DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

17 August 2005

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

17/8/2005
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Guest

Our guests today, as you know, will be Margaret Carey, Principal Officer in the Africa Division of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as François Dureau, the Director of the Situation Centre.  They will be joining us to brief on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  And, Ms. Carey, for your information, is soon to leave for the Congo to become the Chief of Staff of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, William Swing. 

**SG Statement - Baghdad Bombings

I have a number of statements on developments today.  Concerning the bombings in Baghdad, the Secretary-General is appalled by the bombings today in Baghdad that killed at least 43 people and wounded many more.  He strongly condemns these attacks, which appear to have been coordinated to hurt as many innocent civilians as possible, including by obstructing medical access, in violation of all humanitarian principles. The Secretary-General conveys his deepest sympathy to the families of the victims.

**SG Statement - Bangladesh

And, I also have a statement on the situation in Bangladesh:

“The Secretary-General was outraged at reports of simultaneous bomb attacks in the capital and other cities across Bangladesh, which left one person dead and hundreds injured.  He condemns these senseless acts of indiscriminate violence and extends his condolences to the families of the victims.

“The Secretary-General calls for those responsible to be brought to justice and appeals for calm and restraint in the face of these brazen and cowardly acts.”

** Côte d’Ivoire

Turning to Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations Operation in that country has welcomed the announcement by three armed groups that they will start to disarm next week.  The groups, all in the western part of the country, agreed in a meeting with security forces and mediators to begin disarming on Wednesday.  The statement from the Mission salutes the spirit of conciliation shown by the militias. And, the full text of that is available upstairs.

**Violence in Haiti

The UN Mission in Haiti has condemned the rising rate of shooting deaths and lynching in the past two weeks in the capital, Port-au-Prince.  The Mission called for calm and urged all Haitians to reject violence and to collaborate with public security forces. And, a press release on that is also available upstairs. 

**Violence against Women Migrant Workers

Available on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s report on violence against women migrant workers.  While some countries have put in place support services for these victims, and others promote and protect their rights, the report concludes that States need to put in place more systematic measures.

Some of these could include stronger labour laws, public awareness programmes, and training of government officials and law enforcement agents.  For the victims themselves, the States should provide better access to shelters, legal, medical and psychological aid, as well as social and economic assistance.  And, the report you can find upstairs on the racks. 

**Special AIDS Envoy in Lesotho

The Secretary General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, Stephen Lewis, is going to Lesotho for a three-day visit starting today.  He will be meeting with the country’s Prime Minister and Ministers of Health and Foreign Affairs, as well as with the UN team on the ground.  He will also visit Lesotho’s National AIDS Secretariat and the newly established Lesotho Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS.  The purpose of this visit is to look into HIV/AIDS treatment in the country, at both the health centre and household level.

**Polio - Angola

The World Health Organization (WHO) says it is concerned that Angola has now reported six cases of polio.  To contain the outbreak, WHO, together with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, is carrying out a series of immunization campaigns in that country.  Because the two most recent cases were found near Angola’s borders with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Zambia, WHO is also discussing with the Congolese authorities the possibility of immunizing people in the DRC-Angola border region.

** Somalia - Food

And, nearly 1 million Somalis need urgent humanitarian assistance through the end of this year, including help with food, shelter, health and nutrition, and livelihoods, according to a recent assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization.  And, that represents an increase from the 875,000 individuals identified last winter. 

**SG Appointments

Today, a couple of appointments:  the Secretary-General has appointed Luiz Carlos da Costa of Brazil as his Deputy Special Representative for Operations and Rule of Law for Liberia.  Mr. da Costa recently served as the Director of the Logistics Support Division, Office of Mission Support in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York. 

And, he’s also appointed Mr. Abou Moussa of Chad as his Principal Deputy Special Representative for Côte d’Ivoire.  Mr. Moussa has served as Deputy Special Representative in Liberia since the establishment of that Mission in October 2003.

And, I believe that is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Do you have an update on Western Sahara?

Spokesman:  I do not have an update on Western Sahara, but I’d be glad to try to get one for you.

Question:  No word on an envoy going there?

Spokesman:  I’ll see whatever updates I can get for you right after the briefing.

Question:  What can you tell us about the UNDP story in today’s New York Sun?  What was the UN’s understanding of what would be made with the money that was allocated?

Spokesman:  I would refer all those questions to the UNDP office here.  Mr. Derviş, the new Administrator, briefed you extensively yesterday, and he commented on the UNDP policy, and I know he has taken up that case.  But, I would encourage you to call UNDP, and they can tell you more about it.

Question:  Stéphane, do you have anything on the outcome document?  It seems that at this point in time there’s a recess and nobody’s around and the outcome document has to come out, or is it just going to be one document which everybody signs off on?  I mean, what is the situation?

Spokesman:  It would be nice if it was one document that everybody signed off on, wouldn’t it?  My understanding from our colleagues in the General Assembly President’s Office is that discussions are scheduled to restart on the 22.

Question:  That would be when the President comes back.  So before that, no work is being done?

Spokesman:  I did not say no work is being done.  Work continues to be done, I’m sure, at the capitals level and bilaterally, but there are no set discussions, set formal discussions, here at Headquarters, but it should not be taken as an indication that no work is being done.

Question:  Stéphane, where do things stand with the hiring of that independent consultancy company to overview OIOS and procurement, and how are they being selected?

Spokesman:  That is being done with the, through the, Controller’s Office, and we understand that a decision should be made shortly, in the next couple of days.

Question:  A couple of questions.  One very simple one.  On Zimbabwe, do you have any news since the announcement by the Government that they’re going to resume clearances?  Do you know what’s going on?

Spokesman:  Yes, in fact, I just spoke to the Resident Coordinator on the ground, and he said he had no indication that these clearances were going to restart.

Question:  Just one other question.  There sort of seems to be a sense that the U.S. is busily pulling apart the reform document now.  It seems to be that every single UN Secretariat official involved in this is away on holiday.  Is there a fear that everyone’s going to come back from holiday to find out there’s nothing left to what they thought was there when they did leave?

Spokesman:  No, as I mentioned before you came in, the discussions are scheduled to restart here at Headquarters on the 22, which I believe is Monday, and we’ll take it from there.

Question:  Can you explain a little bit the reasoning behind the decision to put procurement under Warren Sach’s auspices, or putting him in control of procurement while the review takes place?  Why was that deemed necessary?

Spokesman:  Well, I think the review will obviously look at management, oversight and controls.  So, while the review is being done, it’s only normal that the responsibility for that decision shifts just during the time of the review.  But, one would need to stress that Mr. Toh will continue with all his other responsibilities that he currently has, including plant management, commercial services, and all sorts of information systems, just to mention a few.

Question:  So, is Mr. Toh then the subject of the investigation?

Spokesman:  Not at all.  It’s a management review.  He’s not at all the subject of any investigation.

Question:  It’s a management review and he’s the manager.

Spokesman:  Right, but I think there’s a difference between a management review and an investigation. 

Question:  [inaudible].

Spokesman:  Well, I think a management review looks at the way the division has been managed.  It looks at the controls that are put in place.  It’ll make recommendations on what can be done better.  An investigation, I think, implies negligence or wrongdoing, and right now it is a management review.  Meanwhile, obviously, OIOS continues with its investigation of Mr. Yakovlev’s activities in the procurement division. 

Question:  Is OIOS looking more broadly than just Mr. Yakovlev because there’s some sense it could have easily gone well beyond Mr. Yakovlev, or is it just contained at examining Mr. Yakovlev because you just mentioned that the review that’s going to be taking place is going to be looking at procedures, but it’s not looking at criminality?

Spokesman:  The OIOS has told us that their investigation focuses on Mr. Yakovlev and his activities while he was working in the Procurement Department.

Question:  Is there a plan, or a broadening of this investigation?

Spokesman:  It’s up to OIOS to determine the scope and the length of their investigation.

I will now turn to my guests. Meg and François, you’re up.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.