24 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.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


**UNCTAD Secretary-General’s Reappointment


The Secretary-General has informed the General Assembly of his intention to confirm Mr. Supachai Panitchpakdi as Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, (UNCTAD), for a further four-year term of office, beginning on 1 September 2009 and ending on 31 August 2013.


**Guest Today


And my guest today is the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development.  He will join us at the podium in a few minutes.  He is here to launch UNCTAD’s report:  “Economic Development in Africa 2000 ‑‑ strengthening regional economic integration for Africa’s Development”.


**Secretary-General Letter to G-8 Leaders


In advance of this year’s G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the Secretary-General has written to the G-8 leaders outlining challenges that require their urgent attention.


On climate change, he asks G-8 Governments to lead by making ambitious and firm commitments to reduce emissions on the order of the 25 to 40 per cent that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, tells us is required from industrialized countries by 2020 to avert the worst effects of climate change.  He says he hopes that G-8 Governments will commit to a specific timetable and modalities to deliver the billions of dollars needed during the next few years to assist the poorest and most vulnerable to adapt to climate change.


On the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary-General says that, with less than a year to 2010, annual aid to Africa remains at least $20 billion below the Gleneagles targets.  He urges the G-8 to set out, country by country, how donors will scale up aid to Africa over the next year to make the Gleneagles commitments real.


He concludes by saying that Italy gave the world the expression, “crossing the Rubicon”.  In Italy next month, the Secretary-General says, we must cross a new Rubicon into a bold new future, where half measures and unfulfilled commitments are a thing of the past.


**Trip Announcement


The Secretary-General will be heading to Trieste, Italy, later this week, for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet.  On the day of that gathering, Friday, 26 June, the Quartet principals are also hoping to meet with members of the League of Arab States follow-up committee on the Arab Peace Initiative.


While in Trieste on the 26th, the Secretary-General also plans to attend a meeting of the G-8 on Afghanistan and Pakistan.  He will be back in New York this weekend.


** Middle East - Security Council


Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council held a meeting followed by consultations on the Middle East.  In his remarks, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said the unresolved crisis in Gaza has negative repercussions on all efforts to advance the peace process.  It also wreaks unacceptable havoc on the fabric of civilian life in Gaza.  Serry added that, as parties prepare for Friday’s Quartet meeting, both the Israeli and Palestinian Governments need to be clearly committed to a two-State solution.


He also told Council members that, on 1 June, he met Justice Richard Goldstone when Goldstone arrived in Gaza through Rafah.  Goldstone’s fact-finding mission, with its mandate from the Human Rights Council, expects to return to the Strip at the end of this month, Serry noted.  But regrettably, Israel has still not extended its cooperation to the effort.  We have Serry’s full remarks upstairs.


**Secretary-General at General Assembly’s Financial Crisis Meeting


The Secretary-General today addressed the General Assembly Conference on the Global Financial and Economic Crisis.  (You’ll have more details in a few minutes on the meeting with Enrique [Yeves].)  The Secretary-General warned that, despite signs of financial stabilization and growth in some countries, the consequences could stretch for years for developing nations.


The Secretary-General said that we must mobilize our full strength for better real-time data on the impact of the crisis on the poorest.  To that extent, he is marshalling the resources of the United Nations to monitor the impact of the crisis in real time, and we will launch the Global Impact and Vulnerability Alert System in the coming months.


Also, he said, we must keep global commitments to help women and men move from vulnerability to opportunity and we must work together to reform international institutions for the twenty-first century.  The global economic crisis shows why we need a renewed multilateralism, he said.


**Democratic Republic of Congo


And most of you have probably seen the statement that we issued yesterday by Secretary-General on sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


He said, “I am deeply distressed by the rape and assault of about 20 female inmates during an attempted escape from Goma’s central prison, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  The incident also caused the death and wounding of several people.


“This is a grim example of both the prison conditions and the level of sexual violence that plagues the DRC.”


The Secretary-General called on the DRC authorities to bring to justice those who have committed these crimes and, more generally, to renew efforts to bring an end to the impunity too often enjoyed by perpetrators of sexual violence.


The Secretary-General adds” “During my last visit to the DRC, I emphasized the issue of sexual violence with President [Joseph] Kabila.  The Security Council, during its recent visit in the country, did likewise.  It is absolutely essential that the DRC Government take concrete steps to bring justice to victims of sexual violence, I invite the Government to make use of the wide assistance provided by the United Nations on the ground to combat sexual violence.”  We have the full statement upstairs.


** Darfur


On Darfur, the security situation in Darfur is reported as calm.  However, the UN-African Union Mission there, (UNAMID), says banditry remains a problem and recent incidents have targeted Mission staff while other acts of banditry were reported in and around camps for the internally displaced.


Yesterday, a house shared by Mission staff in El Fasher was robbed.  The thieves made away with cash and electronic equipment.  The Mission says an investigation is ongoing.


** Afghanistan


On Afghanistan, the acting UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan today said he was shocked by the indiscriminate attack that took place yesterday in northern Afghanistan, which took the lives of three aid workers.


A roadside bomb destroyed an unmarked white vehicle carrying the three national staff of the non-governmental organization, Development and Humanitarian Services in Afghanistan (DHSA) in the province of Jawzjan.  That group is a partner of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) implementing a shelter programme for Afghan refugees.


This is at least the fourth security incident targeting humanitarian workers in Afghanistan in the past two weeks.  All parties to the conflict should honour their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that this horrible incident is not repeated.


**UNAIDS


The Secretary-General has appointed Paul De Lay of the United States and Jan Beagle of New Zealand as Deputy Executive Directors of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, also known as UNAIDS.


Dr. De Lay is a medical doctor with more than a decade’s experience in strategic planning, as well as implementing and monitoring AIDS programmes.  He will be responsible for overseeing UNAIDS’ programmatic aspects.  Ms. Beagle is currently the Deputy Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva.  She also served as Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management.  At UNAIDS, she will be handling management and external relations.  We have more on these appointments upstairs.


**UNAIDS – 2


Meanwhile, Michel Sidibé today addressed the Governing Board of UNAIDS for the first time in his capacity as head of UNAIDS.


Noting that the AIDS pandemic continues to kill 2 million people every year, he said we should not lose sight of the big picture:  the need to end the epidemic.  It is not enough to provide treatment to everyone who becomes infected with HIV, he stressed.  Rather, we need renewed support for the development of a cure, a vaccine, or both.


Sidibé added that punitive laws that discriminate against men who have sex with men, sex workers, injecting drug users, migrants and people living with HIV must be removed from the statute books, country by country.  His full speech is available on the UNAIDS website.


**World Drug Report


The 2009 World Drug Report was launched this morning by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in Washington, D.C.  The 314-page document shows that global markets for cocaine, opiates and cannabis are steady or in decline, while production and the use of synthetic drugs are feared to be increasing in the developing world.


The report also highlights the links between drugs and crime.  In it, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa calls for greater investment in drug treatment and crime control.  We have more information upstairs.


**FAO


The Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO), reports that it has helped to successfully prevent a massive red locust outbreak in Tanzania.  FAO says that, as a result of the rapid bio-pesticide campaign, a full-blown invasion, which could have affected the food crops of around 15 million people in the region, was avoided.  There is a press release on this upstairs.


That was my last note, if you have any questions, I’ll take them.  Let’s make this short because we first have to give the floor to Enrique.  As you know, he has to announce some important things concerning the summit.  Then we have Dr. Supachai with us.  Your questions.  Yes, Matthew.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  First thing I want to ask about is … in Sri Lanka … It’s been announced that the Government has reinstituted a Press Council that can jail journalists for negative coverage.  I wanted to know whether that’s something that the UN has noted and if it’s consistent with the joint communiqué that Mr. Secretary-General issued with the President of Sri Lanka.


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any immediate response for you on that.


Question:  How about the two staff members that were picked up?  Now they say by unmarked vehicle… and they’re in Government detention?


Spokesperson:  We’re trying to get more information on it.  I got your question yesterday and we’re trying to get more information on what happened.


Question:  Okay.  I just wanted to ask one thing, obviously I’ll ask Mr. Supachai as well, but I had asked I think on Monday … there was a complaint filed with OIOS by the Officer-in-Charge of the Division of Management at UNCTAD, saying that, in the process of trying to become reappointed … that various e-mails went out by the Special Adviser that said various things about an Ivorian diplomat that was going for the post.  Very kind of troubling stuff, filed with OIOS and was cc’d.  I guess, I wonder, did the Secretary-General take into account how this campaign was run?  Or at least this document, if it’s taken as true, was it found to be false?  Or what’s going to be done about it?


Spokesperson:  That letter was written to OIOS.  I cannot comment on that.  OIOS has to act on whatever complaints that they get.  In terms of the Secretary-General himself, as I said, the Secretary-General is strongly behind his Secretary-General of UNCTAD.


Question:  Any connection between the acts complained of and the reappointment?


Spokesperson:  No.  Thank you.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.


Question:  Thank you.  You mentioned the forthcoming meeting of the Quartet in Trieste, Italy.  Does the Quartet have a specific agenda for that meeting?


Spokesperson:  We don’t have the specifics right now.  The Quartet is being held, as you know, on the margins of the G-8 ministerial meeting.  So as soon as we have an agenda, of course we will let you know.  And we will keep you informed of the SG’s activities there, once he goes there.  Thank you.  Enrique, please.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Thank you very much, Michèle.  I’ll try to be very quick as well.  I don’t want to keep our distinguished guest waiting.


Let me start by giving you an update.  As you know, this morning started the Global Economic Crisis Conference and, in his opening remarks, the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d´Escoto Brockmann, said:


“At this critical moment, we must all join our efforts to prevent the global crisis, with its myriad faces, from turning into a social, environmental and humanitarian tragedy.  The challenges of the various crises are all interconnected and oblige us all, as representatives of the peoples of the Earth, to declare our responsibility one to another, and that, together, with great hope, we will seek inclusive solutions.


What better place than this United Nations General Assembly Hall to do so?  This is the Hall of world democratic inclusiveness par excellence, the Headquarters of the ‘G-192’.  Obviously, each State has the option of determining its level of participation, in accordance with the importance it attaches to the topic of each meeting.”


Let me now give you an update on the attendance.  We have 142 delegations here to speak.  You have the full list of speakers available in the Office of the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General, and also on the webpage of the General Assembly.  Let me give you now, a very quick update of the activities today.  Today in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, from 1:15 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., there will an event on dialogue between civil society and the Commission of Experts of the President of the General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System.  It is organized bythe Office of the President of the General Assembly and, among the guests, we have the experts of the Presidential Commission, including Mr. Joseph Stiglitz, Mr. Yaga Venugopal Reddy, Ms. Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Mr. Yu Yongding, Mr. Pedro Páez, Mr. Andrei Bougrov, Mr. Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Mr. Robert Johnson, and Mr. Jan Kregel as Rapporteur.


Now also today we are going to have this afternoon the first round table at 3 o’clock.  The theme of this meeting is “the role of the United Nations and its Member States in the ongoing international discussions on reforming and strengthening the international financial and economic system and architecture”.  It will be chaired by the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and the Prime Minister of Serbia.  And among some of the panellists are some of the people we have heard before, like Joseph Stiglitz and Ms. Hediemarie Wieczorek-Zeul from Germany.


Let me give you a very brief overview of some of the press conferences that are going to be done during this week.  We are going to have here, tomorrow at 11 o’clock, the President of Ecuador, [Rafael] Correa, and then we will have at 12:30, following the noon briefing, President [Evo] Morales of Bolivia.  We will have at 3 o’clock some Heads of State of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, and then at 4 o’clock a press conference by Mr. Stiglitz.


And let me flag for you that tomorrow we have in the ECOSOC Chamber, at 1:15, President Correa and President Morales, who will be participating in an event with some non-governmental organizations.


**United Nations University


And finally let me mention that, on the occasion of the Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis, the United Nations University is presenting a multimedia intellectual forum entitled the “UNU Conversation Series”, whose objective is to bring clarity to some of the key issues at the centre of the economic crisis.  The United Nations University has interviewed some of the most important intellectual and policy voices from around the world.  And you can see all these interviews online on the special portal that the University webpage has.  And this is all I have for you.  I’m going to try to be very quick, but I’ll take a couple of questions.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I have here the list of participants, 119 States participating.  Two Heads of State, and one of them is not confirmed, 4 Vice-Presidents and 10 Heads of Government.  Given the importance of this meeting, is the President satisfied with this level of participation?


Spokesperson:  As I mentioned to you, and he mentioned yesterday to you, he believes the most important issue is what is being discussed.  And he’s very glad that we’ve managed to have a consensus on a very difficult outcome document.  And it looks like we won’t have problems at the General Assembly.  That being said, it’s up to the Member States to decide which is the level of participation they want to attach to this meeting.  In any case, the most important thing is that, for the first time, such important issues are being discussed at the General Assembly.  All the countries are discussing the issue here.  Matthew.


Question:  I wanted to ask… some have said that, in this document, the paragraph about immigration, number 27, gave rise to some last-minute moves.  Can you say if you are aware of that?  And is the United States going to be represented by Permanent Representative Susan Rice?  And, if so, how many of the 122 countries are being represented by their ambassadors?


Spokesperson:  I have given you the numbers.  They have not changed much.  We have between Heads of State… for Prime Ministers, we have 14, and then we have 38 ministers, 21 vice-ministers, 67 chief of delegations and 13 observers.  Those are the latest numbers.


Question:  The chiefs of delegation, are those for Permanent Representatives?


Spokesperson:  The chiefs of delegations -- we are normally referring to Permanent Representatives.


Question:  And do you have any comment…?  I heard from the office that a cabinet person was coming.  She is in the cabinet, but she is not an economic official.


Spokesperson:  Look, we still have two days and a half.  In terms of who is going to speak for each delegation, they can change at any moment.  I’ve had several questions today if Mr. [Hugao] Chavez, the President of Venezuela, is going to participate.  The information that we have is, if he comes, it will be on Friday.  But it’s only the Permanent Mission that can really confirm or say explicitly who is coming.  In terms of your question on the document, this has been a negotiation and, as such, you always have last-minute changes.  It is important to underline that, when we started this process, most of the people were very pessimistic about the possibility of getting consensus on such different and important issues as we are discussing here.  And we have a 15-page document addressing very important and challenging issues.  And it looks like it’s going to be approved by consensus or at least by a very huge majority.


And with that I’m going to give the… I apologize for keeping you waiting sir.


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For information media • not an official record