3 September 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon.


** Gabon Statement


I’ll start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the elections in Gabon.


The Secretary-General takes note of the preliminary results of the 30 August presidential elections announced by the electoral authorities of Gabon (CENAP).  He expresses concern over reports of disturbances in some regions of the country, and urges calm and restraint by all concerned so that tensions do not escalate.  He calls on the Gabonese political leaders to refrain from any action which could jeopardize the peaceful conclusion of the electoral process.  The Secretary-General urges all the presidential candidates and their supporters to resolve any electoral grievances through legal and institutional channels, and calls for any such complaints to be reviewed and adjudicated in a fair and transparent manner.  That statement is available upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.


**Secretary-General in Geneva


The Secretary-General this morning in Geneva addressed the World Climate Conference, and he emphasized to delegates the need to strike an “ambitious, comprehensive and fair” deal at this December’s climate change conference in Copenhagen.


He discussed his visit this week to the Arctic region, saying that the Arctic is warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, and may be virtually ice-free by 2030.  He emphasized the five key areas needed for action.  They involve the needs to adapt to the inevitable impacts of climate change; for ambitious mid-term mitigation targets by developed countries; for developing countries to act to slow the growth of their emissions; for predictable financial and technological support; and for all institutional arrangements and governance structures under a new climate regime to address the needs of developing countries.  We have that statement upstairs.


The Secretary-General later said at a press conference in Geneva that “our foot is stuck on the gas pedal.  We have to pull it off.”


In two weeks, he noted, the United Nations will convene a climate change summit in New York.  He added: “I expect candid and constructive discussions.  I expect serious bridge building.”  “I expect strong outcomes,” he said.  We now have the full transcript of that press conference upstairs.


**Climate Change


And today at the World Climate Conference in Geneva, more than 2,000 climate scientists, experts and decision-makers established a Global Framework for Climate Services.  The point of the Framework is to strengthen production, availability, delivery and application of science-based climate prediction and services.


Michel Jarraud, the head of the World Meteorological Organization, which is convening the Conference, said today was a landmark day for making climate services available to all people. “But the work has really just begun,” he added.


Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes noted that climate change is now a major driver of natural disasters.  And there is a press release on those items upstairs.


** Haiti


There are two reports of the Secretary-General out to the Security Council today.


The Secretary-General, in his latest report to the Security Council on Haiti, says there is substantial reason to believe that the country is moving away from a past of conflict towards a brighter future of peaceful development.  However, he warns, progress remains fragile and is susceptible to setbacks or reversals.  The Secretary-General says that it is incumbent upon Haiti’s leaders to continue their efforts to identify broadly supported solutions to the problems facing the country, including the strengthening of State institutions and possible constitutional reforms.


He says that there is a need to adjust certain aspects of the configuration of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti, know as MINUSTAH, to better meet current requirements on the ground. With less of a need to undertake large-scale security operations, he says that MINUSTAH could replace some of its armoured personnel carriers with lighter patrol vehicles; meanwhile, more police may be needed to help the Haitian authorities with crowd control efforts.  With those adjustments, the Secretary-General recommends a one-year extension of the Mission’s mandate, until 15 October 2010.


** Sierra Leone


And the latest report of the Secretary-General on the UN Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone (UNIPSIL), that’s also out today. 


In this quarterly report, covering June to September this year, the Secretary-General notes that the political situation in Sierra Leone has remained calm with no incidents of political violence.  But the report warns that internal political intolerance and potential violence must be addressed as a matter of priority, especially as political parties prepare for elections in 2012.


The Secretary-General further notes that high youth unemployment and trafficking in illicit drugs continue to pose challenges to the consolidation of peace.  He urges the international community to help the people of Sierra Leone reverse some negative trends, such as the country’s extremely high infant and maternal mortality levels, as well as poverty levels.  We have copies of that report on the racks upstairs.


** Gaza


And on Gaza, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Maxwell Gaylard -- together with the Non-Governmental Organization Association for International Development Agencies -- today said the deterioration and breakdown of water and sanitation facilities in Gaza is compounding the already severe denial of human dignity there.


In that regard, he called on Israel to take immediate steps to ensure the entry into Gaza of construction and repair materials needed to respond to the Strip’s water and sanitation crisis.


According to the Humanitarian Coordinator, some 10,000 Gazans are currently without access to a water network.  An additional 60 per cent of the population does not have continuous access to water.  And we have more on that upstairs.


** Indonesia


And on Indonesia, following the earthquake there, a team of 10 officials from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), World Food Programme (WFP), the World Bank and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) conducted assessments today in four districts.


The team is set to visit two other remaining affected areas tomorrow. And you can probably get more information from OCHA on those efforts.


**Economic and Social Affairs


The Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, is in Monterrey, Mexico, where he is opening the Global Forum on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and Innovation for Education.  The multi-stakeholder Forum is organized by the Government of Mexico, the UN Global Alliance for ICT and Development, and Indigo Brainmedia.


In his statement, Mr. Sha stressed that technology and innovation are key to accelerating progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, particularly in countries that are falling behind.


He noted, the advent of universally accessible information, the rapid development of next generation networks, low-cost hardware and innovative channels of communication.  Mr. Sha emphasized the real opportunity for developing countries to employ ICT to lift the quality of education and make it universally accessible.  We have his statement available upstairs.


** Mexico Trip Announcement


And we have another trip announcement for you.


The Secretary-General will travel to Mexico City next week, from 8 to 9 September.  The primary purpose of this trip is to open the 62nd Annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organizations Conference.  The theme of this year’s Conference is “For Peace and Development: Disarm Now!”


It is expected that more than a thousand representatives of non-governmental organizations from around the world will be gathering to discuss how they can contribute to disarmament and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and to reducing conventional arms while advancing peace and development.


On the margins of the Conference, the Secretary-General plans to attend a number of side events, which will allow him to interact with members of civil society, including youth delegates.


While in Mexico, the Secretary-General plans to meet with the President, [Felipe] Calderón to discuss issues of mutual interest ahead of the upcoming General Assembly.  Those issues will include climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, and human rights.  The Secretary-General plans also to hold additional meetings with the Foreign Secretary and Ministers of Health, Social Development, Environment and Education.


**Press Conference Tomorrow


And in this context, there will be a press conference on the 62nd Annual DPI/NGO Conference, tomorrow at 11 a.m.  This was originally scheduled for today. Once again, speakers will include Ambassador Claude Heller, the Permanent Representative of Mexico; Kiyo Akasaka, the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information; Sergio Duarte, High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; and Charles Hitchcock, Chair of the 62nd Annual DPI/NGO Conference.  They will discuss disarmament, which will be the theme of the Conference, as I just mentioned.  And that will now be tomorrow at 11 a.m. here in Room 226.


And that’s what I have for you; any thing for me?  Mr. Abbadi?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Marie, is there a provisional list of the high-level attendees to the summit of 22 September on climate change?


Deputy Spokesperson:  The climate change summit, what we’re trying to arrange for you is a briefing on the summit in which that and all the other details of the climate change summit, together with all the other meetings and side events around the general debate, will be organized together so you have a comprehensive look ahead at what’s coming.  So, as soon as we have that date and the participants are confirmed, we’ll announce that for you.  Masood.


Question:  Can you tell, in the case of Pakistan the IDPs, have all of them returned?  There are some in the camps who are still there; is it like 90 per cent have returned, 80 per cent have returned?  Do you have any idea at all?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Masood, I don’t have an update on today, but I am sure that we can check with OCHA for you, or you can check with OCHA if they have anything new on that.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the reporter that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs informs us that, according to information provided by the Government of Pakistan, as of 1 September, over 234,500 families (1.64 million individuals) have returned to their homes.]


Question:  Okay, one more question I wanted to ask you was about this Mona Juul thing.  Was this Norwegian envoy offered a job once with one of the United Nations bodies and then refused, and then withdrawn?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing on this subject beyond what’s already been said in the public.  James and then Matthew.


Question:  Thank you, Marie.  Yesterday, Susan Rice gave some advice to President Qadhafi on perhaps the way he should conduct himself during the General Assembly and the Security Council debate.  I mean, in advance of the General Assembly, does the UN or Ban Ki-moon give any advice to Heads of State and Heads of Government on how they should conduct themselves during the annual event?


Deputy Spokesperson:  That would be up to the General Assembly President and the Security Council President on the procedure of work in the various programmes and meetings that they will be holding.  Edie, sorry Matthew and then Edie. 


Question:  One follow-up to that, and this will be on Nepal, but also yesterday Ambassador Rice said that the US was deeply concerned about that video from the Sri Lankan army apparently conducting summary executions and said more information is needed.  I’m just wondering, I couldn’t figure out from what you’d said, what has been said from here before.  The Secretary-General said he’s concerned about human rights violations, including this video, but notes the Government’s rejection of it.  Does the Secretary-General believe that there should be an investigation, if not by the Government, then by an outside source about the…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  If you look at that statement a little bit more carefully, I think it talks about the three points that were agreed between the Secretary-General and the Sri Lankan Government, one of which talks about the need to establish a proper mechanism to look into these violations.  And of course any allegations as serious as those made in the video would be part of such an inquiry like that.  And, as far as Sri Lanka is concerned, we may have something further.  The Secretary-General in Geneva is scheduled to be meeting with the Sri Lankan Minister for Disaster Management, I believe, the correct title I may not have at the top of head right, but that meeting should be going on right now.  And so we may have a readout on that for you.


[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that the Secretary-General met in Geneva with Mahinda Samarasinghe, Sri Lanka’s Minister for Disaster Management and Human Rights, to discuss such matters.  They discussed the conditions in camps housing internally displaced persons, particularly with the approaching monsoon season.  They also discussed the return of internally displaced persons, as well as the importance of the free movement of people among the camps and free movement of United Nations and international humanitarian workers.  They talked about the importance of reconciliation.  They also discussed accountability, particularly in light of the recent accusations of extrajudicial executions.]


Question:  There is this issue of the Nepalese, Nepali formed police unit in UNAMID in Sudan and these APC’s that were never, that were not supposed to be delivered there.  Now it’s come out that they… it’s been reported by the Nepali press that the APC’s are useless and dangerous, and that Nepal will not be paid for them and parliament has started an investigation into what they call embezzlement.  I would assume that UNAMID or DPKO have something… in the past they blamed Sudan for these APC’s… having been called in for Sudan.  What has actually happened?  Has UNAMID found that they are unusable?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not received anything from UNAMID or DPKO on this subject.  So let’s see if they will have an update for you.  Edie?


Question:  Marie, does the Secretary-General have any comment on the confirmation, the approval of the Iranian Cabinet, including of a Defence Minister who is sought by Interpol for killings in Argentina?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything directly on the developments of today.  The Secretary-General’s statements on Iran stand as they have been made.  Yes.


Question:  [inaudible] the Secretariat has been informed of the request by the Iranian President to meet the SG on the sidelines of the GA?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I think press reports that you were talking about earlier this week had their office announcing that -- this is the Iranian leader’s office announcing -- that he would be attending.  But I think the latest we checked with Protocol we had not had a confirmation yet, so that’s where we stand on that matter.  James.


Question:  But, I mean like, is he going to meet, I mean, if he is here, the SG would like to see Mr. Ahmadinejad.  Does he have a meeting with him?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, right now, since we don’t have confirmation that he’s coming, as you know, we’re going to have almost a record number of Heads of State, and you know, as this programme becomes firmer on when those bilats are going to take place, we’ll let you know.  Somebody who hasn’t asked a question -- Mr. Kitai?


Question:  Thanks.  What I have heard is the Secretary-General had a telephone conversation with the next Japanese Prime Minister today.  So, could you have detailed information on the content of the conversation, especially that Mr. Hatoyama, our next Prime Minister, Japan’s next Prime Minister, advocated for the 25 per cent cut of the gas emission on climate change.  Does the Secretary-General have any specific comment on this?


Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, all I can tell is the Secretary-General did speak with Mr. Hatoyama this morning from Geneva.  He had obviously planned to do so since the election on Sunday, in which Mr. Hatoyama’s party won.  I believe he is not yet designated the Prime Minister, but he did lead his party to victory on Sunday.  He did speak to him today.  The focus of the conversation was climate change, and the Secretary-General and Mr. Hatoyama talked about continued UN-Japan cooperation on this front.  And, I think the rest of the comments have come from Mr. Hatoyama that you have seen in the press reports, about his assertions about playing a leadership role in this area and the Secretary-General encourages that.  James?


Question:  A second ago you said almost a record number of Heads of State.  I think I counted about 130 Heads of State and Government.  Have you got any more details on that?  When was the record first set?  Is this going to be approaching it?  Second question, have you got anything on Myanmar?  Fighting between Government and ethnic forces and refugees in [inaudible]?


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not seen an update.  The last update on that we saw was from UNHCR, so I would recommend that you check with them to see if they have anything further on that.  As for the numbers, again we’ll check with Protocol for you on when, I mean, I think it was the Millennium Summit which is the number that we’re comparing it to right now.  Matthew again, and then Masood again and then Mr. Abbadi again, I think that’s it.


Question:  Marie, it’s been reported, and can it be confirmed that UNICEF is soliciting donations through a bank that’s on the Security Council sanction list, Bank Mali and Bank Cedera in Iran?  So the question, I guess, arises when the UN system, whether the Secretariat believes that the UN system is not subject to the sanctions and the directives of the Security Council.  What does the Secretary-General think of a UN agency soliciting funds through a bank that’s also on… it’s also subject to US and EU sanctions?


Deputy Spokesperson: I have not got any updates from either UNICEF or the Sanctions Committee on this subject, so you’d have to follow up with them first.


Question:  It’s been some time since UNICEF and Ann Veneman or whoever has done some kind of briefing here.  Is there some way to get, not just on this topic, but on…?


Deputy Spokesperson:  We can certainly ask.


Question:  Okay.  And also I just wanted to ask this, it’s just back…  In the eastern Congo, in Kisangani, there are these two Norwegian, the Government describes them as mercenaries, on trial for the death of a driver and they face the death penalty.  Is it something that MONUC is aware of?  It’s by military court.


Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not received anything from MONUC on that today. Who were we going to go to?  Masood, again.


Question:  I just wanted to know one thing.  Has Israel responded to the request by a United Nations official about opening of the Gaza crossings for water to alleviate the water suffering?


Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the latest report we’ve gotten and it’s the latest we have on the subject.


Question:  On this thing that you said that you don’t want to talk about, about Mona Juul, can you just confirm, or tell us yes or no, whether she was offered a job, this Mona Juul [inaudible]? 


Deputy Spokesperson:  I think if we have announcements of appointments to make, we make them.  Otherwise there is nothing public to mention.


Question:  [inaudible] job was offered, but she was never appointed. There was a [inaudible].


Deputy Spokesperson:  I am not aware.


Question:  …according to my…


Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Abbadi.


Question:  22nd of September, the date for the climate change summit, is fast approaching.  Does the Secretary-General intend to submit a preliminary report of that summit, and if yes, when will it be made available?


Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, I will get you a briefing on the summit as soon as we get a date and I will confirm that to you.  If there is nothing else, have a good afternoon.  Thank you.


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For information media • not an official record