3 November 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


**Secretary General in London


The Secretary-General this morning had a working breakfast in London with UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and afterwards he told reporters that they had discussed, among other things, Afghanistan, climate change, the Millennium Development Goals and Myanmar.


He said that, while he was in Afghanistan yesterday, he had very good meetings with President Hamid Karzai and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and other core diplomatic members there.  He added that ensuring good governance, including eradicating corrupt practices, should be the top priority for Karzai’s new Government.


On climate change, the Secretary-General stressed the need for a comprehensive, binding agreement in Copenhagen in December.  If there is political will, he said, he is sure that there is a way we can conclude a binding agreement in Copenhagen.  But he acknowledged that, realistically speaking, we may not be able to have all the details settled.


Later in the day, the Secretary-General spoke to a gathering of religious and secular leaders at Windsor Castle about the importance of dealing with climate change.  He said that the world’s faith communities occupy a unique position in discussions on the fate of our planet and the accelerating impacts of climate change.


He told the leaders that we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions and we must assist the poorest and most vulnerable people to adapt to climate impacts already locked into the atmosphere.  It is a pivotal moment for our world, he added.  We have his remarks upstairs.


Also, we have upstairs a message that was delivered in the Secretary-General’s name last night, where he says that those who say tackling climate change is too expensive are wrong.  We will pay an unacceptable price if we do not act now, he warned.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning held its consultations for this month and agreed on its programme of work for November.


Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting of Austria, the new Council President, will brief you on that subject at 12:30 in this room.


** Democratic Republic of the Congo


I was asked earlier today about the killings that Human Rights Watch has detailed in its report concerning the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.


We condemn them entirely.  We condemn these killings -- and all killing and abuse of civilians, whether by the Congolese Armed Forces or by armed groups.  This is why United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) has immediately suspended support to the 213th brigade, which was the Congolese army unit identified as being involved, as I told you yesterday.


At the same time, the Congolese Armed Forces command and MONUC are launching an immediate investigation in order to determine who is responsible and take the necessary action.


** Kenya


The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that, while most of Kenya continues to suffer from the effects of a prolonged drought, parts of the country have now been pounded by torrential rainfall with serious consequences.


An estimated 4,600 people along the Indian Ocean coast and the north-eastern region have been displaced and forced to seek shelter in schools and in homes of host families.  Local authorities, with support from UNICEF, have chlorinated wells that were contaminated with flood water in one area.


There are concerns that up to 750,000 people in Kenya may be affected by flooding and landslides from enhanced rains caused by El Niño during October, November and December.


** Angola – Democratic Republic of the Congo


The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has airlifted emergency relief items from South Africa to Angola, for tens of thousands of Angolans who were expelled from the Democratic Republic of the Congo last month.


The items include thousands of tents, sleeping mats and blankets, plus a prefabricated warehouse.  They will be sent to two provinces in northern Angola bordering the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The number of Angolans who were expelled plus those who came back of their own accord in the wake of the expulsions now totals 50,000.


UNHCR adds that those who have been expelled -- including some refugees -- are now living in extremely difficult conditions, with some observed sleeping on the cement floor of an old school building without sleeping mats or mattresses.


** Nepal


The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights today strongly urged the Nepalese Government, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist and other political parties to ensure that the human rights of all individuals are protected and respected while nationwide protests are being organized by the Maoists.


The Human Rights Office also calls for all political actors to exercise restraint in response to nationwide agitation.  It stressed that organizers of the protests must ensure that protestors act peacefully and within the law.


The Office called on the Maoists not to resort to any form of violence and maintain the highest regard for the rule of law.  It also called on the Government to ensure that the security forces act with restraint and respect the rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.


Considering the time -- it is 12:17 and we have the President of the Security Council and before him we have Jean Victor -- I will stop right here, unless you have really urgent questions, and will give the floor to Jean Victor, because I know a lot of you are waiting to hear about the vote on the Goldstone Report.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Thank you Michèle.  Good afternoon.


**Human Rights Council Report on Gaza Conflict


I am here today to answer questions that you might have regarding the proceedings at the General Assembly tomorrow.  As you know, a group of Member States tabled resolution A/64/L.11 and a meeting on the Human Rights Council report is taking place as scheduled tomorrow at the General Assembly, tomorrow, 4 November.  It will start at 10 a.m.


There are documents that are available that are related to this, documents from the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict.  Documents are available on the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) website.  You have an executive summary, you have the conclusions and then the full report, which is close to 500 pages, and some other media material.  In this room, you also have copies of that press release that was issued on Justice Goldstone’s presentation of the report to the Council on 29 September. So the website is http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil, and I can provide you with the details if you don’t have all that.  Tomorrow, there is the debate and it is a plenary meeting on the Human Rights Council report.  Are there questions?


**Questions and Answers


Question:  What are your expectations for the number of speakers and the debate?  Has the whole day been set aside for the debate, and do you expect the resolution to be taken up and voted on tomorrow?


Spokesperson:  This depends on the number of speakers and the length of their respective statements.  As we speak, we already have 30 plus speakers, but this is expected to increase.  It depends on how many speakers we have and how long it will take.


Question:  Is there time set aside in the afternoon for them to come back if it spills over, if it isn’t finished in the morning?


Spokesperson:  That will depend on the proceedings and on the conduct by the President of the General Assembly of the proceedings.  I think we will cross that bridge when we get there, when we know how many speakers we have at the end of the day.


Question:  The Goldstone Report has recommendations, something for the Security Council, something for the Human Rights Council, and then something for the General Assembly.  We’ve been hearing that some delegates are proposing that the General Assembly then propose who else has to act.  So there are two conflicting reports, one that the report itself goes to the Security Council, and another that the General Assembly be in charge.  Can you clarify?  Is there a reason the General Assembly is being looked to before also asking the Security Council?  Is that part of the process of the Human Rights Council?  Or could other UN bodies take it up if they wanted to?  But, if they are not, then the General Assembly can mandate that they do?


Spokesperson:  I will have to recall the proceedings that have taken us so far.  I do not necessarily see conflicting processes.  I may see something that is either concomitant or separate.  First and foremost, the President of the General Assembly convened this meeting after having received this report from the President of the Human Rights Council, and in that report there was a recommendation that he does consider this in the first week of November per a letter he received from the Arab Group and that was supported by the Non-Aligned Movement.  There were other recommendations in the report itself that pertain to the Security Council, but I can only speak about what really is concerning the General Assembly.  But we in the General Assembly are doing exactly what is in line with what was expected.  That other bodies might be doing what is expected them is for them to say.  We should not pre-empt the events and the proceedings.  It depends on what will be decided tomorrow.  That we don’t know yet.  We have to let that process run its course.


Question:  If these speakers continue throughout the day so there isn’t time for a vote on the resolution, will it then be moved to Thursday?  Do you expect a vote on the resolution at some point?  There is a draft resolution proposed by the Arab Group.  Is that the only one, or is there another one as well?


Spokesperson:  It’s the only draft that I have mentioned so far.  I do not know of any other draft resolution as we speak.  So that is the draft resolution I have referred you to.  This has been circulated in other forums.  But in terms of the vote, we indeed expect a vote at some stage.  At what time, I really cannot tell.  It really depends on the number of speakers and the length of statements.


Question:  Are there any negotiations on the text?


Spokesperson:  It is standard practice in this building that draft resolutions open the way to negotiations.  How hard or how in depth or detailed are the negotiations, I am not part of that. I wouldn’t be able to tell.


Question:  After the Secretary-General made his presentation to the General Assembly about security in Afghanistan, asking for $50 million or more, what happens next?  What does the General Assembly do what that request?  Has anything been submitted to the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) or what has happened since then?


Spokesperson:  I will check whether the Fifth Committee has been contacted or seized by this matter.  But you may also want to check with the Chair of that specific Committee.  I think they’ll give you more accurate and recent information.


Question:  Will the President of the General Assembly speak to the press about the Goldstone Report and the process?


Spokesperson:  It is very likely, I’ve asked him this morning and we are working on that.  We will let you know.  Just send me an email if you have a follow-up question.  It is the easiest way, and I will respond to you directly.


Correspondent:  I’d like to commend you for sending out the announcements of the meetings that the President of the General Assembly is having.  It’s been very helpful to receive that kind of information.  I would encourage you to continue to let us know what’s happening, so we can ask better questions and have more of a dialogue.


Spokesperson:  This is very rewarding and I will continue to do so.  Thank you very much.


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For information media • not an official record