|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
**Press Conference Today
At 1 p.m. today, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Deputy Director-General of the International Organization for Migration and the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights will all be here to brief you on the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking. That’s 1 p.m. here.
**Secretary-General in Rome
The Secretary-General addressed the High-Level Conference on World Food Security in Rome today, and he warned the gathered leaders about the severity and scale of the crisis. The threats are obvious to us all, he said, but the crisis also presents us with an opportunity to revisit past policies. While we must respond immediately to high food prices, he said, it is important that our longer term focus is on improving world food security and remains so for some years. The Secretary-General warned, “The world needs to produce more food.” Food production needs to rise by 50 per cent by the year 2030 to meet the rising demand, he said. We have a historic opportunity to revitalize agriculture, especially in countries where productivity gains have been low in recent years.
The Secretary-General presented the recommendations of the high-level Task Force that he had formed on the global food crisis, which said that, first, we must improve vulnerable people's access to food and take immediate steps to increase food availability in their communities; and second, we must act for longer term resilience and contribute to global food security. The Task Force report, which is available upstairs, proposes a menu of actions, including expanding food assistance through food aid, vouchers or cash; scaling up nutritional support; improving safety nets and social protection programmes to help the most vulnerable. Also, the report says, trade and taxation policies can be adjusted to minimize export restrictions and import tariffs.
In the longer term, the Task Force proposes, among other things, the reduction of agricultural trade distortions in higher-income countries and the development of greater international consensus on sustainable biofuels. While he is in Rome for the High-level Conference, the Secretary-General has also been meeting with many of the world leaders who are attending. He expects to meet with the Prime Minister of Italy this evening.
And as you all have been following already, the Security Council met this morning in consultations and approved its programme of work for June. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Council President for this month, told reporters afterwards that the Council’s meetings this month will include a formal meeting on rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict and post-conflict situations, scheduled for 19 June. Yesterday, in its first meetings with the U.S. presidency of the Security Council, the Council unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the International Independent Investigation Commission dealing with Lebanon until the end of the year.
It also adopted a resolution deciding that States cooperating with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government be allowed, for a period of six months, to enter Somalia’s territorial waters and use “all necessary means” to repress acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea, in a manner consistent with relevant provisions of international law. And the Security Council also issued a presidential statement condemning in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that occurred outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. And that was all yesterday afternoon.
**Security Council Mission to Africa
The Security Council mission that is visiting Africa today wrapped up its work in Djibouti by meeting with Somali civil society groups, including women’s groups and traditional Somali leaders. The Council delegation then travelled to Juba, in southern Sudan, where it met with Sudanese Vice President Salva Kiir, with whom the Council team discussed the recent violence in Abyei and the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between northern and southern Sudan. The Council delegation expressed its concern at the violence in Abyei. The Security Council mission has since moved on to Khartoum, where tomorrow it will meet with the UN country team in the Sudan and representatives of the international community who are based there.
UN Special Envoy for Darfur Jan Eliasson is completing today a three-day visit to the Sudan. He met in Khartoum with Government of Sudan's officials, civil society and representatives of the international community. Following from the Justice and Equality Movement attack on Omdurman in early May, the deteriorating relations between the Sudan and Chad, and the crisis between north and south in Abyei, the Special Envoy's visit underscored the regional and national dimensions to the crisis in Darfur and further highlighted the urgent need for a political settlement between the Government and the non-signatory movements.
Eliasson is proceeding to Geneva, where, together with African Union Special Envoy Salim Ahmed Salim, he will convene informal consultations with regional and international partners to the Darfur political process on 4 and 5 June. The objective of these consultations, which will be attended by a delegation from the Government of the Sudan, is to take stock of the situation and discuss the way forward with a view to bring the parties to the negotiating table as soon as it’s practical.
**International Criminal Court
And just to flag for you, the International Criminal Court says that, on 5 June, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Court Prosecutor, will be in New York to deliver his report to the United Nations Security Council on the situation in Darfur. And he will be here to brief you at 1:15 on that Thursday, that’s the day after tomorrow. And there is a media advisory on that upstairs.
The Deputy Secretary-General addressed the General Assembly’s thematic debate on human trafficking this morning. In her remarks, she noted that up to two million women are trafficked across borders each year. To respond, we need universal ratification of the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, she added. In terms of fighting human trafficking, she said that we know what works, the combined efforts of prevention, prosecution and protection. But she said she would also add the concept of partnership, because we can only beat back this deadly illegal trade with a strong and broad coalition. We cannot stop until we have freed all victims of human trafficking, for the sake of these millions of individuals and for our shared humanity, she said. And we have her full remarks upstairs.
The Secretary-General today sent a message to the International Meeting on the Question of Palestine, which is being held in Malta by the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. In that message, the Secretary-General said that, to succeed, current efforts to achieve a peace deal need to be underpinned by visible progress on the ground. Both sides must seize the current window of opportunity to push the peace process forward, especially by acting on their obligations under the Road Map. He added that the coming months will be critical to our collective efforts to restore hope to the Palestinians. The message was delivered by Max Gaylord, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
**Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council this morning continued in Geneva with its interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, as well as the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers. Walter Kälin, Special Representative on internally displaced persons, put particular emphasis on persons displaced as a result of natural disasters and noted that over the past 20 years some 200 million people had been affected by natural disasters. “The recent disastrous Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the earthquake in the Sichuan region of China are terrible tragedies that remind us of the vulnerabilities of populations with regard to natural disasters.” We have more on this upstairs.
**Press Conferences Tomorrow
And then, just to flag for you again, we have at 1 p.m. a press conference this afternoon. Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., there will be a briefing by the President-elect of the upcoming sixty-third session of the General Assembly. And at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by representatives from Human Rights Watch, Save Darfur Coalition and the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC), on a new NGO [non-governmental organization] initiative to bolster support for the Court in Darfur.
And that’s what I have for you. Anything for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: The Associated Press is reporting that there’s a report out from the UN that states over one million people in Myanmar still do not have adequate food or aid. Could you elaborate on this latest assessment report?
Deputy Spokesperson: We have something from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and they confirm that, over one month since the cyclone, close to one million people have still not been reached by the international community, but that they could be getting aid from national authorities or bilaterally. What they are also saying is that a large number of villages have not received any support at all and this is causing displacement as people search for food and clean drinking water. So I guess the bottom line is that many people still are in need of aid.
Question: Does the United Nations have any plans to solve the situation or do they have any contingency plans? Obviously this isn’t going as planned, I guess.
Deputy Spokesperson: Since, as you know, the Secretary-General visited Myanmar and spoke to authorities there, the agencies and partners and the world at large have been trying to assist the survivors of the cyclone to the best of their abilities. Every day we give you an update on the progress that has been made and also the challenges still being faced. The humanitarian agencies and aid workers on the ground are working around the clock to try to get as much aid to these people as possible.
Question: After the Government of Saudi Arabia gave $500 million, the Food and Agriculture Programme basically said that its appeal for $750, million had been met. Is that where it stands now? Is the UN satisfied that FAO and the UN do not need any more funding now to meet the worldwide food crisis?
Deputy Spokesperson: I didn’t hear the first part of your question, but you’re talking about the recent donations, including the Saudi donation. At the time of that donation, the Secretary-General welcomed that donation to the World Food Programme (WFP), he also noted that WFP, with that amount, was able to meet its $755 million appeal. But that is just simply for WFP.
Question: Marie, yesterday the Secretary-General criticized the new Israeli plan to build settlements in occupied East Jerusalem. Has there been any response from Israel?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know. I’d have to look into that for you, but we did issue a statement, as you said, yesterday, on the tenders.
Question: Marie, you mentioned this meeting in Geneva by the African Union on Darfur. Is the United Nations represented at that meeting?
Deputy Spokesperson: Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, he’s the one who will be going to chair that meeting.
No other questions for me? Have a good afternoon.
* *** *