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

5 September 2007

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

5 September 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon all.  Today at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France will brief you in his capacity as the Security Council’s President for September, on the Council’s programme of work for the month.  Copies of the programme are available in this room and upstairs.

**Secretary-General in Sudan

The Secretary-General arrived in El Fasher, the capital of Darfur, from the southern Sudanese city of Juba earlier today.  Upon arrival at the headquarters of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS), he met with the Mission’s leadership, including the Joint UN-AU Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, and the AMIS Force Commander, Major General Martin Agwai.  They briefed the Secretary-General on the work of the African Union Mission and the current security situation.  He then met with the Wali of North Darfur.

The Secretary-General then went to a meeting at UNMIS headquarters in El Fasher today with representatives of internally displaced persons, who were self-selected from all three camps in the El Fasher area.

When he arrived, a group of uninvited people showed up and tried to force their way into the briefing.  Security precautions had to be taken.  After a brief delay, the Secretary-General resumed his schedule in another part of UNMIS headquarters.

This included a meeting with three representatives of the original group and another with civil society and traditional leaders.  The rest of his programme has continued until this time.  The Secretary-General is now meeting with the other group.

The Secretary-General then went to the Al Salim camp for internally displaced persons in El Fasher, which is the smallest of the three IDP camps in the El Fasher region.  He received a warm welcome from thousands of displaced persons, and he told them that he brings with him a message of “hope, peace, security … and water”.

Later today, the Secretary-General plans to go to the site of the future headquarters of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur before holding a press encounter and returning to Khartoum.

** Darfur Report

Also the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on the preparations for the African Union-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur, known as UNAMID, is out today.  It notes the establishment of a multidisciplinary team in El Fasher, which is implementing deployment plans on the ground.

The Secretary-General says that the establishment of the hybrid operation is making steady progress, and he calls upon Member States to urgently provide the outstanding military contributions that are critical for UNAMID to fulfil its challenging mandate.

He also expresses his deep concern about the escalation of violence in Darfur in recent weeks, and about the reports of police action taken on 21 August in the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons.

**Appointments

The Secretary-General, in letters sent to the Security Council, has informed the Council of his intention to appoint Staffan de Mistura as his Special Representative for Iraq.

De Mistura would replace Ashraf Qazi, who, as I told you yesterday, the Secretary-General intends to appoint as his Special Representative for Sudan.  De Mistura, who is Swedish and Italian, currently serves as Director of the UN Staff College in Turin, Italy, and previously had been the Deputy Special Representative for Iraq.

The Secretary-General also today said he would appoint Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh as his Deputy Special Representative for Sudan.  She would also serve as the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sudan.  She has previously served as the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan.  We have several bio data’s upstairs with more details.

**Peacebuilding Fund Advisory Group

The Secretary-General has designated Ms. Marjatta Rasi, currently Under-Secretary of State for Development in Finland, to serve as the first Chair of the Peacebuilding Fund Advisory Group.

The Advisory Group oversees the performance and management of the multi-year, multi-donor Trust Fund established by the Secretary-General for post-conflict peacebuilding.  The Deputy Secretary-General will address the inaugural meeting of the Fund’s Advisory Group tomorrow morning.  A press release and a fact sheet on the Peacebuilding Fund is available upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council is today holding its first consultations for the month of September, under the French Presidency of the Council.  Council members approved their programme of work for the month.

The new Council President, Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, as I said earlier, will brief you on that programme of work just a few minutes from now.  The briefing is at 12:30 in this room.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

In Kinshasa today, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes met with President Joseph Kabila.

Holmes and the President discussed their extreme concern about the humanitarian situation in eastern DRC, and they also discussed the need for increased protection of civilians and for more effective action to combat sexual and gender-based violence.

At a press conference, Holmes deplored the resumption of combat in Masisi District in North Kivu, where fighting has displaced more than 10,000 civilians since 27 August.  He said that the United Nations calls upon all parties to the conflict in North Kivu to respect fundamental humanitarian principles, and added that all armed groups should refrain from targeting civilians.

After meeting the President, Holmes flew to Bukavu in South Kivu, where he is meeting with representatives of UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations.

**DPI/NGO Conference

The Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, this morning delivered remarks to the opening session of the sixtieth annual DPI/NGO conference.

The Deputy Secretary-General highlighted the importance of a strong partnership between the UN and the NGO community, especially in the global challenge posed by climate change.  She stressed that climate change is not a challenge for the UN alone and confronting it requires a truly global effort -- an effort that draws together Governments, the private sector and civil society in one sustained push for change.

The Deputy Secretary-General added that UN climate change initiatives will only succeed through sustained and broad-based engagement and urged all participants to redouble their efforts to raise public awareness on this subject.  We have her remarks upstairs.

**UNRWA

John Ging, the Director of the Gaza Field Office for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as UNRWA, today said that a recent survey of the Agency’s schools has shown alarming failure rates in literacy and math skills.  He warned, “What we are seeing is the collapse of education standards due to the cumulative effects of the occupation, closures, poverty and violence.”

He said that the survey found that students from grade four to grade nine had an average failure rate of nearly 80 per cent in mathematics, and an average failure rate of over 40 per cent in Arabic.  Ging announced a plan by UNRWA to boost its educational efforts, which includes setting up a programme of remedial teaching in Arabic and mathematics, reducing class sizes to no more than 30 students per classroom and providing two additional classes per week in Arabic and Mathematics.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the officer-in-charge of the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire, Abou Moussa, took part yesterday in the second meeting of the Evaluation and Monitoring Committee of the Ouagadougou Political Accord, held in the capital of Burkina Faso, Ouagadougou.

The agenda of the meeting, attended by the Ivorian signatories of the Ouagadougou agreement, included among other things the security of the Ivorian Prime Minister, the military ranks of Forces Nouvelles officers and the deployment and security of district commissioners.

**Press Conference Today

Today at 3 p.m. there will be a press conference by Major-General Claudio Graziano, who is the Force Commander of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) on the situation in Lebanon.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And then there are a couple of press conferences scheduled for tomorrow.

At 11:15 a.m., Les Malezer, Chairperson of the Global Indigenous Caucus; Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, Chairperson of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues; and Joseph Ole Simel, Coordinator of the African Regional Indigenous Caucus, will update you on the negotiations on the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

And our guest at the noon briefing will be Major General Babacar Gaye, Force Commander of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) on the situation in the DRC.

A lot coming up.  Thank you very much.  This is all I have for you.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Number one, on Iraq, my first question about Iraq is that it has been reported yesterday -- news reports and elsewhere -- that one of the reasons for relative calm coming back to Baghdad is that there has been a massive ethnic cleansing which took place in Baghdad, and that a lot of the population shift, hence the conflict has lessened.  I just wanted to find out, does UNAMI or the UN Special Representative, Qazi, have anything to say about that as to how this happened, and why these reports are emanating from Baghdad -- why this ethnic cleansing took place?  Do you have any response to that?

Spokesperson:  Not today, no.  But I will enquire for you, whether we have a reaction on that.

Question:  On the Secretary-General’s statement today, when he said that outstanding military -- I mean contributions for the Darfur force -- do you have any figures at this point in time?

Spokesperson:  Well, you have the report [talk-over] --

Question:  -- more have not contributed and how much of a contribution is left and is required.

Spokesperson:  Okay, we have the report that is out, as I said, to the Security Council today.  So you can have more information there.  And you can certainly have more information in the next few days, as contributions keep on coming in.  I’ll let you know more about this as soon as I get more information.

Question:  I have a couple questions, but I want to start with this one.  On the Ethics Office, Inner City Press has seen a copy of a separate complaint now, having to do with whistle-blowing at UNDP that was filed with Mr. Benson, Kim Won-soo, Alicia Bárcena.  So I’m wondering, first it seems maybe from your nod it’s been received, what the thinking is if -- I understand it’s an initial complaint, but given that the Secretary-General previously said that UNDP is doing its own or is independent -- would a separate commission be set up for each of these complainants, or what is the next step?  What’s your response to this complaint from Dakar, Senegal that has been filed?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have a copy of the complaint yet.  I haven’t seen it, so as soon as I get it I will let you know what steps are going to be taken.  At this point, if it has been addressed to Mr. Bensons’ office, Mr. Benson is the one who is going to have to react to it.

Question:  But it’s also -- the complainant went out of his way to send it to, obviously, the senior adviser of the Secretary-General, as well as to Ms. Bárcena, and I guess the -- if maybe we can get Mr. Benson here, but I think it’s an ethnical issue that’s been raised to Mr. Ban in terms of how -- even in the interim, I understand that he’s said he’s going to ask the GA to make some fixes.  In the interim, when you read it, the response that I would request is -– does each complainant get their own panel or what happens?

Spokesperson:  Well, definitely not.  It’s not going to be the way it’s going to work.  Right now, you know, what is being discussed is a larger jurisdiction for the Ethics Office, which is not the case yet.  Okay?  So at this point I cannot comment on every single submission of every single complainant to Mr. Benson’s office.  Obviously, Mr. Benson receives -- whenever he receives them, we’ll keep you informed that they have been received.  But that’s all we can do at this point.  [Talk-over]  Yes, Benny, sure.

Question:  [inaudible] follow-up this [inaudible] --

Spokesperson:  Yes, sure.

Correspondent:  And that is not to speak about each whistle-blower case separately, but what happens if, now we have a second case, there could be other cases, in which separately funded agencies of the UN have similar complaints addressed to the UN’s Ethics Office.  I mean, we have a situation here because of the exposure that we might have [inaudible] and how do we handle -- again, to Matthew’s point -- how do we handle each case?  Are we going to in each case have a special representative nominated by the Board of Directors of whatever agency the whistle-blower works for?

Spokesperson:  As I said, if it was sent to Mr. Benson it is to Mr. Benson to answer [talk-over].  And he will definitely not come up [talk-over].  You mean a policy [talk-over].

Question:  A policy -- the question of the policy for the Secretary-General is does each one of these cases -- how do you handle all these cases?

Spokesperson:  This has been discussed for the last few weeks, and it will continue to be discussed.  When there is a decision taken about how this is going to be handled and whether the General Assembly is going to be involved in actually making a decision on jurisdiction, I will let you know as the discussion evolves on the issue.  Yes, Mark?

Question:  This is a slightly weird one, but I was watching footage on the TV of the Secretary-General arriving in Darfur, and a dove was released.  It looked like he released it from the plane.  Is that correct?  I was just trying to work out what was going on there.

Spokesperson:  What was released from the plane?  I’m sorry, I didn’t understand the question.

Correspondent:  A dove.  And the BBC [inaudible] there’s Mr. Ban Ki-moon releasing the peace dove.  And I was wondering is the new thing that he’s going to start doing and where did the dove come from?

Spokesperson:  I’ll check for you whether the dove was in the plane.  I’ll check for you.  I don’t have the information.

Question:  And how do doves fare in Sudan?

Spokesperson:  I will let you know Mark, as soon as I find out.

[Correspondents:  They’re dinner.  Is there dove fighting in Sudan?]

Spokesperson:  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  [Talk-over]

Spokesperson:  Yes, I’m sorry, Mr. Abbadi.  [Talk-over]  Please, there is a question on the floor -- not yet on the floor.

Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  How difficult was it for the Secretary-General to make his way through the crowd in Darfur, also as [inaudible].  And did he make any comments?

Spokesperson:  Well, he’s supposed to have a press conference in a few minutes, right after he finishes his meeting with the third group he didn’t get to meet this morning, who tried to see him this morning and they were uninvited, and now they have been invited.  So the Secretary-General is meeting with them as we speak, and then later on today he’s going to have some press remarks, which I will let you have as soon as they are sent to us.

How difficult it was?  There were demonstrations supporting -- some supporting the UN’s role, some supporting the Government.  And he got to meet quite a few people this morning.  As you know, this is the usual scene at an IDP camp.

Question:  The choosing of Mr. de Mistura for Iraq.  How does that augur with the Iraqi Government, who was preparing someone from Romania to assume that position?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know the agreement of the Government has been obtained.

Question:  So there was consultation with the --

Spokesperson:  Of course, there is always consultation with the Government.

Question:  I understand the Americans wanted -– do you have someone to replace Williams?  Did you choose anyone to replace Mr. Williams?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  The choice has not been made yet.

Question:  Along the lines of the question about the appointment of the envoy to Iraq:  Can you give us more details of how the process went with Mr. Qazi’s appointment, let’s say, in Sudan?  What sort of give-and-take happened with the Government?  Obviously, both of these posts are very sensitive.  Perhaps you could share with us which candidates were rejected by what sides, and whose names came up and how, at the end of the day, we ended up with these two players.

Spokesperson:  I’m not at liberty to discuss the different names that were discussed.  I could tell you that, of course, there were discussions, as I mentioned earlier, with the Government on the different candidates and the final choice was made in agreement with the Governments in both cases -- the case of Sudan and the case of Iraq.

Question:  But, were there ideal candidates that Ban had to mothball because they just weren’t going to fly with the Government and he had to capitulate with the Governments themselves and their wishes?  Who was the victim in the fight?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any information on that.

Question:  Can you find out?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t know whether you will or not.

Question:  On this announcement that you made about the head of the Peacebuilding Commission:  What was his name?  Mr. Ahtisaari?

Spokesperson:  [inaudible]

Question:  And when does this Peacebuilding Commission or this body start functioning?

Spokesperson:  Well, I suggest that you go upstairs and get the information.  We have a fact sheet on everything concerning the Peacebuilding Commission and the Fund in particular.

Question:  This fund --

Spokesperson:  You have the information upstairs.  Yes, Mark?

Question:  With regard to Mr. de Mistura, what exactly are the qualifications he brings to the job?

Spokesperson:  Well, he was the Deputy Special Representative to Iraq before.

Question:  So that’s the qualification?

Spokesperson:  Well, of course.  If he was chosen then, it’s because it was felt he was qualified.

Question:  I just wondered if there’s anything more that you might be able to say about him, because it’s a pretty important job.

Spokesperson:  Well, you have his biography upstairs.  And you can get some biographical data on him.  And he has the experience.  He was there before.

Question:  Does he speak Arabic?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, yes.

Question:  Fluent Arabic?

Spokesperson:   As far as I know he speaks Arabic.

Okay, I’m sorry.  We just have to stop it here because you have the President of the Council coming here right now.  Okay?  Thank you very much.

* *** *

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