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. Sorry for this delay. At 12:30 p.m. there is a press conference in this room, if you want to follow that as well.
The Secretary-General this morning attended a meeting with leaders of the Global Business Council on forging a partnership with business in the fight against AIDS. Other representatives of United Nations agencies were present, including the Director-General of the ILO (International Labour Organization), Juan Somavia, Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Peter Piot, of course, of UNAIDS, and other key United Nations representatives as well.
The Secretary-General told the business leaders gathered at the meeting, "I need not convince you that AIDS is your business. But many companies still need convincing." The Secretary-General said that companies should contribute to the fight against AIDS by exercising leadership, putting in place workplace practices and building on their commercial strengths. Somavia also addressed the meeting on the code of practice on HIV/AIDS and the workplace, adopted by the ILO last Friday.
Later today, at 3:30 p.m. the Secretary-General will open a dialogue with people living with AIDS. That will take place in Conference Room 4. We will have copies of his remarks available for you in the Spokesman's Office. That session is designed to listen to people who have been living with HIV, and is organized by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.
The Secretary-General this afternoon, as he did yesterday, will have a number of bilateral meetings with the leaders who are present here for the special session. A full schedule of his appointments is available in the Spokesman’s Office, as it is every day.
Meanwhile, the Security Council is meeting in closed consultations this morning to discuss the Secretary-General’s latest report on the United Nations mission in Western Sahara. His Personal Envoy, James Baker, will present the report.
The Secretary-General was also in attendance for part of this morning’s consultations.
Council members will also discuss a draft resolution on Western Sahara which they hope to bring to a vote on Friday.
Following this morning’s consultations, James Baker will be available to take some questions from the press right outside the Security Council stakeout area here on the 2nd floor.
Closed consultations will resume this afternoon at 3 p.m. on the question of the oil-for-food programme. Those consultations are to be followed by an open meeting on the same issue. More than 30 countries have signed up to speak.
On the issue of the oil-for-food programme, let me just draw your attention briefly –- we have available upstairs a weekly update from the Office of the Iraq Programme which shows that Iraqi oil exports under the United Nations oil-for-food programme remained suspended for the third consecutive week.
**Statement on FYROM
I have now a statement attributable to the Spokesman on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia:
“The Secretary-General continues to follow closely events in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
“He is convinced that there cannot be a military solution to the present crisis and emphasizes the heavy responsibility that now rests on political leaders and others concerned for the future of their country, and for peace in the region.
“The Secretary-General also expresses his support for the ongoing efforts of the European Union and welcomes the recent ceasefire negotiated by the European Union High Representative Javier Solana.
“The Secretary-General calls upon the parties to fully honour the ceasefire and to reinvigorate their efforts towards a negotiated political settlement. Every effort must be made to avoid further violence and any form of provocation irrespective from which quarter and to act decisively to resume the political dialogue and prevent the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia from sliding further towards war.”
Skopje was reported calm but tense today, after violent anti-Government riots late Monday.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that the flow of ethnic Albanians from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to Kosovo subsided Monday, but aid workers braced for more arrivals.
UNHCR also asked donors for $17.5 million to provide emergency assistance over the next six months to more than 65,000 refugees in Kosovo, some
6,000 refugees in Serbia, and to thousands more who remain internally displaced within FYROM.
More details in the note from the UNHCR we have in our office.
Still on refugee matters, I will briefly draw your attention to two other refugee-related items.
UNHCR says it is attempting to help a family of seven North Koreans who went to the UNHCR office in Beijing this morning and requested asylum. These seven North Koreans, including three women, have been in China since 1999. This is the first time North Koreans have gone to the UNHCR office in Beijing to request asylum.
On another issue, the United Nations refugee agency also reports that a Swedish-registered ship carrying over 150 Liberian passengers docked today at Lagos, Nigeria, after a week-long odyssey along the coast of West Africa. UNHCR says it will interview the Liberians after they complete immigration procedures.
**Statement on Bougainville
I have another statement attributable to the Spokesman, and this time it is on Bougainville:
“The Secretary-General welcomes warmly the reported successful conclusion of political talks between the National Government of Papua New Guinea and Bougainville leaders. The agreement reached on June 22 encompasses the future autonomous status of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea and other related issues, and it is a very important step forward in the peace process.
“The Secretary-General pays tribute to the parties for their determined effort to resolve the very complex issues through dialogue and compromise.
“The Secretary-General is satisfied that the United Nations, through its political office in Bougainvile, Papua New Guinea, was able to play a useful role in assisting the parties in reaching this agreement which, in his view, is a significant start towards reconciliation and durable peace.
“He hopes the National Executive Council of Papua New Guinea will consider the agreement speedily so that the corresponding follow up action can begin to be taken.”
I want to flag that the two-day donors' conference dealing with the newly-formed East Timor Defence Force wrapped up today in Dili, the East Timorese capital. Each of the 13 countries that attended had indicated that they would support the Force through the provision of personnel, training, logistics, or equipment and materiel. More details in the Briefing Note from Dili.
Moving to Africa: In Arusha, Tanzania, today, Sylvestre Gacumbitsi, a former burgomaster in the prefecture of Kibungo, pleaded not guilty to five counts of genocide, complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, murder and rape.
Gacumbitsi, who was arrested on 20 June in a refugee camp in Tanzania, is alleged to have organized campaigns against Tutsis that resulted in thousands of deaths, and to have killed some people himself. He is also alleged to have instructed Hutus to rape and mutilate Tutsi girls while he travelled through the prefecture.
A press release from the Tribunal is available in our office and has more details.
I’d like to bring to your attention that delegates and United Nations staff today will participate in a silent march for peace to mark United Nations Charter Day. A number of Permanent Representatives will lead the national groups in a march to relay the Preamble of the Charter around the North Garden, beginning at 1.10 p.m. this afternoon. As you know, the Charter was originally signed by
50 countries on 26 June 1945 in San Francisco.
**International Day of Torture
Today we also commemorate two other international days: the International Day of Solidarity in Support of the Victims of Torture, and International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking.
The Secretary-General issued messages on both days which are available on the racks upstairs.
**Staff Security Summit
And finally to end my briefing: just to bring to your attention that the fourth annual Summit on the Security of International Staff will take place on Thursday morning in Conference Room 4. The meeting will draw attention to the increased attacks against United Nations and humanitarian workers worldwide and discuss possible solutions. The speakers will include the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the UNDP, and Ralph Zacklin, Assistant Secretary-General in the Office of Legal Affairs.
This is all I have for you today. Any questions, before we move on to Sue?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Will the Secretary-General react or respond to the unusually fierce letter from the Algerian Ambassador on Western Sahara?
Spokesman: I think he had a meeting with the Algerians today. I don’t have a read-out on that. But I can look into that for you.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to China’s decision to execute 59 people to mark the United Nations anti-drugs day?
Spokesman: I have seen myself this media report. I have not spoken to the Secretary-General on this. He has been on his meetings and I don’t know whether he has seen it himself. But what, I guess, I can say is that the death penalty is an issue on which Member States are divided. However, we do have the second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which aims at the abolition of the death penalty. Drug abuse and drug trafficking are indeed very terrible problems of our days. They affect the whole world, sparing no country, rich or poor. There’s a convention, a 1988 convention, on drug trafficking which provides a legal framework for the fight against trafficking at all levels. I think I can say that as far as I’m aware, the convention does not provide for the application of the death penalty.
Any other questions? Thank you. Sue.
Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
Today, the second day of the General Assembly’s special session on HIV/AIDS got under way this morning at 9 a.m. when the plenary heard from the President of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Prime Ministers of Ireland and Benin. There are 34 speakers listed for this morning, 24 for this afternoon and 13 for this evening.
This morning Sweden announced a $60 million additional contribution in the effort to combat AIDS which will be spent during the next few years. A number of other countries have also yesterday and today announced increased resources for the global fund or more general use for the fight against AIDS. The ones that I’m aware of include Norway, which pledged 1 billion kroner over the next five years, which is equivalent to about $110 million; Kenya which announced $7,000; Nigeria which announced $10 million; Canada which announced $73 million; the United Kingdom which announced that it will double its original pledge of $100 million, which means a pledge of $200 million; Zimbabwe which has pledged $1 million; and I mentioned Sweden. Uganda has pledged $2 million.
We’ll try to keep you apprised as we hear of more pledges. Of course, the special session of the General Assembly is not a pledging conference, but it is an indication of the high level of commitment Governments have made to addressing this global crisis.
Concerning the situation with the draft declaration of commitment, the President of the General Assembly met this morning with the Co-facilitators, the Ambassador of Australia and Senegal, and with the leaders of the various regional groups and key parties. They took stock of everyone’s views on the situation with regard to the negotiations on the draft declaration. The meeting lasted one hour and was held in a very positive and constructive spirit. There will be another meeting this afternoon of the same people with the President of the General Assembly. And I hope I’ll have something more to tell you after that.
The second round table began this morning. The issue being discussed this morning is human rights. The chairman of the round table, who is the Minister of Health from Poland, will hold a press conference in this room at 1 p.m. immediately after the round table concludes. His name is Mr. Grzegorz Opala.
Last night, at the conclusion of the first round table which was on prevention and care, the Chairman, who is the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr. Denzil Douglas, summarized the highlights of the discussion.
He said that prevention and care are inextricably linked in the fight against HIV/AIDS and he outlined some of the strategies that should be undertaken, in the view of the round table.
He said prevention is cost-effective and feasible and must be part of the overall strategy. He also mentioned some specific issues that should be looked at under the issue of prevention, including looking for well-established educational programmes targeting youth, women and other vulnerable groups. He said the aim of prevention was to help people change their life styles.
Concerning care, he said the round table had emphasized the need for a comprehensive strategy which would address the sexual and reproductive needs of young people and the need for better care/treatment delivery systems.
He also spoke of the need for assistance from drug companies and spoke of them as partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS. He said the drug company, Merck, had participated in the round table and pledged to work for a vaccine and to continue to provide drugs for treatment. He also referred to the participation of civil society in the round table and said this was very well merited.
It was a most interesting press conference, so I hope that the other round table chairmen will give equally interesting press conferences. The next one is at 1 p.m. today. Unfortunately, the press conference for the third round table this afternoon, which is on the issue of the social and economic impact of HIV/AIDS will not be held. Unfortunately, the Chairman, who is the Minister of Health of Pakistan, Dr. Abdul Malik Kasi is unable to hold the press conference because of other commitments. But we will make available to you a summary of what he is expected to say at the end of the round table, to summarize what was happening. So we will make that available after 6 p.m. as well, in lieu of the press conference.
In other events today, at a press conference this morning, the Global Business Council talked about the need for businesses to respond to the global crisis by getting involved. Manoel has already mentioned that they met with the Secretary-General this morning.
According to the President of MTV Networks International, William Roedy, and the President and CEO of the Global Business Council, Richard Holbrooke, the business response so far has been “totally inadequate” in relation to the magnitude of the need. The Global Business Council has a “blueprint” as it was described, which was being sent to thousands of companies to encourage them to get involved.
The International Labour Organization has also launched a Code of Conduct on HIV/AIDS. I’m sure you are aware that yesterday the Director-General of the ILO held a press conference to explain the importance of this Code of Conduct.
Also yesterday, at a special event, Dr. Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS was awarded the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights. I believe it is the first time such an award has been given. There is a press release available about that.
Among the many special events being held today, at 3:30 p.m. there is a dialogue with people living with HIV/AIDS. That will be held in Conference Room 4. There is a panel on orphans and vulnerable children in the Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium at 1:30 p.m. A panel on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV will be held in Conference Room 3 at 1:15 p.m.
Of course, a complete list of events is available on the Web site, and also in the Spokesman’s Office and at the Media Centre downstairs.
Also this morning, the Ministers of Health of France, Spain and Portugal and some other European countries announced the launch of a hospital partnership against AIDS where European nations offer their experience and expertise by linking with hospitals in developing countries in a partnership arrangement.
At 1 p.m. there will be the regular press briefing with Dr. Peter Piot, substituted by the Deputy Executive Director of UNAIDS, Cathleen Craven. Also at the 1 p.m. press briefing with her will be Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, Thoraya Obaid, Executive Director of UNFPA, and Mr. Moiut Adalekam, Adviser on HIV/AIDS for the United Nations Drug Programme. All at 1 p.m. today, and in Conference Room 2.
Other press conferences: At 1:45 p.m. there is a press conference in Conference Room 2 with the President of the Kaiser Family Foundation and a number of interesting experts to talk about the future of global HIV prevention. That is at 1:45 p.m.
At 2:30 p.m., we have a press conference with youth spokespeople of Love Life, South Africa’s national youth HIV prevention programme. That is in Conference Room 2 at 2:30 p.m.
Also at 2:30 p.m., there is an addition to the press conferences with Medecins sans Frontieres –- Doctors Without Borders. That will be in this room.
And at 3:30 p.m., there is a press conference with Harry Belafonte, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
So that is some of the events to keep you busy today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Only a few hours ago Ambassador Wensley had told us that negotiations ceased at 3 a.m. yesterday, and that the text was approved by all other groups except for the Islamic countries, which were supposed to be meeting on it. Are negotiations continuing or what?
Spokesperson: No negotiations as such are continuing. As you know, Ambassador Wensley said there was no group that met twice yesterday. I understand that what the President wanted to find out was where everybody was at with regard to the document –- whether everyone agreed with the text. People are still discussing the situation with each other. So they are still having discussions.
(Follow-up question inaudible).
Spokesperson: No, they are still discussing the situation. Apparently, there are still some concerns about the text.
Question: Were the pledges of funds for the global fund?
Spokesperson: It wasn’t very clear. For instance, the Swedish pledge: they said some of it would be for the global fund, and some outside it, although it was not specified how much. Similarly, for some of the other donations it was not specified whether the pledges were for the fund or for some other general spending on AIDS. So, I can’t give you a very definite figure.
Spokesman: Any other questions? If not, I wish you a very good afternoon. Thank you.