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 for coming, for taking time on this very busy day to attend Sue's and my briefing.
As we told you on Friday, the briefing today and tomorrow will be shorter than usual. But the Spokesman's Office will be making our notes available in writing through our Web site shortly after the briefing so that we don't keep you here; and you can cover other stories and have information available. On Wednesday, there will be no briefing because there will be a press conference by the Secretary-General.
**SG's AIDS Speech
This morning, the Secretary-General, in his address to the opening plenary of the General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, said that, this year, the world has seen a turning point in its response to the epidemic. He told the Assembly, "AIDS can no longer do its deadly work in the dark. The world has started to wake up."
He also told Governments to remember the needs and human rights of all those infected with HIV. "We cannot deal with AIDS by making moral judgments, or refusing to face unpleasant facts," he said, "and still less by stigmatizing those who are infected, and making out that it is all their fault."
Copies of the Secretary-General's speech are available in the Spokesman's Office as well as in the Media Centre. We also have copies available, to be checked against delivery, of a statement by Peter Piot, Executive Director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and a press release by UNAIDS on progress in providing care and treatment for people living with HIV. And Sue will be reminding you soon about Dr. Piot's briefing at 1.00 p.m. later on.
Earlier this morning, before the opening of the session of the Assembly, the Secretary-General participated in the unfolding of the AIDS Memorial Quilt -- in the ceremony of unfolding begun by six people living with HIV. Also his remarks are available in our office.
**SG's Letter to G-8
I also want to bring to your attention that the Secretary-General has written a letter to the leaders of the "Group of Eight" (G-8) nations as they prepare for their annual summit meeting, to be held this year in Genoa, Italy. In that letter, the Secretary-General reiterates the need for funding an additional $7 to $10 billion a year to combat AIDS. He hoped they would make a sustained material contribution to the fight against AIDS.
He also says that much more needs to be done to increase official development assistance to poor countries, and that many handicaps remain that limit the benefits from trade for developing countries. The removal of such handicaps, he says, depends on leadership from the G-8 leaders.
Copies of his letter are available in the Spokesman's Office.
This afternoon, the Security Council will hold consultations at 3:15 p.m. on the United Nations Mission on Ethiopia and Eritrea, on which it received a progress report from the Secretary-General last week. The Council will receive a briefing on that report by Dmitri Titov, Director of the Africa Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.
Tomorrow, the Council will hold consultations in the morning on Western Sahara, on which the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy, James Baker, will provide a briefing. In the afternoon, also tomorrow, the Council will hold a formal meeting on Iraq and Kuwait, in which Council members are expected to discuss proposals to change the "oil-for-food" programme.
I now have a statement attributable to the Spokesman for the Secretary-General:
“The Secretary-General was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction caused by the earthquake that struck southern Peru on Saturday, with the impact felt as far away as Chile. He extends his condolences to the Government of Peru and to the families of the victims.
“The Secretary-General is gratified by the solidarity being shown by the international community in the response to this tragic event, and reiterates the commitment of the United Nations to assist in the relief and rehabilitation efforts.”
**Peru Earthquake - OCHA
On this earthquake, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that water, electricity and telephone services have been interrupted and giant waves caused serious damage to ports in Camana and Chala in the department of Arequipa, about 750 miles southeast of Lima. Eighty per cent of housing in Moquegua has been seriously damaged and thousands have been made homeless.
OCHA has released a grant of $30,000 for emergency aid.
The Pan American Health Organization reports that medical supplies are not needed at present and that the health service infrastructure, though damaged, is functioning with the use of emergency generators and water reserves.
**FRY and ICTY
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, said today that the decree issued by the Yugoslav Government on cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia was a major step forward in the fight against impunity. She hoped the decree would open the way for the transfer of former President Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague.
She said, in a statement available in the Spokesman's Office, that "the decree is a recognition that the serious crimes that the former President and others are accused of must come to trial." Today, she said, the world is a step closer to telling tyrants "You will be called to account. There is no place to hide."
**SG's Message to Meeting of Foreign Ministers of OIC
Today in Bamako, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Ibrahima Fall is to deliver a message of the Secretary-General to the 28th meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
The full text of the message is available upstairs in the Spokesman's Office.
We have also a statement issued by the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator at the weekend on the release of four Afghan women, working with the World Food Programme in Kabul, after a three-day detention by the Taliban.
Also -- I'm reaching the end of this briefing -- on the racks today is a note by the Secretary-General on the decision by Judge Mohammed Bedjaoui of the International Court of Justice to resign from his post, effective on September 30. The Secretary-General noted that the Security Council might wish to consider filling the vacancy that will open up on that date.
Also out on the racks is a letter from the Security Council President to the Secretary-General, responding to the Secretary-General's recent report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict and suggesting steps, including closer cooperation between the United Nations humanitarian and peacekeeping departments, to assist in that goal.
Before we go to Sue, are there any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Can you tell us what countries are objecting to the draft declaration, and what provisions they are objecting to?
Spokesman: I don't have that information. I think I'll hand over to my colleague, Sue, who is the Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President. I think on that issue, she will be much more able to answer that than I will.
If there are no further questions to me, I will then give the floor to Sue, reminding you that a number of press releases that have reached the Spokesman's Office are available upstairs on different issues of the United Nations system in case you're interested.
Thank you very much.
Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
As there are some new faces here, let me just also explain that anything to do with the General Assembly Special Session that is going on at the moment, and with the regular General Assembly session, I'll help you with, and anything else, Manoel will help you.
As you know, this morning the twenty-sixth special session of the General Assembly was opened, and elected by acclamation, Mr. Harri Holkeri of Finland, who is the current President of the 55th General Assembly, President of the Special Session on HIV/AIDS.
The plenary began its discussion of the review of HIV/AIDS and is currently listening to 28 speakers for this morning's session. There are 25 listed for this afternoon, and 16 for this evening. This evening session will run until 9 p.m. So, I know that you've got a full day just listening to those statements.
In his statement to the plenary this morning, the President of the General Assembly said that the Assembly was alarmed by the accelerating spread of the epidemic and decided to convoke a special session of the General Assembly as a matter of urgency. This proves that the world is committed to intensify efforts to contain the epidemic and tackle the crisis, he said.
The full text of his statement is available in the Media Centre, and we'll send it downstairs and also on the 3rd floor, and also on the President's Web site which you can see: www.un.org/ga/president.
Other speakers at the plenary this morning have expressed their commitment to intensity efforts to contain the epidemic, and we expect the remainder of them to explain what their own countries are doing, as well.
After this morning's list of speakers, the General Assembly will discuss the participation of NGOs in the round tables. As you know, the first round table is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. and it is on the issue of care and prevention. It will be chaired by the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas. The Prime Minister will hold a press conference at 6 p.m. immediately after the close of the round table in Conference Room 2 to brief you on what the discussion was about. However, you may also watch the proceedings in an overflow room that is in Conference Room 3. We have made available the list of participants in each of the four round tables with the first one, which starts this afternoon.
There will be two tomorrow -- the first one on human rights, starting at
10 a.m., and the second one starting at 3 p.m. on the economic and social impact on HIV/AIDS. The fourth one, on Wednesday morning, is on funding and international cooperation.
Tomorrow morning's round table will be chaired by the Minister of Health of Poland, Mr. Grzegorz Opala. We'll give you other details as we go. So you'll get the full list of participants, excluding, unfortunately, civil society participants because that has not yet been agreed to. We'll make that list available, as soon as the General Assembly agrees to it.
There's also a schedule of press conferences each day which you can get at the Media Centre and on the 3rd floor. The press conferences are being held in this room and also in Conference Room 2 in the first basement, which is right next door to the Media Centre.
Every day there will be a briefing at 1 p.m. in Conference Room 2 by
Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS and the co-sponsors of UNAIDS, which are seven United Nations agencies. At today's briefing with Dr. Piot will be the heads of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Special events: there are many going on, most of them in Conference Room 4, some of them in other conference rooms at the lunch breaks. You can get a full list on the Web at www.un.org/ga/aids and go to Calendar. There is a booklet out on NGO events which you can get, I think, in Conference Room 4. There should be some in the Media Centre as well. These are special events that are scheduled for everybody, and not just for NGOs. It is also available in the information note for delegations.
Let me go on to two other issues: One is, I had a question about the number of extra participants who are here for the Special Session. In addition to those who have normal accreditation we have issued an additional 2,200 passes. This includes 1,250 delegates, 700 NGOS and 250 journalists, and that is as of now. If we have more, we'll give you those figures.
Concerning your request about the status of the declaration of commitment, we had a press conference a short while ago by one of the facilitators. As you know, there are two facilitators -- the Ambassador of Australia to the United Nations and the Ambassador of Senegal to the United Nations. Unfortunately, because the General Assembly is so busy we were only able to have one of the co-facilitators here, the Ambassador of Australia, Penny Wensley.
She explained that essentially, negotiations had concluded on the text. These finished at 3 a.m. today, and we are waiting to hear whether groups had agreed to the text. She said she expected the text to be presented by the co-facilitators -– well, it has already been presented to the President of the General Assembly at about 4 a.m. today. But we expect that document to be issued some time later today. She indicated 1 p.m. I'll certainly give you copies as soon as it is issued.
The President himself mentioned in the plenary this morning that the final draft will be taken up on Wednesday after the final speaker. That is normal procedure.
Ambassador Penny Wensley also mentioned the four areas that had been the focus of attention in the last negotiations. They related to the description of the vulnerable groups or those groups most at risk; the issue of human rights; the issue of the empowerment of women, and the issue of some of the obstacles that can hamper prevention, care , support and treatment, including those related to culture.
She said that the document was "very strong" and had progressive language in it. Much of it had already been agreed, and these were the four areas that the final negotiations focused on. She said the negotiations had been difficult, and the issues that were raised were sensitive and complex. She said some compromises had to be reached to achieve agreement on the final text. There was a very careful use of language, but it was still a very strong and clear document that offered significant targets and strategies for governments and the private sector at the national, regional and international levels.
She said it would be a blueprint for future action. That's all I have for now. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Does that mean that all countries have approved that as a draft document? Does that also mean that some are still holding out?
Spokesperson: Ambassador Wensley indicated that the sense this morning at the end of the negotiations was that no further negotiations would be entered into and that this was the final text. But, as she said, a group was still meeting on it. We don't know if they will get a final agreement, and of course, the General Assembly could certainly open negotiations further.
Question: How many NGOs at this moment are involved in this conference?
Spokesperson: In addition to the normal NGOs accredited to the Economic and Social Council, there are some 500 organizations that have received special accreditation to attend and participate in this Special Session. And, as I mentioned, we have given 700 passes to individuals representing those NGOs.
Question: Could you talk a little bit about the objections to NGO participation, and where it came from?
Spokesperson: Yes. Actually there's a press release that explains this. There was a plenary meeting on Friday afternoon where a list of NGOs to participate in the round tables was presented orally by the President of the General Assembly, the acting President at the time. That list, as the resolution demands, is to be presented on a non-objection basis, which means that if any country objects, the NGO will be taken off the list, to the General Assembly for final decision.
The list that the President of the General Assembly first circulated on
13 June contained the full list and there were 11 objections to one NGO on the list. The second list that was circulated to all Member States on 21 June was the list that was orally presented to the General Assembly. There was a proposed amendment made by Canada and Norway and some other countries which has been issued as an "L" document, that proposes the reinclusion of the NGO that had been objected to. That NGO is the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which was to participate in the round table on human rights tomorrow morning. So, the discussion this afternoon after the last speaker at this morning's session would be related to that list.
Question: How many people are accredited to participate?
Spokesperson: There are 2,200 extra individuals who have been accredited for the special session -- in addition to the people with the normal passes -- of which 1,250 are delegates 700 are NGOs and 250 are journalists, as of now. I don't have a figure for those who have regular passes. I'll try to get that for you.
Spokesperson: The draft declaration of commitment? All Member States have been involved in the negotiations on this. It has been an open-ended informal working group. The preparation for the special session was very short. We only had the decision of the General Assembly to hold this special session, late last
year -- in fact on 5 September. And since then, the General Assembly itself has been conducting the preparations in informal negotiations which have been open to all Member States to attend. So all Member States have been able to participate in these discussions and negotiate the draft declaration of commitment.
Spokesman: Before I give you the floor, I’d just like to inform you that I have just been told that Secretary Powell is leaving the Office of the Secretary-General. He will stop here by the stand-up mike on the second floor and answer questions from the media, from those of you who are interested.
Spokesperson: The General Assembly President has always been strongly involved in preparations for the special session. He was here on Saturday with the negotiations going on. He did speak to the negotiators and, of course, when the document comes before the plenary he will have his full force behind it as well.
Question: I will like to know whether any particular event has been arranged or would be arranged for NGOs.
Spokesperson: There are many events being arranged by NGOS. I did mention a few of them.
Spokesperson: NGOs are extremely involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, and at all these events being held the NGOs who are attending will be explaining what they are doing and what they plan to do. The declaration of commitment also involves the private sector and NGOs.
Spokesman: If there are no more questions, I thank you very much. Have a nice afternoon. We'll be seeing you tomorrow.
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