DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

20 June 2008

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL

20 June 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, all. 

**Secretary-General to Security Council on Kosovo

The Secretary-General this morning presented his package of proposals on Kosovo at an open meeting of the Security Council, telling Council members that, in his almost 40 years of diplomatic life, he has never encountered an issue as divisive, as delicate and as intractable as the Kosovo issue.  Nevertheless, he said he believes that the package given to the Council last week represents the “least objectionable” way forward.

In that report, the Secretary-General noted that a reconfigured and restructured UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will continue to carry out a number of functions, including, significantly, functions related to the dialogue on the implementation of provisions in six areas contained in his letter to President Tadic, police, courts, customs, transport and infrastructure, boundaries, and Serbian patrimony.  Meanwhile, the European Union will take on some increasing operational responsibilities in the areas of international policing, justice and customs in Kosovo, within a reconfigured UNMIK, within the mandate established by Security Council resolution 1244, and under an “umbrella” headed by the Secretary-General’s Special Representative.

To lead this new phase of the Mission, the Secretary-General told the Council that he intends to appoint Lamberto Zannier of Italy to be his Special Representative.  He will help to carry forward the vision presented in the Secretary-General’s report, and to lead a new phase of dialogue, and he will be scrupulously balanced in his approach.  He stressed that his overriding objectives are to ensure Kosovo’s overall stability, to protect and promote the interests of all of its communities, and to maintain international peace and security in Kosovo and the broader region.  We have that statement upstairs.  The Council’s open meeting also included presentations from President Boris Tadic, representing Belgrade, and Fatmir Sejdiu, representing Pristina. 

After the meeting, the Security Council intends to hold consultations on the Great Lakes region, to hear from the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Joachim Chissano, about the peace talks with the Lord’s Resistance Army.

**Appointment

As I just mentioned, the Secretary-General, in his statement to the Security Council this morning, expressed his intention to appoint Lamberto Zannier of Italy as his Special Representative for Kosovo.  Mr. Zannier is currently on secondment from the Italian Government to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as Director of the Conflict Prevention Centre there.  In that capacity, he has been responsible for overseeing around 20 civilian field operations.  Mr. Zannier has held a number of high-level appointments since joining the Italian Foreign Ministry in 1978 and has been closely involved with the UN system.  We have more information in his bio upstairs.

**Security Council on Women

The Security Council late yesterday wrapped up its meeting on women, peace and security by adopting a resolution demanding the “immediate and complete cessation by all parties to armed conflict of all acts of sexual violence against civilians”.  The Council determined in that resolution that rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.  It also affirmed the Council’s intention to consider imposing “targeted and graduated” measures against warring factions who committed rape and other forms of violence against women and girls.

**UNICEF on Kidnapping

A day after the Security Council adopted a landmark resolution on sexual violence as a tool of war, UNICEF says it is deeply concerned by the increasing number of kidnappings and abduction of children, particularly in violence-torn countries.  In many cases, these abductions are being carried out with impunity by criminal gangs and armed groups.  The agency recalls that more than 50 children were kidnapped since the start of the year in Haiti.  In the Central African Republic, armed gangs are terrorizing rural communities, including by kidnapping children for ransom.  In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, children are forcibly recruited by armed groups or are reduced to sexual slavery.  In Iraq, a growing number of boys are made to fight for insurgent groups, while young girls are kidnapped and raped, murdered or trafficked within or out of the country for sexual exploitation.  UNICEF calls on Governments to live up to their responsibility to enact and enforce measures to protect all children.

** Cyprus

On Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, announced today that the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities, Demetris Christofias and Mehmet Ali Talat, respectively, will meet again on 1 July.  He spoke following the announcement by representatives of the two communities of a series of measures aimed at easing the daily life of Cypriots across the island.  The measures provide for educational programmes in connection with cultural heritage; steps on road safety; easing the movement of ambulances between the two sides; the establishment of a Cyprus Joint Committee on Health; cooperation for an island-wide assessment of all major waste streams; and agreement on environmental education.  Zerihoun also announced that additional measures could be announced in the coming days.  “The momentum of the process has not slowed,” he said.  “It is in fact producing tangible results.”

** Zimbabwe

On Zimbabwe, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios is in South Africa today, where he has met with President Thabo Mbeki.  It appears that he will remain in the area for some additional days and, therefore, the briefing envisaged on Zimbabwe at the Security Council on Monday would be given by the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and a number of UN agencies have launched a week-long sensitization campaign for the new integrated brigades of the Congolese army.  Some 1,800 soldiers will be trained in child protection, human rights, how to combat sexual violence and the role of military justice.  The training lies not only within MONUC’s mandate of support to the reform of the security sector in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but is also part of the new zero-tolerance campaign against child recruitment into armed groups, which Alan Doss, the Secretary General’s Special Representative, launched last week.  The training is taking place at an army camp in Uvira, in South Kivu.  Meanwhile, the Mission reports a relative calm in the west, and several violations of the ceasefire in the north-east, a situation made worse by a wave of forced recruitment of children by various armed groups.

**Deputy Secretary-General in Washington

The Deputy Secretary-General is in Washington today to participate in a working lunch with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the 24 members of the IMF Executive Board.  The focus of the discussion will be on the “Food and energy crises -– the role of the UN and the Bretton Woods Institutions”.  The lunch provides an opportunity to discuss ways and means for the international community to act together in addressing the crises.  IMF is already a member of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. 

**UNHCR on Eritrean Refugees

The UN refugee agency says it’s very alarmed over credible reports of ongoing, forcible returns of Eritrean asylum-seekers from Egypt, despite UNHCR’s [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] appeal for a halt to such returns until it can access detention centres and evaluate claims for international protection.  UNHCR is asking Egyptian authorities for unhindered access to all asylum-seekers currently in detention.  It is also requesting them to urgently provide information on the location and well-being of 1,400 Eritreans and other persons of concern, whose names and detention locations had previously been provided.  There’s more information in the Geneva briefing note upstairs.

**Donor Conference for UNRWA in Lebanon

On UNWRA, a high-level donor conference to provide for the reconstruction of the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in northern Lebanon will take place in Vienna next Monday, and is to help obtain funding for what the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) says will be its largest reconstruction project ever.  UNRWA and the Lebanese Government have appealed for $445 million to rebuild Nahr el-Bared following the heavy fighting that took place at the camp last year.  We have more details in the Geneva briefing notes.

**WFP Update on Myanmar

On Myanmar, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that a critical shortage of funds for a helicopter operation providing essential logistical support to nearly 50 aid agencies is threatening the relief effort for 2.4 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar.  WFP says that the operation to move life-saving supplies to distressed communities by boat, truck and air will all halt by the end of this month unless they receive additional funding.  To date, only just over half of the $50 million required for the logistical operation has been secured, and much of this money has already been spent on barges, boats, river craft and basic infrastructure needed to reach cyclone survivors in remote, hard-hit villages across the Ayeyarwady Delta.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the private sector is generously supporting the Myanmar cyclone emergency response, with $30 million worth of contributions.  This includes $10 million raised by the United Nations Children’s Fund and national committees across the world.  Some of the largest private sector contributors to the Myanmar cyclone relief effort include the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which gave a total of $3 million to non-governmental organizations.

**World Refugee Day

Today is World Refugee Day.  Events taking place around the globe today are focusing on the fundamental need for protection.  In his message to mark the day, the Secretary-General notes that conflict and poverty are the most common reasons why people are compelled to leave their homes.  Those factors are now amplified by the effects of climate change, increasing scarcity of resources and food shortages.  The Secretary-General says that, contrary to public perceptions, developing countries actually bear the burden of hosting a larger number of refugees, despite their limited resources.  He calls on the international community to redouble efforts to address both the causes and consequences of forced human displacement.  We have his full statement upstairs.

**World Health and Immunization

There has been steady progress in global efforts to improve immunization programmes and strengthen health systems in the world’s poorest countries.  That’s according to the latest annual report by the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership that includes the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF among its members.  The report notes a steady increase in immunization coverage rates in the 72 GAVI-eligible countries.  In 2007, 75 per cent of children in those countries were immunized with three doses of diptheria, tetanus and polio vaccines.  That’s up from 64 per cent in 2000.  In related news, however, WHO is reporting a new outbreak of polio in northern Nigeria that has begun to spread to nearby countries, and that could cause a major international outbreak on the scale of the one that occurred between 2003 and 2006.  More than 20 per cent of children in high-risk areas of Nigeria remain unimmunized, WHO says.  The agency notes that Nigeria has planned two large-scale rounds of emergency polio immunization in those areas in July and August.

**Outer Space

The UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space has wrapped up its fifty-first session in Vienna earlier today.  During the 10-day session, delegates discussed how to apply space technology to improve the world’s food security, prevent and manage disaster and combat climate change.  The Committee also debated the impact of water scarcity and floods on global food production and how to deploy space technology to collecting data for sustainable development in areas such as agriculture, deforestation assessment, disaster monitoring, drought relief and land management.  There’s more in the press release from the Outer Space Affairs Office upstairs.

**Fourth of July Security

And on behalf of the Departments of Safety & Security and Management, I need to inform you that, as a result of renovation work related to the Capital Master Plan project, the areas within the UN Headquarters complex customarily used for viewing the annual Macy's Fourth of July Fireworks display will not be available for this purpose this year.  However, we have been assured that resident correspondents will be able to access their offices on that day, but will not be able to sign in guests.

That’s all I have for you today.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, today, in the New York Times, there’s a report that Israel is getting ready to attack Iran and, in detail, it is quoting Pentagon officials.  My question is:  is the Secretary-General going to make efforts, as the world’s top diplomatic peacemaker, to persuade Israel not to undertake this attack, and also go on some sort of peace mission?

Spokesperson:  At this point, we don’t have enough information on the whole issue to respond in any way.  The Secretary-General, of course, will be getting information he needs before, of course, he gets involved.

Question:  It’s not a small issue.  On the issue of World Refugee Day, there was a report from Washington which names five countries, among them India and Bangladesh, as the biggest abusers of refugees.  Does the Secretary-General have any response to that as yet?

Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have.  The first response would come, of course, from the UN refugee agency, and then I’m sure the Secretary-General will be involved.

Question:  Michèle, as a follow-up to the question on World Refugee Day, how does the Secretary-General rate the performance of Member States with respect to the protection of refugees’ rights?

Spokesperson:  He received the report, as I said, from the UN refugee agency, the UN body in charge of this issue, and he’s aware of the issue.  Also, he has a message for this Day, and I quoted that message earlier.

Question:  My other question was:  did he receive a request from Egypt to urge Israel to hand over Shabá Farms to UNIFIL until that territory is decided?

Spokesperson:  No, he has not.

Question:  On Kosovo, is there a timeline on the reconstituted Mission for Kosovo?

Spokesperson:  As you know, the Secretary-General spoke to the Security Council today after he submitted his report on Kosovo to the Security Council.  Today, he’s listening to the Security Council, and he will take the necessary steps in the next few days.  He has already announced his intention to appoint a Special Representative, so the next steps will come, of course, after he listens to the views of the Security Council. 

Question:  I asked you because Kosovo is now an independent country of sorts.  What is the UN Mission doing now?

Spokesperson:  We are acting under resolution 1244.  It was a Security Council mandate given to the Secretary-General.  And I think he explained at length today, and in his report, what he planned to do and what his plan is.  So we have all the information there.  As to when they would start implementing all this, already the first step has been taken by appointing a new Special Representative.

Question:  It’s a factual question that comes out of the Kosovo meeting.  There’s a reference in Ban Ki-moon’s report to this 17 March event in north Metrovica.  The Russian Ambassador said, where’s the report?  At the end, the Secretary-General said “I’m available to the Council on operational issues, including this report.”  What is the status of this report?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know.  We can ask where we are.

Question:  Do you have a list of countries that pledged donations for Myanmar and haven’t given it so far?

Spokesperson:  Certainly, we can put you in touch with OCHA.  You can actually talk to OCHA and get the information from them.  Of course, they have been following this closely.  As you know, they are in charge of the coordination effort.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General issued a second appeal to these countries to send the money?

Spokesperson:  I think a second appeal is to be issued very shortly.  I think we had announced it before, but I’ll get the right information for you.

Question:  And is there any reason for these countries not coming out with the money?  Is it because of the non-cooperation of the Burmese Government?

Spokesperson:  I think you should ask those countries.  I cannot answer for them.  But you can get the initial information from OCHA.  I think they have a very detailed update.

Question:  Michèle, while we’re on Myanmar, I understand Senator John McCain’s wife is in the region this week.  I think she’s actually in Bangkok today, looking at aid facilities to Myanmar.  Do you know if WFP or any agencies have granted her any facilities for this trip?  And what are the rules in these sensitive situations, where you have an election campaign, to make sure the UN isn’t used as a forum for campaigning?

Spokesperson:  Of course, I can ask people on the ground if anything is being done, whether the UN is cooperating in any way.  I’ll let you know, of course.

Question:  During the Secretary-General’s briefing of the General Assembly the day before yesterday, many developing countries had asked for the reactivation of the IMF compensatory activities to enable developing countries to meet their obligations on balance of payments because of high energy and fuel costs.  In the Deputy Secretary-General’s mission to IMF, is she going to raise this point with the Managing Director of IMF?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  From what I gather, they’ll be discussing mostly the food security issue. 

Question:  Is the Secretary-General going to be available for a stakeout?

Spokesperson:  Next week. 

Question:  Today?

Spokesperson:  Not today.  We don’t know how long the meeting will last, so right now he’s just ending the Kosovo issue.  So it won’t be until next week.

All right.  Thank you very much.

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