DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

7 December 2006

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

7 December 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
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 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 the Spokesman for the Secretary-General


**Guest


My guest today will be Jan Egeland, who will be giving his very last press briefing as the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.  He will brief you on the High-Level Conference on the Central Emergency Response Fund, which took place this morning here at Headquarters, and which the Secretary-General addressed.


In his remarks, the Secretary-General noted that, in just eight short months, the upgraded Fund has delivered on its promise to help those most in need, committing some $230 million to over 320 projects in 30 countries.  The Fund has also allowed the UN to do more and to do it sooner, the Secretary-General added.  Mr. Egeland will probably be delayed, so after I’m done, Gail will brief and then probably Mr. Egeland, but we’ll see how that goes.


**Darfur and Chad


Now I have a statement on the situation in Darfur.


“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the worsening security situation in Darfur and its consequences for the wider region, including Chad and the Central African Republic.  He is alarmed by the devastating impact the violence is having on the civilian population in the region and strongly condemns the recent attacks and destruction of dozens of villages in North Darfur.  More than 80,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in the last six weeks alone, 50,000 of them in Darfur and 30,000 in Chad.  Several hundred civilians, including women, children and the elderly have been killed and there are very disturbing reports of mass rapes and other gross violations of human rights.


“The Secretary-General also deplores the fact that the escalating violence is cutting off almost one million people across Darfur from desperately needed humanitarian aid.  Recent clashes between armed militia and the SLA Minnawi faction in El Fasher have forced the relocation of UN and NGO staff and are threatening relief operations for more than 1.3 million people across North Darfur.  The fighting has also interrupted UN support to the African Union Mission in the Sudan.  Violence in Chad is disrupting relief operations to more than 300,000 people.  In both Darfur and Chad, relief workers are being attacked on a daily basis and dozens of their vehicles have been hijacked in the last few weeks, threatening the humanitarian lifeline for a total of 4.3 million people across the region.


“He appeals to all parties in the strongest terms to immediately cease hostilities and stop all attacks against civilians.  Those violating international humanitarian law by attacking civilians and relief workers must be held accountable.  He further calls upon the Government of the Sudan to re-establish law and order in the areas under its control, especially El Fasher and El Geneina.  He calls on all parties to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access to all those in need.


“Moreover, the Secretary-General calls on the Government to engage all groups and provide opportunities for grievances and aspirations to be addressed through political discussion.  The United Nations and the African Union stand ready to provide co-mediation and to extend all necessary support to the urgently needed Darfur-Darfur Dialogue and Consultation.”


The full text of that statement is upstairs.


** Sudan


Meanwhile, from the field, the UN Mission in the Sudan today reports a tense situation in Al Fasher, where yesterday a demonstration involving students protesting against the presence of Arab militias in the area turned violent when they threw stones at Government police in the main market and the Government used teargas to disperse the crowd.  Also reported yesterday was a protest by people displaced by the violence at the Zam Zam camp outside Al Fasher, who were also protesting the presence of Arab militia and the lack of protection from those very militias.  There’s a daily bulletin compiled by our colleagues in the Sudan available to you upstairs.


**Security Council Today


Meanwhile, back here, the Council this morning is holding an open meeting to discuss the work of the Security Council mission to Afghanistan, led by Ambassador Kenzo Oshima of Japan.  That mission went to Afghanistan last month.  Ambassador Oshima briefed other Council members on that mission and on the recent report, which is out on the racks today.  Among other things, the Council mission found the spread of the insurgency, along with terrorist activity, corruption and the drug trade, collectively pose a grave threat to the reconstruction and nation-building efforts in Afghanistan.  But the Council mission is convinced that the Afghan Government and the international community have established a strong strategy to overcome these challenges.


Council members afterwards will hold their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General, and that will be the last one attended by this particular Secretary-General, who as you know, leaves office in December.  He told me this morning that he will be stopping by the stakeout, which will be outside the Security Council chamber here after the lunch to take any questions, if you have some for him.


Then at 3:45, the Council has scheduled another set of consultations, this time on Sierra Leone, to receive a briefing by the head of the UN office in that country, Victor de Angelo.  Under other matters, Council members are also expected to hear from Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane about the recent coup in Fiji.


Just a side note on Sierra Leone, the Special Court for Sierra Leone yesterday confirmed the appointment of Stephen Rapp as the Court’s next Chief Prosecutor and we have his bio upstairs.


**Security Council Yesterday


Just for the record, yesterday afternoon the Council unanimously adopted a resolution that authorized the Intergovernmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD, and member States of the African Union to establish a protection and training mission in Somalia.  It also endorsed the idea that States bordering Somalia would not deploy troops to the country.


The Council also adopted a presidential statement, congratulating Joseph Kabila on his election as President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and welcoming the commitment by his challenger, Jean-Pierre Bemba, to continue to participate actively in Congolese politics within the framework of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s institutions.


** Nepal


Turning now to Nepal, in keeping with the Secretary General’s commitment to respond promptly to Nepal’s request for assistance in the peace process, a UN technical assessment mission will be on the ground in Nepal from 10-16 December; that team will plan for a full-fledged UN mission to support the peace process.  It will be led by Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Nepal, and will include officials with expertise in political and military affairs, logistics and public information.


Meanwhile, recruitment continues for a team of up to 35 advance monitors to be deployed, ahead of a full-fledged mission, to monitor provisions of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  We are also proceeding with our efforts to recruit 25 electoral experts to assist in carrying out the Constituent Assembly elections.


** Iraq


From Iraq, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), in a new report today, says almost half of the Iraqi Marshlands, considered by some to be the original “Garden of Eden”, have now recovered to their former 1970s extent.  In addition, up to 22,000 people living in the area are now getting access to safe drinking water and some 300 Iraqis have been trained in marshland management techniques and policies.  And we have a press release from UNEP upstairs.


**Occupied Palestinian Territory


From the humanitarian side, 12 UN agencies, together with 14 non-governmental organizations operating in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, today launched an emergency appeal for more then $450 million to help meet increasing Palestinian humanitarian needs in 2007.  It is the largest appeal for emergency humanitarian assistance ever launched in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Karen AbuZayd, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), called the loss of life, livelihood and security in the Territory “most distressing”.  And we have more upstairs in a press release from them.


**UNDP


Just want to flag a report out today on women in the Arab world, which says that women in the Arab world are not realizing their full potential and are still denied equal opportunity.  That’s according to the UN Development Programme called “Arab Human Development Report 2005:  Towards the rise of women in the Arab world”, which is being launched today in Sana’a in Yemen.  The report argues that the lack of opportunity for Arab women in their societies represents not just a problem for women, but a barrier to progress and prosperity in the Arab world as a whole. 


**Arms Trade


And I just want to flag the statement we put out yesterday on arms trade.  The Secretary-General welcomed yesterday's adoption by the General Assembly of a resolution launching a process that could lead to a treaty regulating international trade in conventional weapons.  While there are still many steps to be taken to forge a consensus to this end, the resolution represents the first formal step towards developing common international standards on the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons.  The Secretary-General notes that unregulated trade in these weapons currently contributes to conflict, crime and terrorism, and undermines international efforts for peace and development.


**Holocaust


I was asked a question earlier on our response to the conference that is taking place, we understand, in Tehran on the Holocaust, the Secretary-General, and this is in response to a question, the Secretary-General would deeply deplore any conference whose purpose is to question or deny the reality of the Holocaust.  Only a year ago, the General Assembly passed a resolution which “rejects any denial of the Holocaust as a historical event, either in full or part”.  And the Secretary-General personally believes that any attempt to cast doubt on the reality of this unique and undeniable horror must be firmly resisted by all people of goodwill and whatever faith.


The Secretary-General had spoken to President Ahmadinejad about this when he met him in Tehran in September.  The same General Assembly resolution designated 27 January as an annual International Day of Commemoration in memory of the victims of the Holocaust. 


**Press Conference


And this afternoon, in addition to Jan Egeland, at 5:15 in this room the UN Global Compact Office will be hosting a press conference by the members of the board of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, which is a coalition of Governments, companies, international organizations and NGOs, seeking to overcome corruption in the oil, gas and mineral extraction sectors.  And the board is holding its first meeting here at Headquarters today.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  This is a tough question.  I hope that there is an answer.  There was a report last week and repeated by Le Monde, regarding documents addressed to the United Nations High Commission Representative in the area, that there are 50 Al-Qaeda commandos coming from Iraq, backed by Syria, who came to Lebanon to assassinate 36 personalities, anti-Syrian personalities.  Could you confirm if there is this confidential document?  And what’s the next step to take in the United Nations?


Spokesman:  I can’t confirm or comment on what may be a confidential document.  We get reporting from our staff in the field on a regular basis; that is privileged information that we get.  However, I can’t deny that report.  I can say the Secretary-General has been dutifully reporting back to the Security Council, not only on resolution 1701 but on resolution 1559.  Those reports are available to you.  He continues to be very concerned about the current situation, the stalemate in Lebanon, and he would renew his call to all the political parties, the opposition and the Government, to return to the table and find a political solution to the current impasse.  It’s a situation he’s been following extremely closely.


Question:  Is the Brammertz report coming out next week, on Monday?  Is it confirmed or not?


Spokesman:  There is a report due by Mr. Brammertz around the second half of December so I’ll get you an exact day on when we expect that report to go to the Security Council.  And again, if Mr. Brammertz comes to deliver the report, we will likely arrange for him to speak to you at the stakeout after he talks to the Council about the report.


Question:  To follow-up on the first question, this isn’t the first report about Iraqis in Lebanon or about Somalis in Lebanon.  Isn’t it part of UNIFIL’s mandate to make sure no foreign fighters are there?


Spokesman:  UNIFIL’s mandate applies to the area of its responsibility South of the Litani River.  Its mandate is to work with the Government of Lebanon to make sure there is one Government, one authority, the Government of Lebanon.  They are doing so and their activities were reported in their latest report and the Secretary-General’s letter to the Security Council most recently.  I think that report also touched upon bilateral agreements with the Government of Lebanon to help strengthen its border security as well.


Question:  My other question is, yesterday I was told that there was no confirmation of whether Mark Malloch Brown called one of our colleagues a “jerk”.  Was there a refutation of that remark?


Question:  (by another correspondent) And one follow-up before you answer.  I want to say, because there’s something that he’d also said -- I just would like you to address all these at once.  On Tuesday, in response to some questions about UNDP, you used the word “slanderous”.  So, truth is a defence.  And since I’m assuming that the person you were referring to is this head of Europe and CIS States for UNDP, I would like, as part of your response, before the matter is dropped, that there’s an investigative audit of the Russian Federation office of UNDP that has never been released -- and I’ve asked UNDP for that and I’d like for it to be released.  And I’d like you to address your use of the word “slanderous” in this room.


Spokesman:  I will try to give an answer that will satisfy all of you.  Mark Malloch Brown did use that word.  It was in response to a specific question that Matthew had asked him in the hall as the Deputy Secretary-General was going from one meeting to another.  The question was thrown at him.  Malloch Brown thinks that Brian Gleeson is a highly qualified professional and it was clear, in a story that you posted on your website, that you failed to report the on the record denial that I had given you about Mark Malloch Brown’s involvement in the change of job of Mr. Gleeson at UNDP.  He was not involved in any way, shape or form.  You failed to mention that.


I think also through your postings, on Mr. Gleeson in particular, you’ve impugned the reputation of a decent and honourable man, notably on your references about innuendos about aspects of his personal life, which were baseless and totally injurious to the man’s reputation.  Mr. Malloch Brown feels that these postings did not meet journalistic standards.  If Inner City Press -- in fact, I think it would be quite useful for us to meet with your editors -- will withdraw the material from its website concerning Mr. Gleeson, then Mr. Malloch Brown -- and acknowledge that they were inappropriate -- Mr. Malloch Brown will be willing to withdraw the remark that he made to you.


I think, Matthew, as I’ve said before, you’ve asked numerous and numerous questions of UNDP, which I think is your right to do.  No one would ever challenge that right.  More than 50 questions, including 16 additional overnight, which UNDP is working to address.  Any criticism that they are not addressing those questions is unfair and unwarranted, given the detail of questioning that you are giving them.  My colleagues at UNDP are very concerned that some of your answers continue to be -- their answers -- continue to be misrepresented or distorted.  When errors have been made, you have not posted a retraction or correction, as would have been with standard journalistic practices.  In fact, I think yesterday you published, on your website, a new set of questions at the same time that you sent them to UNDP.  And maybe this is not the place to open a wide discussion on journalistic standards, but I think it would be…


[Interruption from correspondent]


Spokesman:  No, no.  Excuse me.


Question:  You are doing a criticism of journalism.  It’s very good and very interesting.  But we ask one question:  whether an official can address some…a member of the press regardless on what he writes and intimidating by calling him names.


Spokesman:  I don’t think anyone…


Question:  What you’re doing now, to intimidate his fresh writing…


Spokesman:  No one is intimidating.  At some point we sit here and we answer questions and it’s our job and we do that happily.  I think, at some point, when innuendos about people’s private lives are posted on the web for all to see, I think some people start to take it personally.  You asked me the question about the “J” word that was used.  I gave you the answer.  It is clear where we stand.


Question:  If certain journalistic things will happen, then Mark Malloch Brown will retract his comment?


Spokesman:  I’ve given you the answer to your question.


Question:  [inaudible] the sudden demotion of the head of human resources of UNDP.  I called Mr. Gleeson and asked him for his side of the story and I posted their side in entirety, what they said.  I don’t want to waste anyone’s time.  Before you lecture, you need to look at the facts.


Spokesman:  I am.  I am looking at the facts.  I am looking at the facts.  People do change jobs.  You know, you characterize people’s changing jobs as demotions.  People changes jobs.  It’s not always a demotion.  It’s a promotion sometimes, or it’s a lateral move.  Mr. Dervis will be here on the 18th and I’m sure he’ll be happy to answer all your questions.


Question:  Stéphane, are there any new things you would like to report regarding the discussion between the two teams, of the Annan administration and Mr. Ban Ki-moon?  And what subjects and issues are being discussed now, and how long will these discussions go on?


Spokesman:  Well, the transition’s an ongoing process.  It obviously comes to an end on 31 December.  They are being briefed on all sorts of procedural issues on policy questions.  I hope they…the Secretary-General-designate will have announcements to make when he speaks to you on the 14th, after his swearing in.  But beyond that, I don’t really have an update.


Question:  I just have two questions.  First, any follow-up on where the situation stands on the Sudan, Darfur and the Secretary-General’s effort to have an international force there or a hybrid force?  My second question is, is it possible to have the Secretary-General speaking to the press before he finishes his term, like on the last week?


Spokesman:  I think I’ve said a number of times here, he will have a final press conference on the 19th.  On Darfur, the diplomatic activity, at a number of different levels, is continuing, following-up on the Abuja meetings.  We’re in discussions with the African Union and obviously also with the Government of the Sudan.  We’re continuing to try to move this forward.  And I think in light of the situation on the ground, it becomes that much more important.


Question:  Just following the Security Council resolution on Somalia yesterday:  is the United Nations going to be doing any work to help the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) form a force?  Any discussions on where this force would come from, what the issues are with regards to, you know, a force coming from perceived parties to the conflict?  Et cetera, et cetera.  Is there any work on the United Nations end of this, or is it purely left to IGAD to do this? 


Spokesman:  The resolution itself does not give the United Nations a mandate with regard to the establishment or deployment of the force.  It is in the hands of IGAD and the African Union.  The Council has asked us, basically, to report on the implementation of the mandate, in consultation with the African Union.  The Secretary-General obviously believes, hopes that the resolution will succeed in stabilizing the situation in Somalia and contribute to the restoration of peace in the country.  Obviously, one of the issues that we continue to urge is that the Transitional Federal Institutions and the Islamic Courts continue to resume their dialogue without any precondition, in order to lead to some sort of political settlement.


Question:  Is there going to be any…  I mean, the resolution doesn’t call you to, specifically, to help.  But is that to say that, then, the United Nations is offering no advice or assistance to IGAD on this force.  Or, will you be offering advice or assistance?


Spokesman:  At this point, we have not been asked to offer any operational assistance, according to the resolution.  What the African Union or IGAD may ask in the future, I can’t speak to that.  But the mandate passed by the…


Question:  On their discussions with IGAD?


Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of.


Question:  Because asking doesn’t come out in ether.  They generally follow pre-discussions.


Spokesman:  Yes, none that I’m aware of.


Question:  The AP reported that one of the Islamic Court -- I don’t know the nomenclature of the officials, but well, he apparently comes from Mogadishu -- had said that anybody that doesn’t pray five times a day will be beheaded.  Is this…  Does the United Nations have any information as to whether the Islamic Court officials are adopting policies of beheading people who don’t choose to pray five times a day, and what this constitutes?  And whether this, basically, raises issues of responsibility to protect and so forth?


Spokesman:  No, I don’t have any information concerning what the AP reported.  Obviously the situation in Somalia is of great concern to the Secretary-General and his envoy, Lonseny Fall.  He’s trying to bring the parties together.


Question:  A follow-up on the transition.  Why is the new Secretary-General being sworn in two weeks before he takes over?


Spokesman:  He’s being sworn in, I guess it’s in light of the end of the year, and the fact that many people will not be here.  The General Assembly -- in consultation with him -- chose to do it on the 14th.  But it has no effect on the authority of Kofi Annan, which will last until 31 December.


Question:  According to the report submitted to the United States President, one of the items of recommendation -- I think recommendation number 7, that was asking the United Nations to participate more on the situation in Iraq -- does Kofi Annan or anybody here try to do more than what they are doing already?


Spokesman:  I think in regard to those proposals regarding the United Nations, we very much look forward to further discussions with not only the Government of Iraq, but the United States and other key regional players about the future role of the United Nations and what we could do.  And, obviously, our role is mandated and defined by the Security Council resolution.


Question:  On the Baker and Hamilton report:  I came late.  I don’t know if you did give us the reaction, the official reaction?  Kofi Annan’s reaction?


Spokesman:  Obviously, the Secretary-General is pleased that the United Nations was consulted in the drafting of this report.  The Commission spoke to him, spoke to the Deputy Secretary-General, as well as to Ashraf Qazi in Baghdad.  The report itself is obviously primarily for consideration by the United States Government and by the representative of the American people.  A number of the recommendations in the report are consistent with the Secretary-General’s thinking and his reports to the Security Council, in particular his call for the convergence of national, regional and international levels to stabilize the situation in Iraq.


Question:  Is he interested to talk directly with Iran and Syria, with regard to Lebanon?  Does he believe that talking directly with Iran and Syria will help to defuse the situation?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General has done that on a number of occasions, spoken to the leadership in Damascus and Tehran, and asking them to play a helpful role in the situation in Beirut.  He definitely believes in dialogue.


Question:  Following the conclusion of the ceasefire in Gaza, has the Secretary-General been in contact with Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas?


Spokesman:  Not with those two directly, but his Envoy Alvaro de Soto remains in contact with both sides.


Question:  I was at a breakfast this morning for former Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.  One of the questions is, and I may have just missed this some time in the last few days, one of the questioners quoted General Pellegrini as saying he has determined that there are no tunnels and that there are no caves in southern Lebanon.  Do you know when he said this, or is this an authentic quote or…?


Spokesman:  I think, the only thing I can tell you is to refer back to the reports, the Secretary-General’s reports on southern Lebanon and on the force in southern Lebanon and his press briefing here.  I can’t, off the top of my head, talk to the veracity of those quotes.


Question:  On behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, it is my…  I feel rather sad to bring this up to you.  Our member, the esteemed member, Matthew Lee, has protested, basically, that at one point in time, certain reports that he wrote were termed as “slanderous” by you.  And subsequently, Mr. Mark Malloch Brown called him a “jerk”.  Now, it could have been that he may have had issues with his reports -- that is fine.  Because so many reports on these people have issues.  But if it is slander, it is, of course, considered to be untrue.  If it is untrue, then throw it away.  And then, using a word like “jerk” is, I think, very libellous and should not have been used.  He could have said, “You are not reporting well” and “you have not corroborated your facts”.  But calling somebody a jerk is absolutely outrageous.  I’d like to put that on record.


Spokesman:  Noted.


Question:  On Côte d’Ivoire.  There’ve been protests and I think people have been killed.  So I’m wondering, have there been any comments on the Gbagbo Government’s seeming non-compliance with the resolution?


Spokesman:  The mission has been talking to all the parties in Côte d’Ivoire.  We’re very concerned about the continuing stalemate and obviously would push all the Ivoirian parties to resume a constructive dialogue to implement 1721.  I think almost more than a month has passed since that resolution was passed and it’s very important that no more time be wasted before the number of key processes be relaunched.  We’re working, obviously, with the African Union and then with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to facilitate the resumption of the peace process.  And that’s in line with the decisions taken by the International Working Group on 1 December.


Question:  On Somalia, you’d said a couple of days ago that there was a question of what the United Nations operational agencies -- WFP, UNICEF, UNDP -- what has been their role in the parts of Somalia controlled by the Islamic Courts in the last few months.  Do you have a statement on that?


Spokesman:  I have…  Excuse me, please.  If I could ask you to please not walk in front of the camera?  Thank you very much.


I’m trying to stay calm until the end of the year.  I’m trying to stay calm.  I need to change what I put in here.


I have something which I will share with you.  I have a pretty detailed list of what WFP is doing, helicopters and all of that.  So I’d be happy to share that with you.


Question:  One more question, I hope not that contentious, about that statement you read in the beginning about Kofi Annan, the statement on the Holocaust denial fest.  Does that statement refer to anybody who, in the world, ever denies the Holocaust?  Or is it a direct reference to this particular event?


Spokesman:  The Secretary-General’s position on Holocaust denials is fairly clear and I would refer you back to the statement he made, when the resolution was adopted, in which he called people who denied the Holocaust “bigots”.  And I would refer you back to that statement.


Question:  This particular event?


Spokesman:  I think this is for this particular event, but obviously, his position is well known and on the record and you should refer back to it.  Joe?


Question:  Two questions on the Iraq statement.  One, since it’s about the future, did they have any contact with Ban Ki-moon?


Spokesman:  You’d have to ask them.


Question:  Okay.  Two, since the President just said in his press conference that he’s sticking to his position on speaking to Iran and Syria, that they’d have to give up enrichment first, and the Secretary-General has said, Kofi Annan, that he believes there should be direct contact with Iran and Syria.  What is the reaction to that?


Spokesman:  These two men are very much…  It’s possible for them to disagree.  I think that the Secretary-General’s position is unchanged, on his belief on dialogue.  So, there’s no change on the Secretary-General’s position.


Question:  [inaudible] dinner?


Spokesman:  You know, it was a very pleasant dinner.  Contrary to what some may assume, in fact, President Bush and Secretary-General Kofi Annan have a very pleasant and warm personal relationship.  And both clearly understand that they disagree on a number of issues, but that does not mean that it affected their personal relationship.  The Secretary-General was extremely pleased by the warm welcome and the warm dinner he received, that was hosted by the President and the First Lady.


Question:  [inaudible] personal relationship between several of the guests, such as the Deputy Secretary-General and the American Ambassador to the United Nations?


Spokesman:  On that note, I will leave you in Gail’s hands.


Briefing by Spokeswoman for General Assembly President


Good afternoon.


The General Assembly this morning is meeting on the agenda item on oceans and law of the sea.  It has before it reports of the Secretary-General on oceans and law of the sea and sustainable fisheries; and a report of the Ad Hoc Open-ended Informal Group to study issues relating to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity beyond areas of national jurisdiction.  There are also two draft resolutions for action by the Assembly; one, an omnibus resolution on Oceans and Law of the Sea, covering a wide range of issues and the other addressing matters of sustainable fisheries.  There are 31 speakers listed to address the Assembly, including the Secretary-General of the International Sea-bed Authority and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural resources.


Tomorrow, Friday 8 December, the Assembly will meet to discuss operational activities for development of the United Nations system.  This meeting will take the form of a commemorative meeting marking the 60th anniversary of the United Nations Children’s Fund.  Please note, the meeting begins at 10:15 a.m., because UNICEF is going to show a film before that, on its activities.


On Wednesday, the Assembly adopted 54 draft resolutions recommended by its First Committee.  Among them was the resolution “Towards an Arms Trade Treaty”, which represents a first step towards establishing international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons.  This action by the Assembly builds on last year’s adoption of an international instrument on marking and tracing illicit small arms and light weapons.  The draft was approved by a vote of 153 in favour to 1 against, with 24 abstentions.  Prior to approving the draft, the Assembly voted to retain operative paragraphs 2 and 3 of the resolution, which request the Secretary-General to establish a group of governmental experts and provide it with all necessary assistance.  For further details on the resolutions approved, you can look at press release GA/10547.


Meanwhile, the Second Committee has asked for an extension until tomorrow, Friday, 8 December, to complete its work for this session.  On Wednesday, the Committee approved nine draft resolutions and one decision on issues ranging from external debt and development, to implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and Desertification, Particularly in Africa, as well as implementing the outcome of the UN conference on Human Settlements and strengthening the UN Human Settlements Programme.  Other resolutions adopted addressed such issues as the role of microcredit and microfinance in eradicating poverty, preventing and combating corrupt practices, and the issue of the transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets to the countries of origin.  The Committee will meet again on Friday to consider all outstanding resolutions.  And again, I will refer you to another press release on the Second Committee’s resolutions -– it is GA/EF/3172.


The Fifth Committee, meanwhile, is discussing the Programme Budget for the biennium 2006-2007 and financing of the peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire and Ethiopia and Eritrea.  At the same time, it is continuing to hold informal consultations on a number of items on its agenda.  This Committee will also ask for an extension to complete its work beyond the deadline of this Friday.  The General Assembly, as a result, will also announce, next week, a new date for completion of its work beyond the 12 December deadline.


The Acting President of the General Assembly, the Ambassador of Croatia, today read a statement, on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Hay Rashed Al Khalifa, at the High-Level Conference on the Central Emergency Response Fund.  The President, in her statement, paid tribute to the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Jan Egeland, for his outstanding performance and dedication to the Organization, as well as his strong compassion for disaster victims around the world.


On the Central Emergency Relief Fund, she urged Member States to replenish the CERF [and achieve the annual $500 million target]to ensure that humanitarian assistance can and does reach the people that need it most, “when they need it”.  She stressed “any contribution, whatever the size,” would help to make a difference to the lives of vulnerable human beings.  “Let us not fail those who depend on the United Nations to alleviate their suffering and improve their chances of survival in a time of crisis,” she appealed.


That’s the end of my report for today.  I just wanted to remind you that Mr. Egeland is due to brief you right after this, so please stay, so that he does not meet an empty room.


Any questions?


Questions and Answers


Question:  These audits of the programmes and funds that are directed to the General Assembly… There was one of the UNDP audit.  I am sorry to ask you, but I have a copy of a Russian… This is a public document for the GA, but the reference is to the investigative audit of the Russian Federation Office of the UNDP.  I was wondering:  since this went to the GA, is there some way that you can either provide a report, release a report?  I guess, the thing that came up earlier and wasted a lot of time -– this may go to the heart of it.  So, I want to ask a GA question:  is it possible to get documents referred to, in a report to the GA, by UNDP?


Spokeswoman:  If it is a public document, then it is easy for you to…


Question:  No-no, this document is public, and it references a document that, it’s not clear to me if it’s public or not, but it’s kind of strange, because this thing has to be public; but then it sort of refers to another document to answer the question of what fraud was actually done.  It’s a request.  I will give you all the numbers for it, but I want to put it in for you as the spokesperson forthe GA President…


Spokeswoman:  I will check to see whether… but my feeling is, once it’s in there, it should be a public document.


Regarding the Fifth Committee, a number of people have asked to have some briefing on what’s happening, particularly on the scale of assessments, and we certainly are willing to do that –- either tomorrow, or, perhaps, on Monday.  If you all can give me a time that’s good for you, we can do that.  Perhaps, that’s also a time to talk about that particular question, but I will look to see whether that document is, in fact, public or not.


Thank you very much.


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