19 November 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.


Good afternoon, all.  I would like first to welcome the delegation of 21 spokespeople from China who are in attendance today.  They’re on an orientation visit to UN Headquarters today and will meet with UN staff that have a communications role, in addition to attending today’s briefing.  Welcome, again.


**Guest at Noon Today


Our guest at the noon briefing today will be Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  He should be here shortly.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Afghanistan


We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on President Karzai’s inauguration.


The Secretary-General wishes to congratulate President Hamid Karzai on his inauguration today as the elected President of Afghanistan for a second term.  He welcomes the commitment of President Karzai to serve all Afghans, to fight corruption and to bring increased good governance, security and services to the country, as expressed in the President’s inaugural speech.  In pursuance of realizing these goals concretely, the United Nations looks forward to working with President Karzai and his Government, the people of Afghanistan and Afghanistan’s international partners.


The Secretary-General sends his best wishes to the President and to the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture in their history and reaffirms the determination of the United Nations to support Afghanistan’s progress towards peace, stability and development.


**Secretary-General’s Travel


The Secretary-General will travel next week, on Friday 27 November, to Trinidad and Tobago to participate in the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.


During his two-day visit, the Secretary-General will participate in special sessions on climate change, as well as hold bilateral meetings with Heads of State and Government on issues of mutual interest.  The Secretary-General expects to focus the attention of these leaders on key issues that require their engagement in the climate change negotiations, in particular, concerning mitigation and finance.


This Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting is an important gathering of political leaders in the run-up to next month’s Copenhagen Summit on Climate Change.  The Secretary-General hopes to boost momentum for an ambitious outcome in Copenhagen that will advance international action on climate change.  And of course, on the climate issue, you will have Yvo de Boer with us in a few minutes on the state of negotiations.


**Security Council


The Security Council this morning is holding consultations to receive an update about the work of the Sanctions Committee dealing with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  That Committee is chaired by Turkey.


Under “other matters”, Council members expect to receive a briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet.


** Iraq


The United Nations and Iraq have agreed on an initial framework for a major new development partnership to strengthen Iraqi governance, social services and economic growth over the next five years.


An action plan for Iraq’s first UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), for 2011 to 2014, was discussed at a meeting involving more than 120 representatives from the Government of Iraq, parliamentarians, civil society organisations, academia, international donors and UN agencies.


Christine McNab, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, said that the Framework is the UN’s most comprehensive tool to help countries meet their international development commitments, primarily the Millennium Development Goals.  We have a press release with more details upstairs.


** Darfur


On Sudan, Darfur, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, has concluded a two-day visit to Darfur, as part of wider visit to Sudan.  In Darfur, she met a cross-section of stakeholders in the peace process, in El Fasher in the North and El Geneina, South Darfur. The personalities she met included the Walis -- or Governors -- of the two states, religious and community leaders and internally displaced persons.


Coomaraswamy expressed satisfaction that efforts were being made to establish institutions to monitor and address the problems of the recruitment of child soldiers as well as sexual abuse and violence against children.  She appealed to religious leaders to raise awareness in their different constituencies about these issues.  During meetings with youth and with sheikhs and umdas (traditional leaders) in the Riyad camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in El Geneina, the IDPs highlighted challenges they were facing, especially the lack of security, food and medicines.


Coomaraswamy is currently on a 10-day visit in the Sudan, which is expected to end on Monday 23 November.


** Chad and Central African Republic


The UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) says that 42 Cambodian troops have arrived in Abeche, where they will assist in the movement control of UN personnel and logistic assets.  This arrival brings the number of troops to 2,749, representing 52.61 per cent of the required strength of the Mission.  MINURCAT add that it is the second UN Mission in which Cambodians are taking part, after participating in a demining exercise in Sudan in 2006.  There is a press release from the Mission upstairs.


** Pakistan


It has been nearly three weeks since the military operations in Pakistan’s region of South Waziristan intensified.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that some 400,000 people have fled the area to seek safety in two neighbouring districts.  Of the total registered, approximately 300,000 people have fled the area since mid-October, and most of these are poor people who desperately need humanitarian assistance.


Despite the tough security situation, the humanitarian community is on the ground to assist the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, to make their lives away from home as comfortable as possible.  Since 9 November, the UN refugee agency’s implementing partner has distributed around 9,000 tents in D.I. Khan District.  Most of these tents are set up in the gardens of host families, to relieve the burden on the hosts.


Also, UN agencies and their humanitarian partners have helped to register IDPs and provide monthly food rations, hygiene kits and household items, as well as provide vaccinations for children and improve community water supplies.


**United Nations Children’s Fund


UNICEF released today a special edition issue of its flagship report: The State of the World's Children.  It focuses this year on the impact of the Convention on the Rights of the Child -- as the Convention marks the twentieth anniversary of its adoption by the General Assembly, tomorrow Friday.


UNICEF’s Executive Director, Ann Veneman, said that the Convention had transformed the way children are viewed and treated throughout the world.  According to the report, in the last 20 years, considerable progress has been made concerning child mortality, primary school enrolment, recruitment of child soldiers and trafficking, among others.


But UNICEF also says that children’s rights are still far from assured.  Veneman said it was unacceptable that children were still dying from preventable causes.  Many of the world’s children will never see the inside of a school room, and millions lack protection against violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination and neglect, she added.


There is more on the report upstairs.  And tomorrow, there will be an event to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at 10 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  The Secretary-General is scheduled to make opening remarks.


**Parliamentary Hearing


This morning, here at Headquarters, the Secretary-General addressed an event organized by the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Office of the General Assembly President.


The theme of the 2009 Parliamentary Hearing was:  “The way forward – Building political support and implementing effective responses to the global economic crisis”.


In his remarks, the Secretary-General said the global frameworks and bodies created generations ago must be made more accountable, more representative and more effective.  With concerted action, he added, we can move from recession to recovery to renewal.  We have his full statement upstairs.


**Climate Change


This afternoon, the Secretary-General will address the General Assembly’s informal meeting on climate change.  He is expected to say he remains positive about the prospects for the Copenhagen climate change meeting, especially in light of recent announcements and commitments by countries.  But of course you will hear a little more from Yvo de Boer in a few minutes.


He will emphasize the need for the leadership and engagement of Heads of State and Government in the run-up to the Conference, and their presence at the Conference.  The Secretary-General still believes we can achieve an agreement in Copenhagen that is operational, ready to be immediately implemented, and which will provide the foundation for a legally binding climate treaty that can be signed as early as possible in 2010.


** Lebanon


On Lebanon, Major General Claudio Graziano, Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), today met separately in Beirut with Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.  He briefed both men about the security situation in south Lebanon and the activities of UNIFIL.  He said afterwards that he had told the Prime Minister of UNIFIL’s readiness to continue to work together with the Lebanese Armed Forces, the Government and the authorities in Lebanon on common objectives towards the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).


**Security


We were asked about the situation of a pass card belonging to Anne Bayefsky yesterday.  We have received some information from the Department of Safety and Security (DSS) about the matter, and I’d like to make the following clarification:


On Thursday, 5 November 2009, at approximately 1800 hours, Ms. Anne Bayefsky, an accredited member of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Non-Govermental Organization (NGO) Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, utilized her UNHQ-issued building pass in an unauthorized manner at the security turnstiles to grant access to Mr. Joel B. Pollak into restricted areas of the Headquarters complex.  Further, Ms. Bayefsky transferred her Geneva-issued UN building pass to Mr. Pollak, in whose possession it was discovered.  Based on these breaches of security protocol, both passes were retrieved.  The outcome of the security inquiry will be forwarded by DSS to the Department of Economic and Social Affairs/ECOSOC for their determination as to final disposition.


So I hope this clarifies what was said yesterday.  We got more information today on the issue.


**Press Conference Today


And this afternoon, the Secretary-General, as I said, will address the General Assembly's informal meeting on climate change.  That meeting is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber and we expect to have his speech for you at that time.  And following the meeting, at 5:45 p.m., there will be a press conference by General Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki; Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change; and Trudie Styler, co-founder of the Rainforest Foundation.


And this is all I have for you today.  We’ll have our guest in a few minutes.  We won’t have the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly today.  You will later on have the opportunity to ask.  Yes.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  I will ask you a question in French and then you can translate into English.  [Question in French]


Spokesperson:  [Answer in French].  The exchange was about the new Spokesperson and whether that Spokesperson spoke French.  And I just specified that I don’t know whether he speaks French or not.  And I said that, at any rate, our Spokesperson’s Office and team will be able to answer questions in French at any time.


QuestionMichèle, on these 400,000 IDPs in Pakistan, does OCHA have any figure as to how many are already in the camps, and how many are settled with the private families in Pakistan?


Spokesperson:  We can get more information for you on the exact numbers, but as I said, they have taken a number of measures to help those families hosting people by having tents in their own gardens to host the people.  So right now I think we’re doing what we can.  I will get the exact numbers for you on how many are hosted with families and how many are in camps.


Question:  And how many are in the UN camps, right?


Spokesperson:  I will check that number for you.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.


[The Spokesperson later added that she does not have figures yet for all the numbers of people staying with host families after the latest departures from South Waziristan, but it is clear that many people stay with host families.  During earlier displacements, with people fleeing Malakand Division, about 90 per cent of the 2.7 million internally displaced persons were staying with host families.]


QuestionMichèle, regarding the international investigation commission into the human rights violations in Guinea, the Secretary-General, I read somewhere, will submit the report to the Security Council for information, not for action.  Who will then take the action?


Spokesperson:  I think any action will have to be taken with consultations.  The Secretary-General has set up that investigation group, and the investigation, as you know, is starting.  So it’s a little premature for me to tell what the follow-up will be.  I will say that there will be a follow-up, and there will be, of course, consequences.  The Secretary-General is not just having this for the fun of it.  Obviously there has to be a follow-up to that investigation.  Yes.


Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  On UNFIL, do you have any update on the replacement of Commander Graziano?


Spokesperson:  Not yet.  We have been asking, and we don’t have anything yet on that.  As soon as I will get something, of course you will be the first to know.  Yes, Matthew.


Question:  On the Secretary-General’s upcoming naming of an Associate Administrator for UNDP, can you confirm that a letter was received by the Secretariat from the African Group protesting the naming of a non-African, and also what Inner City Press has been told by a number of African ambassadors, that they feel that the post was promised to the African Group when Ms. [Helen] Clark was named and Mr. [Ad] Melkert left?


Spokesperson:  I am not aware of this situation, and I am not aware of a letter received.  Of course, I will try to get more information on it.  And we haven’t had a public announcement of any appointments.


Question:  Well, what of this idea that… What a number of them have said is that, given the amount of the UN’s and UNPD’s work that’s in Africa, it makes much sense to have that represented near the top of the…  They have said that they think that a sort of a deal was made with them and they feel that it’s now being violated.


Spokesperson:  Well, I understand their concerns, but as I said, it’s not violated yet, because we haven’t announced a person at that post yet.


Question:  [inaudible] the room has not been cleaned for two weeks now.  How long will [inaudible] for?


Spokesperson:  I can’t really discuss this at the noon briefing.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  It’s an internal problem, which we can raise with building maintenance.


Question:  It was announced that Fiji is sending either peacekeepers or police, UN police, to the UN in Sudan.  So I was wondering, given what had been announced about the UN not taking further personnel from Fiji until democracy is restored, it doesn’t say that it’s a rotation.  I know that there are some Fijians in Iraq that are periodically rotated.  But is this deployment by Fijians to Sudan something new, and if so does it signal a lessening of commitment to the restoration of democracy in Fiji?


Spokesperson:  I am not at all aware that there is a change in policy.  The policy is the one I have been telling you about.  I don’t know what the specific situation of these peacekeepers are, but so far, our position has been very clear on the Fijian troops.  Yes.


Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  In view of the ongoing situation in occupied Jerusalem, back and forth between what the Israelis have done or are doing at this point in time, has there been more conversation between the Secretary-General or any of his spokespeople or any of his people at the Israeli Government on the settlement building and the protests that are going on?


Spokesperson:  We have done better.  We have public statements on that.  We have them over and over again.  Yesterday we had a statement on it, and our position on settlements is a strong one, and it hasn’t changed.


Question:  [inaudible] is an ongoing situation that’s the reason why I asked that…


Spokesperson:  Yes, we do periodically and we did a few days ago and we did again yesterday.  Our position on settlements is a strong one, and we have been reiterating that position.


Question:  Have you had any conversation with any Israeli Government official?  Has the Secretary-General…?


Spokesperson:  Well, on the ground there are consultations.  In terms of the Secretary-General himself, no he hasn’t had any direct consultations.  Yes.


Question:  Just to follow up on that as well, I mean, has the Secretary-General been in contact with the Palestinian President Abbas concerning his proposal for declaring the Palestinian State unilaterally through the Security Council?


Spokesperson:  Not on that issue, no, as far as I know.


Question:  What does the SG think about that?


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General cannot have an opinion on something that is of the purview of the Security Council and the General Assembly in terms of recognizing a new State.  In the case of the Secretary-General, there is nothing he can do in terms of saying yes or no to that proposition.  And as far as I know, there has been no formal letter sent yet.  Yes.


Question:  On the announcement or the clarification that you gave on this Bayefsky pass -- and thanks for that -- I just wanted to know two things.  One is, is there no relation between this continued suspension of the pass and the person speaking at the General Assembly stakeout on 5 November?  Because that seemed to trigger the incident, and…


Spokesperson:  Well that was part of it.  I gave you the two issues that were pending in terms of the security breach, and I already said about the intervention in front of the Security Council stakeout that it was a matter for… Whoever speaks at the stakeout has to be introduced either by a Member State or by an organization within the UN system.  An NGO cannot step up unless that person is accompanied by a Member State, cannot step up to the microphone and just make a statement.


Question:  No, no, I understand that, I just want to know if that’s part of the basis for the suspension of the pass or…?


Spokesperson:  No, I already said what the basis was.


Correspondent:  Okay.


Spokesperson:  …the introduction of someone with a pass that was hers.


Question:  And has DSS ever run across a similar situation with other NGOs and not suspended their passes?


Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  In every case where there is a security breach the passes are temporarily suspended until the case is fully investigated.


Question:  And just one last thing on security breaches, is there any update in terms of suspensions or removal of suspensions on the -- I’m trying to think of the best way to say it -- the “chicken episode”?  Because these two gentlemen were suspended.


Spokesperson:  I don’t know what was done after what I told you.  I can, of course, follow up on whether there were any other measures taken.


Correspondent:  Notice the name of the company wasn’t said to give them any publicity.  We’ll just call them the “chicken company” for now.


Spokesperson:  The “chicken company” yes, thank you so much! [Laughter]  I’m going to invite our guest, Mr. Yvo de Boer, to join us here.


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For information media • not an official record