|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 Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon. We have a couple of statements, one we’re still waiting for.
**Statement on Democratic Republic of the Congo/Rwanda
The first [statement] is on the joint communiqué signed on the 10 November by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda on a common approach to end the threat posed to peace and stability in both countries and the Great Lakes region.
The Secretary-General commends the Governments of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda on their joint communiqué, signed in Nairobi on 10 November, through the United Nations. The agreement between them on a common approach and immediate, concrete steps to carry it out marks a significant breakthrough. This approach offers an opportunity for the comprehensive resolution of the fundamental problems posed by irregular armed groups in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is also an important step towards restoring peace and security for the populations that have suffered for so long. The Secretary-General reiterates his call on all irregular groups operating in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to lay down their arms, and seize the opportunity for a normal life.
The Secretary-General notes that the agreed steps include actions to fight impunity. He urges both Governments to act urgently to implement all the agreed measures, and calls upon their international partners to support these efforts and to increase humanitarian assistance to respond to the dire situation on the ground. For its part, the United Nations is committed to supporting both Governments in their implementation of their common approach, and to help ensure the protection of civilians.
The second statement I’m waiting for is on Myanmar.
Meanwhile, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, arrived in that country yesterday, and then held consultations today with senior Government officials. Later, he met with the senior abbots of the State Governing Body of the Buddhist Clergy, and then visited two monasteries involved in the recent demonstrations.
Among his other travels, Pinheiro visited the former Government Technical College, where he met with the personnel in charge of the detainees held there during the days of the demonstrations. The Special Rapporteur also visited the Insein Jail. He is expecting to interview detainees before the end of his mission.
The Special Rapporteur is expected to travel to Nay Pyi Taw on Tuesday. We have a press release with more details upstairs.
Turning to the Secretary-General, he is in Brasilia today, where he is meeting and having a working luncheon this afternoon with President Lula.
Yesterday, he visited an ethanol plant in Ribeirão Preto, Brazil, and in a press encounter afterwards told reporters that he was very impressed by the efforts of the Brazilian Government and business enterprises to address global warming issues by developing renewable and clean energy sources.
He said that the ethanol plant was one of many green technologies that show promise in offsetting global warming. The Secretary-General underscored that biofuels have great potential for good and, perhaps, also for harm. It is up to national Governments to responsibly balance the social costs and benefits.
On Saturday, the Secretary-General was in Chile, where he flew by helicopter over the Grey Glacier to see first-hand the effects of climate change. Afterwards, he told reporters that he felt both sad and alarmed when he saw the deep cracks in the glacier and how quickly the glacier was melting.
Before leaving Chile, the Secretary-General delivered a statement alongside President Michelle Bachelet, saying that his travels through Chile and Antarctica had been “an eye-opener on many levels”. As a result of those travels, he now believed, more than ever before, that a global calamity awaits us if we do not act.
We also issued a statement over the weekend following the Secretary-General’s visit Friday to Antarctica, in which he said that Antarctica is on the verge of a catastrophe for the world, with the glaciers on King George Island having shrunk by 10 per cent. He said that he had seen Antarctica's beauty -- and the danger global warming represents, and the urgency that we do something about it. “I am determined that we shall,” the Secretary-General said.
**Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Meeting Opens
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change opened its twenty-seventh session in Valencia, Spain, today. Over the next five days, delegates will synthesize the information gathered by the IPCC’s various working groups and released in a series of three reports earlier this year.
The Fourth Assessment Report will constitute the core source of factual information about climate change for policymakers in the years to come. And, as you know, the Secretary-General will be in Valencia when the report is released on Saturday.
Here, there are two reports of the Secretary-General out as documents.
The Secretary-General, in his latest report on the deployment of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), says he is concerned that the security incidents over the past month and the continuing delays in the deployment of UNAMID could lead to a further deterioration of the situation on the ground.
It is urgent, he said, that at this time, those Member States which are in a position to contribute the missing transportation and aviation capabilities for UNAMID do so. Without these critical units, the Mission will not be able to implement its mandate, he said.
He also urged the Sudanese Government to agree to the troop composition of UNAMID jointly submitted by the African Union and the United Nations. He reiterated that the deployment of a robust peacekeeping force will make a difference and help to improve the security conditions on the ground. However, it is only through political dialogue and inclusive consultations that the parties will be able to reach a viable, sustainable and comprehensive solution to the crisis there.
** Somalia Report
The other report that is out is the Secretary-General’s report on Somalia, and in it the Secretary-General says that overall security, political and humanitarian conditions there have worsened. Under the prevailing conditions, he said that the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping operation is not a realistic and viable option. Nevertheless, a strategic assessment of United Nations interventions in Somalia has begun, with a view to provide an integrated approach for continued United Nations engagement in that country. While the Department of Peacekeeping Operations reviews and updates existing contingency plans to assist the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Secretary-General says it might be advisable to consider, among other options, the deployment of a robust multinational force or coalition of the willing. Such a force could start as a small and sustaining one, and then grow over time by meeting specific milestones. In due time, he says, such forces could reach a level that would allow for a gradual withdrawal of Ethiopian forces.
And you can read more about that in the report upstairs.
**OCHA -- Somalia
And in an update, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that another 24,000 people have fled Mogadishu last week due to fighting between insurgent and Government forces. This brings to 114,000 the number of Mogadishu residents who have fled since October.
Meanwhile, in Nairobi, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, this weekend completed a series of consultations with Somali officials, including the President and the Chairman of the National Reconciliation Congress.
And you can read more about that in a press release upstairs.
And then turning to Iraq, the Secretary-General’s new Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, arrived in Baghdad yesterday and immediately assumed his responsibilities.
Upon arrival, de Mistura said, “I look forward to carrying out my responsibilities in light of the newly adopted Security Council resolution 1770 (2007), which extended and expanded the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq’s mandate, in the service of the Iraqi people.”
He added that he intends to ensure the maximum United Nations engagement with both the Government and people of Iraq.
And there’s a press release with more upstairs.
**Statement on Myanmar
And I just got the statement on Myanmar.
The Secretary-General was briefed today by his Special Adviser, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, on the outcome of his recent visit to Myanmar. As a result of this visit, a process has been launched that will hopefully lead to a meaningful and substantive dialogue with concrete outcomes within an agreed time frame. The Secretary-General welcomes the willingness expressed by both sides to work with the United Nations to this end.
The Secretary-General reiterates that the return to the status quo that existed before the crisis is not sustainable, and he encourages the Government and all relevant parties to redouble their efforts towards achieving national reconciliation, democracy and full respect for human rights. He looks forward to his Special Adviser’s early return to Myanmar, as part of an open and regular process of mutual engagement.
And then on Cambodia, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia announced that former Cambodian Foreign Minister Ieng Sary and his wife have been arrested in execution of an arrest warrant, delivered by the Court’s Co-Investigating Judges.
Ieng Sary was charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes, and his wife with crimes against humanity. They have both been brought to the facilities of the Extraordinary Chambers.
And there’s more details expected to be released tomorrow.
** Dominican Republic Flood Relief
Turning to flood efforts in the Dominican Republic, the World Food Programme (WFP) has so far distributed 14 tonnes of high-protein biscuits.
The United Nations Children’s Fund is also providing water and sanitation, hygiene, health and nutrition services. And several Governments are also providing assistance.
OCHA notes that it has yet to receive any pledges for its $14 million flash appeal, which was launched almost a week ago.
And you can read more about that upstairs.
The 2007 Landmine Monitor Report was launched earlier today in Geneva by the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, and it says global efforts to clear mines by 2010 are faltering and may not be achieved after all.
Except for 14 countries, the report amounts to a rather dismal score card for Member States who have signed the Mine Ban Treaty.
And you can find the full report on the website for the Institute for Disarmament Research.
And there is a meeting on the United Nations Internet Governance Forum going on in Rio de Janeiro. And in a message to that gathering, which was delivered by Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang, the Secretary-General said that although the United Nations does not have a role in managing the Internet, the Organization embraces the opportunity to provide, through the Forum, a platform that helps ensure the Internet's global reach.
There’s a copy of those remarks upstairs.
**Global Fund Grants
And the Global Fund, the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, today approved the largest funding round in its five-year history, in the form of 73 new grants worth more than $1.1 billion over two years. More than 80 per cent of that money is for low-income countries, with two thirds of the funds going to Africa.
The West Bank and Gaza also joined the Fund’s portfolio for the first time, having successfully applied for support for an HIV-prevention programme.
And there’s more information on that upstairs.
And the Berlin Philharmonic has become UNICEF’s latest Goodwill Ambassador. A formal ceremony marking the appointment will take place on Saturday at the United Palace Theatre, where more than 100 New York City schoolchildren will join the orchestra for a dance project based on Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”.
And there’s more information on that upstairs.
**United Nations University
And then just two other announcements, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. tomorrow, at the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Penthouse, there will be a United Nations University-Cornell Symposium on “The African Food System and its Interactions with Health and Nutrition”. The Symposium will assess the current situation in Africa and recommend ways in which African nations can address chronic nutrition, security and public health problems in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
And there’s more information on that.
**Upcoming Press Conferences
And two press conferences to flag for you. The guest tomorrow will be Erika Feller, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, who will brief you on the agency’s efforts to help protect more than 32 million refugees and others of concern to the UN refugee agency, including in key operations like Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Jordan.
And following that, at around 1 p.m., there will be a press conference by Joaquim Chissano, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the areas affected by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
So noon guest UNHCR, and around 1 p.m. Mr. Chissano.
And that’s what we have for you. We have the General Assembly Spokesman here and he will brief you if you have no questions for me. Yes Patrick?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Since the Secretary-General is in Brazil, how will he be briefed by Mr. Gambari, and where is Mr. Gambari?
Spokesperson: Mr. Gambari is in the building today. He’s come back to UN Headquarters, and I believe they’ve already spoken by phone.
Question: Is there any possibility to talk with him and to have some conference with press about…
Spokesperson: With Mr. Gambari?
Question: With Mr. Gambari.
Spokesperson: Yes, we will certainly have him brief you as soon as he briefs the Security Council.
Question: And do you know when?
Spokesperson: Nothing has been scheduled yet, but keep looking at the Security Council programme. Okay, if there are no questions for me –- ah, yes?
Question: Will there be tickets available to the Berlin Philharmonic, do you know?
Spokesperson: Please call UNICEF. I’m sure they’ll be able to help you on that one. Yes, Matthew?
Question: There was this report in the Washington Times that Mayor Bloomberg wrote to the Secretariat and said that if certain deadlines aren’t met, public school kids in New York will no longer be allowed to come through the United Nations. Can you confirm receiving that letter and what’s the UN’s response to it?
Spokesperson: I don’t, I cannot confirm receipt of a letter, but I think if it’s the same article that I read, then I think the article spells out pretty clearly what the United Nations has done in response to the concerns by the city. And, as you know, the Capital Master Plan is the future plan that takes into account all of these safety concerns, which of course we share just as much as the Mayor does, as this concerns the staff, the visitors, and the people working in this building. And as far as we know, that Plan is being discussed in the Fifth Committee as we speak. [She later confirmed that the letter had been received.]
Question: Just two follow-ups on that. One is, are the steps outlined? Were these steps, is it the UN’s position that these are steps taken after the Bloomberg communication? Are there, do you think that that changes what he said, or these were steps that were already taken…
Spokesperson: I think that you would have to ask him about that, but the UN has been in very close consultation and working very closely with the city, trying to address as many of these issues as they can in the current set-up, as you know. There are certain things that simply cannot be done for various reasons, mostly to do with the cost and the fact that they will be addressed more comprehensively when the UN Headquarters undergoes renovation. But, for instance, the more acute issues, such as fire-safety issues, are being addressed, within the framework that’s being required.
Question: Also there was, on Friday, there was a report of a lawsuit against Skanska. The construction manager is being sued for something to do with a project at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), both the architect and then this construction manager are being sued for, I guess, either some leaking thing. What does the UN, given that they are the central contractor here, have any view on that? Did the UN know, I guess what I’d like you to find out is, did the UN know about this claim or dispute before they were selected or not?
Spokesperson: I’ll look into that for you, okay? Yes? [She later said that the United Nations was not aware of the lawsuit during the procurement process, and that it has full confidence in the company.]
Question: Yes, about the Internet Governance Forum in Brazil and the statement of the Secretary-General, I wondered if there’s anything concrete in terms of spreading the Internet’s global reach and particularly, the Secretary-General’s from South Korea, which is very advanced in making the Internet available to the population. I wondered if there’s any part of something the Secretary-General can do to spread those lessons around the world?
Spokesperson: Let’s first of all take a look at the statement, and maybe we can get a read-out from the head of DESA (Department of Economic and Social Affairs) when he gets back from the forum, okay?
Question: I had one other question for you.
Question: It’s about Kosovo and this situation around Steven Schook, he said he’s under investigation by, he said he’s under investigation. Friday, Farhan (Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General) told me that DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations) has no knowledge of him being under investigation. Now there’s a report in the press in Kosovo that news of a criminal complaint was passed to the Secretariat, that’s reported in Kosovo. So I guess I want to know, is the Secretariat, are you aware of that information being passed to the Secretariat, and did the answer about DPKO also cover the Department of Field Support? Because it seems like he’s already said he’s under investigation, and it’s hard to understand why…
Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we said last week, so I’d have to look into that for you as well.
If there are no other questions, Janos?
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon. Good to see you all as always. A couple of things with regard to the Assembly.
The Assembly began its meeting this morning on the work of the Security Council including the issue of reform of the Council.
The Assembly has before it a notification from the Secretary-General which looks at matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security that are being dealt with by the Security Council and matters with which the Council has ceased to deal.
I’m just flagging that because, if you look at the Journal and you look at the programme, you will see that there’s a reference to something called A/62/300 and that’s, if you’re interested, that’s the list of the various different items that are mentioned in connection with this notification.
And following the adoption of that notification, which was a very quick action by the Assembly, the Assembly began discussions, a joint debate as it’s called, on two things. On the Security Council report which covers 1 August 2006 to 31 July 2007. That’s A/62/2. And also on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and related matters, as was discussed in the report of the Open-ended Working Group of the sixty-first session of the Assembly. That report is also out, it’s A/61/47. It’s actually pretty interesting to read.
What I can tell you already is that there are, at least on my list, there are 63 speakers inscribed for this joint debate, which means that this debate will go on into tomorrow, so the debate is going to conclude tomorrow.
The plenary debate will allow Member States to voice their views on Security Council work and reforms, reflect on the progress made so far and also propose ways forward. The President of the Assembly will formulate his proposals, initiatives based on those views.
In his statement opening today’s debate the President stressed -- and I quote from his statement two paragraphs:
“Based on these consultations, our objective should be to develop a framework, in order to begin intergovernmental negotiations, by identifying and reaching agreement on the various negotiable elements. In this respect, we should be guided by the Report of the Working Group A/61/47, the one that I flagged, which was adopted by this Assembly on 17 September 2007, and the positions and proposals of Member States.
“Member States should have primary ownership and responsibility over such a process. I, therefore, look forward to hearing your substantive proposals and views on how to embark on the next stage in this important process so that we can achieve concrete results during the sixty-second session.”
And we have hard copies of his statement available for you upstairs and it is also on the President’s website.
And let me remind you that on Thursday, 15 November, at 11 a.m. the President is coming to brief you so you can ask him more questions on his views on how he wants to progress on this issue. And by then we would have, of course, the views and ideas of Member States voiced in this debate.
**GA President Activities
And as regards the activities of the President, and this goes to something which was asked about Mr. Gambari, and that is the meeting the President of the Assembly will have with Mr. Gambari.
This is going to happen this afternoon. The President will meet Mr. Gambari, receive an update of developments since the last time the two met which was on 5 October. And Mr. Gambari is expected to brief on his latest visit to the area and to Myanmar.
After the 5 October meeting the President did issue a statement in which he stressed the continued interest of the General Assembly in resolving the human rights situation of Myanmar, as expressed by a number of resolutions of the Assembly. In the spirit of those resolutions he strongly condemned violence and the use of force in resolving the situation and called for the release of all political detainees.
And let me once again remind you that the mandate of Mr. Gambari’s mission originates from the General Assembly, most recently from resolution 61/232 which requested the Secretary-General to, among other things, continue to provide his good offices and to pursue his discussions on the situation of human rights and the restoration of democracy with the Government and the people of Myanmar.
And let me also flag that a draft resolution on the same issue, meaning the human rights situation in Myanmar, has already been introduced during this session of the Assembly in the Third Committee. This was actually done last Friday. Anybody interested in that, it’s A/C.3/62/L.41.
And with that let me quickly go to the Committees and let me start and stick with the Third Committee.
‘Cause I know that on Friday I actually vigorously flagged the possibility to you of the Committee taking action on a draft resolution, with all its amendments, on the issue of eliminating rape and other forms of sexual violence in all their manifestations including as instruments to achieve political or military objectives. Well that action was not taken on Friday. In fact what happened was that the main sponsor of that draft, the United States, has asked for deferral of action, and this will probably happen Wednesday or most likely Thursday. The Third Committee’s not meeting today or tomorrow. It’ll meet again Wednesday, so nothing earlier than that. That goes for this draft resolution, and also other things that you are interested in such as Human Rights Council report.
Otherwise, today we have the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Committees meeting in open session. And the Second is holding a panel discussion.
On the Sixth Committee, let me just flag one thing for you, and that is that the Committee will have a number of draft resolutions introduced, and one of them covers one of the main topics of the discussion that the Committee has, and that’s the criminal accountability of United Nations officials and experts on mission. Anybody interested in that, it’s A/C.6/62/L.10.
And with that I conclude. Any questions you may have? Please.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I see something flagged in here on tomorrow, it’s a conference room about information and communication technologies for development, it’s on page ten of the, do you know anything about that?
Spokesperson: I think that was something that was either on the agenda of the Second or the Fourth Committee (please note: it is a Second Committee agenda item). So that’s probably a continuation of that. Obviously what you have there is that there’s probably a draft resolution, and that is being discussed in consultation format. Matthew?
Question: In this debate that they’re having about the Security Council’s own report on its work, there was kind of an off-handed reference made by the representative of Liechtenstein, every year this comes up, there’s a critique of the format and why it’s not better, but he said he wouldn’t bother to go into it. So I guess I’m wondering if you as … and then I believe the representative of Mexico followed up on that. But is there, what is the, he referred to it like it’s something that is broadly known, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know of it. What is the critique of the General Assembly Members of this report?
Spokesperson: Meaning the work of the…
Question: Yeah, on the work of the Council.
Spokesperson: You would have to ask the two representatives to get the details. I think this is something that has been definitely with the, with the membership for a long time. The report on the work of the Council has been with the GA for a long time. The other thing, and that’s why it’s called a joint debate, is the report of the Working Group. That is something that has been with the GA since 1993, well it, the Working Group, was established in ’93 and it started its work from January ’94, so it has been with the Council since then. But what the specific problems that some Member States may have, you would have to ask them.
Question: Can I just mention…
Question: I have seen prior that there was a request there be more of an analysis, not just a listing, and so maybe that might be some of it.
Spokesperson: That relates to the fact that there have been debates as to how to structure the report of the Council. Originally, I think in the past, if memory serves me right, it was in fact a list of the various things that the Council has done. And then there was a request, that’s correct that you’ve mentioned, to have an introductory chapter that is more of an analysis. And then, I think now, the issue is whether that introductory format, whether that introduction, to what extent should that be an analysis and to what extent should that be just a summary of what is in the report. I think that might be some of the problematics that this is revolving around. But again, this is really something for the Member States and especially for those Member States who mentioned it. You should ask those who deliberately brought this up in the debate.
Question: But isn’t that, just one follow up, ’cause this is what I was sort of, one of the critiques was that there’s a list in it of matters that were brought to the Council’s attention but were never dealt with in a meeting of the Council. So one of the representatives said, why don’t you explain why these matters didn’t make it to the floor of the Security Council. So I’m just wondering if the President of the GA this year either tried to have any input into how this report was structured, or has any view of whether it’s a sufficient report to the General Assembly by the Council.
Spokesperson: I don’t know, Matthew, if we’re talking, if we might be mixing things because that’s why I mentioned there are three things here. There’s the report of the Open-Ended Working Group, okay? That’s clear. And then there’s that thick report, which is the Council report. Now that is done by the Council, there’s no input there from the President. What you could probably have there, and I’m speculating on this, I’m sorry, is that obviously when, and this is what the original question triggered here, is that if Member States so wish that they want to change the format of this report, then this is the time to say they want to do it. And so if you want to pinpoint where the influence of, let’s say, the Assembly or the President may come in, then this might be the place where it can come in. And then there’s that third aspect, which I mentioned, which is that notification which is just a list of items that are -- and I read the first paragraph -- it’s a list of matters relative to the maintenance of international peace and security that are being dealt with by the Security Council, and matters with which the Council has ceased to deal. And if you look at this, it’s a what, it’s a ten page document, it has a list of, let me very quickly give you, a list of 65 different topics that the Council has dealt with, and then afterwards it has another list which includes the ones that were not discussed. So I think the reference might have to do with that.
Question: And this is, I wasn’t really asking, you were just saying, if the President of the GA were going to have an influence, now would be the time. So my, I was just asking, is this something that he wants to have an influence on or is it something he’s leaving entirely up to complaints from the floor by Member States. That was sort of, that’s what I was trying to get at is whether, if this complaint has come up by Members of the GA, whether it’s something that he’s going to try to deal with during his presidency or just let it, the same complaints be made at the same time next year.
Spokesperson: I think what I’ve tried to highlight from his statement is that he’s going to really listen to what the Member States are saying. Whether it deals with the format of the report or whether it deals with how the Council works or what kinds of ways forward on Council reform is being suggested, is something that the President is especially going to be keen on listening to. And based on that, he’s going to make his suggestions on ways forward. That’s definitely true of this debate. But if you have listened to or, at least this is what I tried to do in the past, is whenever there was a major plenary discussion and it related to some kind of a major issue for the UN, we have seen that the General Assembly President always made sure that when he had a closing statement, the closing statement did refer to the various issues that were raised by Member States. In other words, to give the indication clearly that the General Assembly President, at least this General Assembly President, is definitely listening to the views of the Member States and takes that into consideration. And that goes back to what he was saying to you at the very beginning, when he came here and talked about the upcoming General Debate and he said he would like to have that as a dialogue. Well he’s definitely looking for dialogue as far as his own views are concerned and those of the Member States. But obviously with dialogue, we also mean a dialogue amongst the membership. So that is definitely his way forward. But as I said, 15 November, 11 a.m., he’ll be here and you can pose all these questions.
Thank you very much.
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