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

2 January 2008

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

2 January 2008
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

Good afternoon, all and happy new year.  And I’m sorry I’m late.  We’re expecting a statement on Kenya, but we should have it very shortly.  We don’t have it yet, but I’ll start anyway.

**Statement on Kenya

Later in the briefing, the Spokesperson read out the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Kenya.

The Secretary-General is increasingly troubled by the escalating tensions and violence in Kenya in the aftermath of last week’s elections.  He is shocked by reports that dozens of civilians were burned to death in a church in Eldoret, and that 300 people have now been reported killed in this deplorable outburst of violence.  The Secretary-General reminds the Government, as well as the political and religious leaders of Kenya, of their legal and moral responsibility to protect the lives of innocent people, regardless of their racial, religious or ethnic origin, and he strongly urges them to do everything within their capacity to prevent any further violence.  He urges all efforts be made to avoid provocations and violence during planned demonstrations on Thursday.

The Secretary-General is also concerned with the deteriorating humanitarian situation, as large numbers of people have been displaced by the violence.  He calls on all concerned to allow safe access for relief workers helping those affected by recent events.  The United Nations will continue to work closely with the Kenyan Red Cross and other partners to help get assistance to those in need.

The Secretary-General is in the process of contacting the leadership in Kenya, the African Union and other concerned parties on how to address the crisis.  A solution is urgently needed, through a spirit of dialogue and by making full use of constitutional and legal rules and mechanisms.

** Kenya

On the ground, the UN’s Disaster Management Team in Kenya is meeting today with the Kenya Red Cross Society to get the latest information on humanitarian needs and figure out how it can best help alleviate the current crisis in Kenya.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), humanitarian access has become a major problem.  The Nairobi-Nakuru road, for example, is currently being blocked by vigilante groups.  In addition, the UN Office at Nairobi, headed by Anna Tibaijuka, reports that transport corridors from the Port of Mombasa through Kenya have been restricted, causing supply chain disruption to the UN’s humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in areas such as Southern Sudan, Uganda and parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The UN Office at Nairobi has also highlighted disturbing reports of sexual abuse of and assault on women and children.  It is concerned that slum populations in cities are critically short of food and other essential items.

For its part, UNICEF says it is ready to help up to 85,000 people with shelter and basic supplies.  Thirteen thousand family kits -- which contain blankets, tarpaulins, cooking sets, soap and jerry cans -- have already been pre-positioned locally, and a further 2,000 kits are in the pipeline.   The UN Refugee Agency, meanwhile, has sent a team to the Kenya-Uganda border, following reports of 600 Kenyans arriving there.

Among other things, the UN system in Kenya has appealed to the Kenyan Government and security forces to establish safe corridors for public transport, ensure that ongoing humanitarian operations are not disrupted, and initiate a national reconciliation process at the earliest possible opportunity.

We have more on this upstairs.

**Security Council

With the beginning of a new year, five new countries are sitting on the Security Council at the start of their two-year terms as Council members.  They are Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Viet Nam.

Libya takes over the rotating presidency of the Security Council for the month of January, and its permanent representative, Giadalla Ettalhi, is holding bilateral consultations with other Council members about the programme of work for this month.  There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today.

Tomorrow morning, the Council is expected to hold consultations on its programme of work.  Afterwards, Ambassador Ettalhi will talk to you in this room about the Council’s work over the coming month.  That should take place sometime after tomorrow’s noon briefing.

** Sudan

On Sudan, in a statement we issued on Monday night, the Secretary-General expressed his deep concern at the resumption of hostilities between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Government forces in West Darfur.  He strongly condemned the attack on 29 December 2007 by the JEM on Government positions in Silea, north of El Geneina, as well as its publicly stated intention to use force to address its concerns in Darfur.

The Secretary-General is also deeply concerned with the Government’s decision to arrest the JEM representative to the Ceasefire Commission and five other JEM members of the Commission on 30 December in El Fasher.

The Secretary-General strongly urges all parties to show restraint and cease all military action in order to create a positive atmosphere for political negotiations leading to a definitive and inclusive peace agreement.

Meanwhile, General Martin Luther Agwai, the Force Commander of the new joint United Nations-African Union mission in Darfur, is travelling tonight to Cairo.

During his visit to the Egyptian capital, he will meet with top military leaders to finalize the deployment of some 1,200 additional Egyptian troops to Darfur.

** Liberia

In its latest report, the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) says that sexual exploitation and abuse allegations against its personnel declined 80 per cent in the second half of 2007.  There were only two such allegations between July and December last year, compared to nine during the same period in 2006.

UNMIL military police have completed their investigation into these two allegations.  The Office of Internal Oversight Services will review those reports, and issue its recommendations on actions to take.

Despite the improvement, UNMIL is reiterating the UN zero-tolerance policy and vowing not to be complacent.  It says it will exert every effort to ensure that any sexual misconduct involving UNMIL personnel is stopped altogether.

We have more information upstairs.

**International Year of Sanitation

UNICEF has welcomed the start of 2008 as the beginning of the International Year of Sanitation.

The Year has been designated by the General Assembly to focus on the need for urgent action on one of the single biggest development challenges facing the world today.

Some 2.6 billion people, or more than 40 per cent of the world’s population, have no access to improved sanitation.  As a result, thousands of people die every day from preventable causes, such as diarrhoeal diseases, UNICEF notes.

We have more information upstairs.

**United Nations Staff Casualties

At least 42 UN staff members were killed on duty in 2007, according to the Staff Union, with the recent killing of 17 staff members in Algiers capping off one of the deadliest years ever.

Deliberate attacks, from Sudan to Uganda and from Afghanistan to the Gaza Strip, claimed the lives of both civilian and military staff members. Arrests and abductions of staff members also continued.

A press release with more information is available upstairs.

**Secretary-General’s Meetings

The Secretary-General is starting the new year with a series of meetings with the Secretariat staff.

Today he visited the Department of Public Information Radio and TV studios in the basement, the Department of Management, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, UNDP and UNICEF.

He will hold a town hall meeting on Friday for all UN staff.

For your planning purposes, the Secretary-General will hold a press conference for the new year on Monday, January 7th.

This is all I have for you at the moment.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Happy New Year.  Does the Secretary-General have any position on the issue of the budget negotiations, on the issue of Durban, about its taking place, about the format, about any of this that’s become such a contentious issue?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any reaction yet on the Durban meeting.  I’ll let you know about this.

Question:  What time is the SG press conference going to be?

Spokesperson:  At 10 o’clock in the morning on Monday.

Question:  We haven’t heard anything regarding this attack by Chadians against parts of Darfur over the weekend.  Do you have any statement or any comment on what happened?

Spokesperson:  On the Darfur issue, I’ll get some information for you.  But I think we had a reaction on this earlier.  I’ll get the information for you.

Question:  Regarding these pilgrims coming back from Mecca to Gaza, are you doing anything to facilitate their safe return?  Of course, some of them have already died, but is the United Nations helping their safe return to Gaza?

Spokesperson:  I will get the information for you.  I do not have it at this point.

[The Spokesperson later said that the United Nations has been following the situation very closely out of concern for the welfare of the pilgrims, and it has been in contact with the relevant parties.  The United Nations is glad that pilgrims were able to return to Gaza today.]

Question:  I have two questions.  First on Darfur, do we have a final number right now of the number of peacekeepers present on the ground?  And how do you expect this number to develop in the coming weeks to reach the 26,000 goal?  And my second question is on Pakistan, and whether the SG supports calls for an independent commission to investigate the assassination of Ms. Bhutto as was done with Mr. Hariri in Lebanon?

Spokesperson:  As you know, in the case of Mr. Hariri it was a request from the Lebanese Government to the Security Council.  It was a different case.  If Pakistan requests some investigative support on the issue of the assassination of Ms. Bhutto, of course the UN will respond.

Question:  And the number of peacekeepers in Darfur now?

Spokesperson:  I know they are under 9,000, but I’ll get an exact number for you.  And, as I mentioned -- you talked about what will be done in the next few weeks -- I talked about the visit that will take place to Egypt concerning trying to get the number of troops to be deployed faster.

Question:  Anny comment on the killing of American diplomat in Sudan?

[The Spokesperson later said that, as of 31 December, UNAMID had approximately 9,065 uniformed personnel on the ground.  She added that the United Nations and the African Union were working with troop contributors to accelerate the deployment of new units.]

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any specific comment on that now.

Question:  When do you expect the 26,000 figure to be completed?

Spokesperson:  At this point, I cannot give you an answer, because, as you know, it’s not only a question of troops being deployed.  It’s also a question of technical support to be deployed for the troops, in particular the question of helicopters, which has never really been solved.  We still have not received any helicopters.

Question:  You talked about the UN peacekeepers who were killed in 2007.  What about the local peacekeepers, UN staff.  When they are killed, do they get the same treatment as the international staff?  How much money do their families get?

Spokesperson:  I’ll get the exact numbers in terms of how they are compensated, but they are considered UN staff members.  As you know, a number of those killed in Algiers were local staff members and they were to us UN staff members.

Question:  Yes, but sometimes they don’t get the same insurance.

Spokesperson:  I’ll ask the Department of Management and Human Resources what they get and other departments to find out exactly what they get in terms of compensation.

[The Spokesperson later added that a special fund was immediately set up for all those affected by the Algiers bombings to provide immediate financial support to the wounded and educational support for the children of those who had been killed.  Immediate measures had also been taken, including salary advance and extension of contracts for the local staff.]

Question:  One follow-up question on Pakistan and also on the budget.  On Pakistan, you say if the Government makes a request, then it would be considered.  Which part of the Government?  Given that the elections were pushed off, does it have to come from General Musharraf?  What’s the standard for the Secretary-General considering a request? 

Spokesperson:  The request has to come from the executive branch of the Government.

Question:  On the 21st, when they passed the budget for UNAMID for Darfur, there was a section in it where they say that the General Assembly notes with concern the decision of the Secretary-General to utilize a single-source contract, referring to those Lockheed Martin contracts, and directing them to as quickly as possible put it out to bid and for OIOS to investigate it.  What’s his response to the General Assembly’s expression of concern and have any of the steps that they’ve called for been taken yet?

Spokesperson:  At this point, what I can tell you is that, at any rate, it was supposed to be reviewed after six months.  As soon as the six months are over, it is going to be a bid that is going to be open.  So, I’m sure that you’ll get an answer on that.

Question:  You also said that, once the Fifth Committee of the General Assembly has ruled, then we would get a briefing on it.  Now that’s that done, and two weeks have gone by, can be get such a briefing by either Jane Holl Lute or whoever…? 

Spokesperson:  I will try to get that.  Of course not everyone is back yet as you can tell.  Not all of you are back yet.

Question:  You talked about attacks against UN staff, and one of the deadliest is the Algiers bombings against UN offices.  And today again, in Algiers, there was an attack against a police station and some officers have been killed.  Given the fact of those bombings and the upsurge in attacks in the whole region, given the attacks against the French tourists and against a military base in Mauritania, is the Secretary-General worried about the upsurge in Islamic attacks and terrorism in the North Africa region?

Spokesperson:  As you know, he went to Algiers, and when he came back he expressed how deeply disturbed he was by not only by the attacks against UN personnel, but also the increased attacks and violence.  I don’t have anything new to tell you on this.  But I think he already had a very strong reaction on a series of things.

Question:  Those are very nice words and it’s great to hear that.  We heard the same nice words about Myanmar.  Where are we there?  What happened to the monks who were arrested and tortured?  I mean they are nice words, but now it’s gone.  Nobody talks about it.

Spokesperson:  No, it’s not gone.  As you know, right before the end of the year, Mr. Gambari came back, made a report on what he had seen.  There was a meeting of the “friends of Myanmar”.  They met here on request by the Secretary-General to analyse the situation to see what can be done.  Mr. Gambari is going to go back to the region, certainly this month.  Exactly when, I cannot tell you at this point.  A number of people were released because of the pressures that were exerted.  I don’t think we should say that nothing was done, Celia.  I think it would be unfair.

Correspondent:  Not very much, concretely.

Spokesperson:  We’ll try to get an update for you on the situation in Myanmar.  I will get it for my next briefing or I’ll get it to you beforehand.  But I do know that we get from the field regular briefings on what is being done.  I don’t have that with me today, but I’ll get that for you.

Question:  Two things on the Algiers bombing.  The Algerian Mission to the UN and the Staff Union both said that, between the time that Al-Qaida in Maghreb posted on its website a threat to the UN and there was also bombing in Algiers, I think in April, that some letters were written by members of the staff in Algiers to the UN saying that they’re warning of a possible attack and asking for different measures to be taken to increase security.  And that those letters may have come from (inaudible) and (inaudible), the head of security in Senegal.  My question is does the UN have a record of those letters, when were they received and what was said in them?  And in light of those letters and possibly other warnings, why was the UN still in phase I on 11 December, the lowest state of security, before the bombing attack?  Why wasn’t it increased?

Spokesperson:  As you know, Mr. Veness was there until the end of the year.  I don’t have with me his report yet on what happened exactly in the Algiers bombing.  As you know the head of UNDP was also there, sent immediately by the SG to really find out what had happened and the SG was there himself.  We will get a detailed report.  How much of that report will be made public, I don’t know at this point.  But I’ll do my best to get you as much as possible in terms of information.

Question:  Can I get the answers to those two questions?  One, the dates and what was the content of those letters, and two, a response to why the security wasn’t heightened.

Spokesperson:  I’ll try to get that for you.

[The Spokesperson later said that no specific threats were relayed to United Nations security officials prior to the bombings, and that the threat level was determined by the Security Officer on the ground in Algiers.]

Question:  I was wondering if there is any statement or response from Mr. Ban Ki-moon on the escalation of violence and bloodshed between the two movements of Hamas and Fatah in the Gaza Strip and also regarding the Israeli military operations against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Spokesperson:  As the SG has said, he is very concerned about the continued violence in Gaza and he calls for the immediate cessation of that violence.  About the Fatah-Hamas discord, the Secretary-General also feels that Palestinian unity is needed to implement peace, and he believes that internal divisions need to be overcome peacefully and politically.  And this is the reaction I have at this point.

Question:  It has been asserted that the Secretary-General flew over 200,000 miles.  There were 132 days on trips.  Do we know exactly the figure of how much he and his team were travelling and spent in terms of money in 2007?

Spokesperson:  I can find out for you.  But, as you know, all Secretaries-General do travel and all Secretaries-General have a budget to travel with.  But I can try to find out for you, of course.

Question:  Did you say the United Nations has any presence to monitor the elections that took place in Kenya and the UN has any stand on the allegations of rigging of elections there?

Spokesperson:  No, we didn’t have any presence to actually monitor the elections.  However, as I said earlier, there has been quite a bit of diplomatic efforts to find out first what happened and what can be done.

Question:  The Europeans and the Americans are now saying that they believe that there were sort of problems with the elections.  Where does the UN stand on that?  I’m sure you have some office there.

Spokesperson:  We didn’t have an electoral support division there.

Question:  Were the elections in Kenya free and fair?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know at this point.  I cannot say in any way.  As I said, the UN was not present there to monitor the elections.

Question:  What, if anything, is being done?  Are there any discussions under way at the UN as pressure builds for a quick and credible recount of the vote with participation of international monitors?  Is there anything being done on the UN side to push for that, to participate, etcetera? 

Spokesperson:  There has to be a request from the Government for electoral assistance for the UN to intervene in any case.  At this point, we’re not there yet.  And, of course, if the UN is asked we’ll respond, of course.

Question:  If there’s no request from the Government, is there any recourse for the UN to get involved anyway?

Spokesperson:  No.

Question:  On Algiers, in the aftermath of the Baghdad bombing, an independent investigation was launched by Mr. Marrti Ahtisaari.  Any plans for something like that to happen with this case?

Spokesperson:  In this case, it has already started.

Question:  That’s done by the guy who was in charge of security, which is an interested party in this case.  The question is, is there any plan for an independent investigation by an outsider?

Spokesperson:  I will ask for you whether there are any additional investigations being launched.

Question:  I’m sorry if I missed it, but on the Pakistan elections delay, what is the SG’s response to the decision to postpone the elections?

Spokesperson:  The decision to postpone is an internal matter that the UN will not be involved in.  I already reacted to the other question that was asked about Pakistan.  As you know, we are not involved in the electoral process either in this case. 

Question:  Regarding the talks between Morocco and Polisario in Manahasset, I have a question regarding coverage, because the last two times we had to cover it from the outside, on the street.  Is there going to be any arrangement this time for us to be able to be in the room instead of out in the cold?

Spokesperson:  Of course, I’ll ask for you how that can be better done.

Question:  It’s three days of talks.

Spokesperson:  Yes, you’re right.

Question:  Regarding the talks, what’s your reaction to the recent call by the Polisario Front to go back to the arms and wage war in case those talks fail?  Do you think that it undermines the confidence that should be there for the talks to succeed?

Spokesperson:  The talks are set.  They will take place.  Whatever statement is made by either of those parties is the responsibility of those parties.  We don’t have any reaction to those statements.  Let’s wait until the talks take place.

Question:  But the UN is talking about confidence-building measures.  To what extent do statements like this undermine the atmosphere that must be there for the talks to succeed?

Spokesperson:  I cannot at this point answer your question. 

Question:  To the question before that if Pakistan requests investigative help, your exact words were “of course the UN will respond”.  Just to clarify precisely what you meant by that, did you mean that of course the UN will give Pakistan whatever investigative help it needs or did you simply mean that the UN Security Council will weigh the response and react?

Spokesperson:  No, it does not have to be the Security Council.  They can ask to have investigative assistance from the UN.

Question:  But when you said of course the UN will respond, did you mean it in a way that of course the UN will give Pakistan whatever assistance it needs or did you simply mean that we’ll simply take the request and who knows what the response will be? 

Spokesperson:  We do not know at this point.  The Secretariat can also answer a request of that sort.  It doesn’t have to be necessarily the Security Council.  It depends on what form the request takes.

Question:  Does the request have to come from General Musharraf?

Spokesperson:  It has to come from the Government.

Question:  But the husband of the late Ms. Bhutto is charging the Government.  And of course these are just allegations.  But in this case, if the Government is a possible suspect, how do you expect the Government to investigate them?

Spokesperson:  This is an intergovernmental organization, as you know, and this is the way things have to be done.  There cannot be any other body to ask.  There can be pressure on a Government to ask for this type of assistance, but it has to come from the Government.

Question:  Can any other Government ask for it?

Spokesperson:  No, you’re dealing with 192 sovereign countries.

Question:  I’m still unclear.  Just the way you said it would imply that of course the UN would give Pakistan help, but technically speaking your response is it could be we will respond, but it is unclear that…

Spokesperson:  We have to get the request first on what specifically they will ask for.  I cannot answer a hypothetical question.  They haven’t asked specifically for us to send someone to help or for a task force to help with an investigation.  If we don’t have that request, we cannot go on with it.  And that request should be specific.  We will consider all aspects of the request.  I cannot give you an answer beforehand.  That’s impossible.

Question:  With regard to the people in Algeria and the people who have lost their lives or have been injured, I know with the 19 August 2003 people, they said they did get to speak to the Secretary-General this year.  They were very happy about that, but prior to that they didn’t have easy access to deal with their problems.  They were sort of in a bureaucratic situation.  Is there a way that the people that have been injured and hurt, and even the 2003 survivors, can have some mechanism of having the UN care for the problems they have and have some intervention for them?  Is there a follow-up to what Ban Ki-moon did with regard to the 19 August 2003 survivors?

Spokesperson:  As you know, about the Algiers bombing, when the Secretary-General came back from Algiers he addressed the staff, and one of the first things he talked about was his concern and what should be done about the families of the survivors and about all the families of those who died.  And he was very strong in his support to the staff members’ families; that kids should go to school, about financial help to the families.  I’m pretty sure that there are concrete steps.  What the actual mechanism is in the case of the 2003 bombing, they are having discussions right now with each family on how to best help them.  And this is ongoing right now.

Question:  What is that process?  Is there some special group within the UN that will do that?  Because prior to the Secretary-General meeting with them, I didn’t have the impression there was a mechanism.

Spokesperson:  There was a mechanism and they felt it was taking too long a time, which I understand.  And, of course, it is because of the investigation that was taking place.  It was not being led by the UN.  It was being led by different Governments.  And the UN was waiting to get more information.  That information, from what I gather, came in.  The families were informed of the information that the task force got.  And the question of helping the families in concrete terms is being addressed right now.

Question:  Can we get some report about what that mechanism is so that we understand that a little better?

Spokesperson:  We are trying to inform the families first, talk to the families first.  When we talked to the families, they were willing to give something a little more public about it.

Question:  The mechanism would help and for the families having assistance, if they need that assistance in dealing with the problems of dealing with the UN with regards to that assistance.

Spokesperson:  Yes, yes.

Question:  Quick question, what was the purpose of the SG’s meeting at UNDP this morning?

Spokesperson:  Well it was for the same purpose of meeting all the staff members.  It is a new year.  He is meeting all the staff members.

Question:  Is there a readout on that?

Spokesperson:  No, it was just a staff meeting.  I know what you want to know, but there is no such thing.  It was just a regular meeting as he met with UNICEF, members of the Secretariat, of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Department of Management.

Question:  With all of them?

Spokesperson:  Yes he went around to all the different departments.

Thank you very much.  Ok, please Janos.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon and happy new year to all of you.  I wanted to make a point of coming even though I don’t have a lot to announce.  But what I wanted to make sure is I would give you a little heads up of what to expect as far as the work of the Assembly and as far as the activities of the President are concerned.  As of course all of you know, the main part of the sixty-second session, especially with the work of the Main Committees, is over.  So that means that, most likely, in the next couple of weeks and months, I will not be coming on a daily basis.  But, I’ll try to be here as often as possible to give you updates on what is happening and also, of course, you know where to find me if you have questions.

**2008 Activities

Where most of the activities and the events will come together from would be on the first track, the various mandates and issues the Assembly has to deal with emanating basically from the 2005 Summit outcome document.

The next track of issues and events would come from the priority areas of the sixty-second session, and especially the priority areas as pronounced by the President, which he has mentioned to you on a number of occasions.  Those five priority areas are climate change, financing for development, Millennium Development Goals, advancing on the implementation of the Counter-Terrorism Strategy and, of course, management reform.

The third track where we would get events and activities to brief you on would be the visits of the President, which will be more than they were in the first part of the session.  He himself also announced to you, I think on a number of occasions when he was here, that he will be travelling in this part of the year.

There is also a fourth track, which basically comes from some of the carried-on or unfinished or continued business emanating from the work of the Main Committees, actually from the Fifth and the Sixth Committees.  I will give you the details on that.

**General Assembly President’s Activities

So based on that, let me very quickly begin with the activities of the President.

The President is in his home country, which is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.  And there, he had a number of official meetings in the past couple of days.  These included a meeting with the President, Branko Crvenkowski, and with the Foreign Minister, Antonio Milososki.  The President also met with the UN country team there.

At the end of this week, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning, he is invited to pay a one-day visit to Montenegro, where he will have a meeting with the President, Filip Vujanovic, and also with Foreign Minister Milan Rocen and also with the President of Parliament, Ranko Krivokapic.   The topics for these meetings are, of course, what has been achieved during the sixty-second session of the Assembly so far and what is happening with the priority issues.

The President is expected back in New York next week.

**Upcoming Events

As regards some of the upcoming key events, just to give you some orientation, let’s go to the five priority areas first.

On climate change, you may remember, it has been announced that there will be a two-day high-level thematic debate on 11-12 February.  This is entitled “Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work”.  The 11th will see two multi-stakeholder interactive panel discussions and the 12th will see Member States discussing this issue.  What will be before the Member States, guiding them in their discussions, apart from the events that happened in Bali will be a report from the Secretary-General.  You may remember there was a resolution passed last year requesting the Secretary-General to table a stock-taking report on the UN system response to climate change.  This is to be available to Member States, or completed by the Secretary-General, with a 25 January deadline.  So that’s going to be there at this two-day meeting.  So that’s 11-12 February.  That’s probably one of the first big upcoming events as regards the activities of the Assembly.

On financing for development, you may remember that the Assembly last year adopted a resolution that clearly set the concrete parameters for the so-called Review Conference in Doha, which will be then on the 29 November to 2 December 2008.  And this is the Monterrey Consensus Review.  Basically what we will see in the beginning of this year, and in the next couple of months leading all the way up to that Review Conference, is of course a number of preparatory meetings to set the substantive elements for this Review Conference.  So that’s on financing for development.

I don’t have anything concrete to announce -- when, what, where -- as regards to those preparatory meetings, but some of them will be held at Headquarters, others may be held at the various regional commission levels.

On counter-terrorism, you may remember that, on 4 December 2007, we had an informal review of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  The formal two-year review of that Strategy will be coming in September 2008.  You may know that the sixty-second session ends on 15 September.  It is envisaged that this two-year formal review of the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy will happen before that, in the month of September.

On the Millennium Development Goals, the President, when he was here, announced to you that he is going to have an informal thematic debate on 1-2 April 2008 focusing on the following theme: “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015”.  The debate will focus on three of the eight Millennium Development Goals.  Those three are poverty, education and health.  And why those three?  Because progress is most urgently required in those three areas and experience suggests that positive results have a catalytic effect on the other Goals as regards those three areas.

On management reform -- this is again something that has already been announced by the President:  on 8 April there is another informal plenary meeting planned on the issue of management reform to look at where things stand and what needs to be done.  Linked to management reform, work will continue on mandate review and on system-wide coherence.

Also work on Security Council reform will continue.  You may remember that on the 12-14 November there was a General Assembly plenary debate on Security Council reform and then the open-ended working group on Council reform held its first meeting within the framework on the sicty-second session on 14 December.  Based on what was achieved there along with the establishment of a Task Force -- with Bangladesh, Chile and Portugal, along with the President -- there is going to be more movement on this as we get into the new year.

**Other Upcoming Events

Let me see what else I have for you.  Yes, a couple of other upcoming events.  Again, these are dates that have been flagged for you, but it is good to go over them.

Based on a resolution adopted by the General Assembly at the end of last year, there is going to be on 10-11 June 2008 the comprehensive review of the progress achieved in realizing the 2001 Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.

The President also announced to you that he is planning to convene two additional informal thematic debates on the following two topics: human security and human trafficking.  I don’t have dates for that yet, but these will happen.

If you remember, he also announced another event coming up.  That is on 18 April and it is the visit of the Pope.  The Pope is going to address the Assembly.  We don’t know at this point in what format, but that is something that has been announced to you already.

I mentioned that there are already some things that emanate from the activities of the Main Committees.  When we talked about the work of the six Main Committees, I did mention to you that, of the six Main Committees, one, the Fifth Committee, which deals with budgetary and administrative matters, does have resumed sessions in 2008.  It has two resumed sessions: one in March and one in May.  Both are set for four weeks.  We don’t have the exact dates yet.  The one in March is most likely going to be dealing with issues that are carried over from the main session as well as budgetary or administrative issues that come up now.  While the May four weeks will deal with financing of peacekeeping missions.

One other thing, the Sixth Committee set in its resolutions and decisions at the end of last year meetings for three Ad Hoc Committees.  I will flag these to you as well.  One Ad Hoc Committee is on counter-terrorism.  It will meet on 25-26 February and 6 March 2008.  Then there’s an Ad Hoc Committee on the criminal accountability of UN officials and experts on mission.  That is meeting on 7-9 April and 11 April 2008.  And, finally, there is another Ad Hoc Committee on administration of justice which has its meeting set for 10-18 April and 21-24 April 2008.

So those are all the things I have for you.  Some background information on some of those events, especially as regards to priority areas, are already available to you on the website of the President, and as regards all other issues, resolutions concerning the budget are pretty detailed and available for you on the website of the General Assembly and for the budget specifically on the website of the Fifth Committee.

Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You have just detailed several different special Committee meetings on multiple dates several days apart -- on the 1st, 5th, 8th and 15th of the month.  Is there anything about Ad Hoc Committees that dictates that they should be held that way rather than on two, three, four consecutive business days?

Spokesperson:  Basically what happens is that on the first days of the Ad Hoc Committee, it’s more of an open working meeting for the Committee and then there are a number of dates set aside for consultations.  And then based on the consultations, there is a wrap up meeting.  That’s why it seems that you have that gap.  But in the work of the Ad Hoc Committee, there is no gap, but it is held in the form of consultations.

Question:  So, if there are intervening days with no scheduled meetings of the larger Committee, those are likely occupied by consultations relative to the work of the Committee.

Spokesperson:  Definitely, absolutely, that’s the idea.

Question:  On the Economic and Social Council, will that be meeting and what is the situation with that?

Spokesperson:  I think it is usually in June or July that they have their yearly, regular meeting.  And of course, you will see from the Journal that there will be a number of different other meetings.  I just tried to flag to you the most important things that at the moment we have some details on.  The moment that we have a more solid calendar of events and more details on upcoming meetings, I will make it definitely available to you.

Thank you very much and I wish you all the very best for the new year.

* *** *

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