|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
The Security Council today voted to extend the mandates of two UN peacekeeping missions. The Council extended the mandate of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) by six months. And for the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), the Council approved a 12-month extension, until the end of July 2010, and asked the Secretary-General to submit a strategic workplan containing benchmarks to measure and track progress by that mission in implementing its mandate.
**World Food Programme
The World Food Programme (WFP) is facing a dangerous and unprecedented funding shortfall, according to its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. While in Washington, D.C., Sheeran said the agency was only expecting to receive $3.7 billion of the $6.7 billion annual budget it needs in 2009 to feed 108 million people in 74 of the world’s poorest countries.
More than half way through the year, the confirmed contributions stand at $1.8 billion, says WFP. It adds that the lack of funds is leading to ration reductions and -- in some cases -- the complete suspension of food assistance programmes. For example, WFP was aiming to feed 5 million hungry people in Bangladesh this year, but due to lack of funds it can reach only 1.4 million people.
WFP’s Executive Director will be in Washington through tomorrow, meeting with officials involved in the Food Security Initiative and relevant members of Congress.
** Central African Republic
On the last day of her five-day mission to the Central African Republic, Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg told a news conference in Bangui that that country’s humanitarian crisis is not entirely the result of a spillover from the conflicts in neighbouring countries. Bragg said that, although there has been an overall improvement in humanitarian conditions in the country, conditions remain very volatile, while displaced civilians continue to show signs of trauma.
She said she asked the national authorities and their partners to assume their responsibility to protect civilians. She also urged the authorities to guarantee unhindered access by humanitarian workers to those in need. Bragg also noted the continued lack of funding for humanitarian work in the Central African Republic, which has decreased significantly this year. $48 million out of the required $116 million remain outstanding, she said.
On Iraq, the Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council concerning the review of Council resolutions pertaining to Iraq is out as a document today. In it, the Secretary-General details a number of outstanding issues regarding Iraq, including its relations with Kuwait.
He says that Iraq is gradually emerging from a period including two major wars, and he understands the desire of Iraq’s people for their country to regain its rightful place in the community of nations.
The Secretary-General is pleased to note that the Governments of Iraq and Kuwait have been making progress towards the resolution of some key issues, despite the painful legacy of the past. He says that they should consider innovative steps for resolving the outstanding issues between them in a spirit of generous compromise and understanding for each other’s concerns.
On Cyprus, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met today under UN auspices in Nicosia. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, spoke to the press afterwards. He noted that the leaders had continued talks on the issue of immigration, asylum and citizenship. The leaders have agreed to meet again next week, on 6 August. We have more on that in my office.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has registered 35 new items on the Memory of the World Register. The Register features documentary heritage identified by UNESCO’s International Advisory Committee and then endorsed by its Director-General for their world significance. The diaries of Anne Frank, the royal archives of Thailand and those of Madagascar are among the items that have just been added to the Register. The total number of inscriptions since 1997 is 193, and you can see the full list on UNESCO’s website.
Today, on a beach in northern Gaza, thousands of children flew kites. They were trying to break the record, as listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, for the most kites in the sky at the same time. The event was part of the Summer Games programme run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The Games, which are taking place for the third consecutive year, feature sports, handicrafts, theatrical events and remedial education for some 240,000 children. According to UNRWA, giving a sense of normality and dignity to the next generation in Gaza is an invaluable contribution to peace.
**Capital Master Plan
The Secretary-General yesterday visited the UN staff members who just moved from the Secretariat Building to the Albano Building on 305 East 46th Street as part of the Capital Master Plan. This past weekend, almost 750 staff from the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management completed the first wave of relocations to off-site swing space. In the course of his visit, the Secretary-General received a first-hand impression of the working conditions in the building, which was leased and renovated by the UN.
**United Nations Office at Geneva
The United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) is reiterating its commitment to renewable energies by participating in the Geneva-Lake-Nations project. The Palais des Nations already regulates its temperature with water pumps from Lake Geneva, but now it is also using sheep to reduce the need for lawnmowers, and it has installed solar panels and lamps on its grounds.
Last, I have a bit of sad news for you. Dharam Shourie, the long-time correspondent for Press Trust of India, died last night after a protracted illness. He was in his late eighties. He was a friendly and cheerful presence at the United Nations for several decades, and we will miss him. We send our sincere condolences to his family.
And this is all I have for you today. Any questions? Yes, Pat.
**Questions and Answers
Question: A couple of questions. Did the Secretary-General like what he saw of the swing space? Do you have a quote from him on that? And also, how many kites were there in the air?
Spokesperson: I can get the details for you. From what I gather there were quite a few of them. We don’t have the exact number, but I can get that for you from them.
Question: Especially if they beat the previous record?
Spokesperson: Yes, yes, yes. We will get that for you. We have, actually, the information upstairs.
Question: There is a meeting on the schedule, on the Secretary-General’s schedule today, with Myanmar. Can you tell me anything about it? Who called the meeting, what will they discuss?
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General called the meeting. For the time being I don’t know exactly what the agenda will be like. I can promise you, you will have a readout as soon as the meeting is over. Anything else? Yes, Matthew.
Question: Nine groups have written to John Holmes. They wrote at the beginning of this week saying that the UN should, at least, better separate humanitarian and political work in Somalia, and saying that I guess that they’re are at risk by what they think is not. What does the UN say to this critique by Oxfam, Save the Children, some pretty big groups?
Spokesperson: The humanitarian needs are increasing in Somalia, as you know, and the environment continues to deteriorate. You heard yesterday the briefing by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation on the ground. And you know, between May and July, three UN compounds in south-central Somalia have been targeted and taken over by armed militia. And this is kind of the background of that letter. On the letter itself, the UN is providing humanitarian assistance on the basis of assessed needs, regardless of where the vulnerable people are. And the actual accusation of making political issues out of this, I think, has been responded to by OCHA, and they’re saying that this is not the case.
Question: I just wanted to understand better -- because I know, I think I had asked you and I asked [Ahmedou] Ould-Abdallah yesterday -- does the UN acknowledge that the Al-Shabaab insurgents have said some parts of the UN, from their point of view, have taken sides and other parts haven’t, meaning humanitarian, because Ould-Abdallah seems to say that hasn’t been authenticated. Does the UN acknowledge that has been said by a party or an insurgent group in Somalia?
Spokesperson: Well, whatever they’ve said -- we don’t know what they have said or not -- we don’t have any verification of this. What I can say is that in the case of humanitarian assistance, we do not apply political criteria. We assist the people who need assistance, and this is true everywhere. This is true in Gaza, it is true as well in Somalia.
Question: I don’t know if you have an answer to this, but in San Francisco they’re opening something called the United Nations Global Compact Centre, which they say is going to be a climate change laboratory. But they also say that they needed a brand name, so the UN Global Compact has partnered with them. But it’s unclear -- like, if the Secretariat or if UNEP -- what the UN’s actual involvement in the centre, other than the naming of, it is going to be. Have you heard about this centre?
Spokesperson: No, I haven’t, but I can get the information for you and you can probably address your question to the UN Global Compact.
Question: I was just thinking, because climate change is so important to the Secretary-General, I wanted to see whether there are some, you know…
Spokesperson: But you know there are so many climate change issues and climate change events taking place throughout the world. The Secretary-General is not personally involved in every single one of them. But I’ll try to get more information for you, and I think you can get some on your own.
Question: Okay. And I wanted to just ask you one last question. It has to do with… I have seen these reports from Haiti that the person that was shot, that there is an increasing sense that it may have been the UN. What was ever the outcome of the second autopsy or…?
Spokesperson: Well, that was done by the Haitian police. The final autopsy revealed that he had been shot, and he had been also hit in different ways. But what killed him was the shot, which was a 9mm gunshot. I asked the Minister whether the Brazilians, who were on the ground, used 9mms and they said no. So I can only convey what they told me.
Question: [inaudible] maybe you have seen this article, it’s called “Secret funeral for MINUSTAH victim” from Haiti Liberté. I am just assuming, does the Mission there rebut these kinds of, you know, reports that say “MINUSTAH victim”?
Spokesperson: Yes, we do.
Question: Regarding the UNESCO list that you mentioned, do you know if there is a listing there for the Baltic wave? It was a peaceful human chain of 1 to 2 million people, who held hands across the three countries 20 years ago, and…
Spokesperson: May I suggest that you go to the list? It’s on their website. The full list is there.
Question: I kind of skipped on my own question, I got involved with the kites. Did the Secretary-General have anything to say about the swing space or do you have anything to show whether he was pleased with it or…?
Spokesperson: He was very pleased with what he saw. And from what I gather, when he spoke to the staff, they seemed to be… Of course they are not happy about moving, nobody is happy about moving. But I think they seem to be pretty satisfied with the space they were occupying, the way the space was set up. Thank you, all.
* *** *For information media • not an official record