’Escoto.  There was a compromise document and accepted by all as the basis for negotiation.  That comes up to right now.  The co-facilitators are attempting to bridge the differences the positions expressed by the different Member States with regard to this third document, after these weeks of negotiations.  Today, we will see what happens with that.  Today is an important day.


Question:  Do you expect a vote on the final document?


Speaker:  Father d’Escoto, as President of the General Assembly, has said that he fully supports a member-driven process that leads to a consensus document.  All efforts are being made to achieve a consensus document.  No one is working on a different hypothesis at this point in time.


Question:  In this final process, what is the role of the President of the General Assembly?  Have you spoken to the (Obama) Administration, and who is coming from the US?


Speaker:  We do not know who is coming from the US; we understand that it will be cabinet level.  All of the proposals that are being gone over in Washington and London are important inputs for this process.  This is an ongoing dynamic process and the reality changes as the process goes on.  That’s why it’s so important to have a follow-up.  This is not a process that stops on the 26th.  History is moving rapidly.  So, it’s important for the Conference to be an ongoing continuing conference through a follow-up mechanism that the General Assembly members will include in their final consensus document.


Spokesperson:  Okay.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record