|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
**Panel on UN Administration of Justice
The Secretary-General has today appointed a panel of external and independent experts to explore ways to redesign the system of administration of justice at the United Nations.
The establishment of the Redesign Panel responds to a request by the General Assembly. It builds on recently announced initiatives, such as the creation of the ethics office, the promulgation of a whistleblower protection policy, and the introduction of more rigorous financial disclosure requirements for senior officials, and it is a major part of current efforts to strengthen accountability, increase transparency and improve management reform at the United Nations.
The Secretary-General has long felt that the current system of administrative justice has serious shortcomings, in particular its slowness, and needs to be modernized and professionalized.
“The reform of the United Nations will be incomplete if we do not fix the system of internal justice,” the Secretary-General says. “Staff must have recourse to a system that is efficient and fair.”
The Panel is expected to start work on 1 February 2006 and submit its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by the end of July of next year.
We have the full text of the announcement available upstairs, as well as the names of the people who will be serving on that panel.
Today the Secretary-General will meet with the Security Council for its monthly luncheon. The Secretary-General is expected to discuss Darfur with Council members and is scheduled to speak to you as soon as the lunch is over and that will be outside the Delegates’ Dining Room at the stakeout. I know UNTV will also be set up outside that area on the fourth floor.
Also on Sudan, Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, will be in this room to provide you with an update of the situation in Sudan, following his meeting with the Council tomorrow, and we expect that briefing to be at approximately 1 p.m. tomorrow.
And just an update on Iran, just before coming down here I was told that the Secretary-General spoke to the Iranian nuclear negotiator, Mr. Ali Larijani, for about 40 minutes this morning on the latest developments. The Secretary-General, I was told, will have more information for you on the contents of that phone call when he speaks to you after the Council luncheon.
Turning to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, today condemned the upsurge of violence since last month’s elections, notably in the cities of Baghdad and Karbala.
He said that much of the violence appears to be politically motivated and calculated to provoke further inter-communal strife. Qazi commended the calls of spiritual and community leaders, as well as of ordinary Iraqis, to end that violence.
He added that it is also important for the formation of a new government to proceed in an atmosphere free of intimidation.
We have copies of his full statement available upstairs.
The UN Mission in Haiti now says that the official cause of death of Lieutenant-General Urano Teixeira da Matta Bacellar, the late Force Commander, was suicide. That was also the conclusion of the Brazilian investigation.
Later this afternoon, we expect that South Africa will assume the chairmanship of the Group of 77 coalition of developing nations for the coming year, and South Africa will replace, as you know, Jamaica.
The Secretary-General will speak at that ceremony and he is to call on the Group of 77 members to redouble their efforts for an early agreement on the new Human Rights Council, as well as to move ahead on UN management reforms.
He is to say that tremendous work lies ahead, with the disappointing outcome of last month’s trade talks in Hong Kong, illustrating that agreement on difficult and contentious issues does not come easily.
And we have his remarks available upstairs.
As a follow-up to the Humanitarian Appeal 2006, which the Secretary-General launched last November, Member States gathered in Geneva today to state their humanitarian priorities, as well as their funding intentions for 2006.
Called the “Programme Kick-off”, the event marked the start of the new funding cycle and highlighted the need for donations, so that this year’s humanitarian programmes could be up and running as soon as possible.
And we have more information on that event available upstairs.
Closer to home, right here at Headquarters, as you may have already noticed, a General Assembly committee meeting has been going all this week on the prevention of the illicit spread of small arms.
The meeting is in preparation for a conference to be held in New York, starting 27 June, to review progress on the small arms work worldwide over the past five years.
In the opening session, Mr. [Nobuyasu] Abe, the Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, warned the delegates that the problem is a long term one. He said while significant progress had been made in combating the illicit arms scourge, those weapons remained a massive problem, killing, maiming and threatening individuals daily.
Those meetings are taking place in Conference Room 3.
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says urgent action is needed to overcome the drought which is spreading in parts of East Africa and threatens misery for millions. UNEP is urging countries in the region to invest in and rehabilitate their natural or nature capital in order to buffer vulnerable communities against future droughts.
And last month we had told you that a team from UNEP had gone to China, following the chemical explosion that led to the pollution of the Songhua River. That team’s report is now available.
Among other things, it recommends that China conduct risk assessments of random samples of Chinese chemical factories in order to strengthen safety-related procedures, minimize the risk of accidents, and improve the handling of accidents if they do occur.
UNEP stands ready to help the Chinese authorities to implement the recommendations, and both the Chinese Government and UNEP have agreed to share the report with the relevant Russian authorities, who were also affected by the spill.
**Braille Printer Donation
And a little while ago this morning, the UN was able for the first time to print material in Braille thanks to the donation of a state-of-the-art printer by the non-profit organization Services for the Visually Impaired, in collaboration with the World Blind Union.
That handover took place this morning, as I said, and the printer will be going into effect in a couple of days, as on 16 January there is the seventh session of the General Assembly Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons of Disabilities.
That meeting is from the 16th to the 23rd here at Headquarters.
**Human Rights Council
And lastly, the General Assembly Presidency has asked me to inform you that informal consultations on the Human Rights Council yesterday produced encouraging results and concluded on a very positive note.
Member States, a considerable number of which were represented at the Permanent Representative or Deputy Permanent Representative level, agreed on the basis for further discussions on the 19 December text produced by the co-chairs of the consultations, South Africa and Panama.
It was also agreed that several items in the text be presented in bold face and be addressed as a priority. These items relate to the size and membership of a future Council, as well as method of adoption of country-specific resolutions.
Ambassadors [Dumisani] Kumalo and [Ricardo] Arias will now proceed to hold consultations with individual Member States and small groups of States, and informal consultations on a plenary will resume subsequently, at a date to be determined later.
**General Assembly President
General Assembly President Eliasson will take part this afternoon in the ceremony to mark the formal handover of the chairmanship of the Group of 77 and he will make a statement that will be available later today.
Mr. Eliasson will also make brief remarks at a lunch-time World Council of Churches event being held here at Headquarters on the theme “UN Reform: How Can Churches Make a Difference?”.
That is it for me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Steph, I just wanted to make sure on the panel of experts, that this means that the panel is going to work for about a year and a half before producing results, because you said it would be July next year.
Spokesman: I’m sorry, I still live in 2005. It is February 2006 and the results are to be handed in by the end of July 2006. So I will adjust my calendar.
Question: On the suicide, could you explain a little bit more about why the conclusion was reached that it was a suicide, and if there are any suggestions as to why he committed suicide?
Spokesman: No, I don’t have any more details on the investigation. I’ll see if I can get something else for you after the briefing.
Question: Can you tell us what was discussed yesterday between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Chad?
Spokesman: The situation along the Sudanese-Chadian border was on the agenda. But, the Secretary-General, as I said, will speak to you on the situation in Darfur and Sudan right after his Council luncheon.
Question: Regarding the Human Rights Council, how does the Secretary-General believe that any country can be kept off it, if the regional group to which that country belongs nominates it, and also declines to nominate more candidates than there are seats allocated to that group?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General put forward his vision of the Human Rights Council in the report. The Heads of State made a commitment to create such a Council. The permanent representatives are currently debating it, and I think will not input ourselves as these negotiations are going on.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any thinking about the floated idea to include the permanent members of the Security Council in the Human Rights Council?
Spokesman: As I said, the negotiations are currently ongoing. We are not going to insert ourselves and comment on the negotiations as they continue.
Question: Tongsun Park yesterday appeared in court in Houston. Does the Secretary-General have anything to say about the way he was brought into the United States, abducted, according to his lawyer?
Spokesman: We have no comment on that proceeding.
Question: Any concern in the United Nations about what might come out? Because there are two UN officials mentioned in the complaint against him.
Spokesman: We have always said we will cooperate and are actively cooperating with the ongoing investigations by the Southern District of New York, by the federal authorities, and we will do our utmost to cooperate with them. It is the UN as a whole, and the Secretary-General will cooperate as requested by the federal US authorities, as we are currently doing in a number of investigations.
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