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

7 June 2007

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

7 June 2007
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good Afternoon.

**Statement on Climate Change

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson on climate change.  The Secretary-General just learned of the development on climate change from the G-8 summit.

The Secretary-General wholeheartedly welcomes that G-8 leaders have agreed on a strong and early action to combat climate change.  He is greatly encouraged by their commitment to a multilateral process within the UN framework.

The Secretary-General has placed great diplomatic efforts in getting the G-8 leaders to acknowledge the central role of the United Nations and its Framework Convention on Climate Change as the forum for climate change negotiations.

The acceptance by the leaders of their responsibility to act on emission reductions and eventual cuts is to be commended, as is their stated intention to conclude the negotiations on a post-2012 agreement by 2009.

**Secretary-General in Berlin

The Secretary-General is in Berlin today, as you know, where he has been meeting with a number of the leaders who will attend the outreach session of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit, scheduled to take place tomorrow.

The Secretary-General met separately with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South African President Thabo Mbeki and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva to discuss the issues being addressed at the G-8 summit and outreach session.

Over the past hour, he has met with the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Alpha Oumar Konaré.

He also is scheduled to meet with the Nigerian and Mexican Presidents later today, and is to attend a dinner hosted by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

We expect that the Secretary-General will talk to the press tomorrow, and we’ll provide the time of that press encounter later today.

**Security Council

And here at the United Nations, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), today told the Security Council in an open briefing that the Security Council and regional organizations must take the lead in calling on Sudan to arrest two people suspected of crimes in Darfur.  He said that the Court counts on every State to execute the arrest warrants against the two men, and hopes that the Security Council can address the issue of Sudanese cooperation with the ICC during its planned mission to Khartoum.

Moreno-Ocampo laid out the case against the two men, saying that, now, “the key is their arrest and surrender”.  We have his briefing notes available upstairs.

That open briefing was followed by consultations on Darfur, in which the Prosecutor continued his discussions with Council members.

Once those discussions are done, the ICC Prosecutor will talk to you, the press, at the stakeout.  We will let you know if that happens while you are still in here.

** Darfur

From the field on Darfur, the United Nations Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) reports that the situation there during the month of May can be characterized by the forced movement of civilians due to increased insecurity, swelling populations of displaced persons, rising tensions in camps and ever increasing targeted violence against humanitarian operations.

Nearly 140,000 people have been identified as newly displaced since the beginning of the year, with at least 10,000 on the move during the month of May alone, according to the Mission.

The Mission also notes that there continues to be a very high rate of attacks on non-governmental organization compounds and staff.  It says the increasing use of physical and mental violence during hijackings is of serious concern.

There is a transcript of a press conference that took place in Khartoum on these humanitarian aspects, upstairs, and there is also today’s bulletin from the UN Mission that outlines the more recent incidents that were reported in Darfur.

Here at UN Headquarters, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, is arriving in New York later today, and he is scheduled to brief the Security Council tomorrow on his joint efforts with the African Union to reinvigorate the peace process.

As you know, the United Nations and the African Union are expected to meet with the Government of Sudan on the proposed hybrid operation, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 11 and 12 June.

A briefing to the Security Council on the outcome of that meeting in Addis is expected to take place before the Security Council mission heads to the region at the end of next week.

** Lebanon

Turning to Lebanon, the World Food Programme (WFP) today announced that it will provide technical assistance to support an emergency operation in Lebanon mounted by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The operation will assist people displaced by the ongoing clashes in two of the largest Palestinian refugee camps, Al-Hilwah and Nahr al-Bared.

Since fighting broke out in the camp near the northern city of Tripoli on 20 May, thousands of civilians have fled the camp with only the belongings that they could carry.

There’s further information in a press release by WFP upstairs.

**UNDOF

There are two new reports by the Secretary-General to the Security Council on the racks today.

One is on the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights, which says that the situation in the Israel-Syria sector remains generally quiet.  The Secretary-General adds in the report that he considers UNDOF’s continued presence in the area to be crucial, and he recommends that the Council extend the mission’s mandate by six months.

** Cyprus Report

The other report that is out is the one on Cyprus, and in it, the Secretary-General says that the situation along the ceasefire line has remained generally calm, but he noted safety concerns regarding civilians seeking to exercise their property rights in the buffer zone.

He said that the United Nations mission in its current form should not be taken for granted, as the international community is increasingly questioning the lack of significant political progress on the Cyprus issue.  He called for implementation of the 8 July agreement and for Cypriots themselves to take the lead in finding a solution.

**Deputy Secretary-General - MDGs and UNFPA Awards

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro delivered a message on the Millennium Development Goals last night to the twentieth meeting of the Academic Council on the United Nations System at the Ralph Bunche Institute in New York.

In her message, the Deputy Secretary-General noted that this year marks the midpoint between the adoption of the Goals and the target date of 2015 and appealed to world leaders to accelerate implementation of the existing commitments, as time is running out.

She also said that, with climate change now a major challenge, the role of research and academia is critical to addressing its adverse effects and their impact on development.  We have her full message upstairs.

Later today, the Deputy Secretary-General will take part in a ceremony for this year’s recipients of the United Nations Population Award of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA). 

We have embargoed copies of her remarks upstairs.  The ceremony starts at 5 p.m. in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

** Somalia

And a couple more updates.  The International Contact Group on Somalia met in London yesterday to discuss mechanisms for advancing the political process and stabilizing the security situation in Somalia.  Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe and François Lonseny Fall, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, attended that meeting.

In a communiqué issued afterwards, the Contact Group noted the recent improvement in the security situation, but expressed its serious concern at the continued sporadic violence in Mogadishu and the deaths and injuries caused by it.

The Contact Group added that it believes that the National Reconciliation Congress is the primary vehicle to demonstrate an inclusive approach to governance, help deliver security for the Transitional Government and the people of Somalia, and advance political reconciliation.

We put out copies of the communiqué yesterday afternoon.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is calling on all parties in the DRC to respect humanitarian principles and protect civilian populations caught in the conflict.

Speaking at a conference of religious leaders in South Kivu, the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for the DRC, Ross Mountain, said that access to vulnerable populations has been impeded in recent months by armed groups and ongoing military operations.  And there’s more information in a press release upstairs.

**Malnutrition

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Food Programme (WFP), 20 million children under the age of 5 worldwide stand to benefit from a new approach to combating severe malnutrition.  The three agencies have put forward new evidence that about three quarters of children suffering from acute malnutrition can be treated at home through highly fortified, ready-to-use therapeutic foods.  These are soft and crushable nutrient and energy-rich foods that can be eaten without adding water.

The three partnering UN agencies say the approach could prevent the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children each year.

**International Labour Organization (ILO) report

And finally, according to an International Labour Organization (ILO) report, an estimated one in five workers around the world are working excessively long hours.  That’s according to a new International Labour Organization study.  It found that more than 600 million people are working at least 48 hours a week, often merely to make ends meet.  There’s more information on that upstairs for you.

That’s all I have for you today.  We have the General Assembly’s spokespeople’s team here for you. 

If you have any questions…yes, Mr. Abbadi.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Carla Ponte, the prosecutor for the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, on a visit to Belgrade currently, expressed optimism that General [Ratko] Mladić, who was responsible for the massacre of 7,000 Muslims in Srebrenica, will very soon be arrested, perhaps imminently. Do you have any information on that, and is the Secretary-General as optimistic regarding this arrest?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think you’re referring to an interview that she gave on a wire service a couple of days ago.  I’m aware of the interview she did.  No, we have nothing official from her office on that.

Question:  Last year, speaking of Eliasson, there was a lot of pomp and circumstance about the huge reform in the Human Rights Council, which the Secretariat, through the Department of Public Information (DPI), joined in by promising a clean slate on the denunciation of one country Israel.  This year, the Human Rights Council denounced only one country in its resolutions, and now I’m told there that there is a resolution to put a permanent item regarding Israel on the Council’s table and it’s going to pass without any problems.  The question is will the Secretary-General address the failure of the Council to deliver on the promise made by DPI, by the reformers, by pretty much everybody at the United Nations, not to single out Israel on a permanent basis?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have to follow up with the Human Rights Council on that item before I can get back to you.  Yes?

Question: I’m just wondering whether you have a reaction to this Washington Times article that says that the United Nations Headquarters renovation project needs better outside oversight and also that there’s a need for reform of United States aid programmes.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Can you specify again what the allegation was?

Question:  Well, they’re saying that costs have ballooned over the past five years and that United Nations officials haven’t released any audits of procurement data, contracting data….

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I’m familiar with the story that you referred to.  The Capital Master Plan is probably one of the most heavily audited or oversighted programmes in the United Nations system.  I can give you a list of ways it has been looked at.  I don’t have the list with me, so, if I can give it to you upstairs. I also know that the Fifth Committee will be taking up the Capital Master Plan next week as well, so we can get you more on that.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later provided correspondents with the following information:  The budget of the Capital Master Plan of $1.88 billion was passed unanimously by the 192 Member States in the General Assembly in December 2006, after six years of discussions in the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and by the Member States in the Administrative and Budgetary Committee of the General Assembly (Fifth Committee), and after internal auditing by the United Nations Office on Internal Oversight (OIOS) and the United Nations Board of Auditors, as well as externally by the United States Government Accounting Office.  All the respective documents on the Capital Master Plan have been published and are accessible, for example, through the website of the Capital Master Plan.]

Question:  Yesterday you mentioned concerning the people who fled the fighting in northwest Yemen, the [inaudible] count of what has been put on is much more than 40,000 or 50,000 people, and the majority of those people cannot have food.  The food is not reaching them.  So, people I have been in contact with have been asking if there is any possibility that these people could be fed before they die of hunger. 

The second issue is concerning the [inaudible] and the persons, the Kuwaitis, who were missing during the last regime.  The persons who are responsible for those are also from the last regime, which actually now, some of them are fighting the people of that.  So how could these people be reached and brought to justice?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Since your second question was so long, I forgot your first question.  I’m sorry.  It was about Yemen.  Yes, there was a World Food Programme (WFP) press release on this yesterday, I believe, in which the World Food Programme did announce that it has managed to reach people and there are details about their effort to get the urgently needed assistance to these people. 

On your second question, the Secretary-General’s report was discussed by the Security Council yesterday and I have to refer you to what they said in their press statement afterward, which was the conclusion of their consultations yesterday morning. Matthew?

Question:  A couple of questions, very short, each of them.  In Sri Lanka, there is this report of the Government forcibly evicting Tamils from the capital to the northern part -- some people call it ethnic cleansing.  That’s what some people call it.  What does the United Nations call it?  Has the UN said anything about this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I haven’t seen anything on that particular subject today, so let me look into that for you.

Question:  The thing of yesterday, on Bangladesh, they’re refusing to allow the Special Rapporteur to leave the country, actually to testify to the Human Rights Council.  Has anyone in the United Nations system taken note of that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.  We followed up with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), because this involves a Rapporteur.  They have been advised that Sigma Hooda has been prevented from leaving Bangladesh, where she has reportedly been charged under provisions of anti-corruption legislation in that country.  The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has requested clarification from the Bangladeshi authorities regarding the legal proceedings and charges against her and how, in light of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations and regulations on the status, rights and duties of UN experts on missions, such proceedings allow for keeping her from attending to her duties as Special Rapporteur, which include her addressing the Human Rights Council on 11 June, as she is scheduled to do.  So, that’s what we have from the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

Question:  There was a demonstration a couple of weeks ago, across First Avenue from here, with people from Bangladesh saying that, in the same way that Fiji’s being looked at, that possibly the United Nations should take note of a coup and of human rights issues in Bangladesh in terms of use of Bangladeshi peacekeepers.  Is that on the UN’s radar?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not seen anything on that.

Question:  One last thing – are we getting any closer to maybe having the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) Under Secretary-General Inga-Britt Ahlenius come and give us a briefing?

Deputy Spokesperson:  On what subject?

Question:  The various reports that they’ve presented to the General Assembly.  I’d like to hear about the Pension Fund, but this is an ongoing request.  We’ve heard in the air that it may be getting closer. I want to make sure. Is it true?  Have you heard that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing to announce as of now.

Question:  So can we request…

Deputy Spokesperson:  The request to have Ms. Ahlenius brief you has been with her.

Question:  The Wall Street Journal editorial today has a very interesting comment on the Turkish incursion into northern Iraq.  I recall a few weeks ago, that Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari gave a good review of the International Compact with Iraq, and he indicated the next meeting will be in Istanbul.  In light of recent developments, has the date been set or has it been pushed up, or something along those lines?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not seen any definitive date on the next meeting.  But let me look into that for you.

Question:  This is actually a Gambari follow-up.  There’s, I think, tomorrow evening, Mr. Gambari’s scheduled to speak at an outside event.  I guess it’s a fundraiser. There are tables being sold for $20,000 a table.  I e-mailed you this question, but I wondered what is the United Nation’s policy on having high officials speak at outside events at which funds are raised?  What kind of review is made of the sponsors of the event or the use of funds?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry, I have to tell you that the International Criminal Court Prosecutor, Mr. Ocampo, is coming to the stakeout, so if you are interested in talking to him, now is the time to go to the stakeout.

The answer to your question on Mr. Gambari, I’d have to look into this event.  Again, I’m not aware of the event that you’re talking about.

Question:  It’s sponsored by the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations, or WANGO, it’s Friday [inaudible].  It’s in the e-mail I sent to you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  You send a lot of e-mails. Okay, have a good afternoon.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Just when you thought it was safe.  Good afternoon.

**Thematic debate on climate change 

As announced before, following a request by the Permanent Representatives of the Philippines and Germany, on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) New York Committee and the European Union (EU), respectively, the Assembly President will convene a thematic debate of the Assembly in the second half of July on the theme “Climate Change as a Global Challenge”.  The dates for the debate are now set for 26 and 27 July.

The debate is intended to capitalize on the growing scientific consensus on climate change towards translating this into a broad political consensus for action. It also represents an opportunity to raise awareness among delegations and to build momentum on climate change, in particular in preparation for the Secretary-General’s High-Level event in September, and in the lead-up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting in Bali and follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.

The debate will consist of one day of interactive panel discussions and a second day of general discussion by Member States. The panel discussions are expected to bring together experts and spokespersons on a variety of issues, including the impact of climate change, mitigation and adaptation strategies, new technologies and finance.

**General Assembly Revitalization

On the General Assembly revitalization, following three months of discussions with the membership, the Co-Chairs of consultations on GA revitalization -- the Ambassadors of Senegal and San Marino -- circulated to Member States yesterday draft elements for a resolution. The document includes proposals on the election of the Assembly President and the Secretary-General.  On the presidency of the Assembly, it is recommended that at least three candidates be proposed by the regional group in line for the presidency and that the candidates participate in interactive meetings with the whole membership of the GA before election.  On election of the Secretary-General, it is proposed that declared candidates also engage in interactive meetings with the Assembly’s whole membership and that the GA vote and appoint the Secretary-General by two-thirds majority.

We have the draft available for you upstairs.  Two meetings will be held on 12 and 19 June with the entire membership to discuss these proposals and the draft resolution.

Department of Peacekeeping Operations Restructuring

The Fifth Committee is continuing its informals on Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) restructuring.  All resolutions on peacekeeping missions’ budgets were agreed yesterday.  Sessions of questions and answers are taking place right now following the formal presentation by the Secretariat and the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) yesterday.

**Audit Report

Matthew asked a question yesterday about the famous UNDP-DPRK audit report.  It is before the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and is being discussed today.  As far as the time line is concerned, they cannot make a guess yet. Whether or not it will be turned over immediately to the Fifth Committee as soon as it’s finished, they don’t know, because it’s the first time they are facing something like this.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Is the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) going to….

Spokesperson:  If they need the UNDP to go and clarify anything, they will ask them to come and clarify. Benny.

Question:  On the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Fifth Committee, are there any objections raised by Member States specifically to budget issue and budget neutrality?

Spokesperson:  You mean on the restructuring?  There were lots of statements yesterday after the presentations and they commented on a whole range of issues.  The Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) recommendations are -- I don’t know if you’ve taken a look at the report, but the ACABQ report is very interesting.  Now, when you move into informal informals, this is when you get a chance to basically pick the brains of the Secretariat on the proposals.  What does this do for DPKO?  Is it good or not?  Do we agree with this recommendation of the ACABQ or not?  That will take some time.  So, let’s wait until tomorrow and then we’ll get a good sense of it.

Question:  What’s the difference between informal informals and informals?

Spokesperson:  It’s not a facetious question, right?

Correspondent:  No, I just want to know.

Spokesperson:  Usually the Fifth Committee has informal consultations in Room 5.  That’s where they have the informals.  In informals, the Chair will address delegates according to the usual etiquette and protocol.  He will give the floor to the distinguished representative of Germany, or whoever is representing the European Union (EU) from that country.  So, it will be basically following the same etiquette.  You will not listen to public statements.  You will listen to interventions that are targeted to either questions or amendments to a draft resolution, or elements to add to a draft resolution.  So the actual practical work happens in informals.

When, in informals, people tend to repeat the same position over and over again and you don’t see a breakthrough on the horizon, the Chair or the Coordinator of that particular item will suggest to the membership that they move to informal informals.  In informal informals, they may ask for it to be done without interpretation, so this way they can talk to each other around a small table in the middle of the room and you would take each group of countries that are interested in a specific item and try to break the deadlock as far as that item is concerned.  So it’s very, very informal.  That’s why they call it the informal informals as opposed to the informals or the public meeting.  I hope I explained the difference.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  No, it is not.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  You mentioned in the draft regarding the election of the Secretary-General.  It seems to me very vague.  What does it mean to have the Secretary-General interact with members of the Assembly?  Is this…?

Spokesperson:  Not the Secretary-General; the candidates for Secretary-General.

Question:  Is this an internal lobbying on the premises of the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  No, not really.  Instead of the candidate for Secretary-General talking to every country alone or every group of countries alone, they want him to interact directly with the whole membership of the General Assembly -- answer questions, make positions known. I think it makes for more transparency.  It’s a very good proposal.  Of course, whether it’s going to be adopted or not, that’s up to the membership.

Question:  [inaudible] set a precedent?

Spokesperson:  No, this is a groundbreaking proposal.

Okay?  Thank you.

* *** *

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