|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.
**Guest at Noon Today
The guest at the briefing today will be John Ruggie, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. He will be here to talk about his report to General Assembly. And I see that he is already here, so I will try to go through this quickly.
**Secretary-General Statement on UNMIS Deputy Force Commander
The first item is a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Sudan, on the death of UNMIS Deputy Force Commander there, while in Pakistan.
The Secretary-General was saddened to learn of the death of Brigadier General Ahmed Moinuddin, the Deputy Force Commander of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), during an attack today in Islamabad, where he was on leave.
The Secretary-General sends his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved family, to colleagues of the Brigadier General in the UN Mission, and to the Government of Pakistan. He commends the contribution of the Government of Pakistan to peacekeeping efforts in Sudan and elsewhere, and hopes that the perpetrators of the attack will soon be brought to justice.
And earlier today, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Sudan, Ashraf Qazi, strongly condemned the barbaric killing of the UNMIS Deputy Force Commander while on leave in Pakistan. And the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Edmund Mulet, also [mentioned his death] in the Security Council briefing he just gave.
Also on Sudan, peacekeepers from the African Union–United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) have intervened in a deadly ethnic clash in North Darfur between two tribes. At least two people died and six people from both sides sustained injuries during the fighting. UNAMID evacuated the critically injured by helicopter to El Fasher for further treatment at a Government hospital, and the others have been admitted into a nearby UNAMID medical facility. The immediate cause of the clash is believed to be access to water sources, and as a temporary solution, UNAMID has made arrangements to supply water to the communities. And this clash took place two days ago.
Just to flag for you, the Secretary-General will be addressing shortly a special event on human trafficking. The event, which is hosted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, starts at 1:15 this afternoon in the Economic and Social Council Chamber. In his remarks, the Secretary-General is expected to reiterate calls to alleviate such factors as poverty, underdevelopment and lack of equal opportunity, which make persons, especially women and children, vulnerable to trafficking.
And from Afghanistan today, the UN Assistance Mission there (UNAMA) reports that preparations by Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission for a second round are now in full swing. Ballot papers have been printed and delivered, polling station kits have been packed and distribution will begin today.
The Mission asserts that the United Nations will offer every support to Afghanistan’s electoral institutions to learn from the experience of the first round, to ensure that we have a credible final result that is accepted and faithfully reflects the will of the people. Afghanistan’s voters deserve nothing less.
In this critical period of the electoral process, the Secretary-General has decided to temporarily dispatch Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, Director of the Asia and Middle East Division in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, to Afghanistan to work with Kai Eide as the Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs, ad interim. Mr. Weisbrod-Weber will be arriving shortly in Afghanistan for approximately two months.
And as we mentioned to you yesterday, we’re still working on a video link with a press conference to be held, now I understand tomorrow, by the Special Representative Kai Eide, and we’ll let you know what time and when we will be able to do that for you.
** Afghanistan -- Opium
Also on Afghanistan, a new report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows the devastating effects of opium beyond Afghanistan and the impact of its trade on the world.
Afghanistan has the world monopoly of opium cultivation -- at 92 per cent -- according to UNODC. Every year, 900 tons of opium and 375 tons of heroin are trafficked from Afghanistan -- with consequences on the health and security of countries along the Balkan and Eurasian drug routes, all the way to Europe, the Russian Federation, India and China, says the new report.
The report also documents how the world’s deadliest drug has created a market worth $65 billion, catering to 15 million addicts, causing up to 100,000 deaths per year, spreading HIV at an unprecedented rate and funding criminal groups, insurgents and terrorists.
UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa says that opium hasn’t caused such grief since the plague of addiction in China a century ago. And there is more on this upstairs.
And as I mentioned earlier, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, Edmond Mulet, did brief the Security Council this morning on the activities of the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), specifically on the latest security and humanitarian situation in eastern Chad and in the north-east of the Central African Republic. And we have those remarks upstairs.
And earlier today, the members of the Security Council heard from the high-level coordinator who deals with missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals in Iraq, Gennady Tarasov. He discussed the limited progress that has been made on identifying human remains since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The Council President is expected to read a statement to the press later today, concerning those consultations.
And we have a brief update 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 Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, spoke to the press afterwards. He noted that the leaders met for two hours. They mainly discussed the issue of property. They will meet again next Tuesday to talk about the competencies of the federal Government. There will also be further discussions about external relations at that time. And there is a press release upstairs on that.
** Côte d’Ivoire
And we also have a note on the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin, who met today with the Facilitator of the Ivorian Dialogue, President Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, in Ouagadougou.
The Special Representative appealed to maintain the Ivorian electoral dynamic and stressed the importance of quickly finding a compromise on the posting of the provisional electoral list.
And you can read more about that upstairs.
**Secretary-General’s Message to African Union Special Summit
And in Kampala today, António Guterres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, delivered a message on behalf of the Secretary-General to the African Union Special Summit on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa.
While he noted a decline in the number of refugees in Africa, the Secretary-General stressed that nearly 12 million people were forcibly displaced by conflict within their own countries in Africa -- five times the number of refugees. He also said that many people were displaced by natural disasters.
And you can read more about that upstairs.
We also have a press release on an appeal by the Government of Ethiopia and humanitarian agencies. They have announced that an additional $175 million is required this year to provide humanitarian assistance to 6.2 million people affected by a prolonged drought and crop failure in Ethiopia. The number of people in need has been increasing steadily since January this year. The food security situation in Ethiopia was already weakened by the poor performance of the rains in 2008, and the impact of high food prices globally.
And a couple more announcements. Today, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Judy Cheng-Hopkins, starts a two-day visit to Sierra Leone. During that time, she will meet with Government and UN officials, as well as other stakeholders including civil society groups.
Sierra Leone has been under consideration by the Peacebuilding Commission for the past three years and provides a good case study to examine the work of the UN in peacebuilding.
**Climate Change Conference
And the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Sha Zukang, is in India, where he participated today in the Delhi High-level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Transfer. In his opening remarks, Mr. Sha said that the sooner countries are able to shift onto low-emissions paths and strengthen their resilience to climate change’s impacts, the better the prognosis for humanity and the planet. And his remarks are upstairs as well.
**UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
And UNICEF today appointed Lebanese singer Nancy Ajram as a Regional Goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa. Ajram was chosen in part because of her dedicated support for children’s issues in her native Lebanon. According to UNICEF, Goodwill Ambassadors help focus the world’s attention on the needs of children and can act as agents of change. We have more on that upstairs for you.
**Press Conferences Today
And later today, at 2:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Tomas Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
Then following his press conference, Vitit Muntarbhorn, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea will also be here to brief. So that’s this afternoon.
And I mentioned to you we’re trying to link up the Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide’s press conference with you tomorrow.
**UN Day Concert
And I have two announcements from the Department of Public Information which we have been asked to relay to you.
One is that tomorrow night, the Department of Public Information and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, in partnership with the Culture Project, will present a concert, “A Tribute to Peacekeeping”, in the General Assembly Hall, in observance of United Nations Day. The Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly will deliver opening remarks. Isha Sesay of CNN will be the evening’s presenter. And among others, UN Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF and singer, Harry Belafonte, will perform. And there is more information upstairs on that.
And one more announcement to flag. The world premiere of the Walt Disney animated film Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure will take place on Sunday, 25 October, at 3 p.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. The event will be ticketed and space is limited. Tickets will be made available to UN, this is for you, for UN accredited journalists on a first-come, first-served basis, and can be picked up at the Media Accreditation and Liaison Office, Room S-250, tomorrow, Friday at 10 a.m. And I’m told that the target audience is children between the ages of 2 and 8.
So that’s what I have for you. Let’s start in the back. Yes, sir. There is a gentleman behind you. I was starting in the back and moving up today. Yes.
**Questions and Answers
Question: My name is [inaudible] Pakistan. You know this is not the first time that people who are working with the UN have been targeted in Pakistan. And now Brigadier General Moinuddin, who was working for the UN, I think in Sudan, he has been [inaudible] in Rawalpindi. So what is the reason that people working with the UN are being attacked in Pakistan?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sorry, I didn’t quite hear your last question?
Question: I said, what is the reason people working with the UN are being attacked in Pakistan, you know, very regularly?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, all we know about the actual attack is what we’ve seen, at least what I know is what I have seen in the press reports, which is why I think both the Special Representative and the Secretary-General have already commented on this barbaric attack. And right now they both, together with Edmond Mulet, hope that the perpetrators for this heinous act are soon brought to justice. As you know the General had only joined UNMIS five months ago, and was just back for leave. The circumstances at this point… I cannot tell you the exact circumstances of his death. We do not know whether, you know, if he personally was targeted or not, we don’t, from what we’ve seen in the reports. As for the security situation in Pakistan, of course, that’s a situation of great concern to the Secretary-General, and security conditions are being evaluated, you know, around the clock. Yes.
Question: A follow-up on that question. You indicated that the Deputy Force Commander was on leave on Pakistan. Was he on vacation? Was he with the UN Mission? Was he in a dangerous zone? What was he doing there?
Deputy Spokesperson: He was on leave, as I just mentioned. He had been working in UNMIS for five months… since five months ago. As far as I know, he was on leave. He was travelling in… I think he was in uniform, going to the Army Headquarters. And that’s all I know. Yes.
Question: Marie, what has happened, citing security concerns, WFP has also closed down all its operations in Pakistan today. That’s what they announced today. And then coupled with what was already going on there, as far as IDPs are concerned, more and more people are being uprooted because of this [inaudible]. There has to be a major re-evaluation as to how get aid to these people. Will the United Nations do that re-evaluation of how to get help to these people although security concerns are there. I mean, we understand that because there are still Pakistanis who are still being killed. So what is it that can be done in order to move this process forward to help the refugees, I mean these IDPs?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, on the IDP front we do give you updates on what the latest numbers are, the challenges being faced by the humanitarian workers, the funding shortages that the humanitarian agencies are faced with. But in terms of… maybe it’s time to get Mr. Holmes down here when he comes back, or we can ask another senior Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) official to come and brief on the situation on the ground. That’s all I can tell you for now.
Question: I understand absolutely everything is clear. Will there be [inaudible] because obviously this is a problem? And that under the circumstances, many agencies are reluctant to go ahead and are not able to help… let’s put it this way, not that they are not willing to help, but not able to help. Will there be a re-evaluation as to what can be done?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, I mean, the humanitarian workers are… I mean, if, for security reasons they’re unable to perform operations for a while, as you know, they do resume operations in ways that they can as quickly as they can. And in cases where, for instance, sometimes when international staff cannot work, local staff members sometimes pick up the burden. This is a situation that happens in dangerous duty stations all over the world. So, as far as humanitarian workers are concerned, they’re always trying to do what they can under the circumstances, and I don’t think that’s any different in this present case. Yes.
Question: Thank you, Marie. Today Mr. Ban Ki-moon had a meeting with some Arab ambassadors on the Goldstone report. And they requested him over and over to refer the report to the Security Council. Do you have a readout of this meeting, and why is Mr. Ban Ki-moon not interested enough to get the report to the Security Council?
Deputy Spokesperson: The readout of the meeting that you refer to… The representatives of the Arab Group, the League of Arab States, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement met with the Secretary-General today, as you said, following the adoption of a resolution on the Goldstone report by the Human Rights Council. They discussed the consideration of the resolution by the General Assembly. The Secretary-General reiterated his call for the convening of credible domestic investigations into any allegations of serious human rights violations committed during the conflict. As for your other question, at the moment, as you know, the matter is being discussed by Member States, as you say, in the General Assembly, and I think that’s all I have to say for the moment. Khaled.
Question: I was wondering, yesterday the Sudanese Ambassador, said that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is required by Charter to refer this report to the Security Council as long as it represents a threat to security and peace, world security and peace. So do you have any response to this?
Deputy Spokesperson: No I do not. I do not. Yes.
Question: Just me again to follow up on the same issue. I mean, we deal here daily with letters which the SG receives from Member States and they ask him to refer reports to the Security Council and he refers them to the Security Council right away. So now we have a resolution from the Human Rights Council asking him to do that and so, I mean, is it an opinion of the Legal Department that he shouldn’t do that and should wait for the GA first?
Deputy Spokesperson: At the moment, I really can’t go beyond this procedural answer, in that the resolution is being discussed by the General Assembly. So please bear with me, I can’t go beyond that for now.
Question: Just the same question. Is it the position of yourself and the SG that it has to go to the General Assembly first before it can be referred to the Security Council?
Deputy Spokesperson: It is currently being discussed in the General Assembly and by Member States. So I can’t go beyond that for the moment. Yes, let’s go in the back and then we’ll come to the front.
Question: The Kentucky Fried Chicken Company was making a demand of the Secretary-General today. There was a man dressed up as Colonel Sanders outside the Security Council. Who brought these people to do advertising into the UN today?
Deputy Spokesperson: This is the first you have told me of this. If my office is listening, I hope they can go down and talk to this figure, thank you. Matthew.
Question: Marie, it’s reported that, with Deputy Secretary-General Migiro in Rwanda, either President Kagame or the Foreign Minister of Rwanda has asked her that all of the remaining cases and also the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda be turned over to the country. I wanted to make sure that she received that communication and what’s the Secretariat’s thought on Rwanda’s rights both to the archives and to the cases?
Deputy Spokesperson: I am not aware of that, but we’ll look into that for you. That’s all I can say on that. But in response to… You had a question yesterday about Vienna, I just wanted to, before I forget, I wanted to inform you and others that there was a staff member of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization [who] was found dead yesterday, Tuesday, actually, Tuesday, 20 October, in one of the stairwells of the Vienna International Centre, according to our people there. There are no suspicious circumstances and the Austrian Police are following up on the incident, and the staff member’s family has been informed.
Question: Actually on that, one follow-up. The media accounts say that there was a similar incident four months ago, a British gentleman. Is that true? And if so, why was that, I mean, does the UN announce these things? Can you look into whether that’s true that four months ago the same thing happened?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have no reports on that. If I get anything, I’ll let you know. Yes.
Question: Yesterday, I asked you about this Human Rights Watch report about Uighurs disappeared in western China and you’d said that Navi Pillay will be saying something on it. She was here, I asked her. She didn’t say anything and I’m just… Has that Office put out anything on that? Was I wrong?
Deputy Spokesperson: You know what, actually they told me that they ran out of time yesterday to take that question and that they were going to have something on this for me. But I realized I don’t. So we’ll follow up on that for you.
Question: I want to follow up on [inaudible] you have announced about the appointment of Nancy Ajram as the Goodwill Ambassador. Can you give us more background information on this?
Deputy Spokesperson: Background information, what kind of background information?
Question: [inaudible] what qualifications? Does she deserve this prize… sorry, not prize.
Deputy Spokesperson: She’s a Goodwill Ambassador and I think you have to talk to UNICEF about this. They make their own decisions about who best is in a position to advocate for the causes of [their] organization.
Question: Another goodwill question. I mean, I was just sort of struck by this Tinker Bell premiering in the UN. One, what does it take for a movie company to get a premier inside the UN? And there are some articles saying that Tinker Bell is going to be named at least a non-person Goodwill Ambassador on the environment, is that true?
Deputy Spokesperson: It says here, “Prior to the screening, Kiyo Akasaka, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information will name Tinker Bell the Honorary Ambassador of Green to help promote environmental awareness in children”. So please refer your questions further to...
Question: [inaudible] the number three candidate in Afghanistan, I know you’ve said we may get this hook up, so I wanted to ask you this now. The candidate who came in number three, Mr. Bashardost, has said that he may tell those who voted for him -- 10 per cent of the voters -- to boycott the second round due to continuing concerns of fraud. I wanted to know, in all this, in the UN’s engagement both with Abdullah Abdullah and President Karzai, is the UN speaking to this number three candidate and what do they make of his critique of the second round in advance?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m sure that the UN is supporting all efforts by the Afghan authorities in ensuring that a successful second round takes place. Okay, with that, I’m going to invite John Ruggie, who is here today to talk about his report to General Assembly.
* *** *For information media • not an official record