25 September 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 Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, all.


**Press Conferences Today


At 12:30 p.m. today, Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization (CTBTO), and Jessica Mathews, President of Carnegie Endowment, will be here to discuss the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and the road ahead.


After that, at 1:30 p.m., the President of Palau will be here with other speakers to declare that his country will become the world’s first national shark sanctuary.  Also, please note that Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s press conference, originally scheduled for 5 p.m. in Conference Room 4 today, has been cancelled.  If you have any questions, please contact the Permanent Mission of Iran.


We have a full list of today’s press conferences, of course, available upstairs.  This was to let you know that we have a very short window today, a very small one.  We have to give the floor to the CTBTO people at 12:30 p.m.


**Group of 20


On the G-20, the Secretary-General is in Pittsburgh today at the meeting of G-20 leaders.  He should be making his intervention in the morning session shortly and we will put out those remarks.


As you know, the Secretary-General has written to the G-20 leaders gathering in Pittsburgh and asked for their commitment to protect poor countries through the crisis.  He is also urging them to accelerate action on climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  He will be back in the late afternoon for a number of bilateral meetings scheduled this evening.


**Security Council


The members of the Security Council began consultations at 11 this morning to discuss a letter from the Permanent Representative of Brazil requesting that an urgent meeting of the Council be convened to discuss the situation in Honduras.  The Council then began a formal meeting in which Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim informed Council members of the current situation related to the presence of President Manuel Zelaya in the Embassy of Brazil in Tegucigalpa.  Following his briefing, the Security Council resumed consultations to discuss matters further.  And I understand they just finished.


** Afghanistan


The Secretary-General, in his latest report on Afghanistan, says that the level of alleged irregularities during and after the 20 August elections has generated significant political turbulence.  He writes that serious electoral fraud occurred, made possible primarily, but not exclusively, by the lack of access to parts of the country owing to the ongoing conflict.


Following a decision by the Electoral Complaints Commission to review results from a number of polling stations, he says, a credible audit and recount process is now coming to its conclusion.  When the entire electoral process is completed, the Secretary-General writes, it will be of critical importance for the results to be accepted by all, so that the election of Afghanistan’s future President can be certified and a new Government can be formed.


He appealed for Member States to provide greater resources and specialized personnel to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) as it works to fulfil its mandate.  The Security Council will discuss Afghanistan in an open meeting next Tuesday.


** Chad and Central African Republic


The Secretary-General is appealing to donor nations and institutions to be generous when they meet on 2 October in Brussels to raise much-needed funds for the UN Mission in Chad and the Central African Republic (MINURCAT).  The event is being organized by the Mission, the Government of Chad and the European Commission.  They are hoping to raise some $17 million for the Mission’s technical and logistical support for a specialized Chadian police unit.  That unit, the Détachement Intégré de Sécurité, is tasked with protecting refugees and the internally displaced in Chad’s north-eastern border region with Sudan.  The Mission says it also needs another $4 million for new projects to improve Chad’s justice and prison sectors.


** Lebanon


This week, farmers and landowners in the southern Lebanese town of Hiniyyeh were returned some 7,500 square meters of their land, which was cleared of mines by the Italian battalion of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  UNIFIL carries out some humanitarian demining activities to assist the civilian population, under the coordination of the Lebanon Mine Action Centre.  As a part of this coordinated effort, UNIFIL demining teams have to date cleared more than 4.7 million square metres of affected land.  UNIFIL has also destroyed more than 32,000 unexploded ordnances and mines in southern Lebanon.


**Islamic Conference


In a message delivered by Under-Secretary-General Shabaan Shabaan, the Secretary-General today congratulated the Organization of the Islamic Conference on its fortieth anniversary.


In the message, he details the work the United Nations system has been doing to help to resolve conflicts throughout the Muslim world.  Beyond that, he says, we must promote human rights and good governance, and we must fight discrimination of any sort, including Islamophobia.  We must fight faith-based violence and foster tolerance, dialogue and mutual respect, as the UN Alliance of Civilizations initiative is doing.  The full statement is upstairs in my Office.


**Sexual Violence


Five United Nations organizations -- UNICEF, UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNIFEM, WHO – will participate in a new approach to address the rights violations and health impacts of sexual violence against girls.  The five agencies will join the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and private sector supporters in this effort, via the Clinton Global Initiative.


According to UNICEF, the initiative partners are working together to provide funding to expand surveillance of sexual violence against girls in developing and emerging countries.  They will also develop a technical package of interventions for implementation at the country level to reduce the incidence of sexual violence against girls and launch an awareness campaign on the issue.  There is more on this in a press release upstairs.


**World Food Programme


The World Food Programme (WFP) today announced a multi-million dollar programme which harnesses the power of leading multinational companies to work together to end hunger and malnutrition among children in the developing world.  WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, said that with the numbers of hungry increasing, the private sector was needed in the fight against hunger.  We have more details in a press release upstairs.


And also on the fight against hunger, as you know, the Secretary-General will co-host, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an event on food security tomorrow at 4 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  David Nabarro, coordinator of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis, will brief you on that event at 3:30 p.m., here in Room 226.


**Influenza A (H1N1)


Regarding the H1N1 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide vaccine production capacity will be some 3 billion doses per year.  While this figure is lower than previously projected, a single dose of vaccine may be sufficient to protect both healthy adults and older children -- thus doubling the number of people who can be protected with current supplies.  At the same time, however, these supplies will still be inadequate to cover the whole world, WHO says.  For its part, WHO will be coordinating the distribution of donated vaccines in developing countries.  We have more on that upstairs.


** Nepal


The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal today released a letter calling for immediate action to be taken by the Maoist leadership to ensure the party’s full cooperation with ongoing police investigations into human rights abuses alleged to have been committed by Maoist cadres.  In the letter, the Office calls upon the Maoists to support ongoing police investigations into these cases, and to direct known suspects to surrender to the authorities.


**Torture


High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today welcomed a new milestone in the fight to end torture, after a key United Nations instrument got its fiftieth State ratification.    Switzerland’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture enables the number of independent experts who monitor States’ compliance with the treaty to rise from the 10 members at present to 25 in the future.  The Convention Against Torture -- the parent treaty to which the Optional Protocol is attached -- was adopted in 1984 and has been ratified by 146 States.


**Treaty Event


The Office of Legal Affairs reports that 24 Member States so far have signed the new Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which opened for signature yesterday.  And you had a press briefing recently from Ms. Patricia O’Brien on that treaty event and the different treaties that are being signed.


**Trip Announcement


The Secretary-General is planning to travel in early October to Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.  The first leg of the trip is an official visit to Sweden, where he plans to meet with the Prime Minister, have an audience with the King, visit the gravesite of the former Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld, deliver a lecture at Uppsala University and meet with a group of non-governmental organizations.


From Stockholm, the Secretary-General is scheduled to go to Copenhagen, where he plans to address the thirteenth Olympic Congress.  He will also deliver a lecture at the University of Copenhagen; “The Road to Copenhagen: Meeting the Climate Challenge” is the title of his address.  During the working visit, he is also expected to meet with the Prime Minister and the Development Cooperation Minister, among others.


From Copenhagen, he is expected to travel to Geneva.  There, he will attend the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) Telecom World, an event where major issues around information and communications technology and economic growth will be among the key areas to be explored.  He also will deliver remarks focusing on disarmament at the third edition of the Geneva Lecture Series.


**Note to Media


I have a note to media.  Security has informed us that access restrictions on the second floor of the Secretariat Building for resident correspondents will be lifted today at 3 p.m., and for all other media correspondents tomorrow, 26 September, at 9 a.m.  So it’s good news for all of you trying to get around.


**Week Ahead


We have “The Week Ahead” upstairs for you.  Several things we expect tomorrow: at 8:30 a.m., the Secretary-General will attend the ministerial meeting of the Alliance of Civilization Group of Friends, in the Economic and Social Council Chamber.  At 9:15 a.m. tomorrow, the Secretary-General will attend the ministerial working session on the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions –– Ensuring respect for international humanitarian law in a changing environment and the role of the United Nations -- in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.


Following that, at 12 noon, Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey, Foreign Minster of Switzerland, will brief the press at the Security Council stakeout following an event commemorating the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions.


At 2:10 p.m., the Secretary-General will participate in a mini-summit on CARICOM in Conference Room 9.  At 5:15 p.m., the Secretary-General will attend the UN-ASEAN meeting, in Conference Room 7.  It’s going to be a very packed day tomorrow.


And on Monday, just to look ahead, at 11 a.m. in Room S-226, there will be a press conference by Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the World Food Programme, and Jeffrey Sachs of the Millennium Villages project. 


And then, still looking ahead, on Wednesday, the Secretary-General is expected to hold a press conference at… No, I’m sorry, I think it’s on Tuesday, I think he’s expected to hold a press conference at 10:30 a.m. in Room S-226.  But we’ll get that squared out for you.


And this is all I have.  Very little time for questions; unless you have really urgent ones, I will turn the floor over to Jean Victor.  Yes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Michèle, I thought that the Iranian President had a meeting scheduled with the SG, has that also been cancelled?


Spokesperson:  No, it has not.  He’s still having it.


Question:  It’s still on?


Spokesperson:  Yes, it’s still on, and we’ll try to get you a readout after the meeting.  Yes, Pat.


Question:  A bit outside of this, there’s a huge long article on Richard Holbrooke in the current New Yorker, if anybody is covering [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Okay, Thank you.


Question:  The meeting with the SG and President Ahmadinejad, is that a substantive meeting?  It shows up in the Media Alert as just a photo opportunity. 


Spokesperson:  No, all bilaterals are substantive meetings.  The photo op refers to the access to the press.  Like all bilaterals, they’re closed.  Thank you.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


** Madagascar


Maybe we should start with a summing up of the situation regarding Madagascar.


On 24 September 2009, on behalf of their respective Heads of State, Foreign Ministers of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met with the President of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr. Ali Treki, and raised the issue of the participation of the authorities of Madagascar in the General Assembly.  Their message is in line with the letter that President Treki received on the same day -- that is yesterday -- from Mr. Alexis Tambwe Mwamba, Minister for Foreign Affairs, writing in his capacity as head of the delegation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the sixty-fourth session of the United Nations General Assembly, and the representative of the Chairman of SADC.


Subsequently, the President of the General Assembly met with the officials of Madagascar, including Mr. Andry Rajoelina.  Today, 25 September, at the request of some members of the Credentials Committee, consultations are ongoing on holding a meeting of this Committee.


**Group of 77 Developing Countries and China


Earlier this morning, the President of the General Assembly attended the thirty-third annual meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Group of 77 and China, chaired by Sudan.  His statement has already been disseminated to all of you by electronic mail.  Also, Dr. Treki met today with the Foreign Minister of India, Mr. S. M. Krishna.  He also met with the Foreign Minister of Tunisia, Mr. Abdelwaheb Abdallah.


**Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty


Today, just to inform you that Tibor Tóth, Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Organization (CTBTO), and Jessica Mathews, President of the Carnegie Endowment, will be here to discuss the entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty and the road ahead.


Any questions?   Thank you and I wish you a good afternoon.


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For information media • not an official record