12 October 2006


12 October 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


And the spokeswoman 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 Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

**Guest at Noon

Good afternoon.  My guest today, after we hear from Gail with the General Assembly President’s office, will be Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, who is the Special Adviser on Africa for the Secretary-General.  He’ll be joining us shortly to brief on recent progress in implementing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, better known as NEPAD, and that new partnership has helped in reducing conflict on the continent.

**Security Council

Meanwhile, closer to home, the Security Council has two items on its consultations agenda for today -- discussions on a draft resolution on the UN Mission in Georgia, and another on the situation regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

**Peacebuilding Commission

The Peacebuilding Commission, from which you heard yesterday, is meeting today on Sierra Leone in the ECOSOC chamber.

The meeting today, and the one scheduled for tomorrow on Burundi, is expected to kick-start the process by establishing them as eligible under the Peacebuilding Fund, which Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, briefed you on yesterday.


The Advisory Group of the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund met in Geneva today to take stock of the Fund’s work, and make recommendations for 2007.  Thus far, 52 Member States, a Japanese prefecture and a private organization have pledged more than $273 million to the Fund’s grant facility since its inauguration last March.  Of those pledges, nearly $267 million is “in the bank.”  Since the beginning of the Fund, it has given $174 million to over 250 projects in 26 countries experiencing humanitarian crises.

Among its achievements over the past seven months, the Fund allowed the World Food Programme (WFP) to get food to the needy in Timor-Leste following last April’s violence.  It also helped to make the use of helicopters possible in Darfur, so that humanitarian workers could gain access to isolated internally displaced persons.

Speaking at a press conference today in Geneva, Jan Egeland, the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said that the Fund was “living proof that the United Nations can reform, is reforming and is getting better.”  And we have more on that upstairs.

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

In a report available on its website today, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Jerusalem says that no significant improvement in Palestinian movement has been observed in recent months.

Closures continue to carve up the West Bank, leading to the isolation of communities, in particular the cities of Nablus, Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, OCHA reports.  It says that as of 20 September, the West Bank closure system comprised 528 checkpoints and physical obstacles, representing an increase of almost 2 per cent since June.

The closure system is a primary cause of the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, the report adds.  It notes that the Israeli Government says that the purpose of these obstacles is to protect Israeli citizens from Palestinian militant attacks.

** Sudan

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has another report out today, which is entitled “Sudan Humanitarian Overview”, and it covers the month of September, and its findings include that in general, the atmosphere of fear and insecurity in the camps for internally displaced people is growing.

On this same topic, the United Nations Mission in Sudan says it has received reports that two cars, belonging to a non-governmental-organization, were shot at by armed men on camels in the town of Goussa Shark, near Nyala in South Darfur, yesterday.

It has also received reports that sporadic shooting was heard in El Fasher, North Darfur, following an altercation between two soldiers.  We have that OCHA report for you upstairs.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, is in Washington today where he has been invited to speak at the Brookings Institution.

He will be addressing an international conference on “The Use of Force and Legitimacy in the Evolving International System.”

He will have off the cuff remarks at that conference, which we will try make available to you later this afternoon.

** Eritrea - Humanitarian

From the Horn of Africa, the Secretary-General’s Special Humanitarian Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Kjell Magne Bondevik, arrives tomorrow in Asmara, Eritrea, for an official mission which will last until 18 October.

The purpose of Mr. Bondevik’s visit is to look at the food security situation in Eritrea in the wake of the rainy season.  And we have a press release available on his travels upstairs.

** Cyprus

The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus met formally this morning in Nicosia to discuss the progress made to date on the exhumation, identification and return of missing persons’ remains.

Since the end of August, some fifty remains of missing individuals have been exhumed and approximately twenty-four have undergone anthropological analysis at the Committee’s laboratory in the United Nations Protected Area in Nicosia.  And we have a press release upstairs.

**Press Briefings

A couple of events to flag for you, in addition to Legwaila Joseph Legwaila shortly at 1:15 p.m., the Permanent Mission of Slovenia will be sponsoring a press conference to launch “Human Rights Learning – A People’s Report”, with, among others, Justice Richard Goldstone, whom you will remember is the former Chief Prosecutor of the UN International Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and who also served on the Volcker panel which looked into the Oil for Food situation.

And at 11:00 a.m. tomorrow, Ambassador Enrique Berruga of Mexico, Craig Mokhiber of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and others, will hold a press briefing in this room to discuss the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, its history, significance, and current status.

And lastly, at noon tomorrow, we will have as our guest Djibril Diallo, Director of the UN Office of Sport for Development and Peace, who will provide an update on preparations for the United Nations Global Youth Leadership Summit, which will take place on the 29th to the 31st of this month, right here in New York. And that is it for me, any questions?

Questions and Answers

Question: Russia sent to Lebanon troops it used in Chechnya for something called the (inaudible) Battalion.  Various human rights groups have said they are widely accused of human rights abuses and should not be part of the multinational force in Lebanon.  I don’t know if the United Nations has any comment on that.  And also on Anna Politkovskaya‘s report, which since her assassination has been published and acknowledges torture in Chechnya, whether Louise Louise Arbour [High Commissioner for Human Rights] is going to look at that report or do anything about it.

Spokesman: You have to ask Louise Arbour on the journalist who was killed; I think we already spoke from here.  And on the issue of the Russian troops I don’t have any specific information, and of course as a matter of rule, we do expect any troops that participate in United Nations operations to uphold the highest standards.

Question: (inaudible).

Spokesman: That is something I would have to talk to Department of Peacekeeping Operations about.  But that would be the responsibility of Member States to provide us with that information.  [The Spokesman later clarified that Russian troops were not part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force.  Their presence is part of a bilateral agreement between Russia and Lebanon.

Question: I picked up discussions in two of the committees, and I am simply wondering, I know that you may not be able to address these, but maybe there is a reaction from the Secretary-General.  In the Sixth Committee, an agreement on Comprehensive Terrorism Convention remains elusive, and in the First Committee on Sustainable Peace in Outer Space Linked to National Security Development, inaction.  Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to these two topics? 

Spokesman: No, I think you are right in terms of me not being the right one to address this. The work of the committees is going on; we are not going to comment on these discussions as they go on.  They are doing what they are supposed to do. We do hope that they reach agreement and consensus on what they have to discuss.  But we’re not going to comment on these things on a daily basis.  Thank you very much, and we’ll turn to Gail.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General going to be present tomorrow during the General Assembly, during the acclamation, or consensus, or voting procedure?

Spokesman: What I can tell you is that the Secretary-General will be present, and right on cue, Gail will now explain to you what exactly will go on tomorrow.

Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President

Thank you, Stefan.  Good afternoon.  As announced yesterday afternoon, the General Assembly is scheduled to meet for the appointment of the next Secretary-General tomorrow at 3:00 p.m.  And I am just going to go through with you a little bit the scenario as to what is expected tomorrow.

The scenario begins with President of the General Assembly inviting the President of the Security Council to report on the Council’s recommendation regarding the appointment of the Secretary-General.  The Assembly will then consider the draft resolution on the subject and take action: either by acclamation, as is usually the practice, or, you know the possibility exists that a Member State could ask for a vote, although we think it is unlikely.

Statements will then be made by the President of the Assembly, the Secretary-General, the Regional Group Chairs, a Representative of the Host country, and the Secretary-General-designate.

We had thought that probably tomorrow, as has happened before, the oath of office might be taken at the same time; however, there won’t be an oath of office tomorrow.  The Secretary-General-designate will take the oath of office some time in December, at a date to be determined.

At the Plenary this morning, the General Assembly adopted a resolution granting exemption to nine Member Sates under Article 19.  The Member States are: Central African Republic, the Comoros, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, the Niger, Somalia, Tajikistan, and Sao Tome and Principe.  This will allow them to vote, during the 61st session of the Assembly because, of course, right now there is the question of non-payment of dues.

The plenary is also holding a joint debate on two items, the first being the 2001-2010 Decade to Roll Back Malaria in Developing Countries, particularly in Africa.  The second item is the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), including progress in implementation and international support; causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa.

Speaking this morning in the Plenary, the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al Khalifa, noted that the adoption of NEPAD five years ago has provided the framework for a better future, but that greater efforts are required to address the obstacles that hinder progress, namely youth unemployment, the social, economic and political impact of HIV/AIDS, the exploitation of natural resources, and the illegal flow of small arms.

On the main Committees: The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) yesterday approved 10 draft texts on decolonization issues, five of them by recorded vote, and began its consideration of international cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.

During an interactive dialogue on outer space issues, much attention was given to a proposal that would establish the “United Nations Platform for Space-based Information for Disaster Management and Emergency Response”, or “SPIDER”.   This initiative would provide universal access to all countries and international and regional organizations to all types of space-based information and services to support the full disaster management cycle of natural and man-made disasters.

In the Second Committee, delegates stressed yesterday that countries emerging from conflict continued to need international capacity-building assistance, even as a report of the Secretary-General said that some of them should no longer be considered for humanitarian assistance.

The report, Humanitarian Assistance and Rehabilitation for Selected Countries and Regions, urges the international community to provide aid to Somalia, but says that Angola, Liberia, Mozambique, Serbia, and Montenegro have moved beyond the need for emergency relief to the development phase.

In the Third Committee, discussion centred yesterday on conclusion of the debate on the advancement of women and introduction of the report on Violence against Children.  During debate, Egypt recommended hosting a conference on violence against children in conflict and expressed the need to have a yearly follow up for the report rather then every five years.  On another recommendation of appointing a special representative on violence against children, some countries welcomed this suggestion, while others expressed their concern that the report does not touch on violence against children in conflicts and under foreign occupation.

In the Sixth Committee discussions focused on terrorism.  The Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism, introducing his report to the Sixth Committee, noted that once again agreement had not been reached on the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism.  He called on the international community to seize the momentum gained by the adoption of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and continue the work by further developing the necessary comprehensive legal frame work.  During the Ad Hoc Committee’s deliberations, some ideas were flagged and delegates seemed to be of the spirit to conclude the convention as soon as possible.  However, no formal proposals were submitted.  The Ad Hoc Committee also discussed the possibility of convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations on terrorism.  But there was no agreement on this.  Ideas as to the value of the conference and when to hold it still differ.   From today, Ambassador Perera, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, will continue his consultations in an informal setting and bilateral contacts, and he invited interested delegates to take the opportunity to come forward to discuss any ideas and proposals with him.

That is the report on the work of the Assembly.  Any questions?

Question and Answers:

Question: I am sorry but I have a problem because those were the positives, and I am looking at the negatives and the negatives are, according to what was published today, that we are looking at the lack of a comprehensive Terrorism Convention that will actually continue terrorism, and then we also look at the weaponization of outer space, which is going to take terrorism into outer space.   What is the intention now of the General Assembly of dealing with these two topics?

Spokeswoman:   Well, as you know this is a very sensitive topic, it has been discussed and it is being discussed.  As I mentioned, the Chairman also made the same remarks that you have made.  I think a lot of what you have said came from the Chairman himself, and he has expressed concern that more needs to be done.  I think his hope is that progress will be made in the informal consultations, since many of the speakers’ statements suggested that there seemed to be a spirit to move towards concluding the convention as soon as possible.  I think the hope is that progress will be made within the consultation process.

Question:  I realize I am asking a question for which there is no definitive answer and there may be an impromptu answer.  Is the Secretary-General-designate expected to come and speak to us at a stakeout here, or near the General Assembly entrance, after the completion of the ceremony and the various speeches tomorrow afternoon?

Spokeswoman:  I know that yesterday we had had some discussion about that.

Spokesman for the Secretary-General: I will give you a bit more about his media opportunities later this afternoon.  So as soon as we have something definite we will announce it.

Question:  Would you email it?

Spokesman for the Secretary-General: Yes.

Spokeswoman:  I may have forgotten to mention that the Secretary-General-designate is meeting with the Assembly President this afternoon.

Thank you very much.

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