|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 President of the General Assembly.
Good afternoon, all.
Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special envoy for Darfur and Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations briefed the Security Council this morning on Sudan, and they will both head to the stakeout to talk to you after the meeting.
Speaking on his efforts to re-energize the political process for Darfur, together with his African Union counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim, Jan Eliasson reported that progress had been made to bring the parties closer to the negotiating table.
However, he said that unification and coordination efforts remain fraught with difficulties, and prospects for quick agreements on common positions and a negotiation team appear dim.
Convening a preparatory meeting would be premature at this time, he said, and noted the fragile security situation, the tense Chad-Sudan relationship and its effects in the region and on the political process in Darfur.
Jean-Marie Guéhenno briefed on his recent visit to the UN-AU mission in Darfur, which he described as “sobering”.
He also flagged the hostilities between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) group in West Darfur, as the principle security concern in Darfur.
During his visit, Mr. Guéhenno said, it became clear that UNAMID is severely under-resourced for the task which it was mandated to perform, adding that the number of troops, police, and their enabling capabilities in the Mission area are simply not sufficient to provide protection for Darfur’s civilians in the current hostile environment.
While noting the progress in consultations on the status of forces agreement, he pointed to other outstanding issues regarding UNAMID’s deployment such as the need for full freedom of movement for the Mission and the Government’s cooperation in extending visas for contractors providing services to the peacekeepers in Darfur.
He warned Council members to be prepared for the eventuality that UNAMID is forced to operate in an environment of continued hostilities, and its consequences.
Meanwhile, UNAMID’s Force Commander and Chairman of the Darfur Ceasefire Commission, General Martin Luther Agwai has just issued a statement appealing for an immediate halt to attacks by Sudanese forces against villages in West Darfur.
The Force commander says that many houses in the village of Abu Souruj have been burned. From initial information, it appears there has been loss of life. Attacks have also been reported in Sirba, and there are allegations of aerial bombing in Silea village.
In addition to the loss of life and damage to property, he says there is the potential for displacement of large numbers of villagers, compounding an already critical humanitarian situation.
It is important that all sides show full restraint at this time, and that space be allowed for immediate mediation, he says.
**Secretary-General in Chicago
The Secretary-General is in Chicago, where this morning he is to meet with students at Walter Payton High School before attending a working luncheon with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.
He spoke last night at a dinner with the Economic Club of Chicago, and discussed with the assorted business leaders the ways in which Chicago has been a pioneer in dealing with climate change, thanks in large measure to Mayor Richard Daley’s determination to make the city one of the greenest in America.
He noted that the people of Chicago have become leaders in environmental design, conservation and alternative energy, have planted half a million trees and have raised public awareness about global warming and galvanized political will for change.
With the right financial incentives and a global framework, the Secretary-General said, we can steer economic growth in a low-carbon direction. Done right, he asserted, our war against climate change is an economic opportunity, not a cost. We have that speech upstairs.
Earlier on Thursday, the Secretary-General had a working luncheon with Mayor Daley, and told the Mayor that the United Nations and Chicago “share one common goal and vision -- that is addressing climate change, to make this planet earth more hospitable and environmentally sustainable for generations to come”.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes arrived in Kenya today to begin a three-day visit to the country, during which he will assess the humanitarian situation and ensure sustained UN support for the people of Kenya.
He met with former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who is leading the mediation efforts there, to discuss how humanitarian assistance can contribute to ending the current political crisis. He also met with Kenyan officials dealing with the implementation of relief operations, and with the head of the Kenya Red Cross Society, a key humanitarian partner.
Tomorrow, Holmes will travel to the cities of Kakuru and Molo in the West, where he will meet those who have been affected by the recent violence. We have a press release upstairs with more details.
The World Food Programme has distributed food to 212,000 people in Kenya’s Rift Valley and the West, as well as 160,000 people in Nairobi. Food rations are being distributed in all the main sites for internally displaced people.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has started an emergency airlift to bring aid to the refugees who had fled from N’Djamena in Chad into Cameroon in recent days. By Sunday, two flights carrying 90 tonnes of supplies will have arrived in the Cameroonian border town of Kousseri.
The UN Refugee Agency says that Chadians who had fled to Cameroon to escape fighting between rebel and Government forces started trickling back home Wednesday morning, after an uneasy calm returned to the capital, N'Djamena.
Some were returning just for the day and planning to go back to Cameroon overnight, UNHCR says, while other residents of the capital were still making their way across the border bridge to the security of the neighbouring country.
The UN Refugee Agency team in Kousseri estimates 20,000 to 30,000 Chadians streamed over the Chari River to Kousseri in Cameroon, after fighting erupted in the Chad capital last Saturday between rebel forces and the army. The UN team is on the ground in Kousseri to help provide shelter and assistance to those Chadians who fled.
We have more details in today’s UNHCR briefing notes, as well as an OCHA press release on preparations to deal with an influx of up to 50,000 Chadians in Cameroon. Two UNHCR trucks have reached Kousséri with 12 tonnes of relief items.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the number of people displaced by the ongoing fighting in Mogadishu during the past week reached around 3,000 people, bringing the total number of displaced this year to 36,000.
Meanwhile, in response to the increasing number of Somalis who are attempting to flee the conflict by crossing the Gulf of Aden, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it was expanding its operation in Yemen. WFP is appealing for $4.4 million for a three-year operation to provide a total of 5,000 metric tonnes of food to 43,500 refugees.
The Secretary-General has appointed Thomas Stelzer of Austria as Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, succeeding Mr. Patrizio Civili of Italy.
Since August 2001, Mr. Stelzer has been serving in Vienna, as Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN Industrial Development Organization and the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization.
Mr. Stelzer has held a number of other diplomatic and international posts during his career.
**Press Conference Monday
On Monday at 12:30 p.m., there will be a press conference by Srgjan Kerim, President of the sixty-second session of the General Assembly; Sir Richard Branson, CEO of the Virgin Group; and Actress Daryl Hannah, on the General Assembly’s thematic debate entitled “Addressing Climate Change: The United Nations and the World at Work”. We have more information on the debate available upstairs. And you will certainly have a lot more information in a few minutes with Janos, who will be briefing you today on that meeting on Monday and Tuesday.
You also have upstairs the “Week Ahead” at the United Nations. Except for the Monday and Tuesday meetings, I will flag that the Security Council on Thursday is going to have a formal meeting to vote on a resolution on sanctions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Council has also scheduled a debate followed by consultations on Timor-Leste.
This is all I have for you. Thank you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: After the rejection of the Secretary-General’s nominee for Afghanistan, Mr. Ashdown, by Mr. Karzai -- he rejected him -- has the Secretary-General embarked upon finding another replacement for him? Is there a shortlist available or not?
Spokesperson: There is no shortlist available, but I can tell you they are working right now on filling the post.
Question: Are there nominees that you can reveal at all?
Spokesperson: No. Not at this point.
Question: One more question, it’s on Iraq and refugees. Given the situation as it is now, Ms. Jolie is now visiting Iraq. Will she be visiting the refugees in Iraq on behalf of UNHCR, or you don’t know anything about it?
Spokesperson: I can find out from UNHCR for you or you can find out from them yourself what Ms. Jolie’s schedule is. But we can try to get more information for you.
[The Spokesperson later added that Ms. Jolie’s trip was not organized by UNHCR.]
Yes, in back?
Question: Has the Secretary-General made any comments on the comments of the Foreign Minister of Egypt, where he described that any Gazans wanting to breach the border will be met by having their legs broken? That was quoted in the Egyptian news agency [unintelligible]. Does he find those comments helpful to the present situation?
Spokesperson: We have no comment on this at this point. Yes?
Question: Yes, Michèle, also with regard to the Gaza situation, has the Secretary-General given any thought yet to the issue of going to Gaza? I thought there was an invitation from the Arab Group, there was an invitation to him.
Spokesperson: Not at this point. There are no plans as far as I know at this point.
Question: And the second in response to that, has he given any thought to a response to Israel’s Supreme Court issuing the approval to cut back on the fuel and energy --
Spokesperson: He has already expressed -- he’s not going to answer specifically what the Supreme Court of Israel said. He has already expressed his feelings about the restrictions and I talked about that yesterday again. Yes?
Question: Has the Secretary-General had anything to say about Chad?
Spokesperson: About Chad?
Spokesperson: Except that he’s following the situation closely. As you know we had one, two days ago, a statement about Chad. As you know, every day we follow the humanitarian situation. We have nothing else to add at this point. But I can tell you that the situation is followed very closely on the 38th floor. Yes?
Question: Mr. Eliasson had mentioned in the briefing implementing a joint AU-EU chief mediator in Sudan. Do you have any information on that? What that job post would entail?
Spokesperson: I would suggest that you ask him when he comes out to the stakeout in a few minutes.
Question: Thank you.
Spokesperson: Going back -- Tarek?
Question: Yes, just a follow-up to the statement of Mr. Eliasson in the Security Council this morning: How far does Mr. Secretary-General believe the Sudanese authorities are responsible for the deterioration of humanitarian issues and insecurity in Darfur?
Spokesperson: Well, at this point, you know, I think the best people to talk to you about this are the two people who are going to come to the stakeout today, Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Guéhenno. And you can ask them. As you know Mr. Eliasson is the Special Envoy to the Darfur region for the UN. Yes?
Question: On Chad, is there any update on the UN personnel that were pulled out? Have they returned? How many of them have returned? What’s the UN’s --
Spokesperson: You have the full notes from the humanitarian agencies upstairs on how many have come back. Some of them are still on the ground, still there. And some of them have come back. But I don’t have the exact number. You can have it upstairs in the notes.
Question: Also, the Prime Minister of Thailand has called for the Secretary-General to himself go to Myanmar and try to engage the Government there. Is there any possibility of that taking place? What’s his response to that?
Spokesperson: As far as I know, we don’t have any plans yet on that. But of course we take note of what was said. Yes?
Question: Thank you, Michèle. I just wanted to follow up on Gaza and find out. The situation in Gaza is going from bad to worse, and there is a suggestion in another Israeli publication that the way things are going, an independent State could be established in Gaza. Is that the motive that is being established? Does the Secretary-General -- what does the Secretary-General think about this?
Spokesperson: Well as I just said, the Secretary-General has always talked about one Palestinian Territory. And that one Palestinian Territory includes Gaza. Gaza is not seen by the UN as a separate entity.
Question: It is an Occupied Territory, right?
Spokesperson: Of course. Legally this is how the UN defines it.
Thank you very much. Janos?
Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President
Thank you very much. Good afternoon, good to see you. I haven’t seen you for a little over a week, and I promised I will come every week and try to give you a little update of what is going on. There are a couple of things that I want to announce for you. Already Michèle gave you a little bit of a hint of what is going to happen next week. But let me just once again reiterate the event itself.
On Monday, the General Assembly will begin an informal thematic debate on climate change. This debate is convened by the President of the General Assembly, President Srgjan Kerim, and the theme is “Addressing Climate change: the United Nations and the World at Work”.
The meeting is intended to give support to the Bali road map process and also stimulate the UN system to create synergies and create institutional support for that roadmap negotiation process. The focus will be on triggering partnerships and creating a strategic approach to climate change.
The idea, especially on the first day, is to bring in various stakeholders. That would include participation from business, NGOs, media, regional organizations, civil society in one panel. And there will be another panel also on that same day, which would be made up of UN system actors.
On the second day, the focus will be on Member States. At the moment, we have a list of speakers that includes close to 100 Member States, and over 20 of them on a ministerial level.
Let me also mention that one of the things that will aid the participants, especially the Member States, in their deliberations will be the report that was flagged to you, I think last week already, and that’s the Secretary-General’s report, which is “Overview of UN activities in relation to climate change” (document A/62/644).
That was a report requested by the General Assembly.
We have a number of different things available for you on this climate change event, on the website. We also have upstairs in hard copies a background note. We do have also on the media aspect two media advisories and a preliminary list of speakers. So all of that is upstairs.
But let me still flag the two media events for you:
One is in the morning, which is just after the opening of the debate. The debate will be opened in the morning by the President of the General Assembly. Also, the Secretary-General is going to speak and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Once that is over, the President and Mayor Bloomberg will be coming out from the Trusteeship Council -- that’s where the event is taking place and, by the way, it’s open to the media. So once the opening statements are over, the President and Mayor Bloomberg will be coming out of the Trusteeship Council and will be doing a press stakeout. That’s roughly around 10:15, 10:20 in the morning.
And then, of course, the other big press event, which is something that Michèle has announced already, is the 12:30 or the noon guest briefing by the President, with Virgin CEO Sir Richard Branson and actress Daryl Hannah. There’s also going to be -- and this is included in the programme, but I’ll flag it to you -- that Sir Richard is going to be the keynote speaker at a luncheon that will take place Monday right after the press conference and his speech -- along with the speech of the President of the General Assembly, who’s also going to address the luncheon -- is going to be webcast, so that is something that you can follow.
That’s about all the exhaustive things that I have on the climate change event.
Something that happened yesterday and is important to flag is that the General Assembly had its first meeting on System-wide Coherence for this session. Yesterday was an informal meeting within the General Assembly, and that launched a fresh round of consultations on this issue. President Kerim addressed this informal meeting – in fact, he convened it. And his speech was made available to you in hard copies upstairs. It’s also on the website.
Let me just flag one or two things from that speech. The President basically stressed the importance of system-wide coherence within the context of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
Among others, he said that the United Nations -- more than any other body -- was uniquely placed to take a leading role in achieving the MDGs. But in order to do so, it had to renew and retool itself to respond to emerging challenges. The United Nations operational development system had to be fit for the purpose. Better coherence across the system was an integral part of the broader aid effectiveness agenda.
He further noted that the UN was working in a competitive environment, as more and more organizations were joining the fight against poverty. However, the United Nations would only continue to attract resources if it could demonstrate its effectiveness and deliver results.
The consultation process will be taken further with the two co-chairs, the Permanent Representatives of Tanzania and Ireland. So that’s how the follow-up will be.
When I flagged a week ago the fact that there is going to be this meeting on system-wide coherence, I also mentioned to you -- because at that time it looked like it was going to happen -- another important meeting on mandate review. That did not happen. That’s postponed. That’s probably going to happen sometime in the end of February for those of you who are following that.
**Financing for Development
In preparation for the conference to review the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus -- which you may remember, we have mentioned already, is going to be in Doha, Qatar, from 29 November to 2 December this year, based on the resolution adopted by the General Assembly last year on the 19th of December -- there are a number of review sessions that are being held by the General Assembly on the various aspects of the Monterrey Consensus.
The first of these will come on the 14th and on the 15th of February, so that’s next week. They will be reviewing the first and the second chapters of the Monterrey Consensus -- these deal with mobilizing financial resources for development. The first is on mobilizing domestic financial resources. The second is mobilizing international financial resources. So that’s on Valentine’s Day and the day after that.
**Security Council Reform
I don’t have anything new on Security Council reform -- that’s kind of a pre-emptive note. Nothing more apart from the fact that, yes, consultations are ongoing among Member States, but no new proposals, no new ideas have been tabled, or the President has not been approached at this moment.
However, I do have something on the Fifth Committee. This is something that many of you might be interested in, and I have been asked about, and that’s the following: the Fifth Committee will have the first part of its resumed session from the 3rd of March to the 28th of March.
And if you’re wondering, what are the issues that the Fifth Committee will most likely cover, well there’s an indication of that if you go on the website, you will see that -- and I’ll read it -- there’s “an advanced version of the status of documentation for the first resumed session”. And if you click on that, it gives you a list of documentations and in what status they are. That gives an indication of what most likely will be the issues coming up in the Fifth. Whether, in fact, those will all come up, those will all be discussed and action will be taken on all of them -- that’s something different. But it gives you at least an indication of what to look at.
So that’s, I think, about all I have. Any questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: How come there is no full participation of Member States in this two-day conference on Monday and Tuesday?
Spokesperson: You mean, not all 192? You would probably have to ask the ones who are not on the list why they are not taking the floor. But when we talk about participation, there are probably two things. One is whether you indicate on the list of speakers whether you are addressing the meeting. And it’s another thing whether you are following the meeting -- whether you are in the room sitting behind your desk and looking at what is going on. So I would not necessarily say there is no participation of countries whose names do not appear on the list as speakers. Okay?
Question: Are you aware of any Member States that have expressed no interest in this two-day conference?
Spokesperson: No, not at all. Please?
Question: On Security Council reform, the PGA expressed his intention to hold a focused meeting in February. So is there any plan?
Spokesperson: I did mention already, I think last week, that the plan that the President mentioned when this issue was discussed for the first time in the open-ended working group on the 14th of December, was that there would probably be a meeting sometime in late February, and then later on, there might be possibly two other meetings. But let’s see how things progress. So far there is no concrete meeting scheduled, but I’m sure that the President is very keenly following this issue. The moment I have something for you, as regards any new proposals, any new ideas, any approaches made by any of the Member States to the President, anything for the task force that the President has on this issue, I’ll let you know. Please?
Question: You said that this climate change conference is in support of the Bali process. Will there be a declaration to support the Bali process? And, secondly, at what level is the United States participating? In the press release, it says that Government ministers will be participating?
Spokesperson: The list -- let’s get the first one. The preliminary list of speakers, as we have it today, is available upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office, so you can clearly see who are represented on the minister and vice-ministerial level. You were asking about the US -- please check the list and, of course, you can always get in contact with the US Mission and see what they’re up to.
Now this list is as of today. So this may change also because the Member State element of the debate kicks in on Tuesday. And, by the way, let me say that, because there is so much interest, it certainly looks like the debate is going to spill into another day. Into the 13th. I don’t think I’m revealing anything extraordinary in that sense.
Outcome: The President definitely is going to give a summary, closing speech, and will highlight some of the important aspects of the debate. But as I mentioned to you, it’s really to try to focus the various different stakeholders - especially also the UN system - into a strategic approach, and also to try to come up with actual, effective partnerships on this issue. And with this, basically give support and keep the momentum of the Bali negotiating process.
At the same time, most likely, there will be follow-up events, negotiations, discussions, maybe even focused conferences and consultations on climate change as things progress. That’s just strictly speaking on climate change.
But you may remember that after the Bali process, or after the Bali meeting, when there was a briefing for you, I think it was by Bob Orr -- he also mentioned, and this is something that the President is also following -- that the climate change issue will remain on the agenda of the UN, definitely on the agenda of the General Assembly and the President in the form of “a cross-cutting issue”, as far as dealing with some of the other issues that will come up in the General Assembly. So, for example, at the beginning of April when there is going to be a two-day discussion on Millennium Development Goals, the climate change aspect will feature into that. Also in the financing for development process, climate change issues are also there. Later on, when we will be talking about, say, human security, climate change issues will feature. So it will remain on the agenda in that format as well.
Question: On the issue of climate change, one of the things that is cited again and again is that the logging of trees really affects the climate. It has been cited in all the reports. Has anybody given a thought to the fact that the United Nations has so much documentation going on, so much paper being wasted every day? Can the United Nations cut back on this paper? Because most of the documents are now available on the Internet. I mean, I’m sure there are some Member States that object to it, but is there an effort that’s made to discuss that?
Spokesperson: Masood, I think there’s a continuous effort in this, as far as within the framework of the revitalization of the General Assembly, and thus in the effectiveness of the General Assembly efforts one may have as one track. Also as regards management reforms, if I remember correctly, and this time I may be speaking more as a UN Secretariat person who has been with the Secretariat for the past 17 years and not necessarily as the GA Spokesperson for the past couple of months, but I do remember continuous efforts in cutting down on the use of paper, whether it’s in the format of putting more things on the Internet. Typical case, that’s for you Matthew -- Fifth committee -- that more and more things are available on the website of the Fifth Committee. Maybe this is even at the “detriment” of actual printed material, and it may be that it is through the access of restricted website, but the idea is to reduce paper.
Also there have been other efforts to cut down on the size of reports and documentation. So, as far as I remember -- again, as I said more as a Secretariat official -- this is an ongoing issue. And there is the other aspect, the deforestation aspect. And that is, of course, something that is part of the whole climate change debate. This is something that is on the radar screen.
Question: Is there a possibility of putting the speeches of the Member States and the discussion online? Will that happen in this situation as well with this?
Spokesperson: I have to come back to you on that. As far as I know, the event is going to be webcast.
Question: I mean, in printed form as well as webcast. I didn’t ask it at the time. So even people in the countries could see what was said. I wondered with regard to that, is there somebody within the system of that conference looking at how to use the Internet so that perhaps, welcoming some kind of online discussion so that people who aren’t at the conference could participate in some way?
Spokesperson: I’m not aware of an interactive approach, I don’t think so.
Question: In another area, since the Security Council was not even able to pass a presidential statement about Gaza, has anybody brought that to the General Assembly? Or is there any chance the General Assembly will take up the situation of what is happening with the closures?
Spokesperson: The chance is always there. Let me refer you to -- because I don’t want to exhaust the attention span of your colleagues -- my briefing of a week ago. It was on Thursday. I gave a background on how special sessions, emergency special sessions are to be convened and how the resumption of the tenth emergency special session may be convened. But, so far, the concrete answer for the question is that no Member State has made any approach to the President of the General Assembly for a reconvening of the tenth emergency special session or any kind of an idea of a special session. This has not been done. Yes, please?
Question: Just for planning purposes, do we have a time that Mayor Bloomberg is going to be speaking? Or is he not speaking, he’s just going to be participating?
Spokesperson: He is speaking. According to the programme that we have, the session is supposed to start at 9:30. It starts with a statement from the President. Then a statement from the Secretary-General, and then another address by Mayor Bloomberg. After these three opening statements, the meeting will revert into the panel discussion format. First the panel with various different stakeholders in the morning, and the afternoon panel is with the UN system actors. The idea is to finish the opening statements around 10:15. So that is why I said the stakeout is envisaged for 10:15. Matthew?
Question: We had a briefing yesterday by the World Health Organization. One of the things they said was that ECOSOC had made a recommendation to the GA to formalize and finalize the UN as a smoke-free environment, and according to them, the GA did not act on it, but they’re hopeful that it will either be done somehow in this session or next. Do you know anything about the status of that?
Spokesperson: I have to check on that. I don’t have any information.
Question: Does the President of the General Assembly have any position on it - on the recommendation by ECOSOC that the UN be a smoke-free environment?
Spokesperson: This is the first time that I hear this -- which does not necessarily mean that it’s not the case -- but it certainly seems it has not been on our radar screen. So I’m going to look into it and find out whether in fact that recommendation, or that request was made, where it stands, what’s going to happen. I’ll get back to you.
Question: It’s reported that the President of the General Assembly will be in Naples, Florida today for the opening of a FYROM [the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] consulate. Is that true?
Spokesperson: That is correct. Yes, he’s there. He was invited. It’s actually the opening of an honorary consulate.
Question: This is -- with all due respect -- who pays for a trip like that?
Spokesperson: I have to find out. He may have been invited, so it may not necessarily be the case that the costs come out of his budget. Let me look into that and come back to you on the financial aspects.
Question: And also, what he called the country while he was down there.
Spokesperson: Any other questions? All right. Thank you very much.
* *** *