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

13 December 2007

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

13 December 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 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.

Our guest at the noon briefing today was scheduled to be John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, to brief you on the outcome of today’s High-level Meeting on the Central Emergency Response Fund, which we have information on upstairs and in this room.  But we’ve just been told that he’s running late, so if he doesn’t finish soon, he may not be able to come.  But we’ll still flag that for you.

At 4:15 this afternoon, following her closing statement to the General Assembly’s High-level Plenary Meeting Devoted to the Follow-up to the Outcome of the Special Session on Children, 15-year-old Millicent Orondo of Kenya will speak at the GA Stakeout.  Ms. Orondo was elected by her peers to represent them at the meeting, and she will read a statement written by the children, which contains their recommendations.

** Algeria

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Kemal Derviş is in Algeria, where he has been meeting with families of the victims of Tuesday’s bomb attack on the UN offices and visiting those who were injured.  At present, 11 UN staff are known to have died, while five are still missing; our effort to recover and identify bodies is continuing.

Mr. Derviş, who was sent to Algiers by the Secretary-General to represent the entire UN family, said, “I am here to offer my support to the families of those killed in the attacks, and to send to the people of Algeria a strong message of solidarity from the United Nations.”  He emphasized that the United Nations work in Algeria will continue and that the United Nations is a politically neutral body which is working for development, peace and humanitarian causes.

Following his visit to local hospitals to meet with injured staff, Derviş said it was sad to see the impact of the attack on his colleagues, adding, “The victims are not soldiers who signed up for battle, but people, mostly Algerians, who are working for peace, development and to alleviate human suffering.”

**Secretary-General/ Bali Climate Change Conference

Turning to the Climate Change Conference in Bali, the Secretary-General spent his third day there in intensive bilateral discussions with Ministers and business leaders attending the high-level segment.  He met separately today with the Ministers of Environment of Canada, India, and Japan, and the Minister of National Development of China and the Minister of Petroleum and Natural Resources of Saudi Arabia.  He also met with Nobel Laureate Al Gore, who arrived today in Denpasar and addressed a side event at the Bali meeting.

They discussed the state of play of the negotiations and some key pending issues.  These included dissemination of technology, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, and how the negotiation process can proceed from here.  They also discussed the Adaptation Fund to help developing countries cope with the impacts of climate change.

The Secretary-General also participated today in a special session organized by the President of Indonesia for the Heads of State and Government participating in the Conference.

Throughout the day, the Secretary-General continued to stress that the parties need to agree to launch negotiations in Bali, agree on a clear agenda for those negotiations and set a definite timeline for the conclusion of negotiations -– by 2009.  From Bali, the Secretary-General travels to Timor-Leste tomorrow -– which it already is over there.

I’ve just been told that Mr. Holmes will be coming here at 1 p.m.  So he will be here just a little later.

Continuing on Bali, the Secretary-General has decided to remain in Bali longer than originally scheduled because of the very critical phase of the negotiating process at the Climate Change Conference.

The successful launch of the negotiation process is a top priority for the Secretary-General, as well as the defining issue of our time, and he will devote as much effort as needed.

**Climate Change/WMO

This past decade (from 1998 to 2007) was the warmest on record, according to figures released today by the World Meteorological Organization.  Based on information through the end of November, the global mean surface temperature for 2007 is estimated to be almost half a degree Celsius above the 1961 to 1990 average.

The report also noted record-low Arctic sea ice; devastating floods, drought and storms in many places around the world this year; a relatively small Antarctic Ozone Hole due to a warmer winter in the Southern Hemisphere and development of La Nina weather pattern in the central and eastern Equatorial Pacific.  There’s more information on this upstairs.

** Sudan

We have a statement, attributable to the Spokesperson on Sudan.  This is an agreement on key outstanding issues in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

The Secretary-General welcomes the announcement by the parties to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that recent discussions have resulted in an agreement on a number of key outstanding issues, with the exception of Abyei.  The parties have also affirmed that the Agreement will pave the way for the return of ministers of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement to the Government of National Unity.

The Secretary-General commends both parties for their commitment to preserve the integrity of the CPA through dialogue and partnership, and looks forward to the early implementation of the decisions reached by the two sides.  It is hoped that the presidency will expedite a resolution to the issue of Abyei, which is essential in order to establish a firm basis for the next phase of the peace process.

The Secretary-General reiterates that the full implementation of the CPA is in the interest of both parties, and is fundamental for lasting peace and stability in Sudan and the region.  The United Nations stands ready to discuss with the parties how it can further assist them in ensuring the successful implementation of the Agreement.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

In a statement released yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General said he is deeply concerned about the intense fighting in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the resulting massive displacement and mistreatment of civilians.  He added that the UN, through its Mission, supports the Government to establish legitimate State authority in eastern DRC.  He called on the Government to take all measures necessary to protect civilians, and on the forces of dissident General Laurent Nkunda to lay down their arms.

Also yesterday, Security Council President Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy said that Council members were gravely concerned at the humanitarian consequences of the recent fighting.

Meanwhile, the High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has begun a five-day visit to that country, during which he will fly to North Kivu to assess the Refugee Agency's work helping tens of thousands of displaced persons.  A UNHCR emergency team has been working in the area since August to boost the Agency’s crisis response, and Guterres hopes that his visit will strengthen their morale.  During his stay, Guterres will meet President Joseph Kabila, visit internally displaced persons camps in Goma, and exchange views with UN peacekeepers, humanitarian agencies and their non-governmental organization partners working in North Kivu.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that, as of 3 December, the violence in North Kivu had displaced some 58,000 people, bringing to an estimated 437,000 the number of new internally displaced persons since December 2006 and to some 800,000 the total number of internally displaced persons in North Kivu alone.  I think Mr. Holmes, when he comes here later, can give you more updates on the humanitarian situation in the Eastern DRC.

** Lebanon

In a statement we issued yesterday afternoon, the Secretary-General expressed his outrage at the terrorist attack in Lebanon that killed General François el-Hajj of the Lebanese Armed Forces and at least one of his bodyguards.

He strongly condemned this act of violence and terror on the Lebanese Armed Forces, a symbol of Lebanon's sovereignty, and he called on the Lebanese for calm and restraint at this critical juncture in their history.  Their political leaders must exert every possible effort to resolve differences and arrive at a solution for an immediate presidential election, without conditionality, in accordance with Constitutional rules.

Late yesterday, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement in which it also condemned the assassination of General el-Hajj, and recalled its support for the Secretary-General’s efforts to establish a special tribunal for Lebanon in a timely manner.

That statement was adopted after the Council heard from Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon, and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet about recent developments in Lebanon.

The Secretary-General has received a letter from the Government of Lebanon requesting technical assistance in the investigation of General el-Hajj’s death, and he has transmitted it onward to the Security Council.  This is a response to a question that was asked here yesterday.

** Georgia

We also had a statement yesterday afternoon on Georgia, in which the Secretary-General had taken note of the concerns expressed by the two sides to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and allegations made by both sides about impending threats and major build-up of armed forces in the zone of conflict and the Kodori valley.  UNOMIG has been conducting daily verification of these claims –- that’s the UN Mission -- many of which have, so far, not been confirmed by the situation on the ground.  In the current volatile context, the Secretary-General called for calm and restraint.

The full statement is available upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning is discussing in an open meeting the recent mission by Council members to Timor-Leste.  That meeting began with a briefing by the leader of the Council mission, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa.

Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean Marie Guéhenno is in Timor-Leste today, where he met separately with representatives of political parties, civil society and women’s groups, and visited a camp for internally displaced persons.  As you know, the Secretary-General will be visiting the country in a few hours.

This afternoon at 3, the Security Council will hold consultations on Sudan, and will receive a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet about the talks that he and Deputy Chef de Cabinet Kim Won-soo had with Sudanese officials, concerning Darfur, at the recent European Union-African Union summit in Portugal.  Mr. Mulet will speak to you at the Council stakeout after those consultations.

Late yesterday, the Council President, Ambassador Marcello Spatafora ( Italy), read out a press statement expressing the Council’s concern at the security threat posed by drug trafficking and organized crime in Guinea-Bissau.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, condemned in the strongest terms the criminal bombings in Amarah, which left dozens of innocent civilians dead and more than a hundred others injured in the capital of the Missan Province.  De Mistura called the triple bombing “an appalling crime that deserves condemnation by all”.

** Liberia

Out on the racks today is a report by the Liberia Panel of Experts, which the Secretary-General appointed last July to investigate the implementation of sanctions in Liberia.

Among other things, the Panel said that, while there was no confirmed case of diamond smuggling into Liberia, the Liberian Government should make sure that Ivorian diamonds don’t pass through its porous borders and enter its legitimate trade.

On arms, the Panel recommended that the Liberia Sanctions Committee carefully review past exceptions to the arms embargo and inventories of weapons already transferred to Liberia before approving further military transfers to Liberia’s security services.  Regarding specific individuals, the Panel found that, since its last report, the Liberian Government had not made any progress towards freezing the assets of any individual designated in resolution 1532 (2004).

The Panel also said that a significant milestone in its work occurred when the Nigerian Government invited it to visit Nigeria to investigate allegations against former Liberian President Charles Taylor.

**Nicaragua/Colombia

The International Court of Justice rendered today a judgment in the case concerning Territorial and Maritime Dispute between Nicaragua and Colombia.  The judgment deals with the Preliminary Objections regarding jurisdictional issues of the case.  The Court has found that it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

You can read more about that upstairs. 

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General will be going to Washington, D.C., today, on her first official trip there in her current capacity, and will be returning to New York tomorrow evening.

Later today, she is scheduled to meet with John Negroponte, US Deputy Secretary of State.

Tomorrow morning she will be addressing InterAction, the NGO coalition, on the UN Development and Humanitarian Assistance Agenda for 2008.

She will also be attending a luncheon with women leaders hosted by the UN Foundation, and will be meeting with senior officials at the International Monetary Fund.

**Secretary-General’s Appointment

The Secretary-General has appointed Catherine Bragg of Canada as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  Ms. Bragg will succeed Margareta Wahlström of Sweden.

Since 2004, Ms. Bragg has served as Director General of the Humanitarian Assistance, Peace and Security Programme in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).  She currently chairs the OCHA Donor Support Group and is a member of the Advisory Group of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), about which you will hear more shortly.

**Yuli Vorontsov

The Secretary-General learned with profound sadness that Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov of the Russian Federation passed away on 12 December.

A distinguished diplomat, Ambassador Vorontsov was appointed in February 2000 as the High-level Coordinator pursuant to paragraph 14 of Security Council resolution 1284 (1999).  Since that time, Ambassador Vorontsov coordinated international efforts aimed at the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains, and return of all Kuwaiti property.  His death occurred just a few days after he returned from the mission to Kuwait where he had consultations and prepared the Secretary-General’s report. 

Throughout his career, including as his country’s First Deputy Foreign Minister and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, he showed dedication and tireless effort.  He enjoyed the deep respect of all his colleagues.

The Secretary-General wishes to convey his heartfelt condolences to the family of Ambassador Vorontsov and to the Government of the Russian Federation.  He will be mourned with profound respect and affection by friends around the world.

**Questions and Answers

That’s what I have for you today.  We have the General Assembly Spokesperson here today, who would probably like to brief.  Before I go to him, we’ll go to -- how about Al Jazeera?

Question:  Thanks, Marie.  Just to go back to the Algeria issue.  When you say five missing, could it be presumed that these five are most likely… their fate is to be determined since so many days have passed since the bombing took place?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the reason why they are missing is precisely because their fates are still unaccounted for.  As I mentioned, we can at present confirm that 11 UN staff are known to have died.  And we expect, as you said, that the number of casualties could rise as efforts to recover bodies continue.

And maybe this in advance of an anticipated question -– our list of nine confirmed fatalities, whose next of kin have been notified, has not changed [as of now].  As soon as new identifications are made and next of kin notified, we will update that list for you.  Masood?

Question:  The United Nations envoy in charge of negotiating the protocols in the climate talks was quoted as saying today the negotiations are about to fall down like a house of cards because the United States objects to certain objectives and limits that are being imposed, having stipulated…  Now you -- today you say that the Secretary-General --  is he going to be somehow talking to President Bush or anybody in the administration to save –- this is supposed to be his real -– what do you call, I mean, “apple of his eye”, basically -– the climate talks –- to save these talks and negotiations?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Precisely because these talks are entering this very critical phase in Bali, and because to start the successful launch of that process is one of the Secretary-General’s top priorities, I announced earlier that the Secretary-General has decided to remain in Bali longer than originally scheduled to make sure he is devoting every effort he can to have a successful outcome.  He is having round-the-clock talks –- bilateral talks -- with all the countries represented there.  And, of course, that includes the United States.  So yes, he will go to Timor, as I mentioned.  But he will return to Bali.

Question:  But will he be speaking to President Bush because he’s decided -- 

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has spoken to President Bush, to Secretary of State Rice on a number of occasions on this issue, as you know, and will continue to be engaged with all parties around-the-clock as needed.

Let’s see.  Benny and then the gentleman in the back.

Question:  First of all, about the Secretary-General’s itinerary.  Since he decided to extend this, does this mean that he’s not going to Timor-Leste?  Does that mean that he’s not going to the concert?  Does that mean that he’s not going to Paris?  Any of those?

Deputy Spokesperson:  What I can confirm to you right now is exactly what I said.  The Secretary-General has decided to stay to remain fully engaged in the Bali talks.  As I mentioned to you, he will be going to Timor as planned in a few hours time.  He’s going to be leaving at the crack of dawn over there, which is already in a few hours.  He will go to Timor-Leste.  He will go back to Bali.  He will take stock of where the talks are when he returns and then decide how long he will stay.  He most likely now will go [from Indonesia] to Paris.

Question:  One more question about priorities.  Does the fact that he decided that he put so much effort into the Bali talks, even extending, changing his itinerary, does that mean he puts more priority on climate change than on terrorism against the UN -– where he’s delegated one of his -– the UNDP Administrator to be present?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The climate change issue is something that has been one of his top priorities since the very early days in his capacity as Secretary-General.  He’s going to give it his best, because he thinks this is one of the biggest global challenges of our time.  And he will remain as long as he feels he will make a difference there.

In terms of Algiers, as we mentioned earlier, he has dispatched his senior-most officials, the head of UNDP and Mr. [David] Veness.  They are both there now.  As you know, the Secretary-General is extremely concerned about the welfare of the survivors and the families of the colleagues who perished, and that’s why he sent these senior officials.  And he’s being kept informed around-the-clock about their activities on the ground.  I just read to you Mr. Derviş’s activities there.  He has visited the victims, which he will continue to do.

We will hopefully get for you a transcript of his remarks in its entirety shortly.

Question:  Can I just follow up on that?  Considering this is the second most major attack against a UN building, I mean, the Secretary-General does not feel it’s worth his own personal presence there?  Or is it security matters that’s preventing him –- does he feel Algeria is unsafe to go there now?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Right now, the emphasis in Algiers is on recovery and tending to the injured.  The UN’s logistical and operational capacity on the ground has been lost, and a visit under those circumstances, at this time, would be extremely difficult.

Question:  Will he be thinking of going there any time soon if the security conditions permit?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think this statement answers your question.  Yes, sir?

Question:  With Bali, how much longer is the Secretary-General staying?  And is this really because of the roadblocks they’ve incurred with nations such as the United States and Japan?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Without getting into specifics, this is a very critical time of the negotiations, and he will stay as long as he feels that his work needs to be engaged there.  Yes, Matthew? 

Question:  This, in Chad, they’ve now set a trial for NGO workers for Zoe’s Ark to start on December 21st.  Since the UN is the one that actually sort of looked at the children to determine that they weren’t orphans, etcetera, will they participate in the trial and present evidence?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to look into that for you.  I don’t know.

Question:  I wanted to ask one question about the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  You talked about -– apparently yesterday in the Council, several members said to DPKO that they should focus more on their humanitarian mandate rather than providing military support the Congolese Government, and maybe it was unwise to participate in only attacking General Nkunda and not the FDLR, the Hutu people from Rwanda.  So what is the -– what was the purpose of Mulet’s -– was he seeking the blessing of the Council?  What’s the Secretary’s response -– this is coming from P-5 Members –- that there’s some concern about MONUC’s strategy in the Congo?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of any change in the mandate of the UN Mission on the ground.  The UN Mission on the ground is operating within the framework of the resolution given to it by the Council.  And the humanitarian organizations are doing what they can to protect the civilians on the ground in providing urgently needed aid to them.

Question:  To your knowledge has MONUC actually –- have they returned fire, taken fire?  Are they engaged with General Nkunda’s forces?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ve mentioned to you many times the mandate of the UN Mission on the ground.  Resolution 1756 (2007) -– is it 1756?  I don’t have the number off the top of the head.  But I think it’s all spelled out in that.

Question:  No, I just mean factually.  I don’t mean are they entitled to --

Deputy Spokesperson:  It is working within the mandate of that resolution. 

Question:  I just want to know if you have got any reaction regarding the statement that the Moroccan ambassador regarding the elimination of the --

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t think we have anything further than we had yesterday.

Question:  But from MINURSO, which is on the ground, its role is to prevent any [inaudible] of the disagreements of the ceasefire --

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not received anything since what we said to you yesterday.

Correspondent:  The congress is going to be held tomorrow?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll look into it for you.  Okay?

Yes, John?

Question:  Outside we see a new guard tower in the street and guards at the corners with M-16s and we can see patrol cars around the building.  Has the UN received any kind of specific threats?  Or is there a general increase of security at all UN facilities worldwide or just here?  And then, also, if you could address, I think the Secretary-General talked about a security review, at least in Algiers and possibly elsewhere -– any update on that?  That’s three questions in one.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.  I mean the first question about specific security measures, I’m sorry, but that’s not something that we normally discuss.  As for appropriate security measures taken around the world, yes, that is, you know, something that is constantly being done in response to the routine and constant assessments of security.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the reporter that the increased police presence around the United Nations Headquarters complex was part of the New York Police Department’s routine exercise.]

What was your last question?

Question:  The question was have there been any specific threats and has there been a specific increase in security because of the Algiers bombing, you know, here and elsewhere?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, security is constantly monitoring all information and it takes appropriate measures accordingly.

Question:   But are we under threat?  We work in this building, I mean, too, we come here, so is there a particular threat --

Deputy Spokesperson:  If there was a specific threat and you needed to evacuate, then we would obviously let you know.

Question:  The Secretary-General talked about forming a security review in Algiers and elsewhere --

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it’s starting already with the fact that the top security official is on the ground.  He is assessing the situation.  As I mentioned to you yesterday, the building that housed many UN agencies, also housed the UN Security Office, which was destroyed.  So a lot of that has to be reconstructed.  But whatever recommendations that will be made, that we expect to come from that review, this is something that the Secretary-General intends to work closely with heads of agencies and with Member States to ensure the highest possible security for staff around the world.

In the back?

Question:  Will that apply to the peacekeeping forces worldwide?  Since the UN is targeted, obviously by terrorism, will you apply anything regarding peacekeeping forces in Africa and elsewhere?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’re talking about staff around the world.  Yes?

Question:  The US Ambassador made hints yesterday here at the stakeout saying that Kosovo can seek independence away from the Security Council.  And he said negotiations have been exhausted.  Three months ago, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, he advised Kosovo not to take any premature step by declaring independence bilaterally.  So, I’m asking now about the position of Mr. Ban Ki-moon on the situation of the final status of Kosovo.

Deputy Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General’s position has been articulated many times, and I think since his transmission of the report by the Contact Group, he is now waiting for the Security Council to deliberate on this matter.  Yes?

Question:  Can you comment on the allegations about the United Nations Development Programme and the Mercy Corps possibly funnelling $2 million to $5.6 million to the North Korean Government and whether there’s an investigation within the UN --

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think you’d have to direct that at UNDP.  Okay, if there are no other questions for me, Janos?

And don’t forget, John Holmes will be here at 1, so don’t go away.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

**High-Level Session on Children

The Assembly continued the High-Level Commemorative Plenary Meeting devoted to the follow-up to the outcome of the 2002 Special Session on Children this morning.

Originally this was planned for two days, as you know, but because of the huge interest by Member States –- with close to 140 speakers -- the Meeting will wrap-up this afternoon.  As of this morning, we still had about 30 speakers on the list.

The High-Level Meeting was convened to evaluate progress made in the implementation of the Declaration and the Plan of Action contained in the document entitled “A World Fit for Children”, which was adopted in 2002 by the Special Session (A/RES/S-27/2).

This afternoon, the participants will adopt a Declaration which details some of the progress made and the challenges remaining, and also contains commitments on the part of Member States to:  renew their political will to intensify their efforts towards building a world fit for children and reaffirm their commitment to fully implement the commitments made in that document; and also to give high priority to the rights of children, to their survival and to their protection and development -- because by doing so, Member States will serve the best interest of all humanity.

**President’s Message to Bali

The General Assembly President sent a short message to the Bali Conference pledging the full support of the Assembly to the ongoing negotiating process.  He reminded delegates of two recently adopted resolutions by the Assembly on climate change.

The first contains a political commitment of support for success in Bali.  The second calls on the Secretary-General to provide an overview of the United Nations work on climate change by the end of January 2008.  As the President notes in his message, this work is part of the Assembly’s broader mandate to set the strategic policy framework for the United Nations system.

In that message, he also reminded participants of his intention to convene a high-level thematic debate in New York on 11 and 12 February 2008, where the objective is to consider how the UN system, in partnership with Member States and a wide range of non-State actors, can address climate change.

**Central Emergency Response Fund

I think Marie did mention that there is a meeting of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in the ECOSOC chamber this morning.  As you may know, this Fund was established by the General Assembly in December 2005 through resolution 60/138 in an effort to make humanitarian assistance more timely, equitable and predictable on a global scale.

The President of the General Assembly did address this meeting, and in his statement he noted that the Fund was created by all Member States of the General Assembly for all Member States.  It represented one of the most significant structural reforms of the United Nations in recent years.  By creating the Fund, the General Assembly demonstrated its ability to deliver, and its shared responsibility to strengthen this Organization for the benefit of the global public it serves.

He also noted that timely and well-targeted emergency humanitarian assistance reduced the long-term impact of disasters and the threat they pose to our development goals, which was why emergency humanitarian relief should be a priority for all Member States, and why the Fund was the global safety net for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

Let me also remind you on something that’s going to happen tomorrow –- but probably most of you have this on your watchlist.  It’s the first meeting within the sixty-second session of the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform.  That will be tomorrow morning, and in spite of the misleading title, it is a closed meeting, at least a closed meeting for the media.

**Main Committees

The Second and Fifth Committees are still in action.

The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) is scheduled to meet tomorrow and is expected to wrap up its work for the session by taking action on the last remaining draft text it has before it, which is the Triennial Policy Review of Operational Activities for Development of the United Nations System.  And as the name says, it is something that comes up every three years.

So that would leave the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) as the only one still standing -- and it will remain standing because, as most of you know, the Fifth Committee is the one that has resumed sessions next year.  But for now the Fifth Committee is continuing its work and its scheduled date to wrap up is 19th of December. 

The Committee held a formal meeting this morning on financing of the UN Mission for the Central African Republic and Chad, and also the financing of the support mission in East Timor and the financing of the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia.  Following that, it has informal consultations and it will continue with informal consultations for the most part of next week, where it will focus on issues such as the programme budget for 2008-2009 and also the budget for UNAMID.  But I think most of you know all that.

That’s about all I have for now.  If you have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Matthew?

Correspondent:  Different countries have been talking about the budget in the Fifth Committee.  

Spokesperson:  Right.

Question:  Obviously, you know these things.  Can you say -– the US has implied that if agreements aren’t reached, the budget would be put over to the Second, to the resumed session in the spring in some fashion.  The UK has said it really has to be done before Christmas.  How -– is it possible for the UN to keep operating if the Fifth Committee does not, in fact, pass the budget by the 19th? 

Spokesperson:  I don’t want to go into hypotheticals.  And also not really go into precedents or what new things may happen, but there are a number of different possibilities that Member States can do in resolving this issue.  First of all, they are still negotiating.  I mean, the idea is that they want to have a budget approved by, as I said, by the 19th.  Let’s see how that goes first.  And then we’ll see, if that is not possible, whether there are other options available and what the Fifth Committee -- or let’s put it this way, what the Member States within the framework of the Fifth Committee come up with as –- and I go in quotations -– as an “interim” solution, if that is the right word. 

So basically anything can happen, but I doubt that you will get into a situation of no budget.  That’s not going to happen.  Some form of financing will be secured.  I am sure that’s in the interest of all Member States.

Yes, please?

Question:  About UNAMID, the Fifth Committee, you know, when are they, are they going to decide the budget, it’s 19th of December or not?

Spokesperson:  As I said, the idea at the moment, the schedule, the plan is, to try to wrap up on the 19th, the work in the Fifth Committee.  That includes wrapping up on what I just mentioned to Matthew on the budget.  It also includes wrapping up on UNAMID.  Negotiations are still continuing in the informal context.  There are a number of meetings also scheduled for next week on UNAMID, also on the budget.  Let’s see where this goes.  I don’t want to, as I said, go into hypotheticals.  Also, I don’t want to do any characterization as to positive, negative.  Are we progressing, are we not?  I don’t want to do that.

Correspondent:  I don’t know, it depends also on if some countries are going to send to them helicopters or what they are going to say today in the Security Council… I don’t know if they are waiting for some other decision, I don’t know, logistical… I am wondering, I don’t know, if the Fifth Committee are waiting for some decisions from, I don’t know, the Security Council, or something, because they have problems for the deployment?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think that the Fifth Committee would be waiting for anything now from the Security Council in this aspect.  I mean after all, the Mission was approved.  There is a concrete budget proposal for it.  ACABQ has pronounced itself on it.  There has been a number of back and forth on this between the Secretariat -- mostly, of course, DPKO -- and Member States within the Fifth Committee.  So, it’s just a question of having the Member States being satisfied with the responses they get from the Secretariat, then working out amongst themselves the financial aspects they feel comfortable with.  That’s where we are.

Question:  I’m wondering about, do you know if the thing about the helicopters, it’s included in the budget?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know whether the helicopters, per se, are included in this budget.  But the budget proposal is to finance the Mission as is proposed by the Security Council.  Please? 

Question:  Does the President of the General Assembly have any comment or reaction to the newly formed overarching group on Security Council reform?  Any ideas about how that will impact the work of the Open-ended Working Group tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  The President first will want to hear and talk to the Membership in the framework of the Open-ended Work Group tomorrow morning.  And then we will take it from there.

No questions, then -- oh, there is.  Please?

Question:  Do you know that Cherie Blair was here recently representing the Loomba Foundation?  She’s the president of the Loomba Foundation, which takes care of the children and widows --

Spokesperson:  Do I know whether ---

Question:  Yes, whether she was here or some place –- she was lobbying the GA to adopt a declaration to announce the international year of widows on June 23rd.  So, I was just wondering where it stands on the agenda of the GA’s President.

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of this being on the agenda.  I’m sorry this is the first I’m --

Question:  Can you please find out?

Spokesperson:  We can definitely try to find out.  I’ll get the details from you afterward and I’ll find out.

Question:  Does that sound to you like Third Committee -– widows?  Which committee is it they’re going to?

Spokesperson:  Well, if we’re talking about an international day, I think we have been through this.  A Member State gets support from other Member States to designate a day, puts forward a draft resolution.  That could be in the framework of a particular committee, like we have seen with World Autism Awareness Day, which went through the Third Committee.  Or, it can probably even go directly to the plenary.  But, as I say, I have not heard of this -– honestly, this is the first time I have heard of this proposal.  I’ll follow up and find out for you.

If no more questions, then thank you very much.

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