|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 Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Afaf Konja, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. Welcome to the briefing.
**Millennium Development Goals
This morning, the Secretary-General spoke at various events to accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and to shape the development agenda after 2015.
In his remarks at a meeting in the General Assembly on disability and development, he said that people with disabilities are integral to meeting the Millennium Development Goals and to formulating the post-2015 agenda. He also said that the landmark Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is a powerful tool for inclusive development.
At the opening of an event organized to accelerate action and partnering for the Millennium Development Goals, the Secretary-General said that progress can best be achieved when a wide range of groups work together.
Also, at a meeting on improving maternal health, he said that nearly all women who die in pregnancy and childbirth are from developing countries. He added that with the right investments, we can make a huge difference in the lives of every woman and every child. All of these remarks are available online.
**Great Lakes Region
The Secretary-General is now attending the second meeting of the Regional Oversight Mechanism of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the region.
In his remarks, he said the first priority is to address tensions in the region so that the Framework Agreement can be implemented. The Secretary-General stressed the need to move forward with the commitments made in Addis Ababa in February. He welcomed joint efforts to produce benchmarks and indicators of progress on the implementation of the Framework Agreement. And he urged the leaders at the meeting to “rise to this moment” by adopting and swiftly meeting the proposed regional benchmarks.
Concerning the humanitarian crisis, the Secretary-General said that resources were not keeping up with needs, straining efforts to save lives and alleviate suffering. He said that the recurring violence would only end by dealing with the root causes of the conflict. And his remarks are available online.
The United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has received allegations of serious misconduct by peacekeeping troops in Gao on 19 and 20 September, including allegations of an incident of sexual abuse. Upon receiving this information on 20 September, the Mission acted immediately to determine the facts being alleged and to preserve evidence. The Mission has also provided assistance to the alleged victim.
The Secretary-General is treating this matter with the utmost seriousness and, in line with established procedure, is in the process of notifying the troop-contributing country. The troop-contributing country has primary responsibility for investigating the matter and ensuring that appropriate disciplinary and judicial measures are taken, should the allegations be well founded. MINUSMA will offer all necessary support to the troop-contributing country to ensure that it is able to fulfil its responsibilities in this regard.
The UN Mission in Mali is committed to the highest standards of conduct by all its personnel — military, police and civilian. The Secretary-General has a policy of zero tolerance for any form of sexual exploitation and abuse, and will do everything possible to see that a thorough process of investigation and, as appropriate, accountability takes place.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, who is the International Facilitator for dialogue in Guinea, announced over the weekend that a delay of four days for final adjustments before the elections was decided after consultations with political stakeholders. In a statement, Said Djinnit said that he is convinced that, with this agreement, nothing will hinder the holding of free, transparent and inclusive elections on Saturday, 28 September. The Special Representative called on all involved to engage fully in implementing all the agreements so that the elections are conducted in a peaceful atmosphere.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that the plight of civilians trapped by the conflict inside Syria is becoming increasingly desperate, and more efforts are needed now to enable the humanitarian access that will safeguard thousands of children’s lives. UNICEF said that children continue to be cut off from urgently needed assistance, including vaccinations, safe drinking water, shelter, education and psychological support.
One practical example of how unimpeded access could save lives is the forthcoming Child Health Day vaccination campaign, which is intended to protect children inside Syria from vaccine-preventable diseases. And that campaign has a special focus on the 700,000 children that have not been reached through the most recent immunization campaigns.
And that’s what I have for you. Questions, please?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Thank you, Martin. Can you confirm information that some Syrian opposition groups, fighters, are using blue helmets and other equipment of the UN forces in Golan Heights?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) is aware of reports of looted UNDOF protective gear being used by some armed members of the opposition in the area of separation. The security situation in the Mission’s area of operation continues to evolve, with often heavy clashes between the Syrian Armed Forces and armed members of the opposition continuing every day inside the area of separation. All military activities in the area of separation conducted by any actor pose a risk to the long-held ceasefire and the local civilian population, in addition to UN personnel. As the Secretary-General noted in his recent report, any hostile act against UN personnel on the ground is unacceptable, including threats to their physical safety, the theft of UN weapons and ammunition, vehicles and other assets, and the looting and destruction of UN facilities. That’s what I have for you on that. Other questions, please? Yes? Yes, please do use the microphone. Thank you very much.
[The Spokesperson added that there have been incidents where United Nations equipment and assets have been stolen, and that there also has been looting of United Nations facilities. The Secretary-General reported on this recently to the Security Council.]
Question: So, since yesterday’s meeting between the General Secretary and the Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs, [Dimitris] Avramopoulos, it is clear that Athens has rejected the proposal of the mediator, Matthew Nimetz, since April this year. So, repeatedly, the Secretary-General said that he wants to see intensification of the process of negotiations over this name dispute. What can you share with the public in Macedonia? I mean, we did everything, but Athens is rejecting now, is acting like Matthew Nimetz, proposing their own proposal.
Spokesperson: Well, as you pointed out, the Secretary-General did meet with the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Greece yesterday, and they did, indeed, discuss the name dispute between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And, as I think you are aware, the Secretary-General will meet with the Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on Saturday. What I can also say is that, more generally speaking, a solution to the so-called “name” issue is, of course, in the interest of both countries, as well as to the Western Balkans, as a whole. And Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, visited the region earlier this month and he met with senior Government officials of both countries to seek their views on his most recent proposal. And, with a view to narrowing differences and to seek further convergences, Mr. Nimetz is planning to convene the representatives of the parties in New York in the coming weeks. The Secretary-General sincerely hopes that these discussions will pave the way for serious negotiations on finding a mutually acceptable resolution to the name issue. Yes, Matthew, and then I’m coming to you. Yes?
Question: Thanks, Martin. I have two questions on peacekeeping. One is, do you have any… and sort of about peacekeeping… on President [Omer Hassan A. al-]Bashir of Sudan, there’s a lot of reports back and forth on whether he’ll visit. What I wanted to ask you in advance is, I know the UN has this policy of only having the most necessary contacts with people that are indicted by the International Criminal Court, so is there… what’s the thinking of either the current head of OLA [Office for Legal Affairs] or the past policy… how it would it apply to a visit by Mr. [al‑]Bashir? The reason I say it’s peacekeeping related, is that I know Hervé Ladsous of DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] did meet with Mr. Bashir and I’m still trying to figure out how this met this standard of only limited and necessary contacts.
Spokesperson: Well, on the last part, I think that’s self-evident. We have not one but two peacekeeping missions that directly relate to Sudan, and so I think that that would explain that. With regard to the first part of your question, at this point, it’s hypothetical, so I’m really not going to get into that. What was your other question?
Question: Sure, it actually has to do with this, and thanks for the readout of this incident in Gao. What I wanted to know is: I had not realized that the investigation is also left up to… I also know the discipline is left up to troop-contributing countries. But, I’ve heard of other cases where the UN has actually conducted its own inquiry into allegations of abuse by its peacekeepers. So, I wanted to know, one, how is that decision made? And is the investigation done on-site, or as the case I asked you about last week in Haiti and the Sri Lankan soldier, are the individuals, once charged, sort of not allowed to leave the country? Do the investigators then arrive from the TCC [troop-contributing country], and what’s the legal status of individuals once charged with abuses such as this?
Spokesperson: Well, this is an investigation that is under way. I do not have further details beyond what I’ve mentioned to you. Just to reiterate that, as soon as the Mission was made aware of the allegations, it moved immediately to determine the facts being alleged and preserve evidence. So, there was already action by the Mission immediately, but it is, indeed, the case that any troop-contributing country facing such allegations has the primary responsibility for investigating the matter. With regard to the location of those who are under investigation, I’d need to check.
Question: Is there anything… and just also on Mali, is there anything about the Chadians who left their post, or about the Mauritanian offer, what I asked last week about the MINUSMA, these two kind of outstanding questions of how…?
Spokesperson: No update on that, Matthew. Okay. Yes, please? And then, Tim. I see you. Yes, the microphone’s off again.
Question: I was wondering about the names and the countries of the four labs which did the processing for the chemical weapons report. And also, the US Ambassador, [Samantha] Power, mentioned 122-millimetre rockets, and I don’t think I saw that in the UN report itself. Could you tell me if that is a factor in… in the outcome, or where that… how that figures in with the UN report?
Spokesperson: On the second part of your question, I would simply refer you to… what the report does say, at this point. And, with regard to the first question, you will have to continue to wonder. There were four laboratories, but we are not naming them; simply to say that they were all in Europe and none of them was from a country that belongs to the Security Council permanent five.
Question: Thank you, Martin. Are you confirming then that blue helmets have been looted? And secondly, can you say whether the Secretary-General is going to meet Mr. [Sergey] Lavrov and Mr. [John] Kerry to set a date for the Geneva peace conference?
Spokesperson: Where or when?
Question: Either! Both?
Spokesperson: Right, well, that trilateral meeting is likely… likely to take place on Friday afternoon and we’ll provide you with more details a bit closer to that. And what was the first part of your question again?
Question: Are you confirming that blue helmets were looted in the Golan?
Spokesperson: We are aware of those reports and that seems to be the case. Joe, and then I’m coming to you. Yes, okay?
Question: Thank you, Martin. The weapons inspector’s report says that the sites had been well travelled by other individuals, both before and during the investigation, fragments and other possible evidence have clearly been handled, moved prior to the arrival of the investigative team. And in another place, it says — quote — that “the evidence could possibly be manipulated”. So, I was not quoting out of context last week. I was paraphrasing correctly, I believe. My question is: a case like this, with this admission from the investigators, wouldn’t get past the Bronx DA [District Attorney], let alone the International Criminal Court, if it should go there. How can you still say that this is an indisputable report, when this admission that the crime scene was trampled on, was disturbed?
Spokesperson: Well, very droll, Joe. The facts in the report speak for themselves. There is a wealth of evidence that is there, both in the form of samples — as you will be aware, there’s been very careful analysis of the samples in four laboratories, via medical samples, that means blood, hair and urine, and environmental samples, evidence including soil. And you can read for yourself the details about the positive testing results for those. And there is a lot of other information garnered from interviews with survivors, with those who were attending to the victims, medical personnel and others. And I would leave it at that, for now. Please?
Question: We were told by Isabelle [Broyer] to enter the 43rd Street entrance to come here during this week, down the steps, which I proceeded to do, and was informed by three NY police officers that, no, I had to go to the 42nd Street entrance. I insisted that that was closed because of construction. I went to the 42nd Street entrance, and there, the police officers told me to go to the 43rd Street entrance. And my request is that the communications of the NY Police Department is clear, that we are allowed go down the 43rd Street steps to avoid this happening to someone else, or to me tomorrow.
Spokesperson: I think those who need to hear it, have heard it. Thank you.
Question: Thanks. Ban Ki-moon is hosting a luncheon for Heads of State, is that correct?
Spokesperson: That’s correct.
Question: And is President [Hassan] Rouhani going to be there? Was he…
Spokesperson: We’ll have to check. I’m not sure when he’s arriving in New York. We’ll have to check.
Question: Is he invited, is that your understanding?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check that. I mean, typically, typically, it’s for all heads of delegations, so one would assume so, but I don’t like to do that and I will check. Please, yes?
[The Spokesperson later confirmed that heads of delegations were invited, but President Rouhani’s presence at the luncheon was not yet confirmed.]
Question: Do you have a statement on the killing of an Israeli Defense Force soldier in, where was it, in the West Bank, by sniper fire?
Spokesperson: Well, what I can tell you is that Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, has condemned the killings of two Israeli soldiers in recent days, and these killings have followed a series of violent incidents in the West Bank. The Special Coordinator has emphasized the need for calm on the ground, which is all the more important at this critical moment in the political process, and he, therefore, reiterates his call on all to refrain from violence and avoid loss of life. And that’s Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. Other questions, please? Yes, Oleg?
Question: Thanks, Martin. Are there any updates, or maybe some kind of communication, from head of Syrian opposition coalition with the Secretary-General concerning participation in Geneva II conference?
Spokesperson: No, I checked on that. We have not received any such letter from the Syrian National Coalition at this point. We are obviously aware of the media reports on some kind of communication being sent to someone, but we have not received anything to that effect. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Sure, thanks a lot. I have two, kind of, access questions. One has to do with… there was the press conference this morning here with Stevie Wonder and others. And I know that, in July, you’d said there was this bulletin on accessibility, it’s something that the Secretary is working on and Danielle [inaudible] wasn’t able last week to sort of say where it stands, except to say the DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs] part of it seems to be done. Where in the process is the Secretary-General’s bulletin on accessibility to those with disabilities?
Spokesperson: Let me check. Okay, any other questions?
Question: The other one’s kind of… it’s along the line of the 43rd Street steps, but it’s actually this side of the street. Yesterday, this media centre, which people are supposed to work out of, somehow, it closed even before the final photo-op of the day, or meeting by the Secretary-General with the Presidents of Malawi and Namibia. So, I just wondered, is it… what’s going to be the practice this year? Is it going to stay open as long as there’s actually either speeches in the GA [General Assembly] or Secretary-General meetings, or is there some, either resources or other reason it will be closed and people put out of it?
Spokesperson: I’d have to check, but I’m sure that the whole point of having the media centre from today, when the events have started, I should think that the whole point would be for it to be available as long as possible. I think, yesterday, there were no General Assembly-related events; there were, of course, many bilateral meetings, as you will have seen, that the Secretary-General held, getting on for 20. And that will… that kind of pattern will continue during the week — the Secretary-General, of course, with many meetings. He’s attended quite a few already today and is speaking there and also has bilateral meetings, and we’ll continue to provide the readouts as swiftly as we can, and the remarks are typically either available online or they are available to watch live, as they are delivered on webcast and UNTV. I will, obviously, check with our colleagues who are running the media centre. I’m sure the intention is for it to be available as much as possible for journalists who are based here and those who’ve come a long way to cover the events this week. Yes, yes, Iftikhar?
Question: Martin, will the Secretary-General be attending the event being organized by the UK Government?
Spokesperson: I'd need to check. I’d need to check.
Question: In which Malala Yousafzai is also coming?
Spokesperson: Right, let me check on that. I think, at the moment, I’m looking at mostly this week. There’s enough going on this week, but let me check for you. Alright, thank you very much. Have a good afternoon. And there’s a briefing at 12:30 p.m. by my colleague, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, and she will be able to debrief you more on the various high-level meetings that will be taking place this week. Thank you.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
Good afternoon everyone, it’s great to see you all again. My name is Afaf Konja; I’m the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly for those of you who do not know me. I am here to provide you with a core outline of the high-level week, and there is a lot of information, so please do bear with me. And of course, after I do so, I will be happy to take your questions. And please remember to use your microphones, thank you.
**High-level Meeting on Millennium Development Goals and Disabilities
So, to start, as you all know, the general debate of the sixty-eighth session, including high-level events, is already taking place, and has begun this morning with the meeting on MDGs and disabilities. And of course, technically tomorrow, with the general debate, Tuesday 24 September, and meetings will run through 4 October.
Today, again, we have the high-level meeting on disability and development: “The Way Forward: A disability-inclusive development agenda toward 2015 and beyond”, taking place as we meet. This meeting focuses on the realization of the Millennium Development Goals and other internationally agreed development goals for persons with disabilities. It puts a focus on some of the world’s most marginalized, their needs, and the importance of their participation in the post-2015 process. It opens with a plenary session and includes two consecutive informal, interactive round-table discussions from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Eight hundred non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are expected to be in attendance. Stevie Wonder, as you saw this morning, the UN Messenger of Peace, is part of the distinguished opening of plenary speakers. This began at 9 a.m. in the temporary GA Hall in the North Lawn Building. An overflow room is in Conference Room 2, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. And something to highlight, of course, is the outcome document on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the post-2015 development agenda has been put forth and was adopted this morning at about 9 a.m.
**Millennium Development Goals and Partnerships
Moving ahead, the Secretary-General has invited the President of the General Assembly to deliver closing remarks, a closing statement at the Secretary-General’s MDGs success event; it is a high-level forum themed “Accelerating Action and Partnering for Impact”, also taking place today. The GA President’s participation illustrates his support and exemplifies the key principle that realizing the MDGs and enhancing sustainable development can only be possible through partnership. The emphasis will be on the “how” to scale up what has proven to work, including the Secretary-General’s multi-stakeholder initiatives. This event was organized by the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, and is taking place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.
**Permanent Memorial on Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade
Also today, from 4 to 4:30 p.m. — very short — the President is chairing the unveiling of the Permanent Memorial on Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade and will be making brief remarks. The winning artist of the design chosen, of course, will be recognized. This will take place on the first floor of the Conference Building near the East Lounge area.
Also tomorrow, Tuesday, the 24th, is the opening, of course, of this year’s general debate, expected to bring in 84 Heads of State, 41 Heads of Government and 11 Deputy Prime Ministers and 65 Foreign Ministers. These are the most recent numbers we have received from the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM), GA affairs. And of course, as tradition calls, Brazil will start, speak first, followed by the United States as host country, and so on.
**High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development
The 24th, tomorrow, also brings us the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Themed “Building the Future We Want: From Rio+20 to the Post-2015 Development Agenda”, this is the inaugural meeting of the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. It basically advances the process of the Commission on Sustainable Development following a decision made at Rio+20. This is considered the first of its kind because of the “all-States-formula”, and I will explain what that means, much like Rio+20, but this is at the General Assembly, which is perceived as groundbreaking.
It is also open to major groups and other stakeholders to engage in the post-2015 process. It includes four dialogues open to Heads of State and Government, Heads of UN entities and other international organizations, as well as high-level representatives of, of course, major groups and other relevant stakeholders. It will review all the work streams, reports and outcomes from Rio+20. Palestine, the Holy See, the Cook Islands, and Niue will participate. So what that means is non-Member States and Permanent Observer Missions will be in full participation, enforcing the call and need for a unified agenda to eradicate extreme poverty and build sustainable development at the highest and most inclusive level. It’s very historical, because this is, again, the very first time something like this takes on at a very inclusive and at the highest level, political level possible.
The High-Level Political Forum is being held under the auspices of the General Assembly and, of course, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). This meeting will be held in the afternoon from 3 to 7 p.m., and we understand that it actually may take a little bit longer; we are hearing 8:30, I just heard 9:30 this morning, so if you are covering it, be prepared to cover it for a while. And then, of course, on the High-Level Political Forum outcome, a presentation of the chairman’s summary will be delivered in the context of a stocktaking session.
**Special Event on Millennium Development Goals
Moving on to Wednesday, September 25th, Wednesday delivers the Special Event of the President of the General Assembly to follow-up on efforts made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. This event starts at 9 a.m. with an opening plenary until about 9:30 a.m. The meeting runs until 6:30 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council.
Four interactive round-table discussions will be held throughout the day in the Trusteeship Council and in the ECOSOC Chamber from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as follows — so I will read a little bit slow so you can get all this:
Round Table 1, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber; and, concurrently, Round Table 2, also from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., in Conference Room 2 in the Conference Building; Round Table 3, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber; and, Round Table 4, also from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., in Conference Room 2, again, in the Conference Building.
The Event will conclude with a closing plenary, which will run from 6 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. The main focus of the Event will be on gaps in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, accelerating the implementation of the MDGs, of course, by its due date of 2015, and a reflection on elements of the post-2015 development agenda. Co-facilitators are Ireland and South Africa.
The 25th Special Event will include representatives from NGOS — non-governmental organizations — with consultative status with ECOSOC, the Economic and Social Council, as well as other relevant civil society organizations, academic institutions, youth groups, and leaders from the private sector.
With respect to the post-2015 development agenda, the President of the General Assembly Special Event, the PGA Special Event, will serve as the first major opportunity to bring the full variety of different development actors, both from outside and inside the UN, to discuss the agenda through the unique convening power of the UN and the high-level character, of course, of the opening of the general debate. The PGA Special Event expected outcome is the President’s summary, and it is expected that Member States will adopt an outcome document advancing the process.
**High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament
Moving on to Thursday, 26 September; Thursday brings the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly on Nuclear Disarmament. This is the first High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament at the GA ever, where Heads of State and Government are participating at the GA. At the top, statements will be made by the President of the General Assembly and the Secretary-General and a representative of the Non-Aligned Movement. Two consecutive high-level substantive segments will be held in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, chaired by the Vice-Presidents of the Assembly — the 21 Vice-Presidents.
Non-governmental organizations with consultative status with the Economic and Social Council will participate in the high-level event. Seventy-seven organizations are expected, along with over 170 participants registered. Two civil society representatives will speak at the end of the afternoon segment. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m., with an opening plenary in the temporary General Assembly Hall. Then, it will move to the Trusteeship Council Chamber from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., ending with a closing plenary meeting. Conference Room 7 will serve as an overflow room for the morning segment for delegates, of course. The nuclear disarmament event will bring about a President’s summary.
**Speech at Saint John the Divine
For those of you who are interested, President Ashe will be delivering a talk at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in the Upper West Side [of Manhattan] this Sunday at 11 a.m.
**High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development
Thursday and Friday, October 3rd and 4th, will deliver the High-level Dialogue on International Migration and Development under the theme — it’s a long one, so hear me out — “Identifying concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications.” This is the second time this meeting is being held during the high-level week of the GA. It consists of four plenary meetings and four interactive multi-stakeholder round tables on the 3rd and 4th.
The first plenary will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the temporary GA Hall, Round Table 1 will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conference Room 1, that is the Conference Building, Round Table 2 from 3 to 6 p.m. also in Conference Room 1 in the Conference Building, and then the plenary meeting from 3 to 6 p.m., and that will return to the temporary GA Hall. It’s [inaudible] kind of going through all this because there is so much going on that keeps changing, so I will repeat that: then the plenary meeting from 3 to 6 p.m., and that will return to the temporary GA Hall. The same schedule will occur on October 4th, except that Round Table 4 will end at 5:30 p.m., and not 6 p.m., and the closing day two, from 3 to 6 p.m. in the temporary GA Hall, the North Lawn Building.
The outcome for this meeting, for this dialogue, rather, is a closing discussion, is expected in the form of an adopted message by Member States. I hope you got all that. And I am happy to take your questions. And please use your microphone. Pamela, please go ahead?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Welcome, Afaf. As a former member of our peace… of our press corps, it is Pamela Falk from CBS News, and on behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, we do welcome you. And thank you for the briefing. On the outcome document, there has been some talk among delegates to have something about the Geneva international peace negotiations on Syria. Would you…?
Spokesperson: I’m sorry, which outcome document?
Correspondent: The GA outcome document.
Spokesperson: Okay. And there has been…?
Question: Some talk about including something about the Geneva II talks. Do you anticipate that or see anything about Syria generally to be included, because it’s been approved, but there is some flexibility by the President in the final document? Thank you.
Spokesperson: Of course, and thank you for your question. As you may understand, those negotiations and discussions sort of continue on to the day of, right? And so, I can’t really speak to exactly if that will be included, if it will not be included; that’s really something I need to consult negotiators on, and I will be happy to get back to you. I just don’t really today have that information.
Spokesperson: Yeah. Matthew, please?
Question: Sure, thanks a lot, I… I… I am going to, on behalf of the Free UN Coalition for Access, thanks for doing this. It’s… it’s… it’s a… it’s a… it should be a… quite a year. I wanted to ask you, I… I mean, obviously, most of these events are MDG-related, but there is also this idea of the sustainable development goals and I wanted to know, now that you’ve… you know, with the… the… the new President of the General Assembly, does he… do you know if he has any view on the idea of the oceans as being an SDG? It is something that Palau and some other countries are pushing, and I just sort of wanted to know if you had a sense and also this is a kind of a… this may be a going forward question, but every time a new PGA comes in, the question arises how many staff do they have, how many are paid by the UN, how many are… are you know, either paid by their own country of by other countries? Is there some way just in the spirit of transparency we can get a… a… some kind of a roster, just to know, because there… it’s… it’s… you know… know… there… there… the… the office is not entirely or sufficiently funded by the UN. So… so what… any… anything you can say about it now would be helpful, and if going forward we can have some kind of a factsheet, it would be even more helpful?
Spokesperson: Okay. Your first question first. In terms of oceans being, you know, a sustainable goal or something that is being focused on, definitely, those consultations and conversations are ongoing. You know that, of course the President of the General Assembly is from a small island State surrounded by water. So that is something that is not only seen as precious, but, of course, it delivers the economy of many countries and, of course, even the livelihood of many people. So it is definitely something central to the SDG conversation, the open working group, of course the intergovernmental process on that and all the UN working streams in and outside of the UN as well are very aware that the oceans should be one of the sort of top agenda items, if not a stand alone, you know, SDG. So those conversations are at the core; they are very important. It is just a matter of really fine tuning them and that is the process that is taking place.
On your second question, you know, Matthew, as you know, the President of the General Assembly comes from a small, you know, you know, a small country, a small nation. So, of course, it will take many resources to fund something as ambitious as a full year of so many important and high-level meetings and travels and so forth. I would direct you to the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management. That team is excellent and superb in terms of really providing specific information, because in all honesty, I don’t have that information. So…
Question: [inaudible] just… yeah, I just… I wanted to, I guess, to know whether the PGA and… and you… you yourself, do you believe that it’s a… it’s a… it’s probably a best practice… I mean, it is absolutely true that small countries shouldn’t… not be able to be the PGA because they don’t have the same resources, but that there should be disclosure of who is paying for what, if it is done under kind of a blue emblem?
Spokesperson: Knowing the President of the General Assembly, he is probably one of the most transparent and open people I have ever met, and diplomat and leader. So if I can humbly speak for him, I don’t see that he would have a problem in addressing this type of concern, with of course, within the framework of the UN and what is accepted in protocol and procedures and all that, you know, sort of protocol process. But in terms of his stand, I think he would be happy to inform the press — again, as is appropriate — through the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management.
Correspondent: Okay, thanks.
Spokesperson: Please, Erol?
Correspondent: Thank you. Congratulation again.
Spokesperson: Thank you.
Question: Afaf, just sort of technical question to clarify. You said that tomorrow, President of the General Assembly will meet like 65 Foreign Ministers; is he going physically to meet them and…? Okay, and also you said that he was invited by Secretary-General to close the high-level panel on this UN Development MDGs agenda. So what does it mean? I would actually put it in the more philosophical way if can elaborate on that, whether the PGA really shares the mood of the Secretary-General that we could have done better on this.
Spokesperson: So I’ll answer your simpler question first. As you might be very well aware, the PGA has been in bilaterals since this morning, and they are ongoing as we speak. When I was referring to the head count — and I’ll do that again for you to make sure that everyone got those numbers from DGACM — I was referring to the attendance at the general debate. So again to clarify: 84 Heads of State, 41 Heads of Government, 11 Deputy Prime Ministers, and 65 Foreign Ministers, who are here or either will be here tomorrow or the next day, what have you, to make their statements. In terms of…
Question: [inaudible] interruption there…
Spokesperson: Please, yeah.
Question: …then there are also in the list of speakers, heads of league… there is more…
Spokesperson: Yes, there is of course, of course. I was just being more specific to this.
Correspondent: Oh, good.
Spokesperson: Thanks, certainly, Pamela, thank you for pointing that out. And then for the closing statement, does he… and does the PGA agree with the Secretary-General? The PGA certainly agrees with the Secretary-General that there are gaps. Just like many of the experts have been telling us, you know, for some time now that… and these gaps have to be focused on; we can’t just leave the MDGs behind and move on to the sustainable development goals. There has been a lot learned and a lot of success with the MDGs; it’s really a matter of finding out what worked, what didn’t work. And I think this is why the Secretary-General is doing this just ahead of the 25th PGA event, to really bring more [inaudible] to again to best… best examples, gaps and how to move forward with all the initiatives like “Every Woman, Every Child”, you know, “Education First”, and so on and so forth, all these really amazing framework initiatives that have worked, and you see the numbers that speak for themselves. But I think in terms of agreement there is solid and, you know, on a foundation if you will, agreement that the MDGs, yes, successful, but there were many gaps still in there and especially when it comes to the variable of inequity, right. And that’s where I think a lot of these development partners, both in and outside of the United Nations General Assembly, would… of course the GA and intergovernmental-led process are focusing on — there is a phrase and I think it is beyond a phrase, of leaving no one behind, that is the focus here, of, not only the post-2015 development agenda, which is the theme of the President of the General Assembly. And, when he says that, when he says setting the stage, right, the post-2015 development agenda: setting the stage, he means very literally creating a foundation to move ahead, move forward on a framework that is in fact hopes to be singular, universal, inclusive and that deals with the three dimensions of sustainable development, so that in fact no one is left behind.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Question: Yes, I am wondering, I didn’t hear you mention anything about the Fukushima situation, and I am wondering if there is anything that would be scheduled, considering the earthquake that just happened a couple of days ago, the epicentre was under Fukushima and there, it transcended Japan’s resources, it’s a world problem now and I don’t ever see it on the UN agenda to be dealt with. Is the world going to come together to deal with this issue?
Spokesperson: I definitely understand and welcome your question; it’s a very poignant concern. You might be very well aware that these meetings are prepared so much in advance, right, as, you know, life does what it does. Specific to that, I think I would best serve you in referring you back to Martin, the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, in terms of Fukushima. If, having said, if Member States bring it to the attention of the President of the General Assembly, of course, he will take that as a very clear cue to move forward.
Question: I mean, could they do it as an emergency session?
Spokesperson: Why not? Again it is up to Member States. Anyone else? Please, [inaudible]?
Question: I was just wondering if you could repeat the information about the slave… slavery memorial?
Spokesperson: Yeah, absolutely. That’s going to be on Sunday, at 11 a.m., Upper West Side, and let me make sure I’ve got the church right, Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, Upper West Side, 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sunday the 29th of September.
Spokesperson: Please, George, you are welcome.
Correspondent: [inaudible] 112th Street and Amsterdam.
Spokesperson: Thank you so much, George! Anyone else?
Question: Will he be at the… will the PGA be at the Great Lawn Stevie Wonder event?
Spokesperson: Let me confirm that for you. He’s got such a tight schedule, but let me confirm that for you. Anyone else? Thank so much for being here.
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