|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE 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 Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. The reason why there are two screens up here is because we are scheduled to have Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, join us from Asmara, Eritrea, where he is today, to brief you on the upcoming peace talks in Libya. He is supposed to be piped in around 12:30 p.m. so I may have to stop the briefing earlier to allow this to happen. I will let you know as soon as the technicians let me know.
In the meantime, the General Assembly Spokesman is here as well to give you a brief briefing following mine.
On Sudan, at UN Headquarters at 4 p.m., the Secretary-General himself will be briefing the Security Council in closed consultations on Sudan and the Darfur peace talks.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in Sudan reports that Jan Eliasson briefly visited Khartoum last night. During that visit, he met with Presidential Adviser Nafie Ali Nafie and briefed him on the preparations for the upcoming talks in Sirte.
**Secretary-General’s Report on Sudan
On the racks today is the report of the Secretary-General on Sudan, which focuses on the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in that country.
The Secretary-General notes that recent events are a sobering reminder of the fragility of that Agreement, and that its implementation is central to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Sudan.
While the conflict in Darfur has undoubtedly had consequences for the rest of the country, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement remains critical to long-lasting peace throughout Sudan, the report says.
The Secretary-General urges the parties to implement all provisions of the Agreement in the same spirit as it was negotiated. Some key issues of the Agreement will clearly require political courage and leadership on both sides, he says. Postponing and delaying implementation will only serve to undermine the very purpose of the Agreement, which is the creation of a peaceful and united Sudan.
**Security Council: Middle East
The Security Council this morning, here, as you know, heard an open briefing from Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe on the Middle East, which highlighted concerns about humanitarian and social and economic conditions in Gaza and the West Bank.
In the West Bank, he said, economic activity and humanitarian operations will be seriously affected by the decision of the Israelis to further restrict access for West Bank residents, including UN staff, to East Jerusalem and to the “seam zone” between the Barrier and the Green Line. The United Nations is actively engaged with Israel’s Government to seek a reconsideration of these measures, he said.
Pascoe also expressed concern at the restrictions at the crossing points in Gaza, and repeated the Secretary-General’s strong injunction against punishment of the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, as well as the Quartet’s urgent concerns about the continued closure of Gaza.
He also stressed the Secretary-General’s strong backing of the current diplomatic efforts, and his hope for an international meeting that deals with the substance of permanent peace, has broad Arab participation, produces results that positively affect the lives of Israelis and Palestinians and leads to a serious follow-on process.
The open briefing was followed by consultations, also on the Middle East. Council members also discussed, in their consultations, the work of the Sanctions Committee for Somalia.
Turning to Myanmar, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Myanmar, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, is now in Beijing, where he is scheduled to meet with State Councillor Tang Jiaxuan, Vice-Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and Assistant Foreign Minister He Yafei.
Speaking to the press just before his departure to Beijing, Mr. Gambari said the Chinese Government has been quite helpful in terms of the good offices role of the Secretary-General, adding that China had encouraged the Myanmar authorities to receive him at the height of the crisis.
Mr. Gambari also stressed that the United Nations is counting on China and other regional partners to help the UN work with the Myanmar Government to achieve results sooner than later.
He will then travel to Tokyo for consultations with Japanese counterparts. He expects to be able to visit Myanmar in the first week of November.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have preliminary figures from an assessment mission being conducted jointly by UN humanitarian agencies on the ground, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. They say that upward of 33,000 people have now been displaced by the fighting in the North Kivu region of the DRC. The figure includes the more than 8,000 civilians who fled into Uganda over the past weekend. The rest are displaced within the country.
The agencies say that there have been over 143,000 displacements since mid-September. This new development is very worrying as it translates to an average of more than 5,000 new IDPs [internally displaced persons] every day.
We are expecting a Secretary-General statement on the humanitarian situation in North Kivu.
**Avian and Human Influenza
The UN’s System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, Dr. David Nabarro, provided an update in Geneva today on avian and human influenza. He noted that, as of the end of August, the H5N1 virus had spread to 60 countries, resulting in 200 deaths.
Dr. Nabarro said the virus could still transform itself into the next human influenza pandemic, and the world needed to be prepared. The World Health Organization (WHO) is currently working with national authorities to develop rapid response plans.
And there’s more information and a summary of that press briefing upstairs.
**World Food Programme: Guatemala
In the wake of heavy rains and recent flooding in Guatemala, the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food rations to more than 1,100 families who lost their harvests.
WFP is also planning to distribute the rations of corn, beans, oil and fortified flour to nearly 550 people now living in temporary shelters.
And there’s more information on that upstairs.
**Stand Up Against Poverty
We have a final tally of the number of participants in the Stand Up Against Poverty event that took place around the world last week. The Millennium Campaign Office says 43,716,440 people took part in the campaign, setting a Guinness World Record.
**UN Day Concert
Today, as you know, is UN Day. It’s the sixty-second birthday. Happy Birthday to the UN!
Today we commemorate the anniversary of the UN Charter, which went into effect on 24 October 1945.
To mark this year’s celebration at the UN Headquarters, a concert by the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra will take place tonight at 7 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall. This year’s concert is sponsored by the Government of the Republic of Korea.
The Secretary-General will be giving opening remarks, followed by the President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly.
And then, in his first message to mark UN Day, the Secretary-General said the world has come to understand the importance of multilateralism and promised that the Organization will produce greater results in the areas of peace, security, development and human rights.
He also pledged that the UN will make progress on issues such as conflict prevention, disarmament, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals. Turning to human rights, the Secretary-General said he will work on translating the concept of the Responsibility to Protect into reality. He added that the UN itself should be transformed to meet the new needs and ensure the highest standards of ethics, integrity and accountability.
We have upstairs the events being marked around the world on this UN Day, including the message from the UN Country Team in Myanmar, which urges the Government to take all necessary measures to address the concerns of its people.
**UN Day the Charter
As I mentioned, the UN Day is annually marked to commemorate the entry into force of the UN Charter.
Sixty-two years later, the institution itself, the United Nations, still does not have a certified copy of the Charter, which 51 original signatories received after the signing of the founding document on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco. The original signed document, in five languages, is deposited at the US National Archives, by a decision inscribed in the Charter itself.
That might soon be repaired, as the US National Archives will send a certified copy of the document to the United Nations. The Secretary-General received that assurance when he viewed the original Charter in Washington on 11 October. The Secretary-General was shown, at the US National Archives, a 1945 photograph showing the Charter with the man who had transported it in a small airplane from San Francisco. The Charter was equipped with the lone parachute. The carrier had none.
**Upcoming Press Conferences
On this note, just to let you know that, at 5:30 p.m., today, there will be a press conference by Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar.
Tomorrow at 11 a.m., Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme, and Jeffrey Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, will hold a press conference to launch the UN Environment Programme’s Global Environment Outlook Report 2007.
And then at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by Warren Sach, UN Controller, and Alicia Bárcena, Under-Secretary-General for Management, following the Secretary-General’s briefing to the Fifth Committee on the budget.
And that’s how much I have for you today. I’m going to ask Janos to brief you first and then take your questions until the time that we get Jan Eliasson in here, if that’s okay with you.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon. Just to save time, let’s do this quickly.
**High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development
On the General Assembly, the High-Level Dialogue on Financing for Development continues in its second day. In the morning, we have the six round table discussions on the six themes of the Monterrey Consensus. In the afternoon, there’s an interactive informal hearing and that has multistakeholder participation just as the six round tables. At the same time, the plenary is continuing and there are 60 Member States inscribed on the speakers’ list, so that just gives you an idea that obviously Member States allocate a high interest to this issue.
On the Committees, the First Committee is meeting, discussing disarmament matters as regards regional cooperation, as regards conventional weapons, and also looking at the introduction and consideration of draft resolutions.
The Third Committee is meeting on the issue of promotion and protection of human rights. It heard in the morning a statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour. She was introducing the report on the work of her Office and I want to give you the document number on that, which is A/62/36. At about now the Committee is supposed to be hearing a report from the Secretary-General on strengthening the role of the UN in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization. I have a document number for that for you. It’s A/62/293 and the introduction of this report is supposed to be from the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Mr. B. Lynn Pascoe.
In the afternoon, the Committee will look at the issue of human rights from the perspective of the special rapporteurs and representatives. And Marie just announced that, at 5:30 p.m. this afternoon, yes, Mr. Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, will be with us.
The Fourth Committee is looking at international cooperation in the framework of peaceful uses of outer space.
And of course the Fifth Committee, which probably most of you know about, is continuing its work, looking at the programme budget for the biennium 2008/2009 and looking more specifically at the Capital Master Plan, which it started yesterday.
That’s all I have.
**Questions and Answers
Deputy Spokesperson: Okay. Let’s try to take a couple questions. Yes, Masood?
Question: Yes, Marie, as to the situation at the Iraq-Turkey border, it’s spiralling out of control. Is the Secretary-General going to take any proactive role in defusing the situation in the border in Iraq and Turkey?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the Secretary-General, we did have a statement from him issued on late Friday on this. Obviously our mission on the ground is monitoring the situation as best as it can. As of now, I don’t have anything further on the subject.
Question: No, but besides the statement and stuff, is he planning on sending an envoy to Turkey or to defuse the situation or no, there’s nothing planned?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing. I have nothing new on that for today.
Question: A mission on the ground? What does the UN have in that area?
Deputy Spokesperson: The UN has a mission, as you know, in Iraq and in the north it has a presence in Erbil.
Question: Can you tell us the size on the ground?
Deputy Spokesperson: I can’t get you the precise figure right now but it’s an office that’s been there throughout. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?
[She later added that there were some 30 United Nations international staff in Erbil.]
Question: I have two short questions. What was the symbol on the document of Mr. Pascoe? Is it 293?
GA Spokesperson: That is correct. Let me just check very quickly… that’s right A/62/293.
Question: Thank you. Marie, the Secretary-General is reported to be going to Antarctica next month, presumably to highlight global warming. Is he concerned also about the possibility of conflict in this zone, given the conflicting sovereign claims to that region?
Deputy Spokesperson: First of all, I don’t have anything to announce yet on the Secretary-General’s future travels just yet. As you know, we generally make an official announcement about a week in advance. I think what you’re referring to are press reports that we cannot confirm. As far as we know, the UN has not been involved in any claims being filed as of now.
Question: On the disastrous fire in California. Has anybody sought, from the United States Government, sought any plea for help from any UN agency?
Deputy Spokesperson: No UN agency has reported to us that they have been approached, but, as you know, the UN humanitarian community is always open to requests of assistance when a host, when a Government, requests such assistance. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Like Mr. Abbadi, I have two short questions. One is, I see on the Secretary-General’s schedule today he’s going to meet with Mr. (Gerard) Stoudmann, who, some time ago, was the Envoy for the elections in Côte d’Ivoire. What’s the topic? Is Côte d’Ivoire the topic of that meeting or some other posting for Mr. Stoudmann? What’s the purpose of it?
Deputy Spokesperson: We’ll make sure you get a readout after the meeting.
Question: And the other one is, can you say if former Secretary-General Kofi Annan either is receiving or has requested security from the UN? I guess, UN-paid security.
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have anything new on this. I know the former Secretaries-General do receive a security in certain situations. On this one, I’d have to look into that for you.
Question: Do any of the former Secretaries-General have security details attached to them like the current Secretary-General?
Deputy Spokesperson: That’s what I just said, I’ll have to look into that for you. Okay, on this I think we have to hook up with Asmara to see if…
Question: By the way, about the furniture on your desk, is that going to be permanently there or just for today’s display?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think this is what we’re supposed to see Mr. (Jan) Eliasson on and there’s supposed to be a screen to show Mr. Eliasson for you.
* *** *