|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General
Good afternoon. The Security Council this morning heard about the Council’s mission that took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo earlier this week, in an open briefing by the head of that mission, Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sablière of France.
The Council then went into closed consultations to hear from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi about recent developments in Liberia and the work of the UN Mission there. The Ambassador of Denmark, Margrethe Løj, who presides over the Sanctions Committee on Liberia, also provided an update.
And, I understand that the Council is about to meet to vote on a draft resolution concerning the transfer of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, who is currently being held in the Special Court for Sierra Leone in Freetown, about his transfer out of there.
To announce a trip by the Secretary-General to Europe: this Sunday, the Secretary-General will be in Copenhagen to speak at the World Food Programme’s bi-annual Global Meeting.
While in Denmark, he will have a working lunch with the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, and other members of the Danish Government.
On Monday, he will be in Geneva to speak at the inaugural meeting of the new Human Rights Council. The Secretary-General will say in his speech that the eyes of the world, especially those whose human rights have been violated, are now turned towards this new Council. He will call on the Council to make a clean break with past practices, while preserving the best features of the old system, such as independent special rapporteurs, and will encourage its members not to get caught up in political point-scoring and petty manoeuvres.
On Tuesday, he will be in Paris for a series of meetings with French Government officials, which will include a working lunch with Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and a separate meeting with French Defence Minister Michele Aliot Marie. In Paris, the Secretary-General will also attend the inauguration, with President Jacques Chirac, of France’s new Musée des Arts Premiers.
He will be back in Geneva the following day to speak to the Conference on Disarmament about the troubled state of the nuclear non-proliferation regime, and about the challenges the Conference itself faces in breaking the impasse that has hindered its work. While in Geneva, the Secretary-General will also hold a town hall meeting with UN staff based there.
And we do expect to have him back in the office a week from today, next Friday.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Timor-Leste, Sukehiro Hasegawa, today visited the District Court of Dili to offer the UN’s help in trying those charged in connection with the fatal shootings in April and May. Hasegawa said the visit was to assess precisely what support the UN can provide to the Timorese court, to carry out the trials effectively and efficiently.
Also, the UN refugee agency has stepped up its emergency relief operations in Timor-Leste and has started reaching out to the tens of thousands of people who fled the violence in Dili for the surrounding areas outside the capital. It’s estimated that there are more displaced people outside Dili than those in the various settlements in the capital. And we have more upstairs in a press release.
**Deputy Secretary-General Travels
Next Monday, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch Brown will launch, along with Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Development. That Alliance is a new initiative by the Secretary-General to promote the use of such technology for development.
The Deputy Secretary-General, while in Malaysia, will also hold meetings with the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia, and meet the UN country team there. He is expected back in New York by midweek.
**WFP - Mauritania
Turning now to Mauritania, the World Food Programme (WFP) today issued an urgent appeal for $4 million, to prevent a complete break in supplies next month.
Through its 260 food centres throughout the country, WFP currently feeds 16,000 children. But that number is expected to double in the upcoming weeks, as the annual “lean season” gets underway.
WFP says the malnutrition rate for children in Mauritania is nearing the emergency figure of 15 per cent. We have more on that upstairs.
The World Health Organization released a report today, saying that more than 13 million people die each year from preventable environmental causes.
Environment-related diseases -- such as malaria and respiratory infections -- can easily be fought by promoting safe household water storage and better hygiene; using cleaner and safer fuels; monitoring toxic substances in the home and workplace; and effectively managing water resources. And we have a press release on that upstairs.
**Day of the African Child
Today is the Day of the African Child, and to mark that occasion, the UN African Mothers Association and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa are holding a series of events here at Headquarters, including speeches by UN officials, performances of cultural diversity and several workshops on issues affecting children around the world.
The Day of the African Child has been celebrated since 1991 to honour the memory of African schoolchildren who were shot down in Soweto, South Africa, in 1976 for denouncing the inferior quality of the education they were receiving under the apartheid regime. Today’s events also mark the thirtieth anniversary of those tragic events.
And we have a press release and a programme available upstairs.
And to announce two senior appointments by the Secretary-General today, effective 1 June: Ms. Alicia Bárcena of Mexico has been appointed as Chef de Cabinet at the Under-Secretary-General level -- she had been up to now Acting Chef de Cabinet; and Mr. Carlos Lopes as Assistant Secretary-General and Director of Political Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.
And before we turn to Pragati, any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Now that the Security Council is about to vote on the Charles Taylor resolution, is it all clear that there is a plan about exactly who’s going to take this guy, put him in cuffs, put him in a car and take him to the airport. Whose plane is it going to be… exactly who and how this is going to be done?
Spokesman: Those issues are currently being worked out between the ICC in The Hague and the Special Court in Sierra Leone. As soon as the ink is dry, I will let you know.
Question: So the UN’s going to do it, one way or another?
Spokesman: Obviously, the security of the transfer is at the forefront, and those details, as I said, are currently being worked out.
Question: The details of how the UN is going to do it…?
Spokesman: The details of how the transfer will be effected in the most secure way are currently being worked out.
Question: So it might not be the UN doing the transfer?
Spokesman: That’s really all I can tell you at this point.
Question: A similar sort of thing. The British offered basically a home, if he’s found guilty. But, are there any arrangements or understanding of what would happen if he’s isn’t found guilty or is everybody’s assumption that he will be found guilty?
Spokesman: I think there’s no assumption as to the outcome of the trial. The details of what will happen to Mr. Taylor after the trial are still being worked on. As I understand it, the British Parliament still has to pass a law. And, obviously, in the eventuality that he is found not guilty, arrangements would still have to be worked out.
Question: Originally, part of the arrangements were that there would be a place found, whether he was found guilty or not guilty. The British made it clear that they’re not going to take him and have no obligation, if he’s found not guilty. The Liberians don’t want him. But, the deal is going through anyway, because everybody, it seems to me, has an absolute assumption that he will be found guilty. The reason why there is absolutely no arrangement for the situation in which he’s found not guilty can only be, one assumes, because there’s an absolute certainty that he will be found guilty. Otherwise… I’m trying to understand …
Spokesman: No one would assume what the outcome of the trial is…
Question: Why has no one made any arrangements should he be found not guilty?
Spokesman: Options are still being worked out in the event that he is cleared of the charges that he is facing.
Question: And what are they please?
Spokesman: They are being worked on.
Question: This is about some lower profile individuals. There are these five Chinese Uighurs that were in Guantanamo Bay, and the US released them, and now they’re in Albania. There were reports of the US trying to find them another place, other than Albania. I don’t know if the UN system or UNHCR has any… do they have any role? Are they aware of them?
Spokesman: I don’t know what their status is vis-à-vis UNHCR, but we can ask.
Question: Also, Mr. Lonseny Fall… he’s here, he’s met with…?
Spokesman: Yes, we’ve arranged for him to brief you on Monday.
Question: In this room?
Spokesman: In this room on Monday, as the guest at the noon briefing.
Question: I wish Mr. Shashi Tharoor all the best… given the fact his job is being Under-Secretary-General for Information… he plans to continue doing his job and to contest… to become Secretary-General of the UN. How is he going to resolve this conflict of interest, this obvious conflict of interest… and especially that he is the Under-Secretary-General for Information. How will we determine he didn’t use certain conferences or something for his own campaign? Can you tell us about that?
Spokesman: I think I would just refer you back to what the Secretary-General said yesterday, that the Under-Secretary-General should focus on his duties as Under-Secretary-General.
Question: I realize that, but, while he’s doing that, he’s also concentrating somewhat on his campaign. How will you determine that he’ll not be doing some sort of… not at all involve any UN funds in his campaign?
Spokesman: I really would rather not comment on this race at this point.
Question: Just a follow-up on Charles Taylor, if he’s found not guilty, would he not just be a free man to go where he chooses?
Spokesman: Arrangements are being made to deal with the situation should he be found not guilty.
Question: About the Staff Pension Fund, the other day I asked the Secretary-General… he was very firm it would not be privatized. But, I have heard from so many UN employees who still believe that contracts are being signed… (inaudible) and it was still going ahead with the move. They maintain that there should be some sort of alternate bid. One company should not be allowed to bid on this $33 billion Pension Fund. Do you have any comment on that?
Spokesman: My clear understanding is that there is no privatization, as such, of the Pension Fund. Any decisions to change the way the Pension Fund is administered would have to be done in consultation with the administrators of the Fund and the Board of the Fund.
Thank you very much, and we’ll go on to Pragati.
Briefing by Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
General Assembly President Jan Eliasson will meet tomorrow with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in Rome, at the invitation of the Holy Father. They are expected to discuss human rights issues, among other topics, in view of the upcoming inaugural session of the new Human Rights Council.
On Monday, the President will be in Geneva to open the first meeting of the Council, for which he led the negotiation process. The President said that “the establishment of the Human Rights Council shows that Member States can overcome differences and deliver outcomes relevant to the people of the world”. He expects the members of the Council to address the challenges before them with the same constructive spirit and commitment, “we must show the world that the Council means a fresh start in the United Nations work for human rights”. There is a press release out about the Council’s first meeting, and we will circulate the President’s statement when it is available.
The President will be returning to Headquarters on Tuesday afternoon, and intends to focus on the management reform and budget processes.
The Fifth Committee is meeting in open session this morning to begin the next round of consideration on management reform issues. This is based on the recent additional reports of the Secretary-General on “Investing in the United Nations”, as well as the subsequent recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions, contained in a report that was issued yesterday and is on the racks.
Some of the proposals these reports focus on concern information and communication technology, budget implementation -- for example, transfers between sections of the budget -- and financial management practices. Additional reports are expected from the Secretary-General next week on governance, oversight and procurement issues.
In a letter sent to Member States last week, the President appealed to all delegations to engage in these negotiations with a true spirit of cooperation, with one goal in mind; that these efforts are to make the UN an efficient and effective Organization, in order to better serve the peoples of the world.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Any chance of the new President-elect possibly coming to brief us or to be introduced in some fashion?
Spokesperson: On the day she was elected, we did receive some requests from the press here, and did bring that to the attention of the President-elect and her team. That particular day was not workable for her. But, she has started doing some interviews and I’m sure she will meet with the press at some point.
* *** *