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

6 May 2008

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

6 May 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 General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  I’m trying to start on time because we’re trying to get Rashid Khalikov, the Director of the New York Office for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who will brief you on the UN’s response in the wake of the destruction caused by the cyclone in Myanmar.  And we also have the General Assembly Spokesperson who would like to brief, so that we can get this briefing on Myanmar started as soon as possible.

** Myanmar

In follow-up to yesterday’s statement on the UN’s response to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, the Secretary-General has sent a letter directly to Senior General Than Shwe, expressing his condolences.  He is in the process of mobilizing the UN system to provide humanitarian assistance to affected populations.  A UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is now standing by in the region and is ready to travel to Myanmar to coordinate relief efforts together with the Myanmar authorities.

I’m also expecting a round-up of the UN’s preparations so far.  As soon as it comes down, I will read that to you.

[Later in the briefing, the Deputy Spokesperson read the following information:]

The World Food Programme (WFP) today began distributing food in cyclone-damaged areas of Yangon, in heightened response to the looming humanitarian needs in the southern coastal regions of Myanmar, hardest hit by the powerful Cyclone Nargis three days ago. 

WFP has taken initial steps to meet the enormous logistics challenge of bringing in disaster relief supplies, equipment and prepared foods urgently needed by people in the badly hit areas.  WFP now has more than 800 metric tonnes of food stocks available in warehouses in Yangon, and will deliver these food resources to all areas in need, including the Ayeryawaddy Division, the largest and hardest hit of the five major divisions affected by the cyclone.  Additional food supplies will be airlifted into Myanmar as soon as possible.

The United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, in Geneva, said today that the UN is prepared to provide an initial grant from the Central Emergency Response Fund to facilitate aid for survivors of the cyclone, adding that it is also ready to allocate a significant amount as the most urgent needs become clear.

A five-member disaster assessment and coordination team, composed of disaster management professionals from the region, is now being dispatched to Myanmar, while UNICEF [United Nations Children’s Fund] staff members are awaiting their visas.  Meanwhile, the 81 staffers of the World Health Organization and the 70 staffers of the UN refugee agency, all based in Myanmar, have quickly mobilized to help the population.  And as I mentioned, we will have more on this shortly.

** Sudan

Turning to Sudan, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Sudan, Ameerah Haq, says she is deeply concerned about the reported attacks on civilian installations in north Darfur.

Speaking in Oslo for the Sudan Consortium, which is evaluating progress in implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan, she joined her voice to delegate after delegate who called for an immediate end to these attacks in north Darfur.

Ms. Haq called for immediate access to the concerned areas so that seriously injured civilians can be medically evacuated.

UNICEF says it is also deeply concerned at reports that a number of children have been killed during attacks on two villages of north Darfur, in the west of Sudan, and calls on the Government forces and the other parties to the ongoing conflict to take every necessary action to prevent future deaths or injuries among children.

UNICEF reminds all parties to the conflict in Darfur that, under international conventions, children are to be afforded special protection during military operations and urges that every effort must be made to ensure that schools, health centres and other such humanitarian facilities are considered as zones of peace.

The conflict in Darfur has taken a high toll upon children.  UNICEF estimates that half of the conflict-affected population in Darfur are children -– including at least one million who have been displaced by fighting.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Secretary-General also addressed the Sudan Consortium in Oslo.  She noted that peace remains a distant dream for the people of Darfur, many of whom depend on the United Nations for assistance through the world’s largest humanitarian operation.

At the same time, she said that it is of critical importance that the focus on Darfur should not eclipse work for peace throughout the rest of Sudan.  And we have copies of her speech available upstairs.

**Security Council

Here at United Nations Headquarters, the Security Council today is holding an open debate to discuss the work of its main committees dealing with counter-terrorism and non-proliferation.

The meeting began with briefings from the ambassadors of Croatia, Belgium and Costa Rica, who chair, respectively, the Counter-Terrorism Committee; the 1267 Committee that deals with Al-Qaida and the Taliban; and the 1540 Committee that deals with non-proliferation.

** Kenya

Turning to Kenya, the UN refugee agency has organized a visit for representatives of internally displaced persons to their villages in the Rift Valley.  The convoy left this morning from the provincial capital of Nakuru. 

The representatives are assessing the security situation, infrastructure and livelihood possibilities.  When they return, they’re expected to share their impressions with other displaced people so that they can make an informed decision about whether to return home.  There’s more information in the UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] briefing note from Geneva.

**UN Cares

The Secretary-General today spoke at the launch of “UN Cares” -- a workplace programme on HIV that will serve United Nations personnel and their families across the entire system.

With this initiative, the United Nations is committing to making available the staff, time and resources needed to meet a specific set of 10 minimum standards by the end of 2011 -- from training, counselling and testing to insurance coverage and access to condoms.

This launch marks a milestone in the UN response to HIV, the Secretary-General said.  He added that, because our workplace is global and spans so many activities, cultures and conditions, the challenge is particularly great.  We have his full remarks upstairs.

**Nepalese Refugees

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the United Nations refugee agency condemn the attack on an IOM bus Monday evening by some masked men near the Khudunabari refugee camp in eastern Nepal.

UNHCR is calling for the apprehension of those responsible so that they are brought to justice.

The driver and two refugees were injured in the attack while 15 refugees were being transported back to the camp.

There are more than 108,000 refugees from Bhutan living in seven camps in eastern Nepal.

**Disability Award

At 5 p.m. this afternoon in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, the Secretary-General is taking part in a ceremony to award the Franklin D. Roosevelt International Disability Award to the New Zealand Governor-General [Anand Satyanand].

The Award is presented by the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute to a UN Member State that makes noteworthy progress towards the full participation of citizens with disabilities, as called for in the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

**UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Yesterday evening, the Secretary-General spoke at an exhibition marking the work done by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  He said that, if it were not for UNRWA, the lives of millions of Palestinians would be much worse, and the threat to peace and security in the Middle East would undoubtedly be far greater.

He defended the Agency from any accusations of bias, asserting that the UN is strictly impartial in its approach to the conflict.  “If we harbour a bias, it is towards the peace and welfare of all people, Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he said.  The exhibition, by the way, is on display near the first floor staff entrance.

**New Under-Secretary-General for Field Support

This morning, the Secretary-General conducted the swearing-in ceremony of the new Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra of Argentina.

Ms. Malcorra, who was Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme before taking her new post, will now direct all support for UN peace missions worldwide.

**United Nations Environment Programme -- Universal Postal Union

The UN Environment Programme and the Universal Postal Union are teaming up to slash carbon dioxide emissions from the postal sector.  Under the plan, the agencies will work together to collect data on such things as vehicle mileage and fuel consumption, and then offer a range of solutions to cut emissions.

By the most conservative estimates, the world postal sector uses more than 850,000 vehicles and hundreds of aircraft, as well as tonnes of paper, the agencies say.  There’s more information on this upstairs.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

Tomorrow, following the noon briefing, Eric Falt, Director of the Department of Public Information’s Outreach Division, and Mia Hanak, Executive Director of the Natural World Museum, will be joined by internationally acclaimed artists to brief on the Department’s upcoming Unlearning Intolerance Seminar on “Art Changing Attitudes towards the Environment”.  And we have more information on that event upstairs.

And, as I mentioned, at 12:25 p.m. we will have Mr. Khalikov.  So before then, we have the General Assembly Spokesperson.  Before that, do you have any questions for me?  Okay, let’s start with Rima.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A human rights group said that Myanmarese or Burmese soldiers or police killed 36 political prisoners following a cyclone.  Is the United Nations aware of that?  And my second question is, does the Secretary-General condone the right of journalists to ask questions without interference?

Deputy Spokesperson:  The first question, no, I don’t have any first-hand information on the reports you are reading.  As I just mentioned to you -- and I hope Mr. Khalikov will explain to you more -- the current activities and access that the United Nations staff have in Myanmar.  I didn’t quite understand your second question. 

Question:  Following the UNRWA event, I had approached him to ask a question and one of his UN staff held my arm back.  Is that something that he condones?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m not aware of that incident, so we’ll need to talk about that afterwards. 

Question:  For the letter from the Secretary-General to General Than Shwe, when was it sent, basically what was his request, and any reaction so far?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I just mentioned to you the broad outlines of that letter.  The letter was just sent following the Secretary-General’s comments on this subject that you’ve already heard.  He expresses his condolences and he says that he is in the process of mobilizing the UN system to provide humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.  And the UN disaster, assessment and coordination team is standing by and ready to travel to Myanmar.  And these are the elements in the letter. 

Question:  Did he mention about the visa requirements about blocking access?

Deputy Spokesperson:  This is all I’m going to be able to tell you about the letter right now.

Question:  On Myanmar, the BBC reported this morning that the Government had advance notice of the storm, moved their vehicles, particularly their military vehicles, but it did not warn the population.  Can you confirm that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think that’s something that you could address to the senior official from the Department of Humanitarian Affairs because I think he’s been in touch with the people on the ground and will be in a much better position than I to answer that. 

Question:  Two things on Myanmar.  I just want to make clear, the Secretary-General did not raise the visa issue in the letter, right?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I flagged to you the letter that he sent.  I will leave the rest for Mr. Khalikov to answer for you.

Correspondent:  Well, either he did or he didn’t. 

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can’t go beyond what I’m telling you now.  The letter, I understand, has not yet been received.  I don’t have confirmation that it’s been received.  I know that it’s been sent. 

Question:  Also, did Mr. Holmes have a figure in mind from the Central Emergency Response Fund that would be released?

Deputy Spokesperson:  He did not mention a figure.  Again, we can follow up with Mr. Khalikov on that. 

Question:  Since all these beautiful accolades for UNRWA, last week there was a report, first on CNN and then on other services, that the so-called engineer that is a bomb maker of the Islamic Jihad was killed in an Israeli operation.  He has also served as a teacher in UNRWA.  Does UNRWA pay people who are members of organizations that are defined by the European Union, which is the major funding source for UNRWA, and the United States as terrorist organizations?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think I have some more guidance on the particular incident that you referred to.  I don’t have it with me so I’ll follow up after the briefing. 

[Later in the briefing, the Deputy Spokesperson made the following statement:]

Yes, we can confirm that the person killed was an UNRWA employee.  He was Deputy Headmaster of a boys’ preparatory school in Rafah.  It is not for us to confirm whether or not the individual is a deputy commander of the organization that you mentioned.  UNRWA has a policy of zero tolerance on politics in the workplace.  In the past 18 months, the Agency has summarily dismissed three teachers in Gaza for breaching Agency rules on political involvement.  All were Hamas.

Question:  Can I follow up on that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything beyond this, though.

Question:  The organization that they mentioned confirmed itself that he was from Islamic Jihad.

Deputy Spokesperson:  As I said, the Agency has a policy of zero tolerance and they have dismissed three teachers already.  So, that’s what I have for you.  We can follow up with UNRWA what’s happened since then. 

Question:  I just want to clarify.  How many UN personnel are in Myanmar now and how many are waiting to go?

Deputy Spokesperson:  For the precise figures, again, this is why I asked Mr. Khalikov to come down because he will be able to give you the latest information.  Obviously we have teams already inside.  There is a UN country team inside Myanmar doing the work that it was mandated to do before the cyclone.  And now that a disaster has hit, there is a further team and supplies lined up to go in at the earliest possible green light. 

Question:  At the (inaudible) had the Secretary-General also referred to the upcoming referendum on (inaudible)?  

Deputy Spokesperson:  I just flagged to you the letter.  The Secretary-General mentioned to you his concerns at the stakeout yesterday.  And I thought that I should follow up and let you know that he has conveyed these following points.  I have nothing further to go on this.

Question:  I also have a question on Afghanistan.  There are reports coming from Afghanistan saying that some New Zealand soldiers near Bamiyan Province had damaged the Buddhist statues there.  Is the UN aware of this?  Did it happen?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I can follow up for you.  I recall seeing some developments on that, but I don’t have anything firm to give you right now.

[The correspodent was later informed that the Buddhas in Bamiyan had not been damaged.]

Question:  Just to follow up on the referendum question, does the Secretary-General have a position as to whether, in the aftermath of the cyclone, the referendum should take place as scheduled on Saturday?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We are confident that the Myanmar Government will make an informed and responsible decision based on an overall assessment of the situation. 

Question:  That confidence is based on what?

Deputy Spokesperson:  An overall assessment of the situation.

Question:  On this issue that Carla del Ponte has raised, she says that people were captured and taken back to Albania and their organs were removed for sale.  She’s really raising this pretty carefully.  Human Rights Watch says that it has reviewed an UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo] report that they claim partially substantiated the allegations.  Are you able to confirm or deny that UNMIK looked into those and what did it find?  

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll follow up with UNMIK. 

Question:  Also, there’s a report in the Korea Herald saying that South Korean military advisers did go to Darfur and receive briefings in advance or in preparation of potentially joining the UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] force.  I’ve asked before and you said before there is no way to know if South Korea went.  Now it’s reported that they got briefings from UN personnel there.  Did they go or did they not go?

Deputy Spokesperson:  My understanding is that there are delegations constantly going to Darfur.  Countries do send missions to Darfur –- troop contributors, police contributors -– they do send assessment missions in advance of assessing whether they will send contributions or not.  So it would not be surprising to hear that a South Korean delegation had gone there. 

Correspondent:  The President of South Korea is saying that Secretary-General Ban has a particular interest in seeing his country contribute to the UNAMID force. 

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General is keen on seeing any country that can help contribute to the work of UNAMID and what the UN is trying to do in Darfur.

Question:  One Somalia question, there’s the Amnesty International report out which says that the Ethiopian troops and the TFG [Transitional Federal Government] and all sides have been killing civilians and paints a very dark picture.  There’s also a report yesterday of the TFG shooting at and killing some people protesting food prices.  Does the UN system –- Ahmedou Ould Abdallah has come here and said things are going better, things are going well -– does his office have anything to say about the TFG’s involvement in shooting civilians, including those protesting food prices?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything as specific as you request.  But the office of Mr. Abdallah has repeatedly issued statements condemning violence when it does occur.  I don’t have anything again on the specific report that you mentioned.  But the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights does say that the human rights situation in Somalia remains a major concern and discussions about a possible mission there by human rights staff have continued since last year.  Of course, such a mission depends on the willingness and the ability of the host country to accept this.  Having said that, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights is establishing a monitoring and a technical cooperation unit within the UN Office for Somalia over the next few weeks.  You can get more details on that from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Regarding the Amnesty report, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights does say that they have received similar reports and share their concerns.  But, they do note the exceptional difficulty to monitor events on the ground. 

With that, I am going to hand over -– if it’s okay with Janos –- because Mr. Khalikov has obviously had to interrupt a very busy schedule to be here to brief you.  But please, don’t go away, for Janos. 

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon, good to see you all.  A little update on the programme of the President and also on the activities of the General Assembly.

** Myanmar Cyclone Disaster

Let me start with the Myanmar cyclone disaster.

The President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, has expressed his solidarity with the people of Myanmar in dealing with the aftermath of the devastation and destruction caused by Cyclone Nargis.  He also called on the authorities in Myanmar to fully cooperate with the international community and the United Nations so that much needed emergency assistance could be deployed as effectively as possible.

**President Opens Business Call to Action MDG Event in London

The President made those remarks at the beginning of a brief statement he delivered at the beginning of the Business Call to Action event in London on the MDGs [Millennium Development Goals] this morning.

The President was the first speaker at that event and he introduced the host of the event, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Business Call to Action is a joint event by the United Kingdom and UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and is part of the Call to Action initiative launched by Gordon Brown in 2007.

Today’s London event, which took place in the heart of the financial district in Canary Wharf, brought together key business leaders and private sector representatives as well as people from think tanks -– but also the Presidents of Rwanda and Ghana were there as well.  The co-host of the event, UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis, was also there.

The idea of the meeting –- as stressed by the British Prime Minister -- was to enlist the support and expertise of global business to achieve the MDGs.

President Kerim, in his brief introductory statement, referred to the General Assembly’s recent debate on the MDGs and noted that one of the key conclusions to emerge from that meeting was that closer partnerships with the private sector were essential to make quicker progress; and that business should be encouraged to develop new markets in the developing world by providing goods and services for the poorest “bottom billion”.

The President told participants that it was time to move beyond words; to explore new opportunities and to develop new initiatives that could unleash the expertise, investment and technology of the private sector to support growth in developing countries; and to go beyond philanthropy by leveraging the core business of those present in support of achieving the MDGs and making a profit.

He also noted that many business leaders would be invited to announce new initiatives and champion specific MDGs during a special meeting with Heads of States at the United Nations in New York on 25 September, which was convened jointly by the General Assembly President and the Secretary-General.

And in meeting with Gordon Brown, President Kerim gave him the letter of invitation to the 25 September event, and also gave him the just completed Chairman’s summary of the MDG debate held by the General Assembly in early April.  That summary, by the way, is available for everyone on the website of the President (www.un.org/ga/president/62/).

During the meeting when some of the discussion focused on agricultural production in Africa and the looming food crisis, the President stressed the following, and I quote, “The UN must show, without delay, prompt and resolute leadership, in my opinion, because of the scope and implications of the problem.”

**President’s Travels

He is to travel from the United Kingdom to Turkey for an official visit tomorrow.  In Turkey, he will have talks with President [Abdullah] Gul, Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan and Foreign Minister [Ali] Babacan.  He is also scheduled to give an address to Bilkent University on the role of the UN in the era of globalization.

From Turkey, the President will go to Egypt for an official visit, which includes meetings with Egyptian officials and an address to the Egyptian Council of Foreign Affairs.  Then Tuesday and Wednesday next week, the President is expected to be in Israel for an official visit on the invitation of President [Shimon] Peres.

**Website Information

A little bit of additional information on what is available on the President’s website.  I mentioned that the summary of the MDG event is there.  It is the Chairman’s summary of the event that took place between 1 and 4 April, the thematic debate on the MDGs.  There is also another letter -- along with a background note on the website on the thematic debate on 22 May, which is on human security -- and that is going to be the first ever debate in the General Assembly on that topic.  Some of you may remember that the idea of human security and what it is supposed to cover emanates from the 2005 Outcome document, paragraph 143.  Just to give you a heads up:  on that week, when the human security debate is, that is going to be a relatively busy GA week because, a day before, on 21 May, is when the General Assembly will have the elections for the Human Rights Council.  Information on that is available along with the candidate countries on the website of the General Assembly (www.un.org/ga/).

**Fifth Committee

And finally, a word on the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary).  The Committee began on Monday the second part of its resumed session.  This is expected to last for four weeks, so until 30 May.  The second part of the resumed session of the Committee is mainly to focus on the budgetary and administrative issues related to peacekeeping missions in a cross-cutting manner, also in a specific manner, as each mission is concerned –- and this is in line with resolution 49/233, which established the budget cycle for peacekeeping missions to run from 1 July to 30 June.

Yesterday, the Committee heard opening statements of a more general nature on the work of the Committee as regards peacekeeping issues.  These were basically delivered on behalf of regional groups and other groups like the EU, African Group, Rio Group and the Group of 77.  It adopted its programme of work, but only for the first week, with the understanding that adjustments would be made, if necessary.  This hinges on the availability of various reports.  And then it took up the proposals on the disposal of the assets of several closed peacekeeping missions and full consolidation of peacekeeping accounts, as well as budgets of peacekeeping missions in Georgia, Lebanon, Burundi and Sierra Leone.  It is currently meeting in informal consultations.  The next meeting, when it takes up issues, will be on Thursday and it is expected to look at cross-cutting issues related to peacekeeping.

And there is a press release on that available for you.  It is GA/AB/3845.  It gives a good, sort of, rundown of what happened in the Committee and also the various reports.

That is what I have for you.  Of course, if you have any questions, please go ahead.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Talking about call for business, did he have any comments about nations exporting; talking specifically about third world countries in sub-Saharan Africa?

Spokesperson:  No, it was a very, very short, two-minute little introductory statement to launch the event where Gordon Brown was the main speaker followed by others as well.  But in that short introductory statement, the President simply drew attention to the importance of involving the private sector, also looking at what I have mentioned, going beyond philanthropy and acknowledging the profit element involved, but, at the same time, to also harness the capability, the innovative, the technology, etc., capacity and capability of the private sector to also, at the same time, fulfil the MDGs.  Rhonda.

Question:  In the same line, is there any comparable effort towards involving science in developing the MDGs or is it basically a business strategy in terms of what the UN would pursue?  Do you have any idea?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think, if you go to the website and look at, for example, the thematic debate on the MDGs and the outcome of that, the so-called Chairman’s summary, which is available on the website of the President as of yesterday, it gives you an outline and a rundown of the thematic debate that took place, as I said, between 1 and 4 April.  That gives you an overview of the various different so-called stakeholder approaches and that includes science as well.  This particular event, the United Kingdom-UNDP joint event, is particularly focused on business and the private sector.

Question:  Could it be focused on science?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of anything concrete in the pipeline, but science is definitely involved in that broader sense as one of the stakeholders.  Matthew.

Question:  At the stakeout yesterday, Secretary-General Ban was asked about the two audits of OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services] that had become public, which were very damning of OIOS, and it came out of the Congo golden guns investigation.  His answer was that he can’t really hold OIOS responsible since it was a creation of the General Assembly.  So I am wondering if the President of the General Assembly is aware of these audits of OIOS, and what the General Assembly is going to do about them?

Spokesperson:  Well, if you remember -– I think we have mentioned this in connection with the Fifth Committee –- that one of the things that is going to come up within the framework of the sixty-third session is going to be the overall investigative work of the UN, and that includes OIOS, the Procurements Task Force and all the things that were discussed in that context.  That is the overall investigative work.  As regards the peacekeeping missions, that comes up on Thursday.  If you look at the list of documents available -– go on the website of the Fifth Committee, look at that one pager now that they have for this week (as the programme of work) and there you will see on Thursday, when it comes to the cross-cutting issues, the OIOS report, including some of the issues that you have mentioned and also there is an addendum to that which is a response from the Secretary-General as regards the OIOS report.  It is a three pager.  Read that and let’s see what happens on Thursday and to what extent Member States will bring up issues. 

We have discussed this many times, that the framework of the Fifth Committee allows for these issues to come up.  Member States can bring up whatever they want in that format.  And also, Matthew, don’t forget, I know you asked this before because one of the things we talked about on a broader sort of aspect, on management reform, was that, when the management reform thematic debate took place, the first ever in the GA, these issues came up back and forth between the Secretariat and Member States as well.  These included the various issues that are now also in front of the Fifth Committee -– whether it is lateness of reports, whether it is budgetary process or whether it is the investigative process.  And I don’t have an answer for you as the Chairman’s summary on that.  I know you were asking about that.  It will be on the website soon when it is done.

Question:  Just one thing about this issue.  It seems like if a United Nations agency is under the Secretariat and some kind of scandal or report comes out, conceivably the Secretary-General can act on it.  The next day he can say:  I am going to take action.  In something like OIOS which is not under the Secretariat, only under the GA, if something happens that requires action by somebody that oversees it, what do you do if the GA is not in session and the Fifth Committee is not in session?  Can the President of the General Assembly call the head of the agency?  What is the mechanism for the GA to oversee its creations?

Spokesperson:  First of all, there is not such a thing as the GA is not in session.  The GA is in session.  It may not be meeting in a plenary, but it is in session.  That is why it is called the sixty-second session, so basically, a meeting can be called any time on short notice.

Question:  Has it ever taken place?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have an example for you on that, but basically Member States can initiate and then the Bureau discusses and chooses the particular day and, yes, on a very short notice this can be done if Member States so desire.

Question:  Lastly, just to follow up on the Host Country Committee, has there been any progress on getting the Chairman, the Ambassador of Cyprus, to come?

Spokesperson:  We did approach Ambassador (Andreas) Mavroyiannis and he is aware of the request.  My understanding is that he is going to come back to us and to you about how to follow up.  So that approach has been made.  Thank you.  Oh, somebody in the back.  Yes, please.

Question:  Is there anything on the horizon on the Task Force for Security Council reform?

Spokesperson:  The following -- and I have mentioned this -- that, at the moment, the Task Force ambassadors are consulting with Member States in various different forums:  regional groups, various interest groups, individual basis and they are in that process at the moment.

Question:  (inaudible)…sort of set for it?

Spokesperson:  No particular deadline in the sense that there is a set date, but, as we have said -– as the President himself has said -- the idea is for the Task Force to work with Member States, to consult with them, also brief the President and involve the President, as he is the head of the Task Force, and to basically come up with a common approach to then hold the next meeting, most likely the next meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group and then, from that, to come up with some kind of a consensus approach which could be the basis of the next step, which is intergovernmental negotiations.

Thank you very much, all the best.

* *** *

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