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

17 June 2008

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

17 June 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tiszovszky, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General


Good afternoon, all. 


**Secretary-General in London


The Secretary-General is on his way back home to New York, having wrapped up his week-long trip to London, Paris and Jeddah.  Last night in London, he spoke at the unveiling of a BBC memorial called “Breathing”, a glass sculpture that sends a shaft of light out into the night sky in tribute to journalists who have been slain in the line of duty.  The Secretary-General said that the beam of light stands as a solemn reminder of those who have lost their lives giving voice to the voiceless.  He said, “Those who murder journalists don’t only stop the free flow of information, they kill the ability of millions of people to have their stories told.”  Earlier, the Secretary-General spoke at the sixtieth anniversary of the International Maritime Organization and commended the agency for focusing on the impact that shipping has on the Earth.  He said that focus is critical to our quality of life today and to future generations who will inherit the world of tomorrow.  We have both speeches upstairs.


** Somalia


On Somalia, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, is meeting today in Nairobi with representatives of the African Union, European Union, United States, Norway and the League of Arab States.  They are discussing how to generate funds and other resources to implement the Djibouti Agreement between Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia.  Participants in the meetings will also study the creation of the Joint Security Committee and the High Level Committee proposed by the Djibouti Agreement, including its regional and local components.  Plans for an International Conference on Reconstruction and Development in Somalia will also be considered.  The UN Political Office for Somalia says that both the Somali Prime Minister and the leaders of the opposition attended the consultations.


** Cyprus


On Cyprus, during a visit to Cyprus today, B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, held separate meetings with the Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitris Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, as well as with Nicosia-based diplomats and civil society leaders.  Pascoe told reporters he was there to assess the situation and to see how the United Nations, which has been assisting thus far in preparatory talks, can help move the process forward.  Pascoe concludes his visit tomorrow and will be back in New York later this week.


**UNDOF


The Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which monitors the Golan Heights, is available today.  In it, he says the situation in the Israel-Syria sector has remained generally quiet.  Nevertheless, the situation in the Middle East is tense and is likely to remain so, unless and until a comprehensive settlement covering all aspects of the Middle East problem can be reached.  In that context, the Secretary-General considers UNDOF’s continued presence to be essential and recommends that the Security Council extend its mandate until 31 December.  The Secretary-General also draws attention to the shortfall in UNDOF’s funding.  Unpaid assessments amount to nearly $15 million, he says.


**UNHCR


There were 11.4 million refugees outside their countries and 26 million others displaced internally by conflict or persecution at the end of 2007, contributing to an unprecedented number of uprooted people under the care of the UN refugee agency.  After a five-year decline in the number of refugees between 2001 and 2005, this is the second year of increases, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.  High Commissioner António Guterres says that we are now faced with a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement in the future.  They range from multiple new conflict-related emergencies in world hotspots to bad governance, climate-induced environmental degradation that increases competition for scarce resources, and extreme price hikes that have hit the poor the hardest and are generating instability in many places.  There is more information on the UNHCR website.


**UNICEF in Iraq


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is scaling up its Iraq emergency operation in order to reach more vulnerable children inside the country.  UNICEF says violence, isolation and lack of opportunity have put Iraqi children at greater risk of exploitation and abuse.  The agency says that more than 800,000 Iraqi children are unable to go to school and only 40 per cent can access safe water.  Through its Immediate Action for Vulnerable Children and Family or IMPACT programme, UNICEF now aims to provide assistance to over 360,000 Iraqi children this year.  The programme will ensure that the children have access to health care, including immunizations and emergency medical assistance, and are protected against malnutrition.  They will also receive safe drinking water and educational assistance.  Abused or otherwise vulnerable women and children will get specialized care on demand.  It is estimated that over 1.7 million Iraqis have been internally displaced since the beginning of 2006, with half of them being children.


** Myanmar


Turning to Myanmar, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that Myanmar’s health system is “back on its feet”, following an all-out response by the UN, the international community and Myanmar’s Government in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.  Within the first 10 days, WHO notes, medical supplies had been provided to all major hospitals.  Since then, teams have fanned out beyond the major centres.  They are now, for example, examining tuberculosis patients on remote islands.  The quality and availability of water remains a major health concern, WHO says.  It is disinfecting some 6 million litres of water daily, enough for approximately 2 million people.  Meanwhile, rice from the World Food Programme’s award-winning internet word game FreeRice will soon be reaching hundreds of thousands of cyclone survivors.  Two consignments have already been paid for by YUM! and Unilever, the latest companies to fund the FreeRice initiative.  There is more information on that upstairs.


**Desertification


Today’s World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought highlights the problems faced by millions of people who live in dryland regions.  This year, the focus is on combating land degradation for sustainable agriculture.  In his message on the World Day, the Secretary-General says it is time to recognize that dry lands and marginal lands are not wasteland.  He calls on the international community to ensure that the UN Convention to Combat Desertification is implemented.  The Convention could offer a long-term solution to producing more food for more people, says the Secretary-General.  We have more information upstairs.


**UNEP Children’s Conference


The UN Environment Programme today opened one of the world’s largest international children’s conferences in Stavanger, Norway.  Its theme is “creating change”.  The conference brings together 700 participants between the age of 10 and 14 who are engaged in environmental issues.  As part of the programme, UNEP in partnership with UNICEF is posting video clips on its website about initiatives undertaken by dozens of children around the world.  These include a 13-year-old in Australia who is making a documentary on climate change and a 13-year-old in Cameroon who is running clean-up campaigns and tree plantings.  There’s more information on this upstairs.  And we also have a separate media advisory on the upcoming Junior 8 conference in Japan.  Organized by UNICEF, it’s timed to coincide with the G-8 [Group of Eight] Summit to give children a chance to voice their opinions on global issues.


** Azerbaijan


The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) today signed an agreement to support a new project to enhance food security and reduce rural poverty in the north-west of Azerbaijan.  IFAD will provide a loan of $17.2 million for the project, which will rehabilitate the deteriorating irrigation infrastructure and assist farmers in diversifying their incomes.  There is also a press release on that upstairs.


**Procurement Seminar


On 16–17 June 2008, the United Nations Procurement Division (UNPD) and European Union Procurement Forum (EUPF) are conducting the EU Procurement Seminar on “How to do Business with the United Nations”.  The Seminar has attracted significant attention on the part of the European Union business community.  More than 200 companies are in attendance.  The UN views this event as another opportunity to diversify its suppliers base in order to achieve the best value for money for the Organization.  This is all I have for you.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  World Relief reported today that thousands of bodies in Myanmar remain uncollected and unburied.  Can you confirm that that’s the case?


Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have any independent information on that.  We already answered that question, I think.


Question:  They also report that the global food crisis is forcing teenage girls in Haiti to give up sex for food.  I don’t know if the UN is aware of that or can confirm it.


Spokesperson:  I don’t have that report and we don’t have anything on that.


Question:  Also, did the Secretary-General write an editorial called The Real UN today?


Spokesperson:  There was an op-ed that was published yesterday.


Question:  Why did he feel the need to write that piece?


Spokesperson:  Depending on the news, the Secretary-General writes regular op-ed pages on different issues.


Question:  Why specifically on that issue?


Spokesperson:  Because it’s a timely issue.


Question:  He said the UN is not a “talking shop”.


Spokesperson:  Well, these are concerns that people have expressed about the UN and this is one way for him to answer those concerns.


Question:  Michèle, two questions.  One, is the Secretary-General satisfied that he was able to convince Saudi Arabia to increase its production of oil by 200,000 barrels a day?  And the second question, there has been a relocation of staff from Islamabad.  Did this come as one of the recommendations of Mr. Brahimi?


Spokesperson:  On Islamabad, those were electronic reports, I gather.  What is known is that the UN has not closed its office and projects in Pakistan.  Due to a number of security incidents in the past week, we have taken additional measures to strengthen the security of staff and this has included relocating staff and offices to safer locations.  But the UN in Pakistan remains committed to continuing its support and assistance to serve the people of Pakistan in support of the country’s development agenda.  We have more information on this upstairs.  I can say that we don’t have a closing of any offices and projects in Pakistan.


Question:  On Saudi Arabia, one of the things said yesterday, or when he was there, is they came to an agreement on some sort of mechanism for dialogue between religions and cultures and so on.  How does that compute with the mechanism that already exists for alliance of civilizations?  Is that the same thing?  Is it competing with it?  Is it Iran against Saudi Arabia, competing over who will dialogue better?


Spokesperson:  There is no competition.  Those processes should be complementary. 


Question:  So there will be two bureaucracies dealing with the question. 


Spokesperson:  No, there won’t be two bureaucracies dealing with it.  There will be an agreement on how best to deal with the issue.


On the Secretary-General, I don’t think you can say that it is the Secretary-General who convinced the Saudis to increase their output.  We cannot say that.  They took the decision.


Question:  Was he satisfied with the results?


Spokesperson:  I think he’s satisfied with his trip to Saudi Arabia.  Definitely, yes.


Question:  Can I follow up?  Is the Secretary-General or the United Nations going to be invited to this conference on oil proposed by Saudi Arabia since the Secretary-General is now also involved in this business of raising the oil output? 


Spokesperson:  I don’t know if the Secretary-General will be invited.  I will let you know as soon as he gets an invitation, and I don’t know at this point whether he can be considered an oil producing country.


Comment:  Only an oil producing expert.


Question:  Last week I asked you about this US air strikes into Pakistan following the militants and you said the UN was still gathering information.  I just wanted to point out that the United States has, for its part, apologized.  Has the Secretary-General weighed in on that yet? 


Spokesperson:  No, he has not.


Question:  Then the other question I wanted to ask you is about Louise Arbour, who in a statement yesterday said that the situation in the occupied territories is going from bad to worse.  She claimed, at one point in time, that both sides are being blamed, but in one particular instance, she said that the Palestinians are being denied the basic human rights they are guaranteed, especially in Jerusalem.  So does the Secretary-General talk to the Israelis, to allow the Palestinians to visit the holy sites? 


Spokesperson:  Actually, this is not a new issue and it is not the first time the High Commissioner for Human Rights has talked about this.  There are other UN bodies that have talked about that.  I don’t know if the Secretary-General has discussed this specific issue, but of course I can ask the question, if that was specifically discussed.


Question:  The point she was making was that it was a violation of human rights, which is guaranteed.


Spokesperson:  He’s fully backing the statements made by his High Commissioner for Human Rights.


Question:  The President of Afghanistan yesterday said Afghanistan had the right to defend itself and also send its troops inside Pakistan to kick out the terrorists there.  Does the UN or the Secretary-General recognize the right of self-defence from Afghanistan? 


Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General does not have to have an opinion on that.  This is an issue between two States.  If it is a security issue, of course, one of the countries has to refer it to the Security Council and it should be discussed by the Security Council.


Question:  The Vice-President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, said that Ibrahim Gambari is going to lead a steering committee for a conference on the Niger Delta.  Is it true?  Has the Secretary-General authorized him, and in what capacity would he be doing that work?


Spokesperson:  The question was asked when you were away.  Mr. Gambari will be going shortly to Nigeria, first to discuss with the President and the Vice-President about his work for the Niger Delta Summit.  He’s going there in his personal capacity during the time he’s on leave, but this will not in any way, and I want to underline this fact, interfere with his UN mandates and responsibilities.


Question:  He’ll be on leave?


Spokesperson:  He’ll be on leave for the time that he needs for that specific Summit.


Question:  Is Mr. Gambari still active on Burma and what steps has he taken over the last two months to pursue the mandate he’s been given?


Spokesperson:  I cannot tell you the steps he has taken.  I can tell you that he is planning to go there within probably the next month to pursue his mandate.


Question:  This should be a follow-up.  In Nepal, there is a Government report out about that UN helicopter crash, saying it was human error and that “the flight crew lacked experience and was unfamiliar with the terrain”.  It has been said that the UN was doing its own inquiry.  What’s the status of the Government inquiry and what’s its response to the Government findings?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have any additional details on this, but I can, of course, inquire from the Mission there.


Question:  This has come up before, but there’s a report on Reuters saying there’s a case in The Hague on Srebrenica.  It continues to say that the UN is a defendant, that the case is being heard with the Dutch Government and the UN, and that the Dutch Government has in fact said that it’s not to blame, it was the UN to blame, for the events in Srebrenica.  When it came up before, somehow there was the idea that the UN was immune and was not part of this case.  Is the UN actively a defendant and being sued in The Hague?  


Spokesperson:  I can get you the answer from the Legal Affairs Office.  I don’t have the information now myself.


Question:  Last week you said you’d get an answer on the helicopter issue in Darfur, on peacekeepers complaining they don’t have enough helicopters.  Did you get the latest update from DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations]?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have the answer yet.  And some of you had asked yesterday and I didn’t have the answer, but I can now confirm for all of you who came to my Office this morning that Mr. Menkerios did meet with President Mugabe and discussed with him the political climate ahead of the 27 June runoff.  He has also met with the Foreign Minister and he’s expected to meet with leaders of political parties and other stakeholders.  We’ll have more on his programme as it develops.  So this is what I have on this.  Yesterday, I told you he was on his way to Zimbabwe. 


Question:  When did the meetings take place?


Spokesperson:  They said today.  I don’t have the exact time, but I know it was today.


Question:  Is there a plan with the peace process in the Middle East to include in the Quartet the Arab Israeli minority in Israel as part of the peace process?  There have been home demolitions in place, as well as senior Israeli politicians that have called for ethnic transfer, a long-standing issue.  Are there any plans to bring them into the peace process that’s currently under way?


Spokesperson:  In terms of the Quartet’s work, as you know, the Quartet is limited to a certain number of parties.  They did meet last time with some neighbouring countries and other parties.  However, I’m not aware that civil society has been included in those talks.  But we can find out for you whether there have been any other attempts to include them in the discussion and in the process.  But not just the UN is involved with the peace process.  So I don’t have the total information for you.


Question:  Just one more question.  It won’t make sense to ask it tomorrow.  There’s an event in the basement called the EU Procurement Forum.  It’s companies from the European Union and they’re getting briefed by Procurement.


Spokesperson:  We just talked about that.


Question:  My question is this.  Has the UN in the last 12 months, say, made a similar pitch to either African Group companies or G-77 [“Group of 77” developing countries and China] companies?  I know yesterday there was some concern voiced by some ambassadors, who say Europe already gets a lot of UN business and now they’re getting a whole briefing on how to get more business.  What does the UN do to make sure its procurement is more diverse?


Spokesperson:  What I have here is that the emphasis in opening procurement opportunities at the UN market remains on the development countries and countries with economies in transition.  In 2007 and 2008, the Procurement Division held 24 procurement seminars in those countries.  In 2007, their share of the UN procurement volume exceeded 50 per cent.  So the Procurement Division continues to make every effort to increase market awareness in this group of nations.  So developing countries are involved.


Question:  What percentage of procurement comes from Asia and Africa?


Spokesperson:  I don’t have that percentage, but we can certainly get it from the Procurement Division.


[The Spokesperson later referred the reporter to the following page on the UN Procurement Division's website:  www.un.org/depts/ptd/07total.htm.]


Question:  Thank you.


Spokesperson:  You are very welcome.


Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


Good afternoon, good to see you all.


**Security Council Reform


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 is holding its third meeting of the sixty-second session today in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.  Previous meetings were held on 10 April and on 14 December last year.


General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim opened the meeting with a statement which was followed by a general exchange of views on all aspects of Security Council reform, but so far the focus has been on the report of the Task Force and next steps.


The report was drafted by the four vice-chairs of the Task Force, the Permanent Representatives of Bangladesh, Chile, Djibouti and Portugal –- based on extensive consultations with the membership.  It was sent out to Member States on 11 June.  The report gives an overview of the current state of affairs including the various proposals and options on the table.


In this regard let me also draw attention to a letter sent out by the General Assembly President on 13 June with which he circulates a letter from the Permanent Representative of Mauritania on behalf of the Arab Group.  That letter notes that the Task Force report did not incorporate the views of the Arab Group on Security Council reform and thus the Group wishes to add its view, namely the necessity to guarantee a permanent Arab representation in any future expansion of the Security Council.


As regards the opening statement of the General Assembly President, he stressed, amongst others, that there was a growing recognition of the possibility of pursuing an intermediary approach as the highest common denominator option at this stage of the Security Council reform process.


He reiterated the significance of the report of the Task Force as a general agreement which outlines the negotiables and options that Member States should consider, in order to commence intergovernmental negotiations.


He stressed that Member States could now move forward towards agreement on what is achievable in the near term without excluding any preferred option, to be revisited in the future, at an agreed time, through a mandatory review.


He expressed his belief that, while the work of the Open-Ended Working Group could continue during this session of the General Assembly, this did not preclude the commencement of intergovernmental negotiations.


He also stressed his belief that the necessary preconditions to begin intergovernmental negotiations during this session will be achieved once the report of the Task Force is accepted as a general agreement.


Finally on next steps, he stated his intention to present, by mid July, the report of the Open-Ended Working Group to Member States, including a draft decision to be adopted by the General Assembly.


The full text of the President’s statement will be posted on his website.


The meeting of the Open-Ended Working Group is continuing as we speak and will continue in the afternoon.


**Briefing by the Secretary-General


Tomorrow, in the morning, the Secretary-General will hold another informal briefing to Member States.  This will be the fifth time the Secretary-General will be updating the membership on his recent activities and efforts.  Previous briefings were held in November, February, March and May.  The focus for tomorrow’s meeting, which starts at 11 a.m., will be on the food crisis and the Secretary-General’s recent visit to Rome.


**General Assembly Plenary on Wednesday


Before the Secretary-General’s briefing, the General Assembly meets to take action on a draft resolution on the “Global Forum on Migration and Development” (A/62/L25/Rev.2).  This follows a plenary meeting on 6 June, where this issue was postponed for further consideration.


**Questions and Answers


Question:  Some weeks ago, I asked about the Ad Hoc…


Spokesperson:  Exactly one week ago you asked about the Ad Hoc part.  I have not been able to come up with an answer for you.  I have been asking various officials in the Secretariat to find out on what basis, as you mentioned, was the “Ad Hoc” part dropped from the title of the Open-Ended Working Group.  But let me say that the original resolution setting up the Open-Ended Working Group only talked about an Open-Ended Working Group.  During this session, it has also been referred to as the “Open-Ended Working Group”.


Question:  You spoke about two bodies, separate bodies.  One is the Intergovernmental Group and the other one is the Open-Ended Working Group.  Is the Open-Ended Working Group not considered an intergovernmental body?


Spokesperson:  What we are talking about is two different levels.  The Open-Ended Working Group is on a working group level and is looking at the issue of Security Council reform from the perspective of a consultative process, while, when we are talking about the level of intergovernmental negotiations, that means the idea of moving it directly to the General Assembly plenary, with a more focused, result-oriented approach.  But they both include all 192 Member States.


Question:  Some basic questions about that report.  The four ambassadors who drafted it, how were they chosen?  And my second question is when the President said by mid-July he would present a draft resolution, is this to start intergovernmental negotiations, or is it just to repeat what was written in the report by the four ambassadors?


Spokesperson:  Well, let us wait to see how things pan out.  On the choice of ambassadors, originally, the President had three ambassadors as members of this Task Force, which he himself leads, and these were appointed when the first meeting was held of the Open-Ended Working Group, which, as I mentioned, was on 14 December.  And then, later on, during the April meeting, he informed membership that he was adding another Ambassador, the Permanent Representative of Djibouti.  Obviously, the intention is to provide the widest possible geographic representation to the Task Force and consultative capacity that such a Task Force can bear.  So that is the reasoning behind having such a Task Force with those four ambassadors. 


As regards the intention of the President that he announced in his opening statement today, what I read was that what he intends to do is to have the report of the Open-Ended Working Group by mid July.  He also indicated that in that report he intends to include a draft decision.  Let’s see what that draft decision will be, what will be worked out, and that may give us some clue as to what the next step would be, which, of course, based on what I have read and based on the intention of the President and based on what he has been saying, is of course to take the process to the level of intergovernmental negotiations.


Question:  Just following up on this issue of the Human Rights Commissioner’s selection process, has the Secretary-General met with the General Assembly or the GA President, and where does it stand on consulting with them on who will be the new Human Rights Commissioner?


Spokesperson:  In the middle of last week, and I know I mentioned this to you, that the President did have lunch with the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General did brief the President on the selection process and where things stand, and the President’s understanding is that the Secretary-General will brief in some form the membership of the Assembly on where the process stands.


Question:  Before naming the winner, or after naming the winner?


Spokesperson:  This is as much as I know at this point.


Question:  When you said decision, it is not a draft resolution, as you have indicated earlier.  It is a draft decision.


Spokesperson:  It is just like what the Open-Ended Working Group had at the end of the sixty-first session –- a report which included a draft decision.  In other words, a recommendation to adopt by the General Assembly plenary.  Something along the lines, not the same text, but the idea of a decision, or a recommendation of a decision to be taken by the plenary is what the President would intend to include in the report of the Open-Ended working Group.


Question:  So does the President of the General Assembly have any opinion about this draft resolution being circulated to Member States that these days [inaudible]?


Spokesperson:  No, he did not mention anything in his speech.  He was not approached on such a draft decision in any way, as we have mentioned that before to you.


Question:  [inaudible]


Spokesperson:  Yes, we are aware of a draft circulated amongst certain Member States, and, of course, as I mentioned to you already, for example, this forum of the Open-Ended Working Group that is meeting now could be a place where, you know, it might come up.  When I left the Chamber, there were still quite a number of Member States to take the floor, and the meeting continues in the afternoon.  But let us see what the meeting concludes with.


Question:  Do you think that such a resolution would facilitate the process, or is it just…?


Spokesperson:  Based on our experience and watching the way the Assembly works and the way Member States work, when you have a group of Member States or one Member State with an idea of a resolution, you would obviously put it out for consideration when you feel you have considerable support for it.  In this case, as we all know, for Security Council reform related decisions, you need a two-thirds majority.  So, obviously, whoever is circulating whatever, if they feel they have the two-thirds majority, than that would, I guess, make them feel -– that is my view –- make them feel empowered to pursue it.


Question:  Just like testing the waters, basically?


Spokesperson:  That is your characterization, not mine.


Question:  What is the general sense among Member States on Security Council reform, and can you also summarize the common factors where there is consensus among Member States and which are the issues where there are differences?


Spokesperson:  I would rather not do that from my perspective, all the more so because the Task Force report, that is available to you on the website of the President, gives a perfect cross-section of what are the very options out there, what has been said, what are the stresses where Member States seem to be in accordance with each other, where some of the differences may lie.  So it gives a very good overview where things stand, and I would not do justice to it if I would start summarizing it from here.


Question:  Concerns have been raised by civil society organizations that the system of special rapporteurs within the international system is having their level of independence compromised or undermined by having conditions placed on them, largely the types of criticism they bring forward in official documents.  Is this the case?  And what is happening in the General Assembly with it?


Spokesperson:  As you know, from the General Assembly perspective, the work of special rapporteurs comes up in the context of human rights issues discussed within the Third Committee of the Assembly, usually in the fall, as the Assembly meets.  This was the case for the sixty-second session.  These issues were discussed during the sixty-second session in the Third Committee in the months of October and November.  That is when this was discussed.  Next time, when these issues will come up within the framework of the General Assembly will be during the sixty-third session, again, Third Committee, in the fall.  So, let us see what Member States say in that context.  Until then, that issue is of course discussed within the Human Rights Council.  That is where you should probably direct your questions.


Question:  You are not aware at this stage of any codes of conduct or any other processes that would change the status quo of the special rapporteur system?


Spokesperson:  If we go back to the agreement and resolution adopted through the Third Committee on this issue that also, if I remember correctly, that also includes codes of conduct which were part of the resolution as regards the workings of the Human Rights Council and the rapporteurs.  But I don’t have everything in my head at the moment, but I know that this was discussed; this was part of the discussions within the Third Committee during the sixty-second session for sure.


Question:  Sorry if I fail to understand, but is the President going to give a draft decision or draft resolution by mid-July?  Before that, is he going to write another report by the Task Force?  That is not what you said.  The report is already there, and then?


Spokesperson:  There are two things.  The report that we have here, that is being discussed by the Open-Ended Working Group at the moment, is the report of the vice-chairs of the Task Force.  The end-July report is a report on the work of the Open-Ended Working Group -- what it has accomplished, what it has done, what are the next steps.  This is how things worked out during the sixty-first session.  But in the case of the sixty-first session, the report of the Open-Ended Working Group on Security Council reform was adopted actually on the very last day of the sixty-first session of the General Assembly on 17 September, and included a draft decision which then was adopted by the plenary (A/61/47). 


I don’t have the actual text of that here, but we can certainly look it up.  What we are looking at now is that the President’s intention is not to stretch this process out until the last minute of the sixty-second session, but try to come up with a report by the end of July.  As I said, that is his intention.  But all of this hinges on what the Member States want, which way they want to go.  But his intention, and that is what he said, right at the beginning of this meeting to the Member States, is to try to have a report of the Open-Ended Working Group by the end of July, obviously based on what is going on now with the help of his Task Force, and in that he wants to include a draft decision, in other words, a recommendation for the General Assembly to take, and that would, I assume, deal with the idea of how to move the process to the level of intergovernmental negotiations.


Question:  Who would then present this report with this draft decision, the President himself?


Spokesperson:  With his Task Force.  I assume it will be a collective writing effort with the Task Force as facilitators.


Question:  It seems that the work of the Open-Ended Working Group and the Task Force are parallel.  Is there any coordination between the two and [inaudible] coordination?


Spokesperson:  It is actually the Task Force itself that is coordinating.  The role of the Task Force is to facilitate the work of the Open-Ended Working Group.


Question:  Does the President have any specific plans for prolonging the July meeting and until the new Assembly session opens?  Does he have any specific plans?


Spokesperson:  I don’t think we can, at this point, talk about any specific plans.  At the moment, as I said, based again on what was announced, the intention is to have a report on the work of the Open-Ended Working Group in the sixty-second session by the end of July, and then see where things stand there, and then we will see what can be achieved between the end of July and the end of the sixty-second session.


Question:  On the Fifth Committee, the last session on Friday ended with this dispute between some of the Member States and the Secretariat about whether they needed General Assembly approval to, as part of the Capital Master Plan, move a data centre to Long Island City.  Several delegations said don’t move it until you have our approval.  Warren Sach said we don’t need your approval.  What is the opinion of the President of the General Assembly?  Who is right here?  Does the General Assembly have to approve that before it happens or can it just happen…?


Spokesperson:  Actually, the press release that covered that segment pretty well reflects what you mentioned –- the concerns raised by some Member States, also the explanation by the Controller, Mr. Sach, on where things stand.  And as far as I know, it will be during the sixty-third session that this issue will come up within the Fifth Committee about the exact spending…


Question: …whether they need General Assembly approval or not.  Who decides if they need it?  Can they just do it?


Spokesperson:  Apparently, as some Member States raised some concerns about it, Mr. Sach explained and that is where the issue stood.  As I said, during the sixty-third session it will come up.


Question:  They may already be in Long Island City, but it will come.  Just on this last thing.  Both G-77 [Group of 77 and China] and the European Union said something has to change so that we are not voting on the budget one day after we get the reports.  You said, I think, that there is some process afoot that maybe is going to change that.  What is going to happen between now and the end of this session of the General Assembly to address this very issue of voting on billion dollar budgets the day after they get the report?


Spokesperson:  When we talked about this, as the second part of the resumed session of the Fifth Committee started, what I mentioned to you, having sat in that opening session, was that the lateness of reports or reports not being available in all official languages in time was something of a concern raised by all delegations.  The Secretariat acknowledged it.  Basically, what I mentioned, based on that, was that this was an issue on everybody’s agenda.  Where this will go, again, we’ll see.  I mean, a lot will depend also on how things progress in the sixty-third session, whether this will continue to be a pertinent issue to the extent that Member States will decide that this is a major concern that warrants simply more than just expressing their concern towards the Secretariat, but also, and this was something that was mentioned by some delegations during the opening of that second resumed session, to actually review certain procedures and take some decisions on how to remedy the situation.  I don’t have an answer for you yet, but it is on the agenda, and, if Member States so feel, as I said, based on upcoming developments, that this is an issue they do want to tackle from a longer-term perspective, they will definitely raise it, and will probably work out some kind of a decision.


Thank you very much for your attention.


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