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

6 March 2008

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

6 March 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Good afternoon.  Sorry I’m a bit late.  I was waiting for a statement.

**Guests at Noon Today

We have a few speakers lined up.  We have the General Assembly Spokesperson, who is already here, and our guests will be Rachel Mayanja, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Minister of Public Service and Administration of South Africa; and Inez Murray, Vice-President for Technical Assistance and Programs at the Women’s World Bank, who will brief you on the observance of International Women’s Day.  And there’s more information available upstairs and in this room. 

**Secretary-General Travels

And just a heads up -- the Secretary-General is scheduled to travel to Dakar, Senegal, next week to attend the eleventh Summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).  President Abdoulaye Wade of Senegal has also invited the Secretary-General to attend a mediation meeting he is chairing between President Idriss Deby of Chad and Omer al-Bashir of Sudan on the eve of the OIC Summit to defuse tension and to amend relations between those two countries.

**Statement on Friends of UNAMID Initiative

And I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Friends of UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] initiative: 

The Secretary-General welcomes the initiative to establish a group of “Friends of UNAMID”, which will focus on supporting the deployment of that Operation.  The first meeting of the group was convened by the United States and Canada today in New York.

The Secretary-General urges all UNAMID troop and police contributors to expedite the deployment of the units and assets that they have pledged to the Operation.  In this connection, the Secretary-General also welcomes the initiative of the United States Government to help accelerate the deployment of UNAMID by providing $100 million to African troop contributing countries for training and equipping military units which have been pledged to UNAMID.

The Secretary-General also urges Member States to provide the outstanding enabling units, including air assets, in order to permit UNAMID to achieve full operating capability. 

The Secretary-General looks forward to sustained and focused international engagement on both peacekeeping and the political process in Darfur, and calls on all parties to engage in good faith in political negotiations in order to bring the current crisis to an end and achieve lasting peace.

**International Women’s Day

Earlier this morning, the Secretary-General at UN Headquarters addressed a commemoration of International Women’s Day (which is Saturday).  This year’s theme is “Investing in Women and Girls”.

Calling women the world’s “most significant yet largely untapped potential for development and peace”, the Secretary-General said investing in women “is not only the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do”.  Despite progress, he noted that women are still severely hampered by discrimination, a lack of resources and economic opportunities, limited access to decision-making and gender-based violence.

He also promised to strengthen the Secretariat’s own gender machinery by proposing to double the staffing of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and to significantly increase the resources of the Division for the Advancement of Women.  He also urged Member States to agree on creating one dynamic and strengthened gender entity, consolidating resources currently scattered among several structures.  And we have copies of his remarks upstairs.

**Deputy Secretary-General on Women

The Deputy Secretary-General, meanwhile, was in Brussels today to address a European Union Commission conference on women, entitled:  “Women:  Stabilizing an Insecure World”.

The conference brought together female Heads of State, as well as ministers, heads of international organizations, business leaders, and civil society activists, to discuss the twin themes of security and women's empowerment.

Also attending from the UN were UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd; UNIFEM [United Nations Development Fund for Women] Executive Director Joanne Sandler; World Food Programme Executive Director Josette Sheeran; and the UN Population Fund’s Deputy Executive Director Mari Simonen.  We will have copies of the Deputy Secretary-General’s final remarks later this afternoon.

**Other Statements, International Women’s Day

And, also marking International Women’s Day, World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan issued a statement in which she stressed the importance of investing in women and girls as an investment in health development. 

Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency launched a handbook on the protection of women and girls.  It outlines strategies, as well as international legal standards and responsibilities.

And, the International Labour Office, which began a two-week session in Geneva today, released its report on “Global Employment Trends for Women”.  We have copies upstairs of the report, which is embargoed until 6 p.m. today.  That’s New York time.

** Myanmar

Turning to Myanmar, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General, Ibrahim Gambari, arrived today in Yangon, where he held talks with Myanmar’s Minister for Foreign Affairs.  Mr. Gambari also met with the UN country team in Myanmar, the Diplomatic Corps and the Representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the next few days, Mr. Gambari expects to continue consultations with a broad range of representatives of Myanmar society, including groups which he was not able to meet during his last visit.

Ethiopia/Eritrea

And here, the Secretary-General’s special report on the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea is out as a document today.  In it, the Secretary-General warns that restrictions imposed by Eritrea on the Mission are unacceptable and in breach of the fundamental principles of peacekeeping.  They also bear serious implications for the safety and security of peacekeepers deployed elsewhere.

As a party to the Cessation of Hostilities, under which Eritrea and Ethiopia invited the UN to deploy peacekeepers on their territory, the Secretary-General says that Eritrea has an obligation to treat the peacekeepers with respect and dignity, and to guarantee their safety and security.  Eritrea must also ensure the peacekeepers’ right to move freely and perform their mandated tasks without any restrictions.  The Secretary-General asks Eritrea to reconsider its position, resume fuel supplies to the peacekeepers, lift all restrictions on the Mission, and allow it to function as mandated by the Security Council.  And that report is out on the racks. 

**Human Rights Council

And today in Geneva, the Human Rights Council began considering the human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories.  It heard from High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, as well as representatives of Israel, Palestine and Syria, before opening a debate.  The Human Rights Council is expected to take action on a draft resolution on the issue today. 

In her remarks, Ms. Arbour condemned the rocket attacks by Palestinian militants against Israeli civilian targets, as well as the Israel Defense Forces’ disproportionate use of force.  She urged all parties to conduct law-based, independent, transparent and accessible investigations into the killings of civilians, to make the findings public and to hold any perpetrators accountable.

She also stressed that all human rights are equal for all human beings and no party can claim that, in defending its own population, it is allowed to disavow the rights of others.  On the contrary, all parties have obligations not only towards the rights of their own people, but for the rights of all.  We have her full remarks upstairs.

** Cyprus

And then speaking today at a conference in Nicosia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Michael Møller, said that the status quo in Cyprus is unacceptable and that a settlement is in the interest of all Cypriots and of the region.  But part of the difficulty of reaching a solution has been the inability to convey strongly enough the positive elements of what an agreement would mean for Cypriots’ daily lives, he said.

Møller said that a just settlement will mean increased security for the people of Cyprus, greater stability for the region, an increase in trade and provision of services, the creation of conditions that will allow culture and art to flourish, and the emergence of Cyprus as a model of peaceful coexistence.  We have his full remarks upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.

** Afghanistan

And on Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has begun providing emergency food assistance to millions of Afghans who can no longer afford to buy wheat and wheat flour, which are staples of the Afghan diet.  Between now and the middle of the year, WFP aims to reach 2.5 million people in both urban and rural areas of Afghanistan.

The food distributions in Afghanistan come as the rise in global food prices, by 40 per cent since last June, pushes basic foodstuffs out of the reach of poor people in many countries.  And there’s more information in a press release from WFP, upstairs.

**UN Staff/Runners’ Awards

And, finally, I have an announcement about two UN staffers who are set to be honoured tonight as runners of the year by the New York Road Runners Club:  Stephanie Hodge, who works with the UN Environment Programme, and Kevin Shelton-Smith, from the Department of Field Services, are being recognized in the over-40 age group.  The award honours their success in a variety of races in 2007, covering distances of up to 60 kilometres.  Congratulations to Ms. Hodge and Mr. Shelton-Smith.

And that’s what I have for you.  We have the General Assembly Spokesperson here already, and we have Mr. Mayanja and the guests waiting for us who are here to talk about the International Women’s Day Commemoration.  Let’s start with Sylviane.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you, Marie.  There are some concerns about the new Israeli incursion in Lebanon.  Do you have any reaction from the Secretary-General?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We have some guidance from our Mission, on Lebanon.  And that is that, concerning media reports about IDF activities in the vicinity of the village of Ghajar, UNIFIL established that Israeli forces did not cross the Blue Line and there was no incursion or violation of the Blue Line.

Similarly, media reports about a shell impact inside Lebanese territory in the area of Kafer Chuba were wrong, and the explosion in that area was the result of a UNIFIL explosive ordnance disposal team exploding previously unexploded ordnance at that location.  And UNIFIL is in contact with the parties urging them to refrain from any action or unsubstantiated statements, which may raise the tension and complicate the situation on the ground.  That’s what we have for you.

Question:  Can I have another question?  Hizbullah has urged Ban Ki-moon to show proof of [inaudible] objectivity and impartiality in the report.  Do you have any reaction on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  What report are you referring to?

Correspondent:  On 1701.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the report stands on its own; I have nothing beyond that.  I think we have to go around the room a little bit.  Can I come back to you after we go around?  Thank you.

Question:  A question about –- the word occupied in terms of an occupying Power is often used in mentioning in this room, and also we hear it from the Human Rights Council in dealing with Gaza –- and I’m just wondering, what is Gaza’s legal status, internationally?  Would it be possible to get a clarification -– is it occupied or is it not?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes it is.

Question:  And what is the legal grounds for it, because the Israelis did withdraw from the territory?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t cite the exact definition, but it is, and we’ll get back to you on that later.  Yes?

Question:  Marie, do you have anything on the Afghan envoy, there’s reports out of Norway that a former NATO Ambassador -– I’m not sure how to say the name, Kai Eide –- is going to be the new envoy?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ve seen the press reports too.  I have nothing to announce for you as of now, but just procedurally, I think many of you are familiar, but, if there is an appointment, the Secretary-General will inform the Security Council of his intention to appoint a Special Representative, and then the Security Council will then approve that appointment.  So, that’s the general procedure.  Yes?

Question:  About the U.S. and peacekeeping operations in Darfur –- you mentioned air assets.  Can you give us a more detailed description of these air assets?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As you know, the key air asset that has been at the top of the wish list for UNAMID has been the issue of helicopters, and as far as we know, beyond the last report that came out on UNAMID, there have been no new contributions of those.  So, as of now, I recommend you to look at the last monthly report on UNAMID, which gives you an up-to-date statistic of where we are with the deployment.  Let’s go to the back.

Question:  Regarding the U.S. attack on Somalia four days ago, I was wondering, Mr. Ban Ki-moon is not giving any comments on that?  Does it mean he supported the operation?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think what you’re referring to are press reports.  I’ve seen those press reports myself.  I don’t think I have anything beyond that, as far as any confirmation of the reports that you’re talking about.  Yes?

Question:  Just to follow up, I did not [inaudible] any press reports, but this U.S. attack happened four days ago in Somalia, on a small town in Somalia, killing like three children, three women…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m aware of press reports on such attacks.  I have not seen anything beyond that.  Yes?

Question:  Guehenno announced this morning that he would be leaving his post at the end of his term.  What can you tell us about the nominating process for his successor, and has the Secretary-General received any suggestions yet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as what we can tell you for now, all I can say is that we understand that Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno informed the DPKO and DFS staff today that he will be leaving his post after the end of his contract in mid-2008, and that’s all I have for you today.  Yes?

Question:  Several humanitarian organizations, including CARE, issued a statement in London saying that the situation in Gaza has become impossible, that it’s the worst ever since the occupation.  Do you have any comment on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  First of all, I’d like to say that the humanitarian organizations -– and the Secretary-General himself has said this on a number of occasions -– that the humanitarian situation there is dire, and the situation is deteriorating.  However, we did check with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs about those reports and they say they cannot confirm that the humanitarian situation is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the occupation, that they have not been monitoring the situation since 1967, so they do not have that kind of data.  But, as I said, the humanitarian situation is dire and deteriorating, and that is something that we have been flagging to you daily.  Yes?

Question:  The Foreign Minister of Serbia is here in the building.  I’m wondering if you’re aware of what his itinerary is, who he’s meeting with?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As far as we’re concerned, the Secretary-General met with him, as you know, recently in Geneva, so I don’t think he’s on his programme.  So I think maybe you best check with the Mission to find out his itinerary.  Let’s get back to somebody else who hasn’t asked…

Question:  On helicopters –- there’s a report that the Russian Federation is going to offer helicopters, but it would be without pilots to UNAMID.  Can you confirm that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I mentioned to an earlier question, I have nothing beyond what we’ve already announced in terms of concrete contributions on the helicopters. 

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to ask you about the crash in Nepal, whether you can confirm or not confirm that the contractor that was running the helicopter for UNMIN was a company called [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  You sent us an e-mail.  When you do that, we usually look into it.  If we have an answer, we give it to you; if we don’t, that means that we don’t have an answer.

Question:  But you are willing to disclose the contractor that ran the helicopter?

Deputy Spokesperson:  You sent me an e-mail.  I’m looking into it.  That’s all I can tell you right now.  Yes?

Question:  I also wanted to confirm a report that some sort of negotiations are taking place here today at the UN concerning the name of Macedonia?  There’s a UN envoy on this subject concerning the dispute between Greece and Macedonia [talkover]…

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything new on this today.  If you go to my Office, we can give an update on the talks that have been going on on this issue because there have been a number of them.  As far as I know, I don’t know if there’s anything going on in this building today, but maybe somebody in my Office can come down with the answer if they do know.  Yes?

[The correspondent was later informed that the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, was in Skopje yesterday, where he met with The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s President, Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and primary negotiator for the “name issue”, Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov.

Question:  Is the Secretary-General’s visit to Senegal part of the efforts to build bridges between Islam and the West?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Clearly, he is going to this meeting because of the importance of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and what it stands for, so as of now, I think that’s the way we’ll leave it.  I just wanted to give you a heads up on the fact that he is going.  Details of his meetings, beyond what I told you, we’ll get to you as we find out more information.  Sylviane wanted another question, but she ran off, so I think I’ll turn it over to… yes?

Question:  It’s being reported right now that the border between Serbia and Kosovo could, that there are no longer border checks.  Is that something that the UN system can confirm?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have not heard anything new on that today.  I’m just looking at the brief on Kosovo, but, no, I don’t have anything on that.  We can certainly look…

Question:  Mechthild, is that a UN Spokesperson, Spokeswoman that you recognize from UNMIK?  I may be pronouncing it wrong, too.

Deputy Spokesperson:  What is the question?

Question:  They seem to be saying that that’s the case.  I guess I wanted to ask you, what is UNMIK -– given the announcement the other day about reclaiming the rails –- what is the UN position on the border between Serbia and Kosovo?

Deputy Spokesperson:  If we have anything new today, we’ll let you know.  But, as far as I know, I don’t think there is -– as I mentioned, there is the situation note; I don’t see anything about the border situation today.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that UN police is continuing to monitor the boundary crossing points.]

Question:  And one further question –- there’s a report that a mining company in Zimbabwe that had raised an issue of UN involvement in diamond smuggling has now renewed its complaint to the UN system saying that the Kimberley Process incorrectly reported that they had withdrawn their claim.  So, I’m wondering if you could find out what the UN system has -– what the status of this previous inquiry that they said they cleared themselves of UN either involvement, acquiescence or use of UN vehicles in diamond smuggling in Zimbabwe?  If you could find out if that has been renewed?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t quite understand the question, but let’s talk about it after the briefing.  Yes?

Question:  Yes, when Mr. Serry was here last week or so, he spoke about there being a need for a new situation of negotiation with the Gaza and the Israel situation.  Has there been any information about what this situation is?  He did mention maybe involving Egypt more in the negotiations.  Have you heard anything about this?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing more beyond what Mr. Serry told you last week.  If there’s nothing more for me, I’ll turn over to Janos, and then don’t go away because we’re going to have guests.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly

Good afternoon, good to see you.  I have a couple of things.  Let me also start with International Women’s Day.

**General Assembly President’s Message for International Women’s Day

The General Assembly President, Srgjan Kerim, has a message for International Women’s Day and in that message he stresses that “women will only be truly empowered when globally, we muster the necessary political will to fully implement exiting commitments and make available the appropriate human, financial and educational resources that have been promised”. He notes that “it is increasingly clear that we need to change our attitudes towards the role and status of women in society”.

“Even today, in virtually all parts of the world, the gender gap remains, whether in terms of access to health and education or to equal pay for equal work.”

The President also draws attention to the need for the United Nations gender architecture to be renewed and strengthened to cope with the urgency of the challenges women continue to face.

He goes on to stress that “gender equality and women’s empowerment is an inherent aspect of good governance and the provision of public services for all”.

“But equal rights and equal access to services and opportunities cannot be achieved without proper gender budgeting.

“All the evidence suggests that investing in women makes economic and financial sense. Countries that have done this and achieved the highest levels of gender equality have profited not just in terms of greater social justice and stability, but also in terms of their economic growth and competitiveness, by providing opportunities for women to work, lead and contribute to society. Furthermore, closing the gender gap has a transformative effect on development and can accelerate progress towards achieving the poverty, health and education Millennium Development Goals.”

**Ad Hoc Committee on Counter-Terrorism

Let me now turn to the Ad Hoc Committee on Counter-Terrorism.  I have talked about this the last couple of times that I was with you. The Ad Hoc Committee on Counter-Terrorism, established by the General Assembly in 1996 (resolution 51/210), concluded its 12th session this morning. The Ad Hoc Committee focuses on the outstanding issues related to drafting a comprehensive convention against terrorism and also on convening an international conference on terrorism. It reports to the General Assembly through the Sixth Committee (Legal).

As regards the outcome of the current, the twelfth session, the Ad Hoc Committee decided to recommend that the Sixth Committee, at the sixty-third session of the General Assembly –- so that’ll be in the fall -- establish a working group with a view to finalizing the draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism and continue to discuss the question of convening a high-level meeting, high-level conference on terrorism, under the auspices of the United Nations.

In his concluding remarks, the Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee, Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka) noted that he felt the session was very encouraging, adding that although the Committee had not yet reached a consensus during the current session, he sensed a willingness and a strong resolve among all delegations to move the process forward, with a view to finalizing the text of the draft convention as soon as possible. He also urged delegations to remain active during the upcoming inter-sessional period -– that’s from now until the working group will meet -- in order to move the negotiating process forward.

He also reminded delegations that they need to be mindful of the expectations of the international community to bring this long negotiating process to a successful closure. He noted that the review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy by the General Assembly -– this is, by the way, supposed to be this September, before the end of the sixty-second session -- should generate a sense of urgency to redouble efforts towards the conclusion of the draft comprehensive convention, which is very much a vital component of the strategy.

**Fifth Committee

On the Fifth Committee, I have not much to add because most of the things are available, either through press releases or on the website of the Committee.

The Committee started its first resumed session on Monday -– it’ll go on until the 28 of March -– and on the website of the Committee, you will find the work programme and also the various links to the existing documents that are in front of the Committee (http://www.un.org/ga/fifth/index.shtml). 

And again, just for those of you who have not followed but are still interested in this, the issues that the Committee is to cover in this first resumed session 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 –- in particular, strengthening of the Department of Political Affairs and strengthening development-related activities.

**Thematic Debate on Millennium Development Goals

Let me draw your attention to the upcoming thematic debate of the General Assembly on the Millennium Development Goals, and I’m doing that because additional information on this thematic debate is available for you through the website of the President. 

The President has sent out a letter yesterday to all Member States detailing the thematic debate on the Millennium Development Goals, which is set for the 1st and 2nd of April.  The theme of the debate is: “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015”.

The letter sent out yesterday specifies the format, that there will be an opening session followed by three panel discussions on the key topics of the thematic debate, which are poverty and hunger, education and health.  Also attached to the programme you will find the list of participants of the various panels –- that might be interesting for you in your preparations to cover that event -- and also attached to that letter sent out are three background papers that focus on those three issues that the thematic debate covers. Once again, they are poverty and hunger, education and health, in the context of the Millennium Development Goals.  The first day, as I said, are panel discussions, three panels.  On the second day there will be a plenary meeting, with Member States getting the opportunity to address those three issues.

**Upcoming Events

Some upcoming events for next week so you can plan: on the 10th of March, the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations will begin its session.  That’s going to go on until the 4th of April.

The Special Committee is a subsidiary body of the General Assembly.  The Assembly established it in 1965, with the intention to conduct a comprehensive review of all issues relating to peacekeeping. It reports back to the General Assembly through the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).

The Financing for Development review sessions are continuing next week -– 10, 11, 12 March, that’s Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday –- and those are in preparation for the Monterrey Consensus Review Conference, to be held in Doha, Qatar, from the 29th of November to the 2nd of December.  This time the focus is on Chapter V and Chapter VI of the Monterrey Consensus.  Chapter V deals with external debt.  Chapter VI deals with systematic issues. Previous discussions on other chapters were held in mid-February, and the next discussions on the remaining chapters -– Chapters IV and III -– will be in April and May. 

The review sessions focus on progress made to implement the Financing for Development commitments, and whatever comes out of those review sessions are to serve as input for a draft outcome document that the President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, would circulate to Member States by the end of July.  Again, for details there’s a website available:  un.org/esa/ffd.

Another event next week, 11 March, the Secretary-General is having an informal briefing for the Member States of the General Assembly -– this is his third during the sixty-second session.  This one is going to be on development issues. 

     And finally, for those of you who are following mandate review issues, there’s going to be another informal consultation by Member States on mandate review on 13 March.  This process, as you may know, is led by the Permanent Representatives of Namibia and New Zealand.  They are the facilitators and they had their first meeting on the 27th of February. What they’re looking at is the so-called humanitarian assistance cluster of mandates. That information is available through the website of the President,in fact, very detailed information on how the facilitators are approaching the mandate review process (www.un.org/ga/president/62/issues/MandateReview).

With that, I’ll stop and any questions?  Please? 

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In 1997 the General Assembly called for 50-50 gender parity within senior jobs in the UN Secretariat, and the deadline was 2000, and it wasn’t met.  So, the UN Secretariat is in violation of a General Assembly resolution, right? And is there any new deadline?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know of any new deadline, but the noon guest of today will probably be able to focus more on this issue in the context of International Women’s Day.  Also, this is more a question for the Secretariat for you to pose as to where exactly the figures are.  Yes, the General Assembly has been calling for this and that call remains.  The President, in his message, did mention that there were a number of resolutions and commitments, and those had to be fulfilled and implemented.

Question:  And no new deadline?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know of any set deadline.  Matthew?

Question:  I’m trying to understand what happened in the General Assembly, in the Fifth Committee, about this issue of the appointment as an ASG of the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect.  It seems that in the final write-up of the meeting it ends with Mr. Nambiar saying that the Department of Public Information press release on the appointment should simply have announced that as that of a Special Adviser.  Is it the GA’s position that the Secretariat can’t crate ASG posts, even if they’re a dollar a year and they’re voluntarily funded? What’s the status of this issue?

Spokesperson:  I think the status of the issue is pretty well reflected in that press release and in the way the debate actually went.  That means that there is a debate as to how that issue is and we’ll see whether that’s going to be hammered out in any form or not.  But that’s where things stand, as that press release and that meeting has looked at.  In other words, it’s inconclusive.

Question:  [inaudible] in Mr. Nambiar’s statement, is whether that means it’s an acknowledgement that it should not have used the words ASG? What are the words it shouldn’t have used? He seemed to be saying that at least something is conclusive.

Spokesperson:  If I understand correctly from that coverage, what we’re talking about is a Special Adviser.  It’s not a creation of a post, as such, it’s more a creation of a function.  And this is where I think the debate lies. There is no conclusion at the moment, as far as I can see.  Whether Member States want to take up this issue and take this further, we’ll see. It’s in the context of the Fifth Committee and, as you have seen, it was taken up under “other matters”. We have talked about this many times, that if Member States have a problem with a certain issue or a certain decision they have a forum in which they can take this up.  In this case, this was taken up in the context of the Fifth Committee. And some Member States, as you can see -– and this is reflected by the debate and in the press release -– had a problem with the way this appointment was made and what it concerns; others did not. Mr. Nambiar gave an explanation, the Committee took note of that and this is where things stand.  If Member States want to take things further, then they certainly have a possibility.

Question:  Not to make too fine a point of it, but it seems that whether or not Member States or a majority want to take it, can ASG assignments be given out if the post doesn’t exist under the GA?

Spokesperson:  No, I see the point.  If this is an issue that Member States feel they have to pronounce themselves on, then the Fifth Committee will be the forum where this will be brought up.  Whether they feel that this particular case warrants some kind of an approach that goes beyond this particular case, then this is certainly where this can happen. And if you read the comments, for example, I think, from Nicaragua, then you see that what this delegation was saying was that he felt this might be a case where there might be implications for ways that the Committee approaches its work that goes beyond this particular case.  So what I’m trying to say is one Member States felt that there’s more to this than this particular case.  Let’s see what happens.  As I said, Member States certainly have the possibility to pursue it but at the moment things stay where they are, as had been concluded in the Fifth Committee.

Correspondent:  I realize you didn’t say anything about Security Council reform.

Spokesperson:  And there’s a good reason for that.

Question:  If the President doesn’t hear anything, there’s no agenda that he has, so that his actions would only be based on whether he’s asked to do something by the members? Is that the situation where he’s sitting on right now?

Spokesperson:  Two days ago I did mention that I did not have anything new to report on Security Council reform, apart from the fact that a number of Member States were actively consulting amongst themselves, but so far none of them had stepped forward, either on an individual basis or in a group to present any kind of proposal to the President.  We’re waiting for that to happen, and once that happens, then the next stage kicks in and the President will see in what format to meet with Member States within the format of the working group or something else.

Question:  So if he doesn’t get a proposal then there will just be nothing happening?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think so because the President is engaged in this process. He is talking to Member States, he is following the issue.  So there is going to be further steps from his side as well.

No more questions? Excellent.

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