7 March 2006


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


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

Good afternoon. Welcome back.

**Secretary-General Unveils Report on Management Reform

The Secretary-General, as you know, this morning presented to the General Assembly his report on management reform, “Investing in the United Nations”, on which you just received an extensive background briefing.

He told the General Assembly that the United Nations is more efficient and effective than it was a decade ago, but more change is needed to deal with a Secretariat that is engaged directly in many parts of the world.

Today’s report, the Secretary-General says, proposed changes in the way staff are recruited and managed, and in the structure of the top management of the Secretariat.  It calls for a major investment in information and communication technology; identifies new ways to deliver services; proposes a drastic simplification of the budget and ways of making the management of the budget more accessible; and also urges the creation of a small, dedicated office in the Secretariat to manage this process of change.

The Secretary-General asserted that the proposed reforms will help to give “better value” to the hundreds of millions of people around the world who need the UN’s services.

Copies of his speech, as well as press releases, background papers and other assorted charts are all available upstairs.

**New Legal Affairs Official Appointed

The Secretary-General has decided to appoint Larry Johnson of the United States as Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, to succeed Ralph Zacklin.  Mr. Johnson, who first joined the UN Secretariat in 1971 as an Assistant Legal Officer, is currently Professor of Global Affairs at New York University’s Centre for Global Affairs.  He will take up his functions on May 1st, and we do have his CV available upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council held closed consultations today on Kosovo.  It received a briefing by Martti Ahtisaari, who, as you know, is the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Future Status of Kosovo, on his recent talks with the parties.

Ahtisaari later talked to reporters, saying that the decentralization talks are concentrating on the main issue of how the lives of minorities can be improved.  He said he wants to see improvements there before moving on to other issues.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Meanwhile, the head of the Peacekeeping Department, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, arrived in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, for a 10-day visit.  Speaking soon after his arrival, Mr. Guéhenno commended the Congolese for their participation in the constitutional referendum last year.

He also noted that the organization of the upcoming elections would be a big challenge for the Congolese, as well as for the UN Mission there.  Mr. Guéhenno also plans to meet with political leaders, including President Kabila, and he also intends to visit the eastern part of the DRC.

And we do have more details on his trip available upstairs.

** Côte d’Ivoire

From Côte d’Ivoire, Antonio Monteiro, who is the UN High Representative for Elections in Côte d’Ivoire, today welcomed the inauguration of the Independent Electoral Commission in Abidjan.

Prime Minister Charles Konan Banny yesterday declared the Commission operational and asked the members to produce an electoral roll for presidential and parliamentary elections, scheduled for October.  Mr. Monteiro congratulated the board members and urged them -- and the country -- to build on political gains already made towards the holding of the elections.

** Lebanon

From Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, today called once more on the Israeli authorities to cease their air violations of the Blue Line and Lebanese sovereignty.

He made that statement following four Israeli air violations yesterday, and one so far today, in southern Lebanon. These air violations come at a delicate time during Lebanon’s efforts to reassert its sovereignty and independence, including, among other things, through the historic national dialogue currently under way.

Mr. Pedersen reminded all parties that one violation cannot justify another, and calls on all parties to fully respect the Blue Line.

**Two More Pledges for New UN Emergency Relief Fund

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today reports receiving pledges from Iceland and India for the new Central Emergency Response Fund, known as CERF, bringing the number of pledges to 23.

The fund, which is to be formally launched on Thursday, is designed to save lives, by providing quick initial financing for rapid response to emergencies.  The fund, as you will recall, is an outcome of the Secretary-General’s reform process and the Millennium Summit.

Jan Egeland, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, as well as the Secretary-General, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson and several international political leaders, will officially launch the fund Thursday morning in the ECOSOC chamber.  Egeland will be here to talk to you on Thursday afternoon, after the briefing.

**WHO Chief Visits Mauritius for Chikungunya Outbreak Inspection

And from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Director-General of that organization, Dr. Lee Jong-Wook, is in Mauritius today, checking on an outbreak of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus.  The latest figures indicate that there were more than 2,500 cases of this disease on the island.

WHO has deployed a team to the Indian Ocean region to evaluate the measures undertaken to fight chikungunya.  Earlier in the week, Dr. Lee was in Madagascar, which also has reported fresh cases of the disease.  And Dr. Lee will return to Geneva on Friday, and you can read more about that in WHO notes upstairs.

**Press Conferences/Upcoming Events

This afternoon, at 3 p.m., Djibril Diallo, Director of the New York Office for Sport for Development and Peace, will introduce the “Dunk for Malaria” event, taking place at the New York Knicks v. Atlanta Hawks basketball game at Madison Square Garden on March 15, and he will be joined by former Knicks player Allan Houston and Lance Laifer of the Hedge Fund vs. Malaria.

A number of events to flag for you tomorrow during the day. Tomorrow is International Women’s Day and at noon, our guest will be Noleen Heyzer, Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), who will talk about exercising power for change.

Some of you had asked me, also, about the meeting between the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Russia Sergey Lavrov.  That meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow, and the Foreign Minister has told us that he will go the Security Council stakeout immediately after the meeting -- that will be approximately at noon -- to take your questions.  We will, of course, announce when he is on his way down tomorrow.

Also tomorrow, at 11 a.m. here in room 226, David Nabarro, the UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, will give a briefing.

And also, Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen will deliver a keynote address at the Millennium Hotel tomorrow afternoon, at the launch of a new report on infrastructure, which emphasizes that, to target poverty, international actors must pursue small-scale, community-led infrastructure projects.  And that is being sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the report is a joint collaboration of the UNDP and the Government of Japan.  Details of the launch are available upstairs.

And lastly, the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA) would like us to announce that Walid Jumblatt, who, you know, is the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party of Lebanon, will brief reporters in the UNCA Club, Thursday at 11, and you are all invited.

That is it for me. Are there any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On Walid Jumblatt, the Lebanese dialogue has stopped, or has been interrupted, as of today.  Can we have an official statement of the Secretary-General on this issue?

Spokesman:  No.  I think the Lebanese national dialogue is exactly that, a Lebanese national dialogue.  And I think it is for them to comment on what is going on, but it is a process that the Secretary-General has encouraged.

Question:  I was just wondering, the 8,000 people being kept as human shields in the Ituri region of the Congo, which was reported on the other day.  Is there any update on the situation there and their condition?

Spokesman:  I will check for you.

Question:  I just wanted to ask you, Annan -- the Secretary-General -- made a statement when Iran said they would like to wipe Israel off the map.  According to press reports, Israeli Defence Minister, Shaul Mofaz, told Israeli Army Radio that, basically, nobody would be immune to being targeted or killing if Hamas continues, including the Prime Minister elect.  And I just wanted to know if Annan had any statement on that, because Iran is a Member State.   Israel is a Member State.  The Palestinian Occupied Territories is not a Member State, it is an Observer State, but that is quite an aggressive statement to come from the Israeli Defence Minister.

Spokesman:  Without validating your comparison or your analysis of the two statements, the Secretary-General’s views on extrajudicial killings are clear and well known, and I would refer you to his past statements on that.

Question:  I want to put this on record, because I was unable to ask this question of Mr. Malloch Brown.  One of the things that has been pointed out is that, in empowering the post of Deputy-Secretary-General and proposing that more powers be given to the Deputy Secretary-General, which will be Mr. Malloch Brown, the Secretary-General does not propose that this be referred to the General Assembly for approval, and that is an absolute glaring omission.  Lots of Member States are questioning why the Secretary-General preferred that this not be referred to the General Assembly.

Spokesman:  I think if you look at the report, it talks not about empowering, but a delegation of authority to a senior adviser.  It does not, in any way, remove the Secretary-General’s ultimate responsibility to the Organization.

Question:  But this post was created with the approval of the General Assembly.  The powers of the DSG were specifically defined by the Assembly.  Now that those powers have been overwhelmingly increased, should this approval also be given by the General Assembly?

Spokesman:  I will again refer to what’s in the report.  Obviously, the membership has just received the report, and I’m sure there will be a lot of active and intensive debate, and we look forward to that.

Question:  The Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, declared that he will not accept a Palestinian State with provisional borders, and that he will not

accept a withdrawal from the West Bank, without prior negotiations.  Now, the notion of the creation of a Palestinian State with provisional borders is part and parcel of the Road Map.  Coupled with what Laura just said, should the Secretary-General be concerned about these developments?

Spokesman:  You know, there is an election campaign going on in Israel, and one would not want to step into that situation.  But, as for the Secretary-General’s views, they are clear, as expressed by the Quartet, in that no one party should take any action that would prejudge any final outcome.

Question:  I think yesterday you described the World Food Programme as contracting with, I think, Axa Insurance, for drought insurance?

Spokesman:  Yep.

Question:  Well, it certainly seems innovative, but, with all the talk of procurement here today, I wonder if it’s known how they were selected?  I think it’s said that there were five bidders, but the others weren’t identified.  One, I’d like to know that.  And two, maybe you can describe how that process works, whether WFP chooses the lowest bidder or how that works.

Spokesman:  We can put you in touch with the WFP Office here, and I’m sure their Information Office can give you more details.  We can do that right after the briefing.

Question:  When is the Secretary-General going to appoint a new Under-Secretary-General for the Office of Special Advisor on Africa?

Spokesman:  My understanding is that that search is ongoing, and as soon as we are able to announce it, we will.

Question:  The head of the World Food Programme indicated that there may be as many as 20 million people affected by famine in the eastern part of Africa.  Has the time come for the Secretary-General to issue an appeal to head off any catastrophe in the future?

Spokesman:  I think the messages have been -- from not only Mr. Morris, but from Mr. Bondevic, his Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa -- have been very clear, as to the need for donor support.  This is exactly the kind of emergency where the CERF, this new Fund, would come in very handy.  It would help us meet the needs immediately, while later going back for an appeal.  As for whether it is exactly the time for an appeal, we will check with our colleagues in OCHA.

Thank you very much.

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