|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 and welcome to all our guests from Marquette University, who are the majority of participants here.
I’ll start off with the ongoing AIDS conference. This morning the Secretary-General addressed the high-level segment of the General Assembly meeting on HIV/AIDS.
Calling AIDS the greatest challenge to our generation, he said, “We know what it takes to turn the tide against this epidemic. It requires every President and Prime Minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to decide and declare that ‘AIDS stops with me.’”
The Secretary-General added that turning the tide against AIDS required everyone to make the fight their personal priorities -- not only this session, this year, or next year -- but every year until the epidemic is reversed. We have the full text of his remarks upstairs.
Last night, the Secretary-General also attended a concert to commemorate the fight against AIDS in the General Assembly Hall. There, he said that leadership means finding ways to reach out to all groups, as well as daring to do things differently, since AIDS is a different kind of disease. We do have the text of that available upstairs, as well.
The Security Council is holding its first consultations this morning under the new Presidency of the Danish Permanent Representative.
Six items are on the agenda -- the month’s programme of work, Cyprus, Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Côte d’Ivoire, as well as other matters.
Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi is briefing on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus, the recent mission to Sudan that he undertook with Lakhdar Brahimi, as well as the latest developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Mr. Annabi has told us he will go to the press stakeout microphone following his briefing to Council members.
On Côte d'Ivoire, Council members are expected to go to a formal meeting to adopt a resolution.
The Security Council President for this month, Ambassador Ellen Margrethe Løj of Denmark, is scheduled to brief you on the programme of work at around 1 p.m. here in this room following the end of consultations.
Turning now to the situation in Timor-Leste, our office there reports that there has been some looting and burning in scattered areas in the suburb of Becora near Dili. But despite this, more people have been out on the streets trying to get back to their daily routines such as selling their produce on the markets.
As well, the Secretary-General’s latest message to the people of Timor-Leste was aired on national television there last night and was due to be rebroadcast.
Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency’s emergency response to the thousands of people displaced by the recent violence is moving ahead with the departure this weekend of an emergency team that’ll reinforce staff already on the ground. The refugee agency is also planning to airlift aid supplies from stockpiles in Jordan where it has lightweight family tents, plastic sheeting, jerry cans and other basic needs -- and the airlift’s first flight is expected to leave shortly.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says that a warehouse containing food is now secure despite an attempt yesterday by a group of youths to enter and loot the warehouse. Security at the warehouse -- particularly during loading -- is being reinforced, and Australian troops have included the warehouse in their regular patrol route. We have more information on developments in Timor-Leste in UNHCR’s briefing notes available upstairs.
As a reminder, the agency estimates that about 100,000 people are currently displaced in Timor-Leste. About 65,000 of them are living in some 30 encampments in Dili itself, with another 35,000 having fled to the countryside.
**United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF)
Out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN observer mission in the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF.
While the situation in the mission’s area of responsibility has remained calm, the Secretary-General notes that the overall situation in the Middle East is very tense and is likely to remain so until a comprehensive peace can be achieved. In that light, he asks the Security Council members to extend the mission’s mandate by a further six months, until December 31st of this year.
A couple of notes from Geneva: Earlier today in Geneva, Norwegian Prime Minister Jan Stoltenberg updated journalists on the work of the High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence, which he co-chairs.
Stoltenberg said that the Panel had considered proposals for structural reform of the United Nations system intended to improve the coherence and governance of the United Nations, as well as better coordination between its funds and programmes and specialized agencies, both at Headquarters and the field level.
As an example, Stoltenberg mentioned that it was not obviously the right approach to have 20 different United Nations bodies dealing with the issue of clean water, as is currently the case. The Panel’s full report is due out in September of this year.
Meanwhile, Dennis McNamara, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on displacement, has just concluded a 10-day visit to Somalia. Speaking to reporters in Geneva, he said that some 400,000 displaced persons throughout Somalia were living in appalling and sub-standard slums and were relatively unprotected, with women and children being particularly vulnerable. We do have a write-up of both those press conferences available upstairs.
**World Food Programme
The World Food Programme’s Executive Director, James Morris, arrives in Sudan today to visit the agency’s largest emergency operation, which was hit recently by a severe shortage of funds and which aims to feed more than 6 million people across Sudan.
After meetings with government ministers in Khartoum on Saturday, Morris will fly to south Sudan, where WFP feeds hundreds of thousands of southern Sudanese returning home after 21 years of war. He is also scheduled to visit Darfur.
Meanwhile, WFP also reports that, starting next month, it will increase the number of people it feeds in the Occupied Palestinian Territory by 25 per cent -- from 480,000 to 600,000 -- in response to the escalating humanitarian crisis. We do have a press release on that upstairs as well.
**World Health Organization
A new study by the World Health Organization shows that female genital mutilation exposes women and babies to significant risks at childbirth. We do have a WHO press release out on that report available upstairs.
**Secretary-General Lecture Series
A couple of things to flag for you: the next lecture in the Secretary-General’s Lecture Series is on Monday, and it will be on the topic of “Identity in the 21st Century”. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and Professor Kwame Anthony Appiah will speak on the topic, and the lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer period.
The media, as well as members of Permanent Missions, UN staff, and representatives of intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, are all invited to attend. That event runs from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber on Monday.
Also, a couple more things to flag for you for next week: On Sunday, the Security Council mission will depart New York and head to Sudan.
On Tuesday, 6 June at 11 a.m., senior United Nations officials will hold a background briefing on the Secretary-General’s report on migration, which he is scheduled to unveil at 4 p.m. that day in a speech to the General Assembly.
And on Thursday, 8 June, Peter Sutherland, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Migration, will be our guest at the briefing.
And closer to today, I already mentioned the 1 p.m. press conference by Ambassador Løj of Denmark.
At 2:30 p.m., General Assembly President Jan Eliasson and UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot will be here to talk to you about the High-Level Meeting on AIDS and the draft Political Declaration. They will be joined by the co-chairs of the negotiations: the Ambassador of Thailand and the Ambassador of Barbados.
At 3 p.m. in Conference Room 1 downstairs, the Foreign Ministers of France, Brazil and Norway, the Health Minister of Chile, and the Secretary-General will brief on the International Drug Purchase Facility and the fight against AIDS. Also present will be representatives from the International Football Federation.
That’s it from me. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: On East Timor, what is the status of the United Nations mission there? Is Mr. Martin -- when will he be back here in New York? Are we going to be able to get an analysis of what the United Nations think, what went wrong and how to fix it?
Spokesman: Sure. Mr. Martin is still in Timor pursuing his political contacts. He will likely come back at some point to New York to brief the Secretary-General, brief the Security Council, and obviously also brief the press.
Question: What’s the assessment of the situation right now?
Spokesman: Well, the situation is -- I think it’s a little too early to do a post-game analysis. Obviously, the situation is still very tense, and Mr. Martin is hard at work in his contacts with the various political actors to try to calm the situation.
Question: Just a technical question. There’s no way that the ambassador is going to be briefing here at one while Mr. Annabi’s at the stakeout, is there?
Spokesman: No, we will do our utmost, if not our best, to make sure these two things don’t collide.
Question: Recently on the budget crisis, which has ensued recently, Mr. Mark Malloch Brown is on record saying this is a North-South divide, but that North-South divide -- has the Secretary-General or Mr. Malloch Brown made any effort to bridge the gap and somehow bring the parties back together so that the whole thing moves forward? Because at this point, it’s suspended.
Spokesman: It’s a continuing process for us to work with the key Member States in trying to get them to go back, to rebuild the consensus on the issue of budgets so we can continue our work.
Question: On that very same issue, how advanced now are the contingency plans for the possibility of a shutdown in funding?
Spokesman: We’re obviously watching these developments. We will make contingency plans as needed, but our focus right now is really on trying to get the Member States to come back and reach consensus on the budget.
Question: Contingency plans are under way, right, or are they always --?
Spokesman: We have to be prepared.
Question: There are reports of an upsurge in fighting in Burundi between the Government and the FNL, and I wonder whether the Secretary’s office or Mr. Guéhennois aware of that and whether there’s any thought of, rather than scaling back the peacekeeping mission, trying to maintain it there?
Spokesman: I’ll see what I can get you after the briefing.
Question: Also, on the seven peacekeepers in the Congo, is there any update at all?
Spokesman: No further update than to say that the contact through intermediaries is continuing with those who continue to hold the peacekeepers.
Question: Is it any closer -- well, I guess ...
Spokesman: It’s continuing. Great. Thank you very much.
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