|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.
**International Criminal Court
Good afternoon. The Secretary-General today praised the International Criminal Court for its accomplishments on the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Court’s Rome Statute, saying that its creation is unquestionably one of the major achievements of international law during the past century. But this young Court remains a work in progress, he says, calling it a fragile part of a crucial and ongoing effort to entrench international law and justice.
He said that, in strengthening the Court, we must seek to strike the correct balance between the duty of justice and the pursuit of peace. Impunity for crimes can never be tolerated; amnesties for international crimes are unacceptable. When confronted with these dilemmas, we must never sacrifice justice; crucially, the search for a balance between justice and peace should never be influenced by the threats and postures of those seeking to escape justice. Furthermore, he said, the Court must continue to demonstrate a purely judicial character, as well as total independence, and he stressed the need to further improve cooperation between the Court and the United Nations in ways that take into account the legitimate interests of both partners. We have his statement that was just delivered a few minutes ago.
The Secretary-General earlier today addressed the Security Council’s open debate on the protection of children in armed conflict, saying that subject is a litmus test for the United Nations and the Organization’s Member States. “It is a moral call, and deserves to be placed above politics,” he said. While lauding progress made in protecting children during armed conflict, the Secretary-General stressed that we have only begun to scratch the surface. He said he hoped that the Security Council will consolidate the gains that have been made, and move forward to cover all grave violations and all situations of concern.
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, also briefed the Council and said that her recent visits to Iraq and Afghanistan have convinced her that the nature of warfare is changing, that there are different and more difficult challenges ahead to protect children, and the Council must play its part. And Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet detailed the child protection efforts by UN peacekeeping operations. We have all those statements upstairs, and also today, the Secretary-General will meet with Members of the Security Council for their monthly luncheon.
From Sudan, the African Union-UN Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports today that the Chinese Engineering Company, which we mentioned here yesterday, arrived in Nyala in South Darfur as scheduled. This deployment of 172 engineers brings the number of the Chinese contingent in Darfur to 315 and the total number of military personnel on the ground to 8,000. The Chinese contingent will primarily work towards the completion of the camp in Nyala and expand other camps, which will allow more troops to come in. They will also assist in implementation of Quick Impact Projects such as well-drilling. Joint Special Representative Adada and the Force Commander travelled to Nyala to welcome the troops today.
UNAMID also reports that in the past 24 hours, peacekeepers conducted 21 security and confidence-building patrols in the region and humanitarian activities are ongoing as well. And regarding the shooting death of a UNAMID peacekeeper, which we reported yesterday, the mission today says the incident involved unknown gunmen in five vehicles. During the time of the shooting, the peacekeeper was leading a patrol in his area of operation. No other injuries were sustained and investigations are still ongoing.
And from Khartoum, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reports that the withdrawal of the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) forces from Abyei continues under the terms of the Abyei Roadmap, with UNMIS monitoring. Both parties agreed at yesterday’s Committee meeting to complete withdrawal by 30 July. And UNMIS also reports that 1,500 people took part in demonstrations in Khartoum today but the demonstrations were peaceful and the demonstrators dispersed after going to the UNDP there.
Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council condemned in the strongest possible terms the 8 July attack on UNAMID, the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur, expressing its concern that the largest ever attack on the force so far was “premeditated, deliberate and intended to inflict casualties”. At the outset of the meeting, the Council, through its President, paid tribute to the outgoing Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno. Mr. Guéhenno has informed us that he will give his farewell press briefing as the guest at the noon briefing on 29 July.
And the Secretary-General’s latest periodic report on the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) is available today. In it, the Secretary-General says that the ability of UNMIK to operate as before and perform its functions as an interim administration has been fundamentally challenged because of actions taken by both the authorities in Pristina and the Kosovo Serbs. Nonetheless, UNMIK will continue to support Kosovo in its effort to consolidate democratic governance institutions, advance economic growth and move towards a future in Europe as part of the western Balkans, he says.
Noting that the building of a society in which all communities can coexist in peace remains a difficult and long-term challenge in Kosovo. He calls upon the authorities in Pristina and Belgrade and representatives of all of Kosovo’s communities to continue to work together with UNMIK. He also calls upon the members of the Security Council and the broader international community to support Kosovo in this effort. The Secretary-General also highlights the importance of dialogue with Belgrade on issues of mutual concern.
** Côte d’Ivoire
And the Secretary-General has approved an additional allocation of five million dollars from the Peacebuilding Fund for reintegration projects in Côte d'Ivoire. The funds will also be used to support facilitation efforts under the Ouagadougou Political Agreement. Most of the money will support reintegration activities, such as counselling, income-generation, micro-projects for former combatants, and centres for skills training.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
And local infrastructures in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have greatly improved, thanks to the work of five military engineering units from the UN’s peacekeeping force there. That’s the assessment from the Mission, which notes that the infrastructure rehabilitation work also boosts economic activity and helps stabilize the country. Among the completed projects are airports, the new bridges and roads in Ituri province as well as three new military bases in South Kivu. Upcoming projects include 14 additional roads and several new bridges in South Kivu and a plan to ensure the maintenance of the Bunia airport. They are expected to be completed in the next six months. There is more information on this upstairs.
And the UN Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) today expressed concern at the killing of Abbas Kadhim, a member of the Political Bureau of the Democratic Shabak Assembly, on 12 July. UNAMI urges the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to initiate a prompt and thorough investigation, adding that it will closely follow the course and result of this investigation. There is a press release on this upstairs
And with Myanmar urgently needing agricultural support ahead of the main planting season, the Food and Agriculture Organization is appealing for more than $33 million to help cyclone-affected households restore their livelihoods and resume food production during this crucial period. FAO says that, with a reduced rice harvest unlikely to meet the needs of the affected population, food security will depend on providing support to farming households in alternative crop strategies and rapidly restoring livestock-, fisheries-, aquaculture- and forestry-based livelihoods. This overall need for relief and recovery activities in farming, fisheries, aquaculture and forestry over the next 12 months totals $51 million under the revised appeal for Cyclone Nargis response for Myanmar launched last week, which called for a total of $303 million for all sectors including agriculture.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in a Joint Monitoring Programme for Drinking Water Supply and Sanitation, released its latest report today. The survey notes that more than 2.5 billion people suffer from a lack of access to improved sanitation. UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman notes that if current trends hold, the world will fall short of the Millennium sanitation target by more than 700 million people. Meanwhile, the number of people lacking access to improved drinking water sources has fallen below one billion for the first time since data compilation began in 1990. Eighty-seven per cent of the world population now has access to such sources and current trends suggest that more than 90 per cent of people will have it by 2015. And there is more information on that upstairs.
And in Afghanistan, a recent operation supported by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) resulted in the seizure of more than three tons of chemicals used to produce heroin. Other recent successes of UNODC’s broader regional effort to counter Afghan opium trafficking include the seizure of chemicals in the southern Iranian city of Bandar Abbas, and in Karachi, Pakistan. And there is more information on this upstairs as well.
**United Nations Environment Programme
And the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has launched its eighteenth International Children’s Painting Competition. And this year’s theme is climate change. Children between the ages of five and 13 are eligible to compete for the top prize of $2,000 cash; six regional winners will receive $1,000 dollars each. There’s more information on that.
**Press Conference Today
And at 3 p.m. this afternoon, there will be a press conference here following the open debate in the Security Council on Children and Armed Conflict. The speakers are the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Viet Nam, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict and UNICEF’s Associate Director for Child Protection. That’s 3 p.m. here. That’s all I have for you. Anything for me?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Over the last two days, the National Assembly of Nigeria has been reviewing the Greentree Accord of 2006, which up to now has not been ratified. The Attorney General of the country, speaking on behalf of the President, says that the Greentree Accord is legal, the military says it was not consulted by the former President who entered into this deal with the UN. What is the reaction of the UN Secretariat to all of this?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have a reaction to the press reports that you mention. However, as you know, the Secretary-General of the United Nations was personally involved in the signing of the Greentree Accord and the current Secretary-General has a Special Representative in West Africa, who is following up with the follow-up to the Accord as mandated.
Question: To follow up this, does the UN expect Nigeria to follow up on this accord despite the fact that the different arms of the Government are saying this is illegal? Is the UN expecting Nigeria to follow through on this Accord?
Deputy Spokesperson: As far as I know, the Accord stands where it was when it was signed, yes.
Question: After the successful release of prisoners yesterday from Israel and Lebanon, is there any movement on the Palestinian side toward a prisoner exchange?
Deputy Spokesperson: I refer you to the statement we issued yesterday.
Question: The Secretary-General had offered to mediate between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea when he was there and the latter withdrew the fertilizer that it been supplying to the former. I wonder if there was anything being done on the part of the UN to make up for that deficit of the fertilizer.
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have anything specific on that, but I do refer you to the Secretary-General’s statement yesterday on the Korean Peninsula.
Question: Has the Secretary-General heard anything with response to that offer he made?
Deputy Spokesperson: I have not heard anything.
Question: Sri Lanka has announced these restrictions where UN personnel can only remain in one place for a year and any new UN position needs Government approval. What’s the reaction of the UN system?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’m waiting for a response from OCHA on that. As you know, humanitarian workers need access to all the victims that they need to reach.
Question: And you mentioned that this new Chinese deployment is going to work on a camp in Nyala. Two things. First, in the report that came out yesterday or the day before on Darfur, the Secretary-General writes that the commercial contractor that had been selected was far behind schedule and has not performed as expected. I want to confirm that this is in fact Lockheed Martin that is being referred to. And also, if they were responsible for the Nyala camp, why they didn’t build it and were they paid to build it when it’s not built?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll look into that for you. I don’t have any answer to that. As far as these “supercamps” are concerned, there are a number under construction in Darfur, as you know, and they are vitally needed in order to speed up the deployment of troops on the ground so they can cover the mandate that was given them by the Security Council.
Question: The thing I’d like to know, and maybe not now but when you get a response on this, earlier in the process the Secretary-General had said that the contract was given to Lockheed Martin because they were so qualified, they were the only company that could do it, and now his own report says they have not performed.
Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing beyond this. I said I’d look into it for you.
Question: Marie, I would like to ask a question I asked a few days ago on Western Sahara. What is going on right now? Is the Personal Envoy holding discussions with the parties? Is he contemplating a meeting in the fifth round? What is happening?
Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll tell you as soon as we get an update.
Question: One more thing, an in-house kind of thing. We’re told there’s a move afoot by the Department of Management, both Ms. [Angela] Kane and Lena Dissin, to look at comparable space to see how other institutions provide space for the press. The press here have been told that things will stay the same after the Capital Master Plan but there’s now a letter in which the Department of Management is seeking to see whether other places provide space at all. Can you ask the Department of Management to state whether there’s any change in policy?
Deputy Spokesperson: Sure, but as you know, the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), I think, has been in close contact with the Capital Master Plan people on the planning. So I think you are directly involved as an officer.
Question: That’s why this letter was so surprising.
Deputy Spokesperson: And you also have a functional role that you can take this up outside this briefing.
Question: Okay, but since Ms. Kane has been the head of the department for a while, maybe she can give us a briefing the way Ms. Bárcena used to do.
Deputy Spokesperson: That’s a good idea. I’ll ask her.
Question: About UNAMID and UNMIS, for me to understand better. I understand that there is only one Special Representative for Sudan, which is Mr. Qazi.
Deputy Spokesperson: That’s not true. There are two operations that the UN has in Sudan, both mandated by the Security Council. The UN Mission in Sudan, which is following up on the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan, is headed by Mr. Qazi, who is the Special Representative for that Mission. Then in Darfur, as you know, we have an African Union/United Nations peacekeeping operation, which has the Joint Special Representative in the name of Rodolphe Adada.
Question: So there are two different headquarters, you might say.
Deputy Spokesperson: The UNMIS mission is headquartered in Khartoum. The AU/UN mission for Darfur is headquartered in El-Fasher, which you visited at the inauguration.
Question: I am sorry for these stupid questions, but why the demonstrations in Khartoum?
Deputy Spokesperson: You’d have to ask the demonstrators.
Correspondent: Of course I would.
Deputy Spokesperson: All right, thank you very much, have a good afternoon.
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