DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

26 October 2005

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

26/10/2005
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

AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

Joining us today to launch the World Public Sector Report 2005 will be Mr. José Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs; and Mr. Guido Bertucci, Director, Division for Public Administration and Development Management.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Middle East

The Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, was shocked to hear of the terror attack today at the market in Hadera, Israel, which caused a number of casualties among Israeli civilians.

The Secretary-General condemns this act and extends his condolences to the families of the victims.  At the same time, he calls for an immediate stop to the escalation of all violent acts. 

The Secretary-General believes that an opportunity exists to address the long-standing conflict between Palestinians and Israelis; it must not be allowed to fall victim to violence.  The forces of moderation and negotiation must prevail.

**Secretary-General in Geneva

The Secretary-General today told a ministerial-level conference in Geneva that there is a need to provide aid and shelter to the earthquake-hit areas of South Asia before winter approaches.  He said it gives a new meaning to the concept of a race against time.  “I believe it is a race that can be won, and must be won”, he said.  But he told donors that what is required is a dramatic escalation on all fronts, from helicopters to rescue the injured to shelter to save families from the ravages of winter.  One thing should already be clear, he added:  that with the world’s supply of winterized tents nearly exhausted, the need for other forms of shelter is acute.

Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland presented to the gathered donors a revised Flash Appeal to respond to the earthquake, amounting to nearly $550 million for six months.  [That’s an increase from the original $312 million]

Prior to speaking to the conference, the Secretary-General met separately with senior officials from India and Pakistan to discuss the relief effort.  At a press encounter in Geneva, he said that the disaster showed the urgent need for a Global Emergency Fund, saying that otherwise, the United Nations was in the position of having to put out fires while only getting resources once the fire has begun.

He also said, in response to another question, that funds are needed to respond to the damage created by the hurricanes in Central America, where so far only a fraction of the $22 million that was sought has been received.  We have copies of his transcript, as well as his statement, and we also have copies of the transcript from Jan Egeland’s press conference in Geneva, which I will now mention to you.

**South Asia Quake

The increase in the Flash Appeal according to Mr. Egeland, takes into account the latest data from his office, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which says that the disaster is much larger than first assumed.  Where earlier estimates indicated that some one million people were in need of immediate assistance, that estimate has nearly doubled. 

Speaking to reporters in Geneva today, Jan Egeland said that tens, if not hundreds of thousands of lives were at risk, making today’s event “one of the year’s most important conferences”. 

On a positive note, Egeland said the current relief effort was the best coordinated that he had ever seen, with UN coordinators having reached Islamabad within 24 hours after the earthquake hit.  In addition, the effort was bolstered by more than 100 international relief organizations on the ground, 72 helicopters in operation, and deliveries of 120,000 tents, with another 200,000 in the pipeline.  But while 700,000 people had received food aid, another 1.6 million were still in need, and thousands of tons of food would have to be pre-positioned before the snow comes. 

Noting that Pakistan had hosted three million refugees for nearly a generation, he said, “I can recall no other nation shouldering such a humanitarian responsibility over such a period of time.  Now the world has to show equal generosity to the people of northern Pakistan.” 

And as I said, we have copies of Mr. Egeland’s statements upstairs

**Security Council

The Security Council is holding an open meeting this morning featuring briefings by the Chairmen of the following subsidiary bodies of the Security Council:  the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1267 concerning Al-Qaida and the Taliban and associated individuals and entities, the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1373 (2001) concerning counter-terrorism, and the Security Council Committee established pursuant to resolution 1540 (2004).

Then at 3:30 p.m., the Security Council has scheduled consultations on Eritrea and Ethiopia, and other matters.

At 5 p.m., consultations have now been scheduled on the Middle East.

**The Sudan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Sudan, Jan Pronk, gave a press briefing in Khartoum earlier today.

He reported on the findings of a WFP-UNICEF nutrition survey in Darfur that noted that, in many areas which were reachable by the humanitarian community, the rate of malnutrition and deaths of children under five, due to malnutrition had dropped sharply.  Pronk, however, cautioned that the nutrition situation in Darfur remains fragile and these improvements will only be sustained depending on the security situation on the ground.

He also noted the alarming security situation in West Darfur and reported on recent disturbances at the Kalma camp for displaced persons in South Darfur.  He noted the release of aid workers who had been taken hostage following the arrest by the authorities of a sheikh who was popular in the camp.

**Human Rights

UN human rights experts are concerned about the trial of alleged organizers of events that took place in the Uzbek city of Andijan earlier in May, according to a statement by the Special Rapporteurs on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; on human rights and counter-terrorism; on the independence of judges and lawyers; and on the question of torture.

They express their concern regarding the conduct of the executive and prosecutorial authorities and the legislative framework in relation to the ongoing trial of 15 men before the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Uzbekistan in Tashkent in connection with the Andijan events.

And we have a press release available upstairs.

**UN Budget

The number of Member States who have fully paid their dues has climbed to 129 today, with the arrival of a check from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The DPRK paid $177,951.

And that’s it for today.  I just want to flag a number of events for tomorrow. Tomorrow will be a busy day.

**Oil-for-Food

As you know, tomorrow the Secretary-General is expected to receive the final report from the Independent Inquiry into the “oil-for-food programme.  That handover is expected in the morning.

Then we understand that Mr. Volcker will give a press briefing around mid-day outside of this building, but I encourage you guys to check with his office this afternoon as to the exact time.  We will likely push back our regular noon briefing to 1 or 2pm, depending on the timing of the morning’s events, also to give you guys a chance to come back here, but we’ll keep you up to date on the exact timing.

At 3 pm, Mr. Volcker will hold an open briefing in Conference Room 4 for any interested Member States.  He will brief them on the report and that meeting will be open to the press and will be televised on UNTV.

**Security Council/Peacekeeping

Also tomorrow, the Security Council will celebrate the fifth anniversary of its Resolution 1325, which addressed the role of women in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction and called for increasing women’s contribution to sustainable peace.

Council members will discuss how to speed up the resolution’s implementation and women’s equal participation in all peace processes.

The Council will also hear firsthand from women from Afghanistan and Côte d’Ivoire, who’ll be sharing their experiences of using Resolution 1325 to stake their claim at the peace table and lobby for their equal role in post-conflict political life.

A number of other UN senior officials will also be addressing that meeting, and we have a statement upstairs.

**Election Observers

At UN Headquarters tomorrow, nearly two dozen organizations including the United Nations, will be endorsing a first-ever Declaration of Principles and Code of Conduct governing the work of election observers around the world. 

As international election observation expands and plays a central role in helping nations consolidate peace and strengthen democracy, these standards should help ensure that observers are always making the best possible contribution. 

The Secretary-General is expected to attend the event and endorse the standards on behalf of the United Nations.  Also in attendance will be former US President Jimmy Carter (on behalf of the Carter Centre), former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (on behalf of the National Democratic Institute), and the Secretaries-General of the Organization of American States, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Pacific Islands Forum, among others. 

The event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.

**UNICEF

Tomorrow at about this time, across the street in the UNICEF house, the UN Children’s Fund will launch a worldwide outdoor advertising campaign to heighten awareness of the impact of HIV/AIDS on children.  Participating tomorrow, besides UNICEF officials, will be Goodwill Ambassadors Whoopi Goldberg and Roger Moore. 

More information is available on that upstairs.

**Press Conferences

Press conferences today, Manfred Nowak the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, will brief on his work.

And at 2:15, Martin Sheinin, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, will brief on his work.

**World Chronicle

Lastly, World Chronicle on the 60th Anniversary of the UN will be shown at 3:30 on in-house channels 3 and 31.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  First of all the Larsen Report, when will it be presented to the Security Council?

Spokesman:  It may be presented on Monday, but we’re still waiting for the exact scenario for Monday, but I think you can expect for Mr. Larsen to present it on Monday.

Question:  Will it be at the ministerial-level meeting?

Spokesman:  I don’t know that.  We will keep checking with Security Council affairs to get a confirmation on the level of attendance.

Question:  The meeting of the Security Council this afternoon on the Middle East, will it be also on the Mehlis report?

Spokesman:  It will be on Lebanon, and also more specifically the Mehlis investigation, at 5:00.

Question:  Some media reported that there will be today a meeting between Syrian Ambassador Mekdad and Mr. Mehlis.  Do you know anything about this?

Spokesman:  We’ve seen these media reports.  I spoke to Mr. Mehlis a short while ago, and as of an hour ago, he told me he had no scheduled meeting with the Permanent Representative of Syria.

Question:  Any update on the Eritrean situation?  After the letter the Secretary General received, has there been any other?

Spokesman:  No, but we do expect that letter to be the focus of discussions this afternoon in the Security Council.

Question:  And about this conference with Mr. Volcker in Conference Room 4, will he be also fielding questions?  Will there be a Q&A?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that he will be available to take questions from the Permanent Representatives.  It is not a press conference; it is an open meeting of any interested Member State who wishes to hear his briefing into his latest instalment of his report.

Question:  So is that Volcker meeting open for UNTV, Conference Room 4?

Spokesman:  Yes, it is.

Question:  I may have missed this in the last few days, but Mehlis, how long is he staying?  Is he staying through Monday?

Spokesman:  No, Mr. Mehlis I think will disappear from New York at the end of today.  And he told me he’s expected back in Beirut at the end of next week.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General, he’s in Geneva today, coming back tomorrow for Volcker?

Spokesman:  He’ll be here for Mr. Volcker.

Question:  And can you just explain the highlight of the Larsen report, his conclusion on the record for broadcast purposes, his conclusion about disarming and disbanding the militias and whether that’s been accomplished?

Spokesman:  I understand the needs for broadcast purposes, but unfortunately the report has just gone to the Council, and has not been officially released, so I cannot discuss it from here at this time.

Question:  And do you know if there’s a confirmation that it’s 13 foreign ministers, or the like, on Monday?

Spokesman:  No as I told Sylviane, we’ll have to keep checking with Security Council Affairs to see the level of participation.

Question:  So far there’s no confirmation at all about the ministerial level?

Spokesman:  No, you’d have to check with the Security Council, and we can also check for you.  We’ll have to wait a little closer to the date to get a confirmation.

Question:  In a draft resolution yesterday, the US, France and the UK basically proposed expanding the powers that Mr. Mehlis’ investigation has in Lebanon to Syria.  I’m wondering whether there’s been any preliminary contact on what kind of presence the UN investigation might establish within Syria.  What kind of cooperation the authorities might give to you on that, and what kind of security arrangements might be necessary to actually comply with such a mandate?

Spokesman:  I’m not going to get into the details of the resolution which is going to be discussed this afternoon.  Though it is clear that through December 15, and in the coming weeks, Mr. Mehlis has told you he will focus on the cooperation he intends to get from Syria, and those details he will work out.

Question:  In terms of the process of the designation of suspects, which is becoming an increasingly important factor, is there a sense that you would envisage Mr. Mehlis would only report on December 15th?  Or is there a possibility for some mechanism of more regular updates over the course of time, saying “a” is designated, “b” is designated?

Spokesman: The key is, I think, Mr. Mehlis will report back to the Council when he feels he has enough substantial information to report back to them.

Question:  Did Mr. Annan get in touch with the Syrian President, or Lebanese President, since the release of the report?

Spokesman:  The report came out Thursday night.  He spoke to as I think he told you in his press briefing, he spoke briefly to both the Syrian President and the Lebanese Prime Minster the evening after the report came out.

Question:  Did they speak on (inaudible)?

Spokesman:  Basically to flag to them the early release of the report.

Question:  The Foreign Minister though said he spoke to the Secretary-General I think two days ago.  I think possibly, when (inaudible) delayed his trip here?

Spokesman:  The Foreign Minister did call the Secretary-General two days ago after it became clear that he was not himself coming to New York.  He gave Syria’s view on the report.  Secretary-General encouraged Syria to cooperate with the investigation.  The Foreign Minster said Syria would do so.

Question:  So what is the Secretary-General’s view regarding Mr. Mehlis being given more responsibility and, possibly Blix-like, being counted on for updates ahead of December 15th, and just that he’s going to be declaring whether he’s getting the cooperation that may trigger sanctions?

Spokesman:  This resolution is still in draft form, so as far as the Secretary-General is concerned, Mr. Mehlis’ mandate has not yet changed.

Spokesperson for General Assembly President

This morning, the General Assembly has been meeting in plenary to continue discussion on integrated implementation of the outcomes of the major UN conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields, and on the global road safety crisis, for which a draft resolution has been tabled.

In the Third Committee, this morning an interactive dialogue is taking place with, among others, the Special Rapporteur on torture and the Special Rapporteur on protection of human rights while countering terrorism, who are both giving press briefings.  This afternoon, the participants will include the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion and on violence against women.  Tomorrow morning’s participants include the Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Sudan and the Independent Expert on human rights in Burundi, as well as the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.  We have the complete schedule upstairs.

Tomorrow morning, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will be speaking as part of a special event in the Economic and Social Council on “Food crises in Africa”.  That is taking place from 11:15 to 1:00.

Tomorrow evening, 27 October, the Assembly President has been invited to give the Gabriel Silver Lecture at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, on the subject of “The Future of the United Nations in a Changing World”.  The press and public are invited to the lecture, which starts at 6:00 p.m.; a media advisory is available upstairs. 

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In various sessions, the General Assembly says it’s trying to simplify the work that’s being done there and make it more efficient.  What does the current President think of spending God knows how many taxpayer dollars and hours of time on road safety?  Is this an example of something that should be struck from the General Assembly’s agenda as a waste of time, or is this considered to be core work of the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have his comments on that particular issue.  He’s preparing a letter on revitalization of the Assembly and it’s an ongoing process.  Last year, there was a report put out on global road safety.  It said there was a huge number, a huge increase in fatalities from road safety.

Question:  What business is it of the UN to be dealing with road safety?  I mean, by that logic the UN should be dealing with issues of importance in every country across the whole globe.  Is this a UN thing or is this the sort of thing that the General Assembly needs to stop wasting its time debating and get down to real business?

Spokesperson:  Well, in this case, the General Assembly, in the draft resolution, is going to be calling for Member States to establish at the national level a lead agency on road safety, and to develop national action plans.  So it seems to be a case where they’re setting standards for countries to encourage them to pursue safer situations on their roads.

Question:  Sorry, just one on Zimbabwe.  Can you give us an update on the meeting with the Zimbabwean authorities?  So everything’s gone silent with Zimbabwe?

Spokesman: I will get you something.

* *** *

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