DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today's noon briefing by Manoel de Almeida e Silva, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Sue Markham, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon, thank you very much for coming. As we have announced earlier, the guest at today's noon briefing is Stephen Lewis, the Secretary-General Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.
**Secretary-General Ends United Kingdom Visit
The Secretary-General concluded his visit to the United Kingdom this morning when he addressed some 75 corporate leaders from the United Kingdom at a breakfast meeting.
He made two appeals: first he called for corporate support for the nine principles of the Global Compact for the voluntary respect of core standards on human rights, labour relations and the environment. Second, the Secretary-Generalasked for the corporate leaders' backing in his Call to Action in the global battle against HIV/AIDS and invited them to contribute to the Global AIDS and Health Fund.
You can play an almost revolutionary role, he said. HIV/AIDS affects business, he argued, it causes costs to expand, markets to shrink and contributes to political instability.
He called on the companies to support their employees and their families by providing voluntary testing and counselling on AIDS. He took a number of questions from these executives. At the end of that working session, he flew to New York and he's expected to arrive at the residence by mid-afternoon.
Meanwhile, here in New York, the Security Council is holding an open meeting on the situation in Kosovo, during which all the Council members are expected to speak, in addition to representatives from Sweden, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Albania, who are also expected to take the floor.
Council members were first briefed by Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno. In his presentation, he focused on the main messages contained in the Secretary-General's report on the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), and the report of the Security Council's mission to Kosovo and Belgrade. Those issues, which are crucial to the future development of Kosovo, include multi-ethnicity, the engagement of all communities in the political process, and the creation of confidence-building measures.
Mr. Guéhenno added that the Council mission had succeeded in delivering the message that the international community and the United Nations are committed to
ensuring the rights of all communities, but the people of Kosovo must also accept their share of responsibility.
**Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Still on the Balkans, hundreds of people are entering Kosovo today from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), fleeing the latest fighting near the border.
Yesterday, some 1,400 refugees entered Kosovo from the Blace crossing point, bringing the total of FYROM refugees in Kosovo to more than 50,000 since fighting intensified this year. The flow of refugees had slowed down last week, but picked up again this week as fighting was reported near the FYROM capital, Skopje.
For additional details, please see today's United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) briefing notes, which also mention the start today of a major operation: the return home of more than 170,000 Eritrean refugees who have been residing in the Sudan.
The Secretary-General's report on Western Sahara, which went to the Security Council this morning, notes efforts made by the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy to Western Sahara, James Baker, to communicate with the parties on a plan for the devolution of authority in the area.
Those efforts include visits by Mr. Baker to Algiers and Tindouf in early May to discuss a draft framework agreement on the status of Western Sahara, which is included as an annex to the report.
The Secretary-General says he hopes that Morocco, the POLISARIO Front, Algeria and Mauritania will agree to meet as parties to discuss that framework agreement, which intends to achieve an early, durable and agreed resolution of the conflict in a way that does not foreclose self-determination, but indeed provides for it.
He notes that the framework would allow the population of Western Sahara the right to elect their own executive and legislative bodies and to have exclusive competence over local government administration and a range of economic, legal and social affairs. Within five years, a referendum on the final status of the territory would be held.
The Secretary-General asked in the report for the Security Council to extend the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) by five months until the end of November, to allow Mr. Baker time to conduct consultations on the framework agreement. Over that time, Mr. Baker is to invite the parties to engage in direct or proximity talks and, if possible, adopt such changes as would make the plan acceptable to them.
The Secretary-General concludes by noting that 26 years have elapsed since the outbreak of the conflict, and adds that the proposed framework agreement offers what may be the last window of opportunity for years to come.
The Council, as you know, is expected to take up Western Sahara in consultations next Tuesday, when James Baker is to come here to brief Council members on the report.
I have here a statement attributable to the Spokesman on Burundi.
"The Secretary-General is deeply grieved to learn of the ambush on a vehicle belonging to the British NGO Children's Aid Direct near Bubanza, Burundi, on
21 June, in which the vehicle's driver was murdered and three others were briefly taken hostage before their release following action by Government forces.
"This latest atrocity occurs just five weeks after six other aid workers were kidnapped and held hostage in the Makamba province. The Secretary-General urgently calls on all parties in Burundi to respect the neutrality of humanitarian workers and to ensure their safety and security."
On the Middle East, this morning in Geneva, Peter Hansen, the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), launched the third emergency appeal since October 2000 for projects in Gaza and the West Bank.
Mr. Hansen is asking the international community to provide $77 million to buy and distribute urgently needed food aid and medical supplies, and to provide emergency work programmes for Palestinian refugees.
As a result of Mr. Hansen's appeal this morning, Italy has already pledged close to $3 million and Canada $700,000. Sweden and Norway also made pledges.
The UNRWA appeal is also needed because of the severe decline in the Palestinian economy and the impact of the violence on the health and welfare of refugees. According to Mr. Hansen, these effects will not be reversed quickly, even if there were an immediate cessation in violence and an end to Israel’s policy of closures and other measures in Gaza and the West Bank.
A press release from UNRWA with more information, including a breakdown of how the funds will be used, is available in the office upstairs. And I understand we also have here in this room Maher Nasser, the newly appointed UNRWA liaison officer in New York. If any of you are interested in getting more details, you are welcome to do so after Ambassador Lewis's briefing to you on Botswana and AIDS.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has approved, on behalf of the Secretary-General, grants amounting to $8 million to organizations supporting survivors of torture. The amount represents an increase of $1 million in comparison with the year 2000.
Today's announcement comes just days before the annual United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which is commemorated on
For more details, please see a press release we have in our office.
A two-day Donor’s Conference will begin on Monday in Dili, East Timor. The conference aims at finding sources of funding for the East Timor Defence Force, which yesterday held a graduation ceremony for the first 247 cadets. The event was an important step in turning a guerrilla force into the beginnings of the East Timor Defence Force. The 68 officers, 130 sergeants and 49 privates completed four months of basic training
Nearly 96 per cent of East Timor’s estimated population has now been registered by the United Nations mission's Civilian Registration Unit. Registration has ended in all districts except Dili, where it will close tomorrow.
Following up on the note yesterday on the Lospalos floods, relief workers today distributed supplies, enough for 900 people for a week, and set up emergency shelters to house 145 people displaced by the floods in the town of Lospalos, which, as you know, is in the eastern part of East Timor.
More details in the briefing notes from Dili in our office.
On signings, yesterday afternoon, Denmark became the 140th country to sign and the thirty-fifth to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
**Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), today became the Chair of the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI). She replaces World Health Organization Director-General
Gro Harlem Brundtland.
Ms. Bellamy said her focus would be on improving the capacity of governments to provide immunization services and increase immunization rates. The GAVI partnership includes UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the World Bank and representatives of governments, foundations and corporations worldwide.
More details in a press release available upstairs.
The International Labour Organization (ILO) today announced a new set of guidelines for addressing the impact of AIDS in the workplace. The Code of Practice will provide workers, employers and governments with guidelines to help boost efforts to prevent the spread of HIV, manage its impact, provide care and support to those affected by the disease and reduce the stigma and discrimination attached to it. Juan Somavia, ILO Director-General, said the code was about “respecting the dignity of others and learning to live with the reality of HIV/AIDS”.
Mr. Somavia will be participating in the special session of the General Assembly starting next Monday, and he will be holding a press briefing at
11 o'clock in the morning and I'm sure he'll be talking more about this.
In addition to a press release on this ILO Code, we have a few other press releases on AIDS-related topics in the Spokesman's Office.
**AIDS Bike Rides
Still on AIDS, this is closer to home, several staff members of the United Nations Secretariat, UNICEF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) along with some staff from permanent missions, will be participating in two bike rides to raise money to develop an AIDS vaccine.
The first HIV/AIDS bike ride will take place from 18 to 21 July, starting in New York and ending in Boston. The second, the first of its kind, will go from Montreal to Portland, Maine, from 3 September through 9 September.
Starting next Monday, some of the riders will be just outside the cafeteria to raise funds for the bike rides, and they are hoping that all of us will help sponsor them.
We have, as usual, the weekly feature "The Week Ahead at the United Nations". I will not go over the details now, but it's available in our Office.
Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
This morning the General Committee of the General Assembly met to approve an additional agenda item, or at least to recommend that the General Assembly approve an additional agenda item entitled "Appointment of the Secretary-General".
This was a proposal by Nigeria and the General Committee approved that proposal and the Plenary will meet this afternoon at 3 o'clock. We assume that they will approve this new agenda item, "Appointment of the Secretary-General". I'm told that the item will be scheduled to be taken up next Friday morning.
Also this afternoon at 3 o'clock, the General Assembly will discuss the participation of NGOs in the roundtables for both the General Assemblyspecial sessions on children and HIV/AIDS. We can make available to you the resolution on children and the one on AIDS.
As Manoel said, the session opens on Monday for HIV/AIDS. The very first item, which starts at 8 o'clock, is the symbolic unfolding of the AIDS Quilt. It will take place at the base of the escalator going up to the General Assembly.
The coverage will be somewhat limited because it's a small area, but there will be pool coverage, which is being organized by the Department of Public Information. It will, of course, be played on the in-house system.
The heads of State that are going to speak first thing in the morning are listed, as are other speakers, in the Journal. Please remember that the General Assembly begins at 9 o'clock, not 10 o'clock, and there is no roundtable in the first morning. The first roundtable starts in the afternoon of Monday at
We will provide you, after the briefing, with copies of the list of press conferences, which of course will change daily. But at least the list is out today and we can make it available to you.
You will have seen as you came into the building that the AIDS ribbon is being formed with red film on more than 500 windows on both sides of the building. Tomorrow, a number of staff volunteers will come in to assist in the placement of the blinds so that the photographs can be taken on Saturday night.
The informal negotiations on the draft outcome document will continue this afternoon after the Plenary. There was an informal meeting this morning and we expect it also to continue tomorrow. I don't have any details on how late this will go, but we'll keep you posted.
That's all I have. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Unfortunately, despite our conversations yesterday, the ability of those of us in TV to cover many things is still very much up in the air. For instance, I don't know what's been resolved about our ability to get a photo-op at the beginning of the roundtables, there are still a lot of question marks about our ability to get any kind of signal and I still feel that we are very handicapped in not being able to stake out the first basement area with a camera crew.
I really would urge the building to rethink its policy and maybe allow a stakeout area where our crews could politely and patiently wait while we can compete with our print colleagues and try to get people from the panels to come and talk to us at the end of the panels.
Spokesperson: On the question of the roundtables, my understanding was that there would be a photo-op at the beginning of the roundtables. I will check that and come back to you. The Office of the President will have a decision on exactly what the arrangements will be.
On the question of escorts of camera crews in the first basement, my understanding from yesterday's briefing with the head of Security was that they did not have to be escorted in the first basement. I will check it again and we can talk again after the briefing about that.
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