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

1 February 2006

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

01/02/2006
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

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

Good afternoon.  Welcome to a new month, a short one.

**Secretary-General in London

The Secretary-General departed London today, ending his three-country trip to the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Last night, he spoke at a commemoration in London of the sixtieth anniversary of the first meetings of the General Assembly and Security Council, and discussed the efforts to reform the United Nations.

He pointed to the urgency of strengthening the system set up by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.  Today’s headlines concern Iran, he noted.  But, when we step back from the headlines, he added, it should be clear that we cannot continue to lurch from crisis to crisis, until the non-proliferation regime is buried beneath a cascade of nuclear proliferation.

The 2005 World Summit’s other great failure, the Secretary-General said, was that it did not agree on enlargement of the Security Council.  He said we should not underestimate the slow erosion of the United Nations authority and legitimacy that stems from the perception that it has a very narrow powerbase, with just five countries calling the shots.  And we have copies of that statement available upstairs.

And we do expect the Secretary-General back in the building tomorrow.

**Security Council

As you know, this is the first day of a new month, as I just mentioned, which brings a new presidency to the Security Council.  The United States has thus taken over the rotating presidency from Tanzania.  For any more information on the Council’s activities today, I would encourage you to contact the Council President’s office.

** Sudan

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Sudan, Jan Pronk, has just returned to Khartoum after a two-day visit to Juba in southern Sudan, where he met various senior officials of the government of South Sudan, including its President and Vice-President.

They discussed progress on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, with Pronk indicating that he’s not pleased with the fact that many key bodies provided for in the Agreement are not yet operational.

The United Nations Mission in the Sudan says Pronk will leave his office this Friday for the talks in Abuja, where he’s expected to raise, in particular, the issue of the deteriorating security situation in Darfur.  And we have more information on the Mission’s briefing notes upstairs.

Also on Sudan, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the Sudan today reported that almost 70,000 people have been displaced by recent attacks on two towns in South Darfur.  The separate attacks all occurred last week, forcing people already displaced to flee yet again, said OCHA.

**Polio

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) today said that, thanks to intensive efforts over the past two years, the number of countries, worldwide, with indigenous polio has dropped to an all-time low of four.  The agencies reported that Niger and Egypt had gone without any new cases of indigenous polio for more than a year, leaving Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the only remaining countries with polio endemic.

Egypt is now polio free for the first time since before the era of the pharaohs, according to Egyptian authorities.  And that’s also before the era of the United Nations.

**Dag Hammarskjöld Lecture

A heads-up that the Dag Hammarskjöld Library and the Department of Public Information will hold, tomorrow, the fifth and final event of the Lectures and Conversations Series to conclude the year-long commemoration of the centenary of the birth of former United Nations Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, entitled “The International Civil Servant: Then and Now, Theory and Practice”.

The Secretary-General is expected to open the event. Shashi Tharoor, the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, will interview Sir Brian Urquhart, a former United Nations Under-Secretary-General, and Jan Eliasson, the President of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.  And that will take place between 12:15 and 1:15 p.m. in Conference Room 3 here at Headquarters. And I assume you’re all invited.

**Press Conference on Tsunami

And also, at 1 p.m. today, the Permanent Mission of Slovenia will sponsor a press conference on the topic “Tsunami Response: A Human Rights Assessment”.  Speakers will include, among others, Ramesh Singh, Executive Director of Action Aid International, and Miloon Kothari, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

**Miss Universe

And for tomorrow, on a lighter note, the Mission of Nicaragua has asked us to inform you that they are hosting a luncheon for the current Miss Universe here at the United Nations, to help her in her work with victims of HIV/AIDS.  Miss Universe, Natalie Glebova, will meet with officials of UNICEF, UNAIDS and other concerned agencies.  There will be, apparently, a photo op organized by our Media Liaison Office.  And anyone needing any further information should call the Mission of Nicaragua.

And that is it for me.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answer

Question:  The Secretary-General has issued a letter to the United Nations staff on this latest procurement investigation, in which he refers to the report by Deloitte and the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), and explains the rationale for such actions being taken, especially on the eight United Nations staffers who were put on special leave.  My question is, does the Secretary-General endorse these allegations, and does he believe that due process has been made?

Spokesman:  Which allegations?

Question:  The allegations that have been mentioned in the (inaudible) in the procurement report.

Spokesman:  Yes, he does believe due process has been made.  And, as you know, he fully backs what is currently going on in terms of the audits and the investigations at OIOS.  I think the point he was trying to make, is that one of the lessons learned from “oil-for-food”, is that we have to act proactively.  We have to follow due process.  Staff are entitled to due process.  He recognizes the very hard and difficult work being done by staff in the various United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world, as I said, in very difficult circumstances.

Question:  So does he believe that, so far, due process has been made?

Spokesman:  That’s correct.

Question:  The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) are very concerned about the possibility of famine in Africa, especially in East and Central Africa.  Is the United Nations going to take any initiative to alert world public opinion ahead of time about this possibility?

Spokesman:  Part of that process is us flagging these issues to you, and FAO and WFP does do that, to try to bring those situations to the attention of public opinion.

Thank you very much.

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