DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

4 September 2008

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT

4 September 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE General Assembly President

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.  (There was no briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.)

Spokesman for the President of the Sixty-Second General Assembly Session

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you very much for sticking with me. I have a couple of things on what the Assembly has been up to, what the President has been up to, and then I will introduce the incoming Spokesperson for the incoming President of the General Assembly.

**Counter-Terrorism Strategy Review

Let me start with today’s plenary.  The General Assembly began a plenary meeting this morning to review the implementation of the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy adopted by Member States two years ago, on 8 September 2006.

Before taking up this issue, though, the Assembly paid tribute to the memory of the late President of Zambia, Levy Patrick Mwanawasa.

The President of the General Assembly, in his opening statement, reminded Member States that the implementation of the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy had been one of the main priorities of this session.

But he added that, during this session, the Assembly’s focus had also been on the various related challenges that have a place in the Global Strategy. Fostering dialogue among cultures and religions, advancing the Millennium Development Goals, promoting the notion of human security were means through which to address the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism.

The President expressed his hope that this General Assembly meeting would serve as an opportunity to bring forward national experiences and share best practices in countering terrorism in an integrated manner.

In conclusion, the President stressed, and I quote:  “The General Assembly took the responsibility two years ago to strengthen this Organization’s response to terrorism by giving us a platform to further our common efforts.  By implementing the Global Strategy we will strengthen the United Nations and reassert the role of the General Assembly by making it capable to deliver not only on our ideals and expectations but also concrete results.”

Following the opening statement of the President, the Secretary-General addressed the meeting which was followed by statements from Member States.

Please also note that the Meeting is expected to take action on a draft resolution that, amongst others, reaffirms support for the Global Strategy; reiterates Member States’ strong condemnation of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations; and reaffirms Member States’ primary responsibility to implement the Strategy.

There are over 60 speakers on the list so it is expected that the Meeting will carry over into tomorrow.

Please note that tomorrow at the noon briefing we plan to have the President of the General Assembly and Robert Orr, the Chair of the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force, brief you on the Meeting.

**Meeting with Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari on Situation in Myanmar

Something that happened yesterday:  the President met with the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari.  Mr. Gambari briefed the President on his latest visit to Myanmar.  And we issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the General Assembly on the meeting yesterday afternoon.  Please note, of course, that the mandate for the Secretary-General’s good offices emanates from General Assembly resolutions.

According to that statement, the President reiterated the General Assembly’s continued engagement to promote national reconciliation, democracy and respect for human rights in Myanmar, as mandated by the resolutions of the General Assembly, and encouraged the Government of Myanmar to continue to work closely with the Special Adviser to achieve concrete progress on the suggestions he put forward during his recent visit.  The President also stressed the need for continued engagement and strong commitment from all parties to continue the process of national reconciliation, pointing out that such engagement must be serious and credible with the aim to lead to concrete results, as envisaged by the relevant General Assembly resolutions.

Furthermore, the President reiterated his continuous support for the Secretary-General’s good offices and for Mr. Gambari’s efforts on behalf of the Secretary-General.  He also noted the important role played by neighbouring countries, ASEAN States and the Group of Friends of Myanmar, and further encouraged those countries to remain engaged in the political process.

**Security Council Reform

Let me update you on Security Council reform. Following the meeting of the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform of Tuesday, 2 September, the General Assembly President encouraged Member States to consult with his Task Force on concerns, remarks and suggestions they had related to the draft report and draft recommendations of the Open-ended Working Group in order to agree on the draft recommendations by the end of this week.  It is the intention of the President to convene the next meeting of the Open-ended Working Group early next week in order to adopt the draft report, including its recommendations.

**Upcoming Events

On a couple of other upcoming events -- and this is indicated in the Journal -- but I’ll just highlight them.

Member States will hold informal consultations tomorrow on the outcome documents of the midterm review of the Almaty Programme of Action.  This is in preparation for the high-level midterm review which will be on 2-3 October -- so just after the general debate of the sixty-third session.

On Monday, the President of the General Assembly will launch the official consultations on the draft outcome document of the review conference of the Monterrey Consensus on financing for development set for Doha, Qatar, in late November this year.  Documentation on that, including the draft itself, is available for you on the President’s website.

Also on Monday, informal consultations will be held on system-wide coherence, convened by the co-chairs of the process, the Permanent Representatives of Ireland and the United Republic of Tanzania to discuss a draft decision on the work done during the current session.  Documentation on that is also available for you on the President’s website.

**Decolonization Committee

Finally, something that I was asked the last time I was here, the Special Committee on Decolonization indeed met yesterday and decided to recommend that the General Assembly appoint Ecuador as a member of the body, which would then increase the membership from 27 to 28.  Please note the recommendation will go to the General Assembly through the Assembly’s Fourth Committee.  But all this will happen, of course, during the sixty-third session.

**Spokesperson for Sixty-Third Session

And talking about the sixty-third session, it is a great pleasure and an honour for me to introduce officially the incoming Spokesperson for the incoming President of the sixty-third session, and that’s Enrique Yeves.

Enrique, I would kindly ask you to kindly come up here and introduce yourself.  And of course, Enrique will take over as of 16 September.

Enrique Yeves:  Thank you, Janos.  I do not have much to say, at least not yet.  Only to say that I am very happy to be here, that I hope I will be able to facilitate your work.  I am a journalist myself.  I have been working for Spanish television, for the BBC in London, for Reuters, before joining the UN in Italy, in Rome, where I have been working in the Press Section as from 1993.  After that I came here to New York, where in the last few years I have been working as Chief of Television Production.  And I am extremely happy to be here to facilitate your work and the work of the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, as you all know, from Nicaragua.

Thank you, Enrique.  And of course, Enrique will be here and give you his details.  That’s all I, or we, have for you unless you have questions.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  I welcome the new Spokesperson and wish him the best of luck.  Looking into your experience as the Spokesperson for the GA President, what is the most important lesson that you have drawn?

Spokesperson:  Probably the most important lesson that I have learned is to prepare and prepare well for the briefings.

Question:  On the meeting that the President had with Mr. Gambari, there has been a lot of controversy about Mr. Gambari’s failure to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi while he was there.  I don’t know how to exactly read between the lines of the statement, but most of the opposition parties said that the trip was a failure because he didn’t meet with the main opposition leader.  Did he explain to the President why he didn’t meet with her?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it was explained, but Mr. Gambari, as far as I know, will brief the Security Council and then after that will brief you.  So it is a question for you to ask him.  No, there is nothing mysterious about it.  I am sure that Mr. Gambari will explain.  And as regards failure or no failure, Mr. Gambari has been briefing the President on this issue ever since the President took office.  And of course -- and it was always put in a context of an ongoing process -- and this is how it was reviewed.  So what has happened before, what has happened during that concrete visit and what are the next steps.  So, that’s the package in which the issue has been discussed in the past and in this case, yesterday as well.

Question:  Just one thing, given the process, does he -- the President, not Mr. Gambari -- does the President view this last trip as a positive move in the process or something of a downward trend?

Spokesperson:  No, the President views it as very much part of the process.  He doesn’t want to characterize it as positive or negative, but very much part of the process.

Question:  With regard to the Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform, did the sense of a regional solution as perhaps a way forward come through that, that something might be presented as part of the results this year?  Is there any sense of that?

Spokesperson:  Well, let me say this:  if you have followed the discussions on this from actually the last day of the previous session, meaning from 17 September, with the report that the Open-ended Working Group presented and the General Assembly approved on 17 September; so in other words, the work of the sixty-first session and then followed what happened during the sixty-second session, then that pretty much gives you an idea that this approach, the regional approach, is very much there on the minds of a number of Member States.  But I don’t want to go more into details and characterizations, especially because it is exactly right now that the intensive consultation process is ongoing and hopefully getting to the wire with a result that is acceptable hopefully to all Member States in the form of a draft recommendation, which is what is aimed at and therefore can be accepted by the Open-ended Working Group, hopefully at the beginning of next week.  So I would rather not characterize this process.  I am sure that next week we would know more, for one thing.  Second, and let me also mention that, not only did I mention to you that the President is coming to talk about the counter-terrorism issues with Bob Orr, but the President will come before the end of this session.  If not sooner, then definitely on 15 September to give you a wrap-up of where he felt he has achieved things, where things are, what he is passing over, and that includes, of course, definitely Security Council reform.  So that would be the time to assess how much of the views that Member States have expressed on regionality transcended into the next steps forward.

Question:  A follow-up. And that has just to do with the methods of the meetings that the Open-ended Working Group meetings were closed to the public in general; to the press...?

Spokesperson: That’s correct, yes.

Question:  ...And so it’s been hard to see the statements, hard to know what’s going on, what the thinking is, and so there’s no press about it either...

Spokesperson:  I would differ because (a) I tried to give as much information as possible, (b) the President himself came often to brief (c) we made all the statements of the President available for you; and (d) a number of the key documentations related to this issue have been put on the Web and available for you.  As I mentioned, one of them being the Report of the Open-ended Working Group with its annexes of the sixty-first session.  And then just before the 17 June meeting of the Open-ended Working Group, the report of the vice-chairs of Open-ended Working Group, in other words the Task Force, that pretty well summed up the various different inputs.  And then, of course, most recently, just before Tuesday’s meeting, we had it on the Web, the draft report of the Open-ended Working Group with a draft recommendation.  So, I don’t really see where we have failed on transparency.

Question:  The question I am raising is that process, which is the actual meeting itself, which is the actual presentations of different Member States, that if that’s a closed discussion on such an important issue; to the whole world, then I think this is a very difficult and maybe impossible process.  And so I don’t know why, the reasoning for the meetings to be closed about the Open-ended Working Group meetings and the fact that somehow the commitment to not only the presidency, but to the discussion being an open discussion and to hearing and encouraging that to be a discussion that’s broadened and that people can be involved with around the world.  So that’s just a question to you to consider towards the summation of what’s happened this year.

Spokesperson:  Point taken.  Two things that I can say on this:  one, and this we have said when you had questions about meetings that were open or closed.  We mentioned that this is, of course, always a decision by Member States.  I think in some cases Member States feel that there are certain phases of the process that they feel more comfortable if they have in a more informal setting where they are, so to speak on their own, and able to express themselves in that way.  So this is probably what we are looking at here.  But as I said, there are, I think ample, how should I say it, ample results, that are available; ample elements of the negotiation process that is available openly to all.  On the second issue that you mentioned, about bringing in various different views, obviously the President himself, when he consults with various non-State actors and State actors, obviously the national governmental representatives when they put forward their views, I would assume that those views are obviously also based on broader considerations as well.  So that’s where that broader view may come into the picture.  If you have more questions...  Mr. Abbadi, the last question, then.

Question:  In addition to the first lesson you have learned, preparing well for the press briefing, (laughter) for our own and for the benefit of your successor, what is the second and third lesson you have learned?

Spokesperson:  Oh, very good.  First lesson yes, prepare and prepare well.  Second lesson is to be part of the decision-making process within the President’s Office as much as possible, to understand the thinking and the work of the President and his team.  And third, always take each and every question very seriously.  Thank you very much.

* *** *

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