|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.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for Secretary-General
Good afternoon, all.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Nepal
First we have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Nepal.
The Secretary-General is deeply saddened at the tragic death of seven members of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), as well as three crew members in the helicopter crash that occurred in a mountainous area east of Kathmandu on Monday. The helicopter was returning to the capital from the Maoist cantonment site at Sindhuli when it lost contact. The victims include four arms monitors from Gambia, Indonesia, the Republic of Korea and Sweden, as well as three national staff from Nepal and the three-member crew from Russia and Belarus.
These colleagues lost their lives while serving the United Nations and the cause of peace in Nepal. The Secretary-General extends his heartfelt condolences to the families and the Governments of those colleagues.
The Secretary-General also expresses his appreciation to the Nepali authorities for their assistance provided to UNMIN in recovering the remains of the victims, and for the many expressions of sympathy the mission has received from people in Nepal.
** Nepal Update
An UNMIN team left Kathmandu by road last night and is now at the accident site. The investigation is primarily a matter for Nepal’s Civil Aviation Authority, with the participation of UNMIN and the aircraft company. UNMIN is in the process of recovering the remains of the deceased so that they can be returned to Kathmandu at the earliest opportunity, and will make all necessary arrangements to ensure that the wishes of the families in this matter are facilitated.
**Secretary-General in Geneva
The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York after wrapping up his visit to Geneva. Before departing, he met with former Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had just returned from his mediation efforts in Kenya, which ended two months of post-election conflict in the country. During a photo opportunity after the meeting, the Secretary-General urged Kenya's Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga to faithfully implement the agreement reached last week. The Secretary-General praised Mr. Annan’s leadership, saying, “His role has brought not only peace and stability in Kenya but also the whole region”. He added that the United Nations will continue to be engaged in the process. The Secretary-General also held meetings this morning with Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, and her deputy, Kyung-Wha Kang; Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO); and Sahana Pradham, Foreign Minister of Nepal.
The Secretary-General is today appointing Maxwell Gaylard of Australia as Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. In this capacity, Mr. Gaylard will also serve as United Nations coordinator for humanitarian and development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. We have a bio note upstairs.
On Gaza, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports that it is still concerned by fuel shortages. According to UNRWA, 30 out of 87 ambulances run by the Ministry of Health and the Red Crescent in the Gaza Strip have been unable to function because of the lack of fuel. In addition, all 140 water wells in the Gaza Strip have now run out of fuel, leaving all Gazans with intermittent water supply at best. UNRWA adds that four of its schools in Gaza and Rafah have sustained damage as a result of Israeli operations in the area.
** Middle East
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, has expressed her profound concern about the upsurge in violence in Gaza and southern Israel. She also said she was worried that several hundred school children from 20 schools took part yesterday in a Hizbullah-organized demonstration outside UN headquarters in Beirut. Coomaraswamy said she was concerned by the participation of children in political activities, which can expose them to further violence and insecurity.
**Security Council Today
On the Security Council, in consultations this morning they approved its programme of work for the month of March. The new Council President, Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, just addressed you about the Council’s work in the month ahead.
**Security Council Yesterday
The Security Council yesterday afternoon voted in favour of a resolution imposing additional sanctions against Iran, including the inspection of cargo suspected of carrying prohibited goods, the tighter monitoring of financial institutions and the extension of travel bans and asset freezes. Fourteen Council members voted in favour of the resolution, which voiced concern at “the proliferation risks presented by the Iranian nuclear programme”, while Indonesia abstained. Under the resolution, International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei has been asked to report within 90 days on whether Iran has fully suspended uranium enrichment activities, in line with a previous Council demand.
On Sudan, in an effort to strengthen cooperation and trust between the United Nations and the local police and population in Darfur, the UN Police working for the UN-AU mission in Darfur conducted the first confidence-building patrol in areas controlled by the Minni Minawi faction of the Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) in North Darfur. “The safety of the citizens of Darfur is a priority for UNAMID,” said UNAMID Police Commissioner Michael Fryer. “But curbing crime also involves the full cooperation of the entire community,” he added. There are currently over 1,600 police officers, including 252 female officers, from 32 different countries serving with UNAMID.
The UN refugee agency, meanwhile, says it is continuing to provide emergency aid to small groups of Sudanese refugees from West Darfur who are arriving in eastern Chad. Some 13,000 Sudanese refugees have arrived in eastern Chad since February 8, fleeing aerial bombing and ground attacks in West Darfur. Over the weekend, UNHCR teams at the border distributed emergency kits, including blankets, to refugees, as most have been sheltering under trees for the past three weeks.
In Eritrea, a first group of 50 UN peacekeepers have relocated out of Eritrea today on a UN flight from Asmara. The peacekeepers, from the Jordanian Battalion, are now en route to Amman. The Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) notes that the relocation is only temporary while we wait for the Security Council to decide on the future of this peacekeeping operation.
On Lebanon, the Secretary-General, in his new report on the implementation of resolution 1701, concerning Lebanon, says that both the Lebanese and Israeli Governments have continued their commitment to implementing that resolution. At the same time, however, Lebanon has remained in the grip of an intense political crisis, which has impeded the normal functioning of the legitimate constitutional institutions. And, he warned that the continuation of targeted assassinations has added to tensions throughout the country.
The Secretary-General says that Israel maintains that Hizbullah is significantly rebuilding its military presence and capacity, inside the area of operations of the UN Interim Force, UNIFIL. But to date, UNIFIL has found no evidence of new military infrastructure in its area of operations, he adds. The Secretary-General says that he intends to dispatch a team to Lebanon to carry out an assessment of the implementation of the recommendations of the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT). It is clear that significant challenges remain to be addressed in effective border management. The report also highlights the Secretary-General’s concern at Israel’s continuing air violations.
On Kosovo, the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) reports that it today reasserted control of the rail line between Zvecan and Leshak in the north of Kosovo. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo, Joachim Rücker, said that today’s successful intervention by UNMIK Border Police reversed the challenge to UNMIK’s authority that occurred yesterday when Serbian Railways illegally sent two of its trains south to Leshak. According to Rücker, UNMIK and its partners will continue to meet any challenges to law and order throughout Kosovo. We have a press release on this upstairs.
On Somalia, some 850,000 Somalis in the country’s central regions are suffering the consequences of a prolonged drought that is threatening livestock and the livelihoods of pastoralists. That’s according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which noted that the affected population includes some 170,000 internally displaced people. OCHA says that high rates of acute malnutrition are surpassing the emergency threshold among the affected Somalis. It is feared that continued water scarcity could lead to outbreaks of disease. So the UN and its humanitarian partners are trucking in water and repairing boreholes. In addition, 4,300 tons of food was handed out to some 230,000 people.
The UN is rushing humanitarian assistance to Ecuador, where some 100,000 people need immediate assistance following recent flooding. The UN system is providing food, shelter, water, sanitation and other services. And the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has approved a $50,000 grant for the purchase of immediate relief supplies, logistical support and coordination.
On Madagascar, the international humanitarian community has launched a flash appeal for more than $30 million to support the Government of Madagascar in providing relief to nearly 240,000 people who lost their homes, crops and belongings in two tropical cyclones in less than a month. We expect a press release from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs shortly on the situation in Madagascar.
Members of a new UN team of experts who will be “on call” to assist envoys in peace talks around the world are in New York this week for briefings before being deployed to the field. The new Mediation Standby Team is managed by the Department of Political Affairs. The Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, will be the guest at the noon briefing tomorrow to formally launch the new mediation team and to discuss this initiative in the context of broader efforts by the Secretary-General to build up UN capacity for preventive diplomacy.
**UNCA Briefing Tomorrow
And then we have an UNCA announcement. Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m. at the UNCA Club, Jeffrey Sachs, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals, will lead a discussion on sustainable development. We have more information available upstairs.
And this is all I have for you.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Regarding resolution 1701, the Secretary-General has stated in his report that after inspection of the 130 km border with Syria, they have never found any trans-shipment or smuggling of weapons into Lebanon, especially after the LIBAT report and after the joint committee. And then he repeats Israeli allegations that weapons are coming into Lebanon on a massive scale and they are meant for Hizbullah. There is a conflict, isn’t there?
Spokesperson: No, there is no conflict if you read the report correctly.
Question: I read it word-by-word and it was clear that he said we could not find anything on smuggling except some fuel and some material goods, which are totally of non-military use, and even the Lebanese Government has not been able to find anything, although they have very good surveillance on the borders now. So how?
Spokesperson: There is no contradiction. You mentioned it yourself; you said “allegations” in the second sentence you mentioned.
Question: Again, he expressed concern about the armament of Hizbullah.
Spokesperson: We have nothing to add on the report. The report stands on its own.
Question: Couple of questions, first on Nepal. Can you confirm there were two unidentified bodies on the plane?
Spokesperson: No, all the bodies have been identified and we have the list upstairs.
Question: So all have been identified, okay. Second, I understand that yesterday you addressed the concerns expressed by the Egyptian Ambassador regarding the smuggling of weapons to Gaza. But he also expressed another concern in that he said the Secretary-General “should know”, in his language, that Gaza is an occupied territory. Can you address that?
Spokesperson: There’s nothing changed. We have always said that Gaza is part of the [Occupied] Palestinian Territory. It is Occupied Territory.
Question: And the Secretary-General understands that?
Spokesperson: This is an understood thing in everything we say about the Palestinian Territory.
Question: Michèle, given the situation in Gaza and it growing out of hand, and US Secretary of State Rice is also on her way, is the Secretary-General thinking about or advising anybody to call a meeting of the Quartet, so that the peace process is saved, which many say cannot be saved? Is he making any extra efforts towards that end to salvage the situation?
Spokesperson: You will be informed as soon as there is a Quartet meeting decided on.
Question: Then a question on this helicopter incident in Nepal, in which some UN officials were killed also. There are quotes about 11 helicopter accidents, as you know, in the past, and investigative reports about them have not been released. Will they be released in any near future at all?
Spokesperson: I don’t know about the number that you quote. I don’t have that number but I’m sure in every case there is an investigation on the causes of the crash.
[The Spokesperson later said that, according to the Department of Safety and Security, there have been 13 aviation incidents, resulting in the death of 35 staff members, from 1998 until the end of 2007. Thirty staff members have been the victims of accidents and five staff members have died in incidents resulting from their aircraft being shot down.]
Question: A follow up. I think it was the Staff Union that said there were 11 crashes, and they were asking for the reports that have never been made public to be released. In terms of the crew in the crash, how many were Russian and how many from Belarus?
Spokesperson: I can check for you upstairs. We have the list upstairs.
[The Spokesperson later added that there had been two Russians and one Belarusian on the helicopter in Nepal.]
Question: The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, told the AP yesterday that the US has detained terrorist suspects on the British Island of Diego Garcia. Does the UN have anything further to add to these allegations and what is the UN doing about this?
Spokesperson: As you know, our Special Rapporteurs report to the Human Rights Council. They don’t report to the Secretariat, and at this point we have nothing to add on this.
Question: On the helicopter, there’s a report on the website of the Minister of Civil Aviation in Nepal that there was a previous recent incident with an UNMIN helicopter. Can you confirm that?
Spokesperson: That there was a previous one?
Question: A previous recent incident, yes.
Spokesperson: Okay, I can certainly check when I check on the number of helicopter crashes, I will check whether there was any incident.
[The Spokesperson later added that there had been no previous recent incident in Nepal with an UNMIN helicopter.]
Question: Also, MONUC has said there was a flare-up of violence in western Congo, Bas Congo. Is MONUC involved militarily in the response? What’s MONUC’s involvement in dealing with these incidents in Bas Congo?
Spokesperson: I will let you know. I think I gave you some information yesterday. I don’t have anything more on that but I’ll try to get more for you.
Question: One more. Yesterday in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), there was a concern raised by eight countries about the Secretary-General’s creation of an ASG post for Responsibility to Protect. And the eight countries said they explicitly did not approve of the creation of this post in the budget in December and expressed some concern that the post was created without the General Assembly’s consent. Is there a response from the Secretariat on that?
Spokesperson: On your first question about the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I just want to mention that, as you know, Nkunda’s faction has returned to the process and it has responded positively to MONUC’s encouragement to continue its active participation. So we have today the UN Mission taking note with satisfaction of that recent development.
About Mr. Luck’s appointment, as you know, it was discussed in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) yesterday and I understand it’s being discussed today, and the Chef de Cabinet is answering all the questions raised in the Committee. I would add that the appointment of Edward Luck as an Adviser of the Secretary-General was discussed with several representative ambassadors of the Non-Aligned Movement and other representatives of Member States, by senior officials of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General during recent weeks. It was agreed that the appointment of Mr. Luck as Special Adviser would be a temporary appointment covering an interim arrangement and the expenditure involved during this period would be incurred from voluntary resources. So at this point, it is an appointment by the Secretary-General, and the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) recognizes that the Secretary-General can, of course, have a special adviser.
Question: A follow up on this?
Question: Is Luck on a $1/year salary?
Spokesperson: At this point, this is still being discussed. As I just said, it’s an interim arrangement and it’s going to be covered by voluntary contributions at this point.
Question: What does voluntary contributions mean?
Spokesperson: I don’t have an exact description of what those voluntary contributions mean, but I’ll get that for you and more on Mr. Luck’s appointment. As you know, Mr. Luck’s work will include the responsibility to protect, and it was set up by the GA, and you always want to know with precision so it was paragraphs 138 and 139 of the 2005 World Summit outcome document so I’m sure you can go and check on that. George had a question. Yes, George.
Question: With reference to your characterization of the Gaza Strip as still being occupied territory, I want to make sure I understand this. The UN regards the Gaza Strip as being occupied territory even though the Israelis, apart from some incursions such as recently, have pulled out of the territory two and a half years ago?
Spokesperson: Gaza is recognized by the UN legally as part of the [Occupied] Palestinian Territory, so that includes, as you know, the West Bank and Gaza.
Question: Resolution 1244 on Kosovo. Does Mr. Ban Ki-moon think it’s still in force and if so, does he consider the independence declared by Kosovo as an illegal step?
Spokesperson: We have spoken about this over and over again. Resolution 1244 is still in effect, as far as the United Nations is concerned. This was not changed by the Security Council. It remains so. And the UN’s mandate in the region stays the same. What was the other part of your question?
Question: If it’s still in force, then how is the independence of Kosovo declared?
Spokesperson: As I said last week and the week before, the independence of a country is recognized by other countries; it’s a bilateral thing. The UN itself, the Secretariat, does not recognize States. So at this point, it is a matter for Member States to have a position on that, each one individually.
Question: Michèle, has anybody made any representation of the situation that is developing in Central America, between Venezuela and Colombia? Has anybody made any representation for the United Nations to get involved at all?
Spokesperson: Not as far as I know, at the level of the Secretariat. If there is something to be done, it will be at the level of the Security Council. As you know, we had a statement on that yesterday.
Question: Has there been a statement on the situation developing in Somalia, the US firing of rockets and the killing of people?
Spokesperson: No, we don’t have anything new on that at this point.
Question: Michele, the Secretary-General has spent much time on the reforming political affairs in this preventive diplomacy to prevent a flare-up of hot spots, and we have one possibly taking place in South America now with Venezuela and Colombia. Why is there not more urgency to address the situation from the very outset [inaudible] reforms?
Spokesperson: Well, you have a golden opportunity tomorrow. You’re going to have the person responsible for DPA, Mr. Pascoe. He will be here to answer your question. He will be the guest at my noon briefing. So, I suggest you address the question to him. Yes?
Question: Does the Secretary-General consider the actions by rebel groups in Somalia, Chad or in Darfur as terrorist actions?
Spokesperson: I cannot have a blanket answer for you.
Question: Does he consider actions by rebels as terrorist actions?
Spokesperson: At this point, I don’t have anything more to say on the issue.
Question: In the statement on Gaza, he mentioned Hamas attacks as terrorist attacks. Why is he really categorically clear about it, whereas in other areas, he doesn’t mention the same word terrorist attack, with the absence of any definition of terrorism in the United Nations?
Spokesperson: Well, there are agreements on acts of terrorism, no agreement on terrorism itself; as you know, it has not been defined by Member States. So, there is nothing more I can say on this.
Question: Why he only used this term only when it came to Israel, but not to other parts of the world?
Spokesperson: No, I think he has used it before. I can clarify this and get other information for you, but I don’t have anything more to add on the issue of defining terrorism. It is defined by Member States, it is defined by convention. They never agreed on a definition of terrorism.
Correspondent: He did not describe Israeli attacks on civilians in Gaza –- whole areas were obliterated, whole families killed, and they were not considered as terrorist attacks. But a rocket from Gaza into any Israeli territory was considered by him as terrorist attack.
Spokesperson: I will take note of your statement.
Question: It’s a double standard, isn’t it?
Spokesperson: I will take note of your statement.
Question: It’s not a statement. It’s a question… [talkover]..
Spokesperson: It’s not a question.
Question: We need agreed a broad definition of what terrorism is here.
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General cannot himself define terrorism.
Question: So, can how can he describe something as terrorist?
Spokesperson: He has used the term in the context of acts of terrorism. He has not defined an organization or anyone as being a terrorist organization, or as a terrorist group. Yes?
Question: Two follow-ups: in order to prepare for this, Mr. Pascoe tomorrow –- I’ve heard, and I’m wondering if you can confirm -– that there’s a letter from the G-77, either to DPA itself or to the Secretariat to ask him for a restructuring of the restructuring of DPA -– to change his proposal in the budget, to a restructured, strengthened DPA.
Spokesperson: Well, it’s the same thing I answered earlier: wait for Mr. Pascoe to ask the question.
Question: Well, it’d be nice to see the letter. Then, it’d be nice to ask the question.
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have the letter. I haven’t seen it. So, you can ask Mr. Pascoe tomorrow.
Question: Okay. And, then, also on the question on Kosovo -– this is slightly different -– Ambassador Churkin just said that he thinks that anything beyond 1244 is an impostor -– that’s the word that he used. There’s this thing called the international steering group on Kosovo, which was recently created. Russia said it’s illegal under 1244. Does the UN have any dealings with this so-called international steering group on Kosovo that’s been created?
Spokesperson: I answered that question yesterday: I said it’s not a UN group. That’s all I can say.
Question: Does the Secretary-General have any short-term or long-term plan for talking to the Israeli people about their nuclear programme [inaudible] to bring them to the table, and talk about the non-proliferation programme? Does he have any strategy planning, either short-term or long-term, to talk to them, bring them to the table, negotiate with them – about the nuclear activity -– as they are doing with these other countries, under the NPT?
Spokesperson: On nuclear activities, as you know, there is an agency, a UN agency, taking care of such matters. It is not a matter for the Secretary-General to take care of; it’s a matter for the IAEA. So I think you should address your question to the IAEA.
Question: Well, I asked this question earlier to the Secretary-General, and he said they are trying to work something, but is it part of his job to follow-up the activities of the other components of the UN, or is it completely excluded?
Spokesperson: No, it’s not. He gets reports from the IAEA. And, the IAEA also reports to the Security Council…
Question: What is the progress report on this issue [talkover]…
Spokesperson: You should ask the IAEA.
Correspondent: But, I’m asking the Secretary-General about the IAEA.
Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General does not have an answer to your question.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly
Let me start with the Nepal helicopter crash. We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the President, and it reads as follows:
“United Nations General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim is deeply saddened by the news of a United Nations helicopter crash in Nepal, which claimed the life of 10 people on board, including seven personnel from the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), and three crew members. The President expresses his most sincere condolences to the families of the victims of this tragic accident, as well as to UNMIN staff for the loss of their colleagues.
The President notes that the tragic accident is once again a sad reminder of the fact that UN personnel have to operate in dangerous conditions and face a multitude of risks during their daily work. And if you remember, NEPAD was on the agenda of the General Assembly last year when it held a meeting on this, they deserve the full support of United Nations Member States.”
**General Assembly Plenary
The General Assembly held a plenary meeting this morning, and during that plenary it adopted, without a vote, a resolution entitled “Modalities, format and organization of the high-level meeting on Africa’s development needs”, contained in document A/62/L.29/Rev.1, submitted by Antigua and Barbuda, on behalf of the G-77 countries.
This was under agenda item 64, which deals with NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development -- and if you remember, NEPAD was on the agenda of the General Assembly last year when it held a two-day debate on the matter on 18-19 October.
The resolution adopted today focuses on arrangements concerning the high-level meeting on ” Africa's development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward". Holding the high-level meeting was decided by the sixty-first session of the General Assembly, on 22 September 2006.
The resolution adopted today decided that the high-level meeting would be held on 22 September 2008 -- just prior to the general debate. It also decided that the meeting would result in a political declaration on Africa’s development needs. And finally, the resolution requests the Secretary-General to submit to the meeting a comprehensive report, with recommendations, on “Africa’s development needs: state of implementation of various commitments, challenges and the way forward, in cooperation with relevant development agencies of the United Nations, the Bretton Woods institutions and other relevant regional and international financial and trade institutions”.
**Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary)
Now, the Fifth Committee -– and this already came up because Matthew already asked about it and I’ve said this many times before -– is holding the first part of its resumed session. It started that yesterday, and it goes on until 28 March.
The programme of work for the four weeks of the first resumed session is on the Committee’s website: www.un.org/ga/fifth/index.shtml. The reason I’m flagging this for you is that it gives you a pretty good idea of what the Committee is going to deal with, and it also contains the links to the documents and reports before the Committee.
Among the issues to be taken up by the Committee are: human resources management; procurement; the new accountability architecture, which includes results-based management; accountability; enterprise-risk management and internal control frameworks; and also the Secretary-General’s proposals on strengthening the Secretariat -– including the strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) and development-related activities. So that’s the Fifth Committee.
**Ad Hoc Committee on Counter-Terrorism
A Committee that is linked to the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal), the Ad Hoc Committee on Counter-Terrorism -- established by the Assembly in 1996 -- is continuing its work. It started its work on 25 February and is continuing with consultations, and will wrap up on 6 March. This is the Committee that focuses on some of the outstanding issues related to drafting a comprehensive convention against terrorism and the convening of an international conference on terrorism. So that Ad Hoc Committee is continuing its work in consultations, and it is supposed to wrap up on 6 March in the morning, and I’ll brief you on that when it happens.
One other thing I wanted to flag for you, and that has to do with management reform. It ties a little bit into what the Fifth Committee is discussing and, of course, management reform is one of the priority issues of the sixty-second session. It is one of the priority areas for the President. The President, on 29 February -- so that was last Friday -- sent out a letter to Member States announcing the convening of a two-day thematic debate on management reform. This is entitled: “Toward a common understanding on management reform”. The debate is going to be on 8 and 9 April.
Let me just give you a few details that might be interesting. The thematic debate will be divided into two parts. On the first day, 8 April, delegations will have the opportunity to present their positions on relevant issues on management reform. On the next day -– so that’s the 9th -– an interactive dialogue will be held with the Secretariat and among Member States. The President has invited the Secretary-General and the Organization’s senior management to participate in the debate.
In the letter, the President says: “Among the many relevant areas of management reform that will be discussed, I would also invite Member States to present their views on three interrelated issues of crucial importance to the process of transforming the decisions of Member States into delivered activities: the way mandates are formulated, implemented and evaluated; the planning and budgetary process of the Organization; and the management of human resources.
That’s about all I have to announce for today. But I know that most of you are always interested and asking about Security Council reform, so let me pre-empt the questions and say that I don’t have any new developments on that, apart from the fact that Member States are actively consulting amongst themselves. But so far, no single Member State or group of Member States has approached the President’s Office for a continuation of some form of a working group discussion. So, that’s where we stand.
**Questions and Answers
Question: At the end of the meeting of the Committee that is working on the definition of terrorism and the terrorism conference, who heads the Committee? Is there any chance of getting them to come here and talk about any kind of progress they are or aren’t making?
Spokesperson: I can certainly ask that, but on the 6th in the morning, the meeting is going to be an open meeting. The Chairperson of the Committee is going to do the wrap-up, and is going to have the report of the Committee, and the Chairperson is Roham Perera of Sri Lanka. There is also a coordinator that works with the Member States. She is Maria Telalian from Greece. The coordinator will brief the Committee, and the Committee will also adopt a report based on input from the Chairman, and that’s going to happen on the 6th. It’s going to be an open meeting, accessible to all of you, but apart from that, I will certainly ask if there is any possibility for anybody from the Committee to come and brief you on where they stand, as regards the comprehensive convention on terrorism and the other agenda item, which is the convening of an international conference on terrorism.
Question: I just want to have an idea, do they have a list of definitions that they are going to be discussing? Or is it just an open thing?
Spokesperson: No, it’s not an open thing. They have been working around a draft text, and that draft text has article 2, which includes a suggested definition of terrorism. You can find this in A/57/37. That’s the basic text they have been working on, or in that report, you will find the draft text. The problem, Masood, really, at the moment, as I understand, is not necessarily about the definition itself, but more about what is the scope of that definition? What acts would qualify to fall under the definition, and what acts or what actors doing something that may be defined would not qualify? In other words, the exception clauses, or, probably, as I said better, the scope of the definition, is where, at the moment, most of the discussion lies. But the way that the Ad-hoc Committee works is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So, they’re not going to go paragraph by paragraph. Everything has to be agreed. Matthew?
Question: On this issue that arose yesterday in the Fifth Committee on whether the Secretariat can create ASG posts without General Assembly approval, can you either provide some…can they? Apparently, they’re saying if it’s covered by voluntary contributions, they can create a new ASG. What does the President of the General Assembly, or you, as the General Assembly person, say about that?
Spokesperson: Matthew, let’s wait until the debate that is going on about this particular issue is over, because as I came to brief you, it was exactly then that the Committee started discussing this issue. They started with human resources issues and that dragged on for a couple of hours, so a little after 12, and it was, as we started our briefing, I think, that Mr. Nambiar made his statement and the questions probably came, and then he would have been answering them. I’m sure it’s going to be covered by a press release as well, but let’s see what comes out of that debate. The basic and the bottom line is -- as we have been saying this -- anything in this Organization that has some financial implications has to go through the General Assembly, through the Fifth Committee.
Question: And maybe you, on this issue of restructuring or strengthening the Department of Political Affairs, do you know, is the proposal the Secretariat is making, is the same one that was made some months ago, or have they modified what they’re asking for?
Spokesperson: I can only repeat what Michèle said. When Mr. Pascoe comes tomorrow, check with him.
Question: (inaudible) 77 letter. Have you heard it? I mean, is that…
Spokesperson: I have not seen a letter nor have I have heard about it. What is for sure is that yesterday, in the debate, the country speaking on behalf of the G-77 ( Antigua and Barbuda), did mention this, that the G-77 and the NAM are working together on the issues related to DPA. I don’t know whether that is going to be in the form of a letter or something like that. I don’t have any knowledge of that. But it was openly announced that this is going on. I’m sure Mr. Pascoe will know more about this. Yes?
Question: Janos, can you just clarify: when and where is this international convention on terrorism being held?
Spokesperson: It’s not a convention, it’s an Ad hoc Committee that was established by the General Assembly in 1996, and this Ad hoc Committee was once again convened at the end of the session last year by the Sixth Committee to meet between 25 February and 6 March. So that is happening now, and this Ad hoc Committee is looking at the issue of drafting a comprehensive convention against terrorism. This Ad hoc Committee has drafted other conventions relating to terrorism, before, such as on terrorist bombings, terrorism financing and on nuclear terrorism, so there is a track record there. This one is, if I may say so, the mother of all (counter-terrorism)conventions in the sense that this would be a comprehensive convention against terrorism, and thus would include a comprehensive definition of terrorism. This is what is being discussed, and has been discussed for quite some time. As I answered to Masood, there is a draft text on the basis of which there are discussions going on within the Committee, and that draft text is contained in A/57/37. Is that clear?
Question: Yes, as long as that number is exactly correct. I’ll have to look it up.
Spokesperson: I’ll double check with you on the number. Just give me a second. Yes, A/57/37 is the document that you should be looking at, and it includes, I think, in the form of an annex, the draft text that also has article 2, which is a draft definition. But, please, as I said, it does not mean anything, in the sense that until everything is agreed, nothing is agreed. It doesn’t mean, that just because it’s there, and there are not that many discussions at the moment on it, that everybody is fine with it. Everything has to come together. It just gives you an idea of where things stand, and what are the ideas tossed around.
Question: And this Ad hoc Committee is meeting in this building somewhere in New York?
Spokesperson: Yes, it is meeting here. But it had an opening session on the 25th, then it went into consultations with the coordinator, and with several Member States, lots of consultations. On the 6th, it is going to end its session, and then, it is going to adopt its report, and when it does that, it’s going to be in an open session. Then we’ll have an idea of where they are. And that report will go to the Sixth Committee, which will be discussed, then, during the sixty-third session.
Question: This may or may not be related. There’s a proposal to define suicide bombing as a crime against humanity. The proponents met with the Secretary-General last week, and they had said… he or his Spokesperson said that he is going to meet or speak with the President of the General Assembly. Has that taken place?
Spokesperson: Yes, that has taken place. Yes, the Secretary-General briefed the General Assembly President on this meeting, and on the petition, but, as you know, this is an initiative that the Member States have to take. So far, Member States have not approached, as far as I know, not the Secretary-General, but definitely not the General Assembly President on convening any kind of a session of any sort on this particular issue.
Question: What’s his position on it? Does he think it’s a good…is he going to take any action on it, or he’ll wait for…
Spokesperson: It’s not for him to initiate. It’s for Member States to come to him and if Member States show interest, yes, he definitely would take…
Question: But, he’s…he’s saying…he’s chosen the issues on which he says these are our issues, and he moves them forward.
Spokesperson: The President, on his own, has not chosen any issues. It was always a result of consultations with Member States. Even as he was elected President-elect on 24 May last year, he used the time between the election and assuming his Presidency to discuss with Member States, and consult, about the main topics. He, of course, had ideas of what he thought would be major topics, but he worked with Member States. This is one of those cases --if Member States believe that this is an issue that should be taken up in the form of a special session, then they should approach the President, they should initiate, and I’m sure that the President will be receptive. George?
Question: One quick follow-up on this: you mentioned there was a petition to the President of the General Assembly, or to the Secretary-General, which he has at least discussed, or at least shown to the Assembly President. Is that petition a public document, or is that still an internal document?
Spokesperson: I’m not even sure whether this was really in the form of a written petition, as such. As far as I know, this was in the form of the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- or rather, the representatives of the Centre -- meeting with the Secretary-General face to face, and discussed this issue, and the Secretary-General, based on that, did talk to the President and discussed it. I don’t know whether any actual documentation was handed over. That is more a question for Michèle, to ask as to what exactly happened.
Thank you very much. Good seeing you. All the best.
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