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

10 October 2007

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

10 October 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

**Guest at Noon Today

Our guest at the noon briefing today is Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, who will launch a survey on opium cultivation in South-East Asia, namely in Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Thailand.

We have copies of the press release and survey available here and upstairs.

** Washington Trip

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be travelling tomorrow to Washington, where he will meet with CEOs dealing with climate change issues at the US Chamber of Commerce.  Later that day, he will be the keynote speaker at an event organized by the National Association of Evangelicals, in an effort to reach out to business and religious groups on climate change and the importance of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.  On Friday, he will meet members of the Peace Corps, before returning to Headquarters.

**Security Council

The Security Council today received in its consultations an update on the situation in Haiti from the Secretary-General’s Special Representative to that country, Hédi Annabi.  Mr. Annabi will speak to you at the stakeout once he has finished in the Council.  This morning, the Council also intends to hear from the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, Ambassador Ricardo Arias of Panama.

Then, at 3 p.m., Council members will hold consultations to discuss a draft presidential statement on Myanmar.

After consultations yesterday, the Council President, Ambassador Leslie Kojo Christian of Ghana, read out a press statement on Nepal, in which he said that Council members expressed their disappointment at the news of the delay to Nepal’s Constituent Assembly elections.

** Sudan

The Secretary-General’s progress report on the deployment of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) is out on the racks today.

The report says that the implementation timeline for the operation is being delayed, owing to the challenges encountered in efforts to obtain land for the construction of the UNAMID offices and accommodations in Darfur, as well as delays in obtaining feedback regarding the list of troop-contributing countries submitted to the Government of Sudan.

Regarding the continuing violence in Darfur, the Secretary-General said that the ongoing loss of life and displacement of civilians is unacceptable and is not contributing to an atmosphere conducive to the upcoming peace talks in Libya.

While outlining the ongoing preparations for the peace talks, the Secretary-General says that the fragmentation and lack of unity among the movements continue to be a cause of concern.  He said it is paramount that the parties now show seriousness and commitment and enter the negotiation process well prepared and in earnest so as to reach a final negotiated settlement to the conflict as soon as possible.

Regarding the preparations for the Libya negotiations, UN Special Envoy Jan Eliasson, who is in Khartoum today, met with Presidential Adviser and Chief Negotiator Nafie Ali Nafie.  He also chaired a high-level meeting with senior representatives of the regional partners, including Libyan Minister for African Affairs Ali Triki, to finalize preparations for the negotiations.

The UN Mission, meanwhile, provided further details of the recent attack that took place in and around the town of Muhajariya in South Darfur.  The Mission reports that an estimated 6,000 villagers and displaced persons fled to the north of the town, seeking refuge around an AMIS group site.  Other residents reportedly fled to neighbouring villages and the surrounding areas, leaving the town, which previously had a population estimated at 20,000 inhabitants, completely deserted.  A large number of houses in Muhajariya have been burnt to the ground, as well as several shops in the market.

** Côte d’Ivoire

Out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on Côte d’Ivoire.  In it, he says that the security situation has been calm since the signing of the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement in March 2007.  Security continues to improve, despite a June attack on an aircraft carrying Prime Minister Guillaume Soro.

The political atmosphere has also improved somewhat, but delays in implementing the peace agreement are serious causes for concern. Difficulties in unifying the army have delayed the disarmament programme and the redeployment of State administration throughout the country. This, in turn, has placed serious strains on preparations for general elections, including a nationwide identification scheme.

Among the report’s recommendations, the Secretary-General appeals to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to work closely with the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire in realizing the Ouagadougou Agreement.  He also recommends that current UN troop levels be maintained.

** Nepal

In reaction to the postponement of the elections in Nepal, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative there, Mr. Ian Martin, stressed today the importance of political parties maintaining their alliance, and going forward to agree on how to sustain the peace process and its implementation, and to create the conditions for the Constituent Assembly election.

Martin also condemned the assassination of a local official yesterday, highlighting frustrations by all communities across Nepal, on the poor state of public security.

He also said that without greater cooperation among the parties and civil society at the local level, the risk of communal tension and violence remains considerable.

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Nepal will be issued next week and Mr. Martin will be in New York the following week to brief the Security Council.

** Guatemala

The Secretary-General received a visit yesterday afternoon from Carlos Castresana Fernández, whom the Secretary-General appointed recently to head the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish initials as CICIG).

The Secretary-General expressed his full support for the work of the Commission and thanked Mr. Castresana for accepting the assignment. The Commission is still in the preparatory phase, and Mr. Castresana said he expects it will begin operations in Guatemala by the beginning of January.

**Genocide

The UN University and the International Crisis Group are today holding an all-day event here at UN Headquarters on preventing genocide. The goal is to explore the work of mass atrocity prevention across the UN system, with a particular focus on the Office of the Special Representative for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities.

In a message to the event, the Secretary-General says preventing mass atrocities is among the UN’s and international community’s most sacred callings. Regrettably, however, it is a duty we have not always carried out well, he adds. The killing fields of Rwanda, Cambodia and the Balkans stand silent witness to the brutality that passed unchecked by an international system lacking both the will and the vision to act. The Secretary-General concludes that we can and must do better. 

We have upstairs the full text and more details on that.

**Mental Health Day

Today is World Mental Health Day.  In a message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says that resources for mental health are scarce and that the proportion of those who need but do not receive care is more than 60 per cent.

He adds that fear of stigma leads many to avoid seeking care and that the consequences are enormous in terms of disability, human suffering and economic loss.

We have the full message upstairs.

This is all I have for you at the moment.  Thank you.  Any questions?  Yes, Vikou?

**Questions and Answers

Question: [The question was asked in French.]

Spokesperson: It concerns the portrait that we have downstairs that’s contributed by Iran.  They have a series of portraits of the Secretaries-General and they have recently hung the one for Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.  The second date is written “2-0-1” simply because they don’t have an end date to the Secretary-General’s mandate, because this mandate is going on right now.  That’s simply the reason.

Question: Why can’t they leave, I mean, like that, then?

Spokesperson: Well, simply, it was their choice, since they don’t have an end date yet, not to put that end date.

Question: This is about Nepal.  You said the Security Council mentioned about international help in Nepal.  From the UN’s perspective, what kind of help do you think could be given to Nepal that peace could be restored and elections could be held there?

Spokesperson: I think they have been studying and Mrs. Angela Kane reported to the Security Council yesterday on what the UN can do and can do better.  We can have more information for you on what has been planned.  At any rate, the report should be coming out shortly, so you will have more information on what is envisaged.

Question: Thank you.  About Myanmar, last week, Mr. Gambari, at the Security Council, urged members to show unity in tackling the issue.  It’s been close to a week, now, and yet the Council has not produced a statement.  Is the Secretary-General expressing his frustrations or is Mr. Gambari urging the Member States in another way so that they will expedite the procedure?

Spokesperson: For the time being it is a matter for the Security Council.

Question: There’s a report that the UN’s compound in Pristina, Kosovo, had been evacuated.  Has there been any update on whether a device was found or are people going back in?

Spokesperson: We can confirm that there was a partial evacuation of the compound today following the discovery of a device under a UN police car during a routine sweep.  That’s what we just found out.  It is not known at this time exactly what the device was, but UNMIK tells us that all staff members are fine.  The NATO Kosovo police force is currently investigating the incident.  This is all I have so far.

Question: On this visit by Louise Arbour to Sri Lanka, there’s now a report of Tamil prisoners on hunger strike saying that they should be visited, and there was this earlier report that she couldn’t visit the whole island.  Is there any… is she able to visit the whole island?

Spokesperson: We don’t have an update yet but we are following the issue.  We’ll let you know.

[The correspondent was later informed that a large part of Ms. Arbour’s visit would be spent in Colombo, but that she would also be conducting a field visit.]

Question: And in this meeting with Chuck Hagel, this is for this afternoon, by the Secretary-General?  Does that… did he… do you know what the topic is… do you know…

Spokesperson: No, I don’t have that.  We can get you a readout this afternoon.

[The correspondent was later informed that the two had discussed issues of common interest to the United Nations and United States, including the Middle East, Iraq and climate change.]

Question: Does the Secretary-General want Mr. Gambari to perhaps return to the region to -- I’m talking about Myanmar and the neighbouring countries –- sooner than is currently expected, and also, can you give us any sort of readout in any conversations that the Secretary-General may have had with, say, the Chinese, who, of course, have played a central role in the resolution of this issue?

Spokesperson: I don’t have any readout of the contact of the Secretary-General has been taking but, as you can imagine, there is a level of diplomatic efforts being done outside of the public eye.  In terms of whether Mr. Gambari will return to the area before it was scheduled for November, most probably.  Mr. Gambari said it, the Secretary-General said it. Everyone has been saying that it is definitely envisaged for him to go first to the region and meet all the players in the region and then to go back to Myanmar.  But a date has not been set, yet.

Question: Can you at least tell us with whom the Secretary-General has been talking in China?

Spokesperson: I don’t know at this point.  I cannot inform you on this at this point.

Question: When were the most recent conversations, if you can?

Spokesperson: I will let you know when I have that information.

Question: What exactly is the object of him… what is he trying to achieve by going to… I mean, is he trying to achieve…

Spokesperson: You’re talking about Gambari, now…

Question: I mean, what is the reason in going back; what is he trying to achieve?

Spokesperson: I think his goals were clear.  They were expressed at the Security Council meeting.  If you read his statement at the Security Council meeting, it clearly said why he went and what he was expecting as a result of his trip.  We have had some steps taken and the steps are being evaluated.  At this point I cannot go beyond that.

Question: Is there a fear that by shuttling between Aung San Suu Kyi and General Shwe is, in fact, helping to preserve General Shwe, General Shwe’s hold over Burma?

Spokesperson: I don’t know if there was such a fear, but this is certainly not the intention.  The intention is to get to better protection of the rights of the people in Myanmar, and the objective is to reach real national reconciliation in Myanmar.  So the objective, I think, was clearly stated by Mr. Gambari, himself, and by the Secretary-General.

Thank you very much.  Janos?

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

A few words on the General Assembly, very briefly, so that then we can turn this over to our guest speaker.

**General Assembly Plenary – Peacebuilding

The President of the Assembly opened the first joint debate by the General Assembly, this morning, to review the Annual Report of the Peacebuilding Commission, and the Report of the Secretary General on the Peacebuilding Fund.

The President highlighted the establishment and work of the Commission and the Fund as an innovative achievement that represents the most significant outcomes, so far, from the 2005 World Summit.

He pointed out that for the last two decades, the United Nations had been at the centre of expanding peacebuilding activities in all parts of the world.

He stressed that the UN had a unique comparative advantage in addressing the huge challenges that countries emerging from conflict face.

He also drew attention to the linkages between peace and stability on the one hand, and economic development, human rights and the rule of law on the other.

In this regard, he noted that the Commission had a critical role to play to balance both sides of this equation and accelerate post-conflict peacebuilding and recovery.

He reminded Member States that “we all have a duty to ensure that the Peacebuilding Commission works well – that the decision to create it is translated into practical action”, adding that “the success of the Commission will clearly depend on all of our cooperation to support its work”.

In conclusion he noted that the main challenge facing the Commission was to maximize its impact on the ground.

There are around 30 countries who have expressed their wish to take the floor on this item.

**Main Committees

The First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) is continuing its general debate on these issues.  This general debate goes on until 16 October – then there will be thematic discussions in the Committee.

The Second Committee, which deals with economic and financial issues, is meeting today to conclude its general debate on issues related to economic development.  Tomorrow, there will be a private sector hearing in preparation for the General Assembly’s high-level plenary on 23-24 on Financing for Development. Next week, the Committee meets on macroeconomic policy questions.

The Third Committee, which focuses on social, humanitarian and cultural issues, is meeting this morning and is expected to conclude its debate on issues related to social development, and this afternoon it will take up the agenda item on crime prevention, criminal justice and international drug control.

The Fourth Committee -- special political and decolonization issues -- will continue its discussion of decolonization issues this afternoon, continuing the hearings that began yesterday from the various different petitioners.  Most of them will be focusing on the situation in Western Sahara. The item of decolonization will continue on 15 October.  Then the Committee will take up its next big chunk, which are questions relating to information.  That’ll be between the 18th and the 22nd of October.

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) discussed the report of the Joint Inspection Unit yesterday and this morning it began discussions on a number of reports from the Board of Auditors and also from the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS).

Finally, the Sixth Committee, which focuses on legal matters, continued, this morning, its discussion of the administration of justice (document A/62/292) within the United Nations System in the framework of its working group that was established just to focus on that issue. This afternoon the Committee will take up the item, measures to eliminate international terrorism.

That’s quickly what I have.  Any quick questions before we turn it over to Mr. Costa?  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes.  Just a question about… you said a matter that’s related to information.  Could you just say a little bit more about what that would be?

Spokesperson:  This is about the work of the Department of Public Information.

Benny.

Question:  In that meeting on international terrorism, is there going to be any effort to say what international terrorism is?

Spokesperson:  As you know, one of the issues on the agenda of the Committee, that the Committee has been dealing with for close to the past 10 years, is drafting a comprehensive convention on terrorism.  A lot of effort has gone into that already.  It has been discussed in the frame of a working group and also in the frame of an ad hoc committee.  This is going to continue.  Most likely the Sixth Committee will set up a working group and will continue work in the working group on discussing this issue of a comprehensive convention which includes the issue that you mentioned, that is, a possible comprehensive definition of terrorism.

As you know, there’s already a draft of this convention which contains a possible draft of the definition of terrorism.  But it means all aspects of the draft convention have to be agreed on by Member States before the whole can be adopted.  Therefore, at the moment, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.  The big discussion that the focus is on at the moment is what should be considered terrorism and what should not.  So the scope of application of a possible convention is what is being discussed.  That’s going to continue.

Question:  One more question about the different topic I asked you about a couple of days ago.

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  About the Human Rights Council.  Is there a decision about where exactly this is going to be discussed.

Spokesperson:  The discussion on where to allocate this item is still continuing amongst the Member States.  When the General Committee meets -- whenever that will happen, it may happen in the next couple of weeks –- it is supposed to allocate this item. It will make a recommendation. So there’s no decision on that yet.

Okay, Matthew, last question.

Question:  Sure.  Today, in the debate about the Peacebuilding Commission, one of the… the speaker from the EU said that one country has already applied to be the third country on the Peacebuilding Commission’s agenda.  Is it known what country that is?  Is it Guinea-Bissau?

Spokesperson:  I cannot confirm that.  I don’t know.

Question:  Who speaks for the Commission?  Is there a spokesman for the Commission that could answer that?

Spokesperson:  We’ll follow up.  I’ll check with you on that -- whether it’s from the side of the Secretary-General or from our side.  We’ll find out whether we can actually reveal, if, in fact, that has happened, that a country has applied for that and in what form that discussion will be taken up and will be put on the agenda of the Commission, so that yet another country configuration would be formed apart from Burundi and Sierra Leone.

Thank you very much for your attention and let me turn this over to the guest.

* *** *

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