DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
|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.
Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon on this rainy Friday in New York.
**Statement on Darfur
I will start with a statement of the Secretary-General. It’s in his voice, marking four years since the first Security Council meeting on Darfur. I will not read the entire statement, which will be available upstairs.
Four years ago this week, the Security Council first took up the issue of Darfur. The situation remains grim today as then, if not worse. Violence targeting civilians, including women and girls, continues at alarming levels with no accountability, or end, in sight. Some 4 million civilians, including close to 2.5 million internally displaced, continue to suffer. As a result of ongoing attacks by armed forces and groups, more than 100,000 civilians have been forced to flee from violence this year alone, at a rate of 1,000 per day. The ongoing conflict risks the lives of civilians and also jeopardizes regional stability.
Furthermore, the deterioration of the security situation undermines the deployment of the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and threatens the historic North-South peace agreement, which ended one of Africa’s longest and bloodiest wars. Although the Security Council has adopted seven resolutions related to Darfur since 2004, the conflict and suffering of the people of Darfur continue.
And this is in the Secretary-General’s name: I call upon all parties and stakeholders to immediately focus on the fundamental requirement for the protection of civilians and the establishment of sustainable peace and stability in Darfur. Four years on, the conflict in Darfur persists at extreme and unacceptable levels. But continued suffering is both unforgivable and preventable, and the potential for peace and progress is great. So let us not dwell on what has been lost in Darfur, but call upon all parties and stakeholders to immediately focus on what can be achieved by ending the hostilities, protecting civilians and coming to the negotiating table in good faith to secure the peace the Darfurians desperately need now. The entire statement is available upstairs.
And also today, out on the racks is the Secretary-General’s latest 30-day report to the Security Council on the deployment of UNAMID. In it, the Secretary-General says that we are accelerating the deployment of Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions. Following their arrival, we will prioritize the deployment of the Thai and Nepalese units, which are ready to deploy and possess the required capabilities to make UNAMID an effective force. The report also says that the Peacekeeping Department and all levels of the UN Secretariat continue to pursue options with regard to missing aviation and transportation assets. It is incumbent upon Member States to pledge these critical capabilities or prevail upon other States that may be in a position to do so. The deployment of UNAMID without these critical assets will make it a force that lacks the capability to respond to the challenges and complex environment in which it is deployed. The report, in addition to outlining the challenges to deployment, also gives an update on policing activities. And that report is available upstairs.
Turning to Haiti, the situation in the Haitian town of Les Cayes remains tense following yesterday’s demonstration against the rising cost of living, which turned violent after a small group attacked the local UN office. That’s according to the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), which adds that some protesters broke into the UN compound, ignoring warning shots from UN peacekeepers, pillaged two containers and damaged the main entry gate. They also burned shops in the town, threw rocks and fired weapons at UN peacekeepers during the night. No UN employees were hurt in the incident. The Mission says it has sent reinforcements, flying in more than 100 additional peacekeepers. The Mission’s top police officials are now in Les Cayes to oversee UN police operations and coordinate with the Haitian police. There’s a press release from the Mission available upstairs as well.
Also on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia. In it, he notes that the past three months have witnessed moments of tension between the two sides. Nevertheless, according to the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), the security situation in its area of responsibility remains relatively stable overall. This is a welcome development that contrasts favourably with the same period last year, he adds.
** Iraq Humanitarian
And turning to Iraq, two of the UN’s top humanitarian officials today called for an immediate end to the violence there, along with greater efforts to enable the safe passage of relief personnel and supplies. At a press conference in Amman, Jordan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes said that ongoing hostilities and restrictions on freedom of movement have hindered access by aid workers to millions of Iraqis in need. He said that it remains a UN priority to address the most acute needs of all Iraqis who can be reached, while taking into account the safety of humanitarian aid workers. He also urged donors to provide full funding of the $265 million appeal launched in February.
Meanwhile, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, David Shearer, recently returned from an assessment mission in Basra. He told reporters in Amman that supplies are reaching more people in the southern Iraqi port city, averting a humanitarian crisis there, but much more needs to be done. He also noted significant obstacles to delivering aid to Baghdad’s Sadr City. We have more information upstairs, including the latest humanitarian profile for Iraq from OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
** Côte d’Ivoire
And on Côte d’Ivoire, the UN Mission there says it continues to dismantle its observation posts in accordance with the March 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement, which ended active hostilities between Government and rebel forces. The Mission says that, of its original 17 military observation posts built inside the former Zone of Confidence between Government- and rebel-held areas, only two now remain operational. The dismantling process was being completed gradually after a UN-led security assessment and in consultation with the Ivorian parties. And there’s a press release from the Mission upstairs.
**International Mine Awareness Day
And today is the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. To mark this day, the Secretary-General, in a message, called on every State to ratify all disarmament, humanitarian and human rights law instruments related to landmines, explosive remnants of war and to the survivors of the devastating devices. He also says that the widest possible ratification and full compliance are the only ways for the international community to succeed in preventing new injuries and fatalities while ensuring that victims and their families fully realize their rights. He adds that with initiatives under way to eliminate cluster munitions, new international instruments may soon emerge. The Secretary-General welcomes all endeavours to end the humanitarian impact of these weapons. Stressing that Member States, civil society and the United Nations must strive to foster the legislative, social and economic conditions that enable survivors to realize their rights and be productive members of society, the Secretary-General says mine action-related assistance integrated into broader efforts to ensure respect for the rights of persons with disabilities will also contribute to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Many events are taking place around the world on this occasion. At the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), a series of presentations took place displaying de-mining equipment and mine-risk education materials and mine clearance activities. And the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) organized several mine risk education sessions and other activities in order to raise awareness about the problem and inform on preventive measures against the threat posed by mines and cluster bombs in the area.
**Deputy Secretary-General’s Travels
And the last two items. The Deputy Secretary-General will travel this afternoon to Syracuse University in New York to deliver the keynote message at an event commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King’s life and achievements. The Deputy Secretary-General will focus her remarks on Dr. King’s contribution to peaceful relations among people and nations, and how his mission resonated with the values and principles of the United Nations. And we should have that statement shortly.
**The Week Ahead
And “The Week Ahead”, we have that available for you upstairs. A couple of things, actually a number of things, I’d like to flag for you. Tomorrow, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes, begins a six-day visit to the Gulf region to strengthen collaboration between the United Nations and Gulf States in addressing humanitarian issues worldwide. He’ll also travel to the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar. He is starting in Saudi Arabia.
Monday is World Health Day. At 6 p.m., in the Delegates’ entrance, in the Kuwaiti boat area, the commemoration of the fourteenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide takes place. The Secretary-General is expected to deliver remarks. Then from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium, there will be a firm screening of A Walk To Beautiful, the story of five Ethiopian fistula survivors, followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers.
All next week in Conference Room 1, the forty-first session of the Commission on Population and Development will meet. On Tuesday, 8 April, the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing and hold consultations on Haiti. A briefing and consultations on the International Independent Investigation Commission (IIIC) in Lebanon are scheduled for the afternoon, and there will be a press conference scheduled by Daniel Bellemare, the Commissioner of the IIIC at 4:45, here in Room 226. This is next Tuesday, after the briefing.
Then on Wednesday, as we mentioned, starting Wednesday, the Secretary-General is planning to be in Moscow. That’s the trip we announced for you yesterday. And, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT). Then on Thursday, the guest will be Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, who will discuss the outcome of the first round of negotiations in the Bangkok climate change talks and a new global climate change agreement that is taking place this week. And a week from today, just to let you know, we will have a technical briefing by the Chief of the Media Accreditation and Liaison Unit, Gary Fowlie, on media arrangements for the Pope’s visit to the United Nations on 18 April. That is in response to some requests we had from you.
And finally, our guest at the noon briefing on Monday will be Manuel Escudero, Chair of the Academic Initiatives at the UN Global Compact Office, who will brief you on the Principles for Responsible Management Education, which is a UN-backed global initiative developed to promote corporate responsibility and sustainability in business education.
This is what I have for you. We do have the General Assembly Spokesperson here already to brief you. And I’ll take some questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I just wanted to clarify what my understanding of the status of UNAMID in the Sudan. We, that is the UN-AU force, have some boots on the ground who have already been deployed, originating from two countries, and you have boots coming on the ground from two additional countries. Is that correct, Marie?
Deputy Spokesperson: The current configuration of troops on the ground, there are about 7,500 troops on the ground and then, in addition, we have about 1,600 police officers. They come from a number of countries. The two were simply updates on the battalions that have generated quite a lot of interest, so I flagged that for you, especially the Asian units that are upcoming.
Question: Let me just get a clarification here. What ground are the boots on? Are they just arrived in Khartoum or have they deployed to Darfur or somewhere in the west?
Deputy Spokesperson: There are more than 9,000, including, as I just mentioned, 7,500 military personnel and 1,600 police, in Darfur. The report will give you a breakdown of the kinds of activities they’re engaged in; for example, it says that UNAMID police are now currently conducting an average of 125 daily confidence-building patrols. This is in Darfur between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. in 45 community policing posts across three sectors they’re deployed in. Night patrols have commenced in selected areas and are expected to expand further. So there are, in the latest report, a number of updates on what we are doing on the ground, as well as the representation from the various countries that are represented.
Question: Can I follow up on that? Does the UN have official approval from Sudan to send the Thai and Nepali troops?
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes.
Question: They have official approval?
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, that’s why the Secretary-General, in this latest report, mentions the order in which they will go.
Question: Are there 7,500 troops or 9,000 on the ground?
Deputy Spokesperson: I wasn’t going to bog you down with details, but there are 7,533 troops and 1,687 police.
Question: So there are more than 9,000 troops?
Deputy Spokesperson: More than 9,000, including the 1,600 police.
Question: Okay. My other question is, the Secretary-General’s statement on Darfur. Was that in response to the letters he received from the Ambassadors of Chad and Sudan recently?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, it is not. It is marking, as I mentioned, the fourth anniversary of the Security Council taking up this issue this week.
Question: Will he be responding back to those Ambassadors?
Deputy Spokesperson: Which letter? Yesterday you asked about one letter and I mentioned a response to that.
Question: And the Sudanese Ambassador as well?
Deputy Spokesperson: These are the letters, I understand, that have gone to the Security Council. They’ve been distributed to the Security Council.
Question: I think they were addressed to the Secretary-General as well.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have to see whether they were addressed to him or they were asked to be circulated to the Security Council members.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later confirmed that the letters were addressed to the Security Council President.]
Question: Sorry, just another Africa related question. Do you have a sense of when the next Ethiopia-Eritrea report might be coming out?
Deputy Spokesperson: If you look at the Council programme, it generally mentions when that is. I’m taking a quick look, but I don’t see that there is one due this month.
Question: There was one due last month.
Deputy Spokesperson: There was a report last month.
Question: There was one dated 3 March but there was to be a follow-up with information on the temporary relocation.
Deputy Spokesperson: I can look it up for you.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later announced that the next report was expected to be issued next week.]
Question: Marie, yesterday, the Judges in the UN war crimes Tribunal have acquitted the former leader of the KLA. According to Marlise Simons in today’s Times, the lawyers had said that in no other case before the Tribunal had witness intimidation been so widespread. Evidently, the Judges said over 100 witnesses were afraid to testify. So how could they arrive at a decision?
Deputy Spokesperson: You’ve got to ask the court that question.
Question: This item on Iraq that you mentioned at the top of the briefing without mentioning the figures, the United Nations special humanitarian coordinators, David Shearer and Mr. Holmes, have given a figure that 750 civilians have been killed and 1,500 have been injured, and they are unable to go to the area because of the security situation. I wonder if the SRSG has been able to visit that area. Has he got any independent report of how many people were killed in fact?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think this report states that these are figures from the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq and that’s where the figures have come from.
Question: The thing is, will they be going to that area, which even the humanitarian coordinators have been unable to go to?
Deputy Spokesperson: I can check that for you.
Question: On these incidents in Haiti and the attacks on the UN compound, is this the type of incident that the Brahimi group will look into, in terms of why the UN is targeted, or is this something different?
Deputy Spokesperson: My understanding is that this was a demonstration protesting cost of living increases. The fact that there was an incursion into the UN compound is part of a general demonstration in the country, I am told. So my immediate reaction would be that this was an incident that happened yesterday and today things are calm. I’d have to check with Mr. Brahimi, but my impression is that this may not be in the same category.
Question: When you do, can you ask him what’s up with the report? What’s been happening? It was announced with some fanfare that he was starting this inquiry, but when will it end and will it be made public?
Deputy Spokesperson: Sure, I’ll ask. But you also know he has a Spokesperson, so you can refer directly to him.
Question: Another thing, this inquiry into the UNDP retaliation, you said it from here. Remember, there was a panel appointed with much fanfare that was supposed to finish by the end of 2007? Then it was supposed to finish by the end of March. Now we’re in April. Did it finish and, if not, when will it finish? All it was initially was that Ban Ki-moon said this is a problem, this goes back more than a year, I’m calling for an audit.
Deputy Spokesperson: It’s a UNDP matter. I’d have to check with UNDP and get back to you.
Question: Is Ban Ki-moon monitoring the audit since he’s the one who called for the audit so many months ago?
Deputy Spokesperson: Let me check with UNDP on where things stand. You’re asking me when they’ll be finished, so I have to ask them.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent that the UNDP audit was expected to be completed within the next several months.]
Question: What about these assets you’re talking about that are required by the UN forces, especially in Darfur? Have you come up with any figures on the helicopters or other assets that are needed, especially in Darfur? How many helicopters, 100, 200?
Deputy Spokesperson: Every day we’ve been mentioning to you the need for the critical assets that we need. Even yesterday I said from here what was missing. And again, the Secretary-General says to the Security Council, there have been no additional pledges for the missing aviation and transportation units over the reporting period. UNAMID still lacks one heavy and one medium ground transportation unit, three military aviation units, that’s 18 helicopters total, and additional attack helicopters to meet the full operation requirement. Ethiopia has pledged four attack helicopters, but that was in the last report, so there’s been no change. And that’s why we mentioned that the Peacekeeping Department, as well as the UN Secretariat at all levels, are approaching all potential contributors for these crucial assets.
Question: It’s been reported that MDC offices in Zimbabwe have been raided by the Government. I’m wondering if the Secretary-General has a statement on it? Is he monitoring the situation?
Deputy Spokesperson: He’s monitoring the situation very closely, but I don’t have anything on the reports that you just mentioned.
Question: And a follow-up to that question. Will the Secretary-General respond to the new election victory in Zimbabwe?
Deputy Spokesperson: Let’s see. Right now, the statement we issued earlier still stands.
Question: Back to this Darfur report. Do you have any numbers on the Egyptian or Ethiopian battalions? Any estimation of how many troops there are?
Deputy Spokesperson: I just mentioned to you that the deployment of battalions was being accelerated. In terms of exact number, we can get that from the Peacekeeping Department. We’ll [try to] get the exact numbers for you.
Question: Back to the question on equipment. The United States envoy for Darfur yesterday said we don’t need to wait for helicopters to get more troops to Darfur. Does the UN agree with that? Does it think it would be too dangerous to send them there without the helicopters?
Deputy Spokesperson: I think I answered that question yesterday and today again, I think this report makes it quite clear, what I said earlier about the need.
Question: Yes, but you didn’t answer that question yesterday and I haven’t seen it anywhere. Will the deployment have to wait until after these helicopters are there?
Deputy Spokesperson: The deployment is going on. More and more troops are going on the ground, as you know. And, as the Secretary-General makes very clear here, let me read to you again: “It is incumbent upon Member States to pledge these critical capabilities or prevail upon other States that may be in a position to do so. The deployment of UNAMID without these critical assets will make it a force that lacks the capability to respond to the challenges of the complex environment in which it is deployed.” The Secretary-General, and the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, has a mandate given to it by the Security Council. In order to carry out its mandate, it needs these critical assets. And this is something that the Secretary-General and Jean-Marie Guéhenno have repeatedly said for months.
Question: Does that mean no deployment without helicopters or that deployment is possible but it would be bad?
Deputy Spokesperson: We’re simply stressing the need to have them. The deployment is going on as quickly as possible, but the deployment alone of soldiers is not going to be able to allow it to do its job.
Question: Has the United States, with its largest surplus of helicopters, offered any helicopters until now?
Deputy Spokesperson: No. As I mentioned, Ethiopia is the only country that has so far.
Question: Nothing but Ban, Ban Ki-moon. Is it true, can you confirm, as has been reported, that Ban Ki-moon will travel to South Korea in early July on his way to the G-8 meeting?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on his travel plans today.
Question: It’s also been reported that Ban Ki-moon told French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy that France is assured of keeping the Peacekeeping position. Is that true?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have no comment on that. We have a head of a Peacekeeping Department now and he’s still working very hard.
Question: He said he’s leaving. I’m not trying to disrespect him in any way, but he’s said he’s leaving.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have no comment on that.
Question: And yesterday I asked about the head of the Peacebuilding Commission. You said you’d look into it. It’s my understanding that she’s given a resignation letter to Ban Ki-moon. Is that true?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have confirmation on that.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent that the head of the Peacebuilding Support Office, Carolyn McAskie, had informed her staff last week that she would be retiring soon.]
Question: With reference to those helicopters again, is there any effort being made on the part of the UN-AU to see to it that they have some common kind of aircraft or, depending on the donors, could they end up with five different kinds of ‘copters? If the Ethiopians give them five ‘copters, I assume the five ‘copters are identical, but might the other 23 conceivably be four different kinds of aircraft?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Department of Peacekeeping Operations has systematically approached countries, and when the responses are vetted, they have standards by which they are measuring any potential kind of contribution.
Question: On Kosovo, I saw a press release of the European Union stopping its support to pillar four of UNMIK’s mandate. There’s a local report in which the newspaper Koha Ditore says UNMIK will turn its mission into just a representative office of the UN by June of this year. And then an UNMIK spokesperson is quoted as saying UNMIK is waiting for instructions from New York. What are the instructions from New York? I know 1244 (1999) is still in place. You always said that. But is the UNMIK mission in fact, as they’re saying, just going to be thinned down to a representative office, or how does it go forward without this economic part?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond what we’ve been repeating. Unless the Security Council says otherwise, 1244 (1999) is in effect.
If there are no other questions, I’m turning it over to Janos. Have a good weekend.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon, good to see you all. Let me give you a little bit of an update on what the General Assembly has been up to and what the President has been up to, and what is planned for next week.
**Millennium Development Goals Thematic Debate
Let me start with the MDG thematic debate, which concluded this morning. The title of that debate was “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the MDGs by 2015”. And if you remember, and we have been stressing this ever so often, the debate focused on the poverty, education and health Goals.
General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim, in his closing statement, listed 15 key conclusions he drew from the debate. These include, among others, the following:
-- It is clear that significant progress has been made, but it is uneven and too slow. The solutions are there. The key issue is that we all have to deliver on our commitments, scale up our efforts and accelerate progress.
-- Africa and least developed countries need additional long-term assistance from the international community to catch up with the rest.
-- The MDGs are interdependent. And, making progress on the “poverty and hunger”, “education” and “health” targets will have a catalytic effect on the other Goals.
-- The international aid architecture is constrained by to much fragmentation, undermining the impact of aid.
-- Partnerships with civil society and the private sector are essential to accelerate progress.
-- Climate change is already undermining the achievement of the MDGs, particularly in the poorest counties and those at greatest risks from its effects.
He also noted that the MDG framework was the internationally accepted and intergovernmentally agreed benchmark for international development and formed the basis of our global partnership. Any attempts to change the Goals, without intergovernmental agreement, only served to undermine their legitimacy.
President Kerim also noted that if there was one point that had been made clearly and repeatedly, it was that delivering on our commitments was a priority and that delivering results a necessity. He said donors needed to provide the additional aid and debt relief they had promised. And, developing countries needed to integrate the Millennium Development Goals into national development plans and speed up implementation of other commitments, including better governance.
As regards the next steps, the President stressed that, because the General Assembly had a critical leadership role to play in mobilizing global support to achieve the MDGs, he was proposing for the Assembly to meet each year until 2015 to take stock of global implementation and to hold all partners to account for their Millennium Development Goal commitments. He noted that many delegations had endorsed this idea. The President added that, since the General Assembly established the historic Millennium Development Goals, it, therefore, had a responsibility to monitor their implementation and the commitments made by all parties to achieve their full implementation.
Therefore, in addition to holding an annual meeting devoted to this objective, the President also proposed that the General Assembly should mandate the United Nations Secretariat, working with all relevant funds, programmes and agencies, to provide an annual MDG global monitoring report, analysing implementation in all countries, to form the basis of our debate.
The President concluded by noting that the Assembly had further opportunities to demonstrate its leadership role with the 22 September meeting, focusing on Africa’s specific development needs, and the MDG event to be organized by the President of the General Assembly and Secretary-General on 25 September, which provide two additional opportunities to rally global support and announce concrete new initiatives. The full speech of the President is available for you upstairs in the Spokesman’s Office.
**Assembly Action on Fifth Committee Reports
Sill on the General Assembly: Some of you who may have followed the work of the Assembly may have noticed that, yesterday, in the morning, it took a bit of time off from the MDG debate to take action on the reports of the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), which covered the decisions taken by that Committee at the first part of its resumed session which concluded on 28 March. I gave you a run down of all those decisions on Monday when I briefed you.
The Assembly approved those Fifth Committee resolutions and decisions without a vote. Please note, and I’ve mentioned this before, that the second part of the resumed session of the Fifth Committee will take place between 5 and 30 May and will focus on the administrative and budgetary aspects of peacekeeping missions.
**Follow-up on Procurement Question
Also as regards the Fifth Committee, I put a little asterisk here to remind myself that I owed something to Matthew, because on Monday when I gave you a run down of all the decisions taken and what had been deferred, Matthew had asked whether all questions on procurement had been answered. Actually, this is a judgement call for Member States to make. It’s up to them to decide whether they have had all their questions answered. I think we have mentioned this several times, and if I may say so myself, the beauty of the Assembly framework and that of the Fifth Committee is that Member States have a variety of options and opportunities to ask whatever questions they feel remain unanswered or whatever concerns they may have. Whether that’s in consultations, formal briefings, informals or, even as you have seen, for example, in the form of a letter addressed to the Secretariat or the Secretary-General, so that’s all I have on that.
Still, as regards the work of the Assembly, those of you looking at the Journal will notice that today there is yet another “informal” informal meeting on mandate review. This is a process that is co-chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Namibia and New Zealand. The meeting will continue to look at the so-called humanitarian assistance cluster within the mandate review process.
As regards upcoming events, let me start with something that is going to take place on 8 and 9 April next week, and that is the General Assembly debate on management reform. President Kerim is convening a thematic debate on Tuesday and Wednesday on the theme “Towards a common understanding on management reform”. The aim is to provide Member States with the opportunity to discuss, in an informal setting, central concepts of management reform and to relate them to a strategic vision of the future of the United Nations. Looking back at three years since the adoption of the 2005 Summit Outcome Document, the meeting is to take stock of the progress achieved so far in implementing decisions on management reform.
The thematic debate will be divided in two parts. On the first day, 8 April, delegations will be given the opportunity to present their positions on relevant issues on management reform. On the next day, 9 April, an interactive dialogue with the Secretariat and among Member States will take place with the participation of the senior management of the Organization.
The President is asking Member States to especially focus on three interrelated issues of crucial importance to the process of transforming 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.
The President, in his letter in which he convened the meeting, also stresses that, since Member States have widely expressed the view that they should be the driving force behind management reform, he strongly encourages delegations and all the interested groups to have a proactive approach to this debate and to present their views on how to improve the management of the Organization. The outcome will be an informal chair’s summary to be distributed to Member States, which is traditionally the outcome of informal thematic debates.
**Security Council Reform Next Steps
The next thing is something that I’m sure you have all been waiting for, and that is next steps in Security Council reform. General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim yesterday evening sent out a letter to Member States informing them that he is convening the second meeting of the open-ended working group on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other matters related to the Security Council for Thursday 10 April in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.
The meeting is expected to take stock of where the process is based on the outcome of the recent phase of extensive consultations among Member States and building on that what next steps may be taken. As you may recall, this consultation phase among Member States is aimed at identifying negotiables that can serve as a basis for future intergovernmental negotiations.
In the meantime, the President and his Office are meeting with a variety of players and actors in the process, including of course, his task force, which is made up of the Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Chile and Portugal.
**Press Conference by General Assembly President
You will have the opportunity to ask the President about the outcomes, whether it’s the MDG meeting, management reform or the Security Council reform process, because he will be coming here to brief you on 11 April, that’s Friday morning at 11. So you will be able to ask him questions at that time.
Still a couple of things coming up next week which are flagged in the Journal, but may not be on your radar as much as say management reform or Security Council reform issues. The informal consultation process on system-wide coherence is continuing on Monday. There are two Permanent Representatives acting as co-chairs, the Permanent Representatives of Ireland and United Republic of Tanzania. They had their last meeting on 28 March. On 7 April, they are carrying the process forward, with a focus on funding issues related to system-wide coherence.
And finally, something that I flagged for you a number of times in December, and that relates to the work of the Sixth Committee (Legal). If you may remember, it ended its work by agreeing to convene three ad hoc committee meetings on various issues it has been dealing with. The Ad Hoc Committee on Terrorism already met. And now, what is coming up next week, as of Monday, is the meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Criminal Accountability of UN Officials and Experts on Mission.
This was an issue that was taken up by the Sixth Committee (Legal). There was a resolution regarding this issue and, in that resolution, the Committee and, subsequently, the General Assembly called for States to ensure that crimes by UN officials and experts on mission should not go unpunished and to consider establishing jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals who are serving in such capacity. This is what the Ad Hoc Committee will take forward, looking at the various legal aspects of this issue.
That’s all I have. If you have a desire to have more information on things like the management reform debate or system-wide coherence or the mandate review issue, most of the details are available through the President’s website. Either through the main issues or through the thematic debates, you can click to various background materials. I think that’s about all I have. Any additional questions?
**Questions and Answers
Question: A couple of questions. First, if the title of your thematic debate includes the phrase “getting back on track to the MDGs”, has there been some judgement that somehow the UN has gotten off track to the MDGs? What did they decide has to be done? And also, I don’t recall exactly, the 22 September session on African development. It was chaired by the Ambassadors of Angola and what was the second one? Do you recall?
Spokesperson: What I do recall is that I mentioned not too long ago in one of my briefings, a couple of weeks ago, that there was a decision taken on the modalities of that meeting. Actually it was a letter sent out on 20 March by the President. And yes, you’re absolutely right, one of the co-chairs to take the preparations for that meeting forward is Angola. The other is the Dutch Ambassador, Frank Majoor.
And the other question was on the “back on track” and the outcome. Well, that’s what I tried to capture by taking bits and pieces of the President’s closing remarks, as regards the outcome of the meeting. And as I stressed, there were a couple of concrete outcomes, for example the proposal to have annual meetings of the General Assembly to look at where we are with the MDGs. And there are a couple of other things in the President’s speech. As regards the “track” issue I think what really came out of the debate is that the issue is more a question of speed, rather than deviation from the track.
Question: One of the things that the Member States are saying again and again is that, until they get the development assistance that has been promised to them, there would be no progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. I think that should be the priority for any monitoring team that you set up. So, has the President decided how the monitoring is going to find out who had been complying with the official development assistance (ODA) requirements?
Spokesperson: Well, let me go back to my notes. One of the things that the President said was that donors needed to provide the additional aid and debt relief they had promised, and developing countries needed to integrate the Millennium Development Goals into national development plans. So, these issues clearly came up and were strongly voiced by various Member States. As regards the annual MDG global monitoring report, this is a proposal that the President is endorsing, so let’s see where it goes. It is something that countries have also mentioned and the President included it in his concluding remarks.
Question: Still, until the proper amount of ODA is provided so developing countries can take advantage of it, there can be no progress in the MDGs, am I right?
Spokesperson: I would not say whether you are right or wrong, simply because I am not an MDG expert. I’m just relying on the concluding remarks made by the President. What can be done of course, is that when the President comes here next Friday, this could be one of the questions you ask of him.
Question: What will be included under the umbrella of “criminal accountability of experts on mission”?
Spokesperson: Well, I’m trying to get it right, so I’m going to look at my notes here. Basically, there was a group of legal experts who produced a report in which they identified what is called a “jurisdictional gap” that arises when a host country is unable to try persons of crimes committed on their territory, and other States do not have the sufficient jurisdictional grounds to pursue the case. How would you go about this? This is what the Sixth Committee has been discussing.
The proposal from the group of legal experts as I understand it… or one of the ideas was to solve this issue through a new convention. Not everybody agrees with this among the Member States. That was the debate in the Sixth Committee when the issue came up, and that’s why it’s being taken forward in the Ad Hoc Committee. There was also consideration as to what can be done in the meantime, what sorts of interim measures might be appropriate while debate was under way on whether to proceed with a legal instrument or not.
One of the outcomes was that in the resolution, Member States were called to ensure that crimes by UN officials and experts on mission should not go unpunished and to consider establishing jurisdiction over serious crimes committed by their nationals who are serving in such capacity, but there are a number of other legal aspects that need to be clarified that Member States are discussing and that is what is going to come up in the Ad Hoc Committee’s meeting. But I would rather not prejudge this, because the Committee will start it’s meeting on Monday and that is when they will decide exactly which issues they will want to focus on.
Question: Do you know which Member States will be participating?
Spokesperson: As far as I know, it is open to all Member States. But again, if you want a little more information on this, with a little bit of mouse navigation you can get to it through the General Assembly website and the Sixth Committee website. It’s actually pretty well documented what had happened during the Sixth Committee debate on this issue. It gives you good background.
Question: The Eritrean Ambassador recently blamed UN peacekeepers for women trafficking and pornography, so I was wondering if that would be taken up by the Committee?
Spokesperson: I am not a legal expert on this, but if I remember correctly, one of the issues was whether military personnel would be included or not or what UN officials in what capacities. So that’s one of the things that I think is being discussed. [UN peacekeepers serving in national contingents would be excluded from the proposed legal instrument.]
Question: In his presentation here on 11 April, President Kerim will be covering a number of issues. Would it be possible to get him to come here and focus exclusively on the MDGs, because he had said, when Ted Turner was here, that he believed that development was essential for security? Almost every speech I heard in the Assembly focused on that theme, but not just on the contributions to developing countries, but on the need for structural change in the international economic order, the financial system. I think it was the Indian Ambassador who said that, without certain major structural changes, the MDGs would be no more than welfare colonialism and permanent disaster relief. So if President Kerim could come here and go into a little bit more depth into some of the major issues, I think that would be very helpful because that seems to be one of the most important programmes here, the multi-MDGs. Since Ban Ki-moon is focusing so much on development, could we have the President come here and talk exclusively on the MDGs. Because if he’s covering three topics on the 11th, there won’t be much time for the MDGs.
Spokesperson: The press conference on the 11th is because he has not come to you to talk about where are his priorities, what are the next steps. So it’s an overview and it will provide you an opportunity to ask just about everything you want from the President. But, obviously, one of the most recent things would be the outcome of the MDG event, and that includes some of the aspects that you mentioned. And also, of course, immediately following, management reform issues, which, again, is a priority topic on his agenda, and of course, Security Council reform. So all those things together. So it is a good opportunity and there will be time to explore this issue.
Now, when you mention that the President stresses the linkage between security and development, if you remember, he has, on a number of occasions in this context, stressed the importance of a human-centred approach to security or human security. One of the things he’ll convene, and we’ll have an announcement when we have a date nailed down, is a thematic debate on human security. So that will be another occasion to discuss this particular issue in more detail.
Question: One quick question. It’s reported that President Kerim met with Members of Parliament of Estonia yesterday. Is that true?
Spokesperson: That is correct, yes.
Question: One, what did he discuss with them? And two, this OCHA, Catherine Bragg, was that the same meeting or a different meeting? And that reminds me, is there a list of official things he does as President of the GA, like Ban Ki-moon?
Spokesperson: I’ll try to provide you with his activities. He did meet with the Parliamentarians and that’s just part of his regular meetings when parliamentarians come by. He has met, for example, with parliamentarians from my own home country, which is Hungary. That’s a month, month and a half ago. It is in the context of his approach of working with a broader segment than just Member States, involving civil society, private sector, and of course parliamentarians. So it’s in that context. Obviously, when he has these meetings, the focus is on stronger cooperation between the General Assembly and parliamentarians, and also giving parliamentarians an idea of what the priority areas of the General Assembly are.
Question: Has any thought been given to putting out a schedule? I really appreciate when you’re here. Sometimes we go a couple of weeks when you’re not here. Can you envision a problem with that? Although there is a lot of information on the website.
Spokesperson: That’s true, there is a lot of information there. I’ll see whether this is just a question of resources, the fact that we have only one webmaster and one Spokesperson, that’s me, or whether it’s something else. I’ll get back to you on that.
Okay, I think we’ve exhausted everything. Thank you very much, have a great weekend and see you next week.
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