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

10 October 2006

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

10 October 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.

**Guests at Noon

Good afternoon. Thank you for making the effort to be here despite all that is going on outside; my guests today, and as you can see there will be a few of them, are Jan Egeland, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, Katherine Sierra, World Bank Vice-President for Sustainable Development, Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization, and Hadi Husani, Chief Executive Officer of Focus Humanitarian Assistance.  They will be briefing you on the importance of anticipating and mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

**Political Affairs

The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambari, will leave New York today to start a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo where he will visit from 12 to 15 October.

The purpose of his trip is to encourage smooth and peaceful presidential and provincial assembly elections later this month while underscoring support for the major United Nations electoral assistance operation being carried out through the United Nations Mission. 

Mr. Gambari will meet with the key Congolese political actors as well as the Independent Electoral Commission and also, of course, with the head of the United Nations Mission in the Congo, Ambassador William Lacy Swing and his team.  He will be accompanied by Craig Jenness, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division of the Department of Political Affairs.

Mr. Gambari will be continuing on from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to South Africa where he will launch in Cape Town on 16 October the first of a series of consultations about mediation in peace processes involving experts from different regions of the world.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Also out today is the latest human rights report from the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  In it, the United Nations Mission says the Congolese Armed Forces remain the main human rights violators in the restive Kivus, Ituri District and Katanga provinces.  The National Police also flouted human rights norms by arbitrarily rounding up some 800 people including street children during the recent post-election unrest.

Sexual violence against women and girls, as well as the unlawful activities of the Congolese and foreign armed groups such as the Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army, also continue to pose enormous challenges to the Congolese authorities.

Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency says that the first of its convoys repatriating Congolese refugees from Burundi is scheduled to leave northern Burundi today with a group of some 300 refugees.  The six-hour journey should end at Uvira, a border town in the Congo's South Kivu province.

**Security Council

Although there are no official meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today, as you have been able to see outside, Council members are continuing to discuss at the experts level a draft resolution in response to the recent nuclear test announcement by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

**Sudan/Chad

Turning now to the situation in Darfur, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says it is deeply concerned about the heavy fighting that took place in Darfur on Saturday between the Sudanese Army and Sudanese rebels within a few kilometres of the Ouré Cassoni refugee camp on the Chadian side of the border.

Although no one in or around the camp was harmed, the agency says the incident is further evidence of the destabilization that is happening in the region.

UNHCR further adds that the ongoing deterioration of the security situation in Darfur and increasing insecurity throughout eastern Chad highlights the urgent need to move Sudanese refugees in Ouré-Cassoni camp further away from the border.

And while on the topic of Darfur, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that in September, food rations reached more than 158,000 Darfurians who had been cut off in recent months.  And we do have more upstairs from a press release from WFP.

** Iraq

Turning now to Iraq, yesterday, the Preparatory Group for the International Compact with Iraq held its second meeting at the United Nations Mission’s office in Baghdad.

The meeting, co-chaired by Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, discussed progress made thus far and the upcoming steps to ensure success of the Compact.  These steps will include, among others, expanding and reviewing the Compact draft to reflect comments made by Iraqi officials and donors.

The next Preparatory Group meeting will be held on 19 October in Baghdad.  And we do have a press release on that as well.

** Guatemala

And as we had marked the one year anniversary of the devastating South East Asian earthquake, this also marks the first year anniversary of Hurricane Stan, which struck Guatemala.  And, as we mark the anniversary, Guatemala still needs more aid and the physical damage from the storm is still visible according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports.  The WFP is continuing to provide food aid to hurricane survivors.  But, the agency needs $4 million to finance those efforts until February 2007.

** Haiti

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has shared with the Security Council a letter from the Haitian Government on the adoption of a plan for reforming the Haitian National Police.

The plan was worked out in coordination with the United Nations Mission in Haiti and it provides a detailed plan on how to improve the police force.  Currently, that police force has just 7,000 badly equipped and poorly trained officers and most of their 200 police stations need to be repaired or rebuilt.  And copies of the plan are available on the racks or online.

**Outer Space

And just a couple of more notices for you:  On the occasion of World Space Week, some 50 children, aged 6 to 10, earlier today held a Model United Nations Conference on Outer Space at the headquarters of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs in Vienna.  The children, who each represented a different country, discussed among other subjects how to acquire more satellites to monitor deforestation and help solve environmental problems on Earth.  And we do have more information and a press release on that.

**World Mental Health Day

Just lastly, if you did not know today is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is:  “Building Awareness -- Reducing Risk:  Mental Illness and Suicide.”  In a message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says that deaths from wars, homicide, terrorism and other forms of violence are rightly of concern, yet deaths from suicide do not receive nearly enough attention.  The best way to reduce the disastrous impact of suicide is to tackle the mental disorders that are linked closely to it, he says in the message, which is upstairs.

**Press Conferences

And besides the guests that we will have shortly to talk about disaster risk reduction, at 2:15 this afternoon, Jose Antonio Ocampo, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, and Rachel Mayanja, Special Adviser for the Secretary-General for Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, will be here to brief you on the Secretary-General’s report on violence against women.

And tomorrow, Ambassador Gabor Brodi of Hungary will be joined by Gabor Horvath, the Hungarian Consul-General, at a press briefing here at 11:00 a.m. to announce the commemorative events in New York marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Hungarian freedom fight and revolution.

And at noon tomorrow we will have and be pleased to welcome Carolyn McAskie, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support.  She will be here to discuss the new Peacebuilding Fund, which the Secretary-General will be launching tomorrow morning.  And that is it for me.  Before we turn to our guests, any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On the Congo, there is a report that candidate Bemba has still not had the helicopter replaced by Kabila, which was destroyed.  He is complaining that his campaigning and the second round of elections are undermined by that.  I wanted to know if the United Nations had any comment on that, if the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had spoken to Kabila about actually replacing the helicopter.

Spokesman:  I do not have that level of detail available to me here, but I can assure you that I know Mr. Swing and his team have been working actively with both Mr. Bemba and Kabila to try to straighten out the situation, to ensure a peaceful election, which is coming very soon.  But I will check on what the status of the helicopter replacement is.

Question:  And here’s something maybe you can’t answer from here.  The United Kingdom has said that it will withdraw its non-essential embassy personnel on the day of the second round of elections.  Some people say that it is a bad sign, it sends a bad message.  Does the Secretary-General have any response on that?

Spokesman:  We are not going to second guess whatever security measures each country takes vis-à-vis its nationals.  As I think we’ve said here repeatedly, security assessments are done on a daily basis and we take action appropriately and accordingly, but obviously other countries are free to do what they feel needs to be done.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General in the past 24 hours spoken with anybody in the North Korean Government at all?

Spokesman:  He has not.

Question:  And has he spoken with the Secretary-General to be, Ban Ki-Moon?

Spokesman:  I am not aware that he has spoken with him in the last 48 hours, but I will check to see if that is the case.  Thank you very much.  If you wait a few minutes, we expect Jan Egeland will be here to talk to you about mitigating the effects of natural disasters.

* *** *

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