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

29 July 2008

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

29 July 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.

**Guest at Noon Today

Our guest at the noon briefing today, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will hold his farewell press conference at 12:20 p.m.

**Security Council

The Security Council began its work this morning by voting to extend the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire by six months.

After that, the Council held consultations on the UN Mission in Georgia.  You’ll recall that the Secretary-General’s latest report on Georgia and Akbhazia notes that the last four months have witnessed a resurgence of tensions there, and the Secretary-General calls upon all stakeholders to preserve the integrity of the ceasefire regime.

After the consultations on Georgia, Council members received, under other matters, a briefing by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios on recent developments concerning Zimbabwe.  Mr. Menkerios said he would come to the press stakeout outside the Security Council once that discussion has ended; we’ll let you know when he will come to the stakeout, but it should be after Mr. Guéhenno’s briefing.

** Sudan

On Sudan, the African Union-United Nations [Hybrid Operation] in Darfur (UNAMID) says it has been monitoring the ongoing reintegration training of ex-combatants into the Government of Sudan Armed Forces and Police.

UNAMID says more than 1,000 ex-combatants from the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) were processed at the Dumaya camp in Nyala, Darfur.

UNAMID says it will continue to monitor the exercise and report on its progress accordingly.

The Mission also reported today that approximately 6,000 people are estimated to have arrived at the 62,000-strong Zam Zam camp for internally displaced persons outside the town of El Fasher in North Darfur over the past three to four months.

Also in Darfur over the past week, UNAMID says that the rapes of four internally displaced women in a village have been reported to UNAMID police, as was an incident involving a UNAMID national staff member who was taken to a police station in El Geneina, beaten up and then released.

UNAMID also reported on continued bombardment of some areas of South, West and North Darfur.  Current weather conditions make it difficult to verify resulting population movements, according to UNAMID.

** Cyprus

On Cyprus, the Secretary-General’s new Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, is currently in Nicosia.  He paid courtesy calls on the two leaders today.  He said that the meetings went very well and that he was encouraged by what he heard.

Clearly, the island has two leaders who are sincere in their commitment and engagement to move forward together towards a comprehensive settlement, he added.  Downer also said that developments over recent months have fostered a genuine sense that prospects have perhaps never been better to achieve a comprehensive settlement favourable to all Cypriots.

He added that he will be back in Cyprus in early September for the formal launch of the full-fledged talks.  We have his complete remarks upstairs.

**AIDS

On AIDS, new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are declining, according to UNAIDS’ 2008 report, which was launched this morning here in this room.  Nevertheless, the AIDS epidemic is not over in any part of the world.

Overall, the report shows that the combined will and efforts of Governments, donors, civil society and affected communities can make a difference.

And while on the topic of AIDS, you’ll recall that the Secretary-General will be leaving this Sunday for Mexico City, where he will address the opening of the Seventeenth International AIDS Conference.

At the Conference -- which is being held for the first time in Latin America -- and during its side events, the Secretary-General is expected to meet with world leaders, people living with HIV and community groups.  He will reaffirm that the AIDS epidemic is not over and that we need a long-term vision to respond to it.

** Madagascar

UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman is in Madagascar visiting areas affected by Hurricane Ivan in February.  Hurricane Ivan, you may recall, destroyed 364 schools and dozens of health centres, directly affecting some 160,000 people.

Earlier today, Ms. Veneman launched a national campaign to fight tetanus in Madagascar.  The programme aims to vaccinate some 830,000 women aged 15 to 49 in a bid to eradicate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Madagascar.

After Madagascar, Ms. Veneman will be travelling to Mozambique and will later take part in the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City.

**Food Task Force

The Secretary-General chaired the fourth meeting of the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis here at Headquarters yesterday.

He discussed ways the Task Force can support responses at the country level, commending panel members for the many initiatives that are already under way, but adding that there is still much to do.

Hailing the Comprehensive Framework for Action as “a great achievement”, he stressed the need to broaden the partnership to include partners in the private sector, civil society, NGOs and donors, as well as the need to translate it into concrete and quick action, in close partnership with national Governments.

He noted the Task Force’s impact on the recent G-8 Summit, which for the first time focused an outcome statement solely on food.  The Secretary-General stressed the need to build upon that outcome and make progress in areas where continued G-8 political and financial commitment is indispensable, particularly in a marked increase in official development assistance for agriculture, as well as progress in reducing agricultural subsidies.

The next meeting of the Task Force will take place in early September.

** West Africa

The World Food Programme (WFP) is expanding its operations in West Africa to feed an additional 1.4 million people affected by high food prices.  WFP is already providing assistance to 3.6 million people in Guinea, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

WFP plans to scale up general food distributions to the hardest-hit populations, including children, pregnant and nursing women, and people affected by HIV/AIDS.  It is also stocking community cereal banks which, for example, allow farmers to acquire cereals at reasonable prices so that they can plant their seeds rather than resort to eating them.  There is more information on this upstairs.

**Food and Agriculture Organization

And on a lighter note, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the increasingly popular Mediterranean diet, revolving around fresh fruit and vegetables, is losing ground in its home area to foods that are higher in calories, salt, sugar and fat.

FAO attributes the change in eating habits not only to increased income, but to factors such as the rise of supermarkets and fast-food restaurants, working women having less time to cook and the general shift to a much more sedentary lifestyle.

Several Mediterranean countries want the diet, devised by their ancestors and hailed by experts as a factor in keeping people slim, healthy and long-lived, to be placed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage list.  We have a press release on that upstairs.

**UNCTAD

And to conclude, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) today launched its 2008 Handbook of Statistics, which analyses data for all of 2007.  According to the Handbook, industrialized nations accounted for more than 70 per cent of global gross domestic product last year, even though they have only 15 per cent of the world’s population.

As the subprime mortgage crisis took hold in industrialized nations, global exports nevertheless rose by significant amounts -- by 14 per cent for goods and 18 per cent for services.  Exports from developing countries rose slightly faster than exports from developed nations.

For several countries, such as Haiti and Nepal, the value of remittances from citizens working overseas exceeded the value of their total exports.  There is more information on that upstairs.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And then tomorrow at 11 a.m. there will be a press conference by Michael Adlerstein, Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan, on a new UN in-house climate change initiative.

And Carolyn McAskie, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, will hold her farewell press conference as our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow.

And I am sure that you want to hear from Mr. Guéhenno and not from me any more.  So I will invite him to come up and join me on the podium.

* *** *

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