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

9 August 2007

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

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

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Guest at Noon

And we expect to have very shortly as our guest at the noon briefing today Margareta Wahlström, the Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will brief you on the recent floods in South Asia.

**Floods in South Asia

On that topic, the World Food Programme (WFP) says that long-term relief and recovery efforts will be needed for the millions of people affected by the severe flooding across South Asia.

Its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, said that “after the floodwaters subside, millions of poor families will remain devastated from the loss of their crops, livestock and, in some cases, family members”.

We have a WFP press release with more information on that upstairs, and Ms. Wahlström will be here very shortly.

**Security Council

The Security Council just finished its consultations today on Sudan.  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Hédi Annabi briefed Council members on the talks that concluded in Arusha, Tanzania, earlier this week among the members of several movements that did not sign the Darfur Peace Agreement.

The Council President, Ambassador Pascal Gayama of the Republic of Congo, may have some more to say about this now that the consultations have ended.

** Sudan

Meanwhile, on Sudan, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, is continuing his visit to that region today, and expects to visit the capital, El-Fasher, as well as the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons.

He said, after a meeting with Arab and nomadic tribes in Nyala, West Darfur, yesterday, that he thinks we are reaching a serious stage in the political process, in which all parties must work together on the basis of inclusiveness.  He said that, in his meetings, the Government of Sudan has assured him that they see no military solution and that they have pronounced themselves as ready to negotiate very soon.  Eliasson added, “Now we see in Arusha the coming together of the movements.  That is a positive sign.  But we also need to make sure that the work that we are carrying on now has the support of the people.”

Tomorrow, senior officials from the UN Mission in Sudan, headed by the Acting Special Representative, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, will travel to Juba to hold the first round of high-level consultations with the government of southern Sudan.  The meeting is being held following a series of discussions initiated by the UN Mission to undertake periodic high-level consultations with the parties to review implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.  UNMIS intends to share its strategy and priorities with the parties.

We have more details in the Mission’s briefing notes upstairs.

** Western Sahara

The second round of talks on Western Sahara are set to take place tomorrow and Saturday in Manhasset.  As with the last meeting in June, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy, Peter van Walsum, will be leading the discussions between the parties and the neighbouring countries.

The talks are private and closed to the press, so there will be no arrangements made for media coverage.  Those reporters who want to go out to Long Island and stake out the premises do so at their own initiative.  We will have a media contact at the site, and hope to be able to provide some brief updates as the talks progress.

** Middle East

Concerning the Middle East, the deputy head of the UN Relief and Works Agency for the Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA for short, Filippo Grandi, visited Gaza, and said afterwards that Gaza risks becoming almost completely dependent on aid, closed down and isolated, possibly in a matter of weeks.  He said that the Agency has been forced to halt all its construction projects in Gaza, worth some $93 million, while the agricultural sector is also a cause for concern.

Grandi appealed to the Palestinian authorities, to Israel and to all other parties to take immediate steps to open the Karni crossing to imports and exports, as well as to humanitarian goods.  “Only this will allow the little that remains of Gaza’s economy to survive,” he warned.  And we have his press statement upstairs.

**Secretary-General Appointment

The Secretary-General has announced his intention to appoint Commissioner Andrew Hughes of Australia as the United Nations Police Adviser.  He replaces Mark Kroeker of the United States, who left the post in April.

Hughes has served in Australia’s Federal Police for more than 30 years and has been involved in Australian contributions to UN Missions in East Timor and Cyprus.  He is expected to assume his duties in early September.  We have his full bio note upstairs.

** Sri Lanka

Wrapping up his visit to Sri Lanka, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today met with the Sri Lankan President, Mahinda Rajapaksa.  Holmes briefed the President on his recent visit to eastern Sri Lanka, where UN agencies and NGOs are assisting more than 100,000 people who have returned home to areas taken over by the Government from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Holmes and the President agreed on the priority need for rehabilitating livelihoods and agriculture, along with re-establishing the civil administration and police force.  Holmes also stressed the importance of continued and unimpeded access of humanitarian agencies, as well as improved protection of civilians.  They also agreed on the need for a quick resolution of the ongoing investigations into the killings of humanitarian workers.

We have more information in a press release from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs upstairs.

**Dengue Fever

On dengue fever, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging countries in South-East Asia to take prompt action to prevent and contain outbreaks of dengue, a mosquito-borne viral illness. According to the UN agency, the number of reported dengue cases has doubled in Indonesia compared to last year -- while Myanmar and Thailand have seen an increase of 29 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively, in their number of cases.

Warning that dengue outbreaks begin to increase from August onwards after the monsoons, WHO is calling on individuals, families, communities, NGOs and local authorities -- among others -- to work together to address the situation.  WHO stresses the importance of prevention to effectively control dengue.  It says simple steps, such as emptying water containers at least once a week, can help prevent the laying of eggs by the mosquitoes that are the vector for the disease.

**Indigenous Peoples’ Day

And finally, today is the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People.  Several events are taking place here at Headquarters to mark the occasion, and the Secretary-General also has a message.

In remarks to be delivered by the Deputy Secretary-General, he stressed that “indigenous peoples have a home at the United Nations”, noting that such peoples continue to suffer discrimination, marginalization, extreme poverty, conflict, and even the threat of extinction.  He urged the world to act with urgency in addressing these issues, guided by the fundamental principle of indigenous peoples’ full and effective participation.

We have copies of the message upstairs.

Like I said at the start, we expect to have very shortly Margareta Wahlström, the Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator to talk about the floods in South Asia.

Are there any questions for me before that?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Has the Secretary-General taken any position on or taken any action on the draft Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples that has been pending in the GA this year?

Associate Spokesperson:  The position to bear in mind is the one taken by Louis Arbour, as well as by Rodolfo Stavenhagen, who is the Human Rights Rapporteur dealing with the issue, where they urged the General Assembly to adopt that Declaration.  And if you look at their statement from yesterday, they come out very strongly supportive of that.

Question:  And that is Mr. Ban’s position as well?

Associate Spokesperson:  Yes, the Human Rights High Commissioner speaks for the system.

And, if that is it for me, then good afternoon to all of you.

* *** *

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