|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.
**Briefing by Special Adviser for Ethics Office
As we mentioned to you yesterday, our guest today will be Tunku Abdul Aziz, the Special Adviser for the Ethics Office, and he will be joining us to brief you on the work of the Ethics Office.
**Secretary-General in Vienna
The Secretary-General arrived in Vienna on Thursday afternoon, on the first leg of a trip that will take him to five Asian countries.
Later today, he will hold a town hall meeting with UN staff. As you know, some 4,000 people work for the UN system in Vienna.
In the evening, the Secretary-General will attend a dinner for the participants of the Fourth Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean, hosted by the Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schüssel.
Then, tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General will deliver the keynote address at the Summit’s opening session. And we hope to provide you with embargoed copies of that speech a bit later today.
I now have a statement on the appointment of a Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis (TB).
The Secretary-General has appointed Jorge Sampaio, the former President of Portugal, as his first Special Envoy to Stop Tuberculosis. Mr. Sampaio, whose appointment is effective today, will work to build heightened awareness of this leading killer of our time. His immediate task will be to encourage world leaders to strengthen their commitment to tuberculosis control, and to work to reach the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the incidence of the disease by 2015.
Some 5,000 people die of tuberculosis every day, and more than 8 million new cases are detected annually. Mr. Sampaio will lead the call for countries to fully fund and implement the Global Plan to Stop TB 2006-2015, which was launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) earlier this year. The Plan sets out actions required to treat and cure some 50 million TB patients, and save 14 million lives.
Mr. Sampaio will work closely with the Stop TB Partnership and WHO in carrying out this crucial mission for global health.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
The Human Rights Division of the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has put forward 10 recommendations to help the Government there to bring an end to human rights abuses by police and Government soldiers.
This follows the Division’s latest report, which found that although large-scale human rights violations decreased between April and December of last year –- as compared to 2004 –- there was an increase in individual cases of summary executions, torture, rape and other serious abuses by Government, police and army troops.
The 10 recommendations include a call on the authorities to demonstrate zero tolerance for violations by the military and the posting of senior military judges in areas where high levels of human rights violations occur, and an end to the transfer or redeployment of troops suspected of being involved in violations. And we have more on that upstairs.
Also, Louise Arbour, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, held a press conference in Geneva today on her recently-concluded mission to the Horn of Africa and Sudan.
On Darfur, she said that because of the continued inability of the Sudanese Government to effectively address the issue of impunity, it was important for the International Criminal Court to exercise its mandate in this case in a robust and visible manner.
Regarding sexual violence around camps for displaced persons in Darfur, Ms. Arbour noted that there was no sign that it had receded or even been brought under control by the Government in any way.
She expressed particular concern about women who had been raped, and who now feared that their children would be ostracized by their communities. And we have a full summary of her press briefing upstairs.
From Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, today expressed the United Nations’ concern at the recent increase in violations of Lebanese airspace by Israeli aircraft. Six violations were reported today, involving nine aircraft.
These violations would appear to reverse the positive trend witnessed during April, when a reduction in Israeli overflights contributed to an atmosphere of relative calm along the Blue Line.
Pedersen reiterated the UN’s call on the Israeli authorities to cease all such violations of Lebanese sovereignty. He also reminded all parties to exercise restraint, and he said that one violation cannot justify another.
**World Food Programme
The World Food Programme reports today that it will resume aid distributions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea within two weeks, having reached an agreement with the Government on new working arrangements after months of negotiation.
The deal, signed yesterday in Pyongyang, requires just over $100 million to feed nearly 2 million people, most of them women and children, until mid-2008. And we do have a press release available upstairs.
And a heads-up that tomorrow at 10 a.m. in the Trusteeship Council there will be a programme on Holocaust Awareness.
Ambassador Gabor Brodi of Hungary will speak in his capacity as Chair of the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education Remembrance and Research.
And there will also be remarks by experts and specialists in the field. And we have the full programme upstairs. The seminar is a follow-up to a General Assembly resolution urging the Member States and the Secretary-General to develop outreach programmes to inculcate future generations with the lessons of the Holocaust.
And one more thing for tomorrow, at 11 a.m. tomorrow, Richard Kinley, the Acting Head of the Climate Change Secretariat, will be here to brief you on climate change and sustainable development.
And this afternoon, you are all invited to a seminar on trade and financial imbalances throughout the world. The event will take place at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 2 and is chaired by José Antonio Ocampo, the Head of the Economic and Social Affairs Department here.
And the keynote speaker will be Mr. Reddy, the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, who will give the Indian perspective on the subject.
** Western Sahara
And lastly, there was a question yesterday about possible business interests that the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara may have in Morocco. We’ve heard back from Mr. van Walsum. He confirmed to us that neither he nor any member of his family had any business with Moroccan fisheries –- nor has he ever had any business dealings either with Morocco in any field, or with fisheries in any country for that matter.
Before we turn to our guests, any questions?
Questions and Answers
Question: Does the Secretary-General intend to make public the report on Dileep Nair?
Spokesman: As I said, once I have information on when the report will be handled in and how it will be handled, I will get it off my chest and over to you as soon as possible.
Question: Is it finalized?
Spokesman: No, it has not been finalized.
Question: Steph, we know the report has been handed in. It’s upstairs.
Spokesman: The report has not been finalized.
Question: But that doesn’t answer the question of the fact that the UN has it and is not giving us any answers.
Spokesman: The final report is not completed. The report has not been finalized. As soon as I know when that report is finalized and how it will be handled, I will tell you.
Question: When you go up and ask them “When will the report be finalized?” what do they say?
Spokesman: They tell me: “We’ll tell you when it is”, which is exactly what I’m telling you.
Question: Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
Question: I hate to keep beating this one. But surely you have asked if the Secretary-General plans to make it public once it is completed, because we’ve been asking for about a year?
Spokesman: I understand. I’ve relayed those questions. People do listen to what goes on this room. At least I hope so. And, as I said before, as soon as I have information on when the report is finalized and how it will be handled I will tell you.
Question: Have you asked the (inaudible) directly what he’s going to do (inaudible)?
Spokesman: Nick, at the risk of repeating the same sentence over and over again, I really have nothing to add on this report.
Question: Is there anything that the Secretary—General or any UN staff had to do recently with this sort of renewal of conflict in Sri Lanka? Are you in any way involved? With phone calls or?
Spokesman: There is a Norwegian team working in the lead on this process. The Secretary-General has obviously followed the situation. He is very disturbed by the violence and he reiterates his call both on the Government and LTTE to summon the will to resume negotiations.
Question: Was the Somalia report cleansed of anything controversial, the Somalia arms report? I mean there are plenty of reports in the region of who should be (inaudible) to whom?
Spokesman: My understanding is that report was drafted by the monitoring group and it is their choice to put in what they choose.
Question: The question remains. I’m not saying by Annan’s office, but maybe the monitoring report.
Spokesman: It is an independent report, reporting directly to the Security Council.
Question: We can do a better job going to Somalia and asking questions.
Question: When you said, “finalize the Ackerman report”, what does that mean? Is the Ackerman report going to remain the Ackerman report, or is it going to become something else now?
Spokesman: The Ackerman report will be the Ackerman report. It is not yet finished. It is not yet finished. Mr. Ackerman’s work is not yet completed.
Question: Just to follow up on Evelyn’s question. When we get these expert reports, can we have briefings by them, please?
Spokesman: We try. Some of these groups are happy to brief, others would rather not brief.
Question: Who’s the boss of these groups?
Spokesman: The Council is the boss and the groups are their own bosses. We’re not the boss of them to put it bluntly.
On that note, oh sorry, Betsy?
Question: Terrorism. The SG put out a proposal about a week ago on counter-terrorism that’s being discussed today privately in the General Assembly. Just wondering what the next steps on that is? For some reason, it is a closed exchange of ideas today.
Spokesman: I will try to get something from the GA for you on that.
[The Spokesman later informed the correspondent that today's informal consultations in the General Assembly were merely an effort to seek Member States' views on the Secretary-General’s counter-terrorism strategy. The ultimate goal was to come up with a General Assembly resolution on the matter. According to paragraph 82 of the World Summit’s outcome document, after the Secretary-General came up with a strategy, it was up to the General Assembly to develop, adopt and implement that strategy.]
Question: On this Israeli violation of Lebanese space, it is reported six violations today only. In the last week, how many violations were taking place?
Spokesman: I don’t. Excuse me?
Question: Do you have a tally on that?
Spokesman: We can check after the briefing.
Question: Just to follow up on a question I asked yesterday. One of your staff was very helpful and gave me the Secretary-General’s bulletin on smoking in the United Nations. And according to that bulletin he bans all smoking on the premise at the United Nations, at Headquarters. Does that bulletin not apply to delegations?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has no authority over two other groups of people in this building: journalists and diplomats. You and your colleagues, some of your colleagues smoke. The diplomats smoke. We would obviously prefer it if no one smoked in this building.
Question: I’ll remember my question in one second.
Spokesman: Great. In that case, we’ll move to our guest.
Question: I’m sorry I just remembered my question now. I just wondered are there any rules binding current UN Secretariat staff members vis-à-vis campaigns to become the next Secretary-General?
Spokesman: One would have to look at the rules.
Question: Is it appropriate for current, existing staff members to conduct campaigns to become the next Secretary-General?
Spokesman: I guess it would depend what your definition of a campaign is, but we can look.
Question: A series of placed articles, interviews, lobbying trips?
Spokesman: We can look at the rules.
Question: Are there any staff member campaigning for SG so far?
Spokesman: None declared to me.
Question: I have another question slightly moot now but I’m still interested in the answer. It was a question last week about the President of, Boutros-Ghali’s wife trying to take the gifts and not being allowed to because they were property of the UN, because they were given particularly in a special function. I know that the Secretary-General has given the prize money now to Darfur through the Turner Foundation. But I’m still interested in the answer to the question.
Spokesman: No, through WFP.
Question: Ok, through WFP. What is the rule about benefits given to the Secretary-General in the course of official functions?
Spokesman: As I said I will try to get you an answer on that.
Mr. Tunku, please.
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