|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’s Statement on Group of 20 (G-20) London Summit Outcome
I came to the London Summit with the clear message that the economic crisis is turning into a crisis of human development and security in many parts of the world ‑‑ and that developing countries will need at least $1 trillion of support.
I am pleased that G-20 leaders have committed themselves to a $1.1 trillion package. But it will be critical that the share of this going to the poorer countries is delivered.
The G-20 leaders have reaffirmed previous commitments to increase aid and help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
This means that they are promising at least $300 billion in aid over the next two years. For the poorest countries this will be crucial. The world will be watching.
In addition to committing significant new resources for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank, the G-20 also asked the United Nations to monitor the impacts of this and future crises on poor and vulnerable people ‑‑ in order to spur action.
I welcome the commitment from G-20 leaders to resist protectionism and to monitor compliance.
I was also encouraged that the G-20 leaders recognized the inextricable links between addressing the economic crisis and addressing food security and climate change.
In that regard, G-20 leaders promised to make resources available for social protection and investments in long-term food security, and stated their commitment to address the threat of irreversible climate change.
Importantly, they pledged to reach agreement at the UN climate change conference in Copenhagen later this year.
The Security Council this morning adopted its programme of work for April in its first consultations under Mexico’s Council presidency.
The new Council President, Ambassador Claude Heller of Mexico, will brief you in this room just after this briefing, in 20 minutes at 12:30, on the Council’s work over the coming month.
The Secretary-General is still in London, where he just wrapped up his participation in the Group of 20 Summit.
In his prepared remarks to the Summit, the Secretary-General emphasized that the current downturn has exacerbated the food crisis that raised the number of hungry to nearly 1 billion. He also said that global green growth must be a major component of any global stimulus and that better regulations governing the world financial system are sorely needed.
A short while ago, the Secretary-General held a bilateral meeting with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; he is just about to have another one with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso. A little later today, he plans to meet with the President of the Republic of Korea, Lee Myung-Bak. We should have readouts of all these meeting later this afternoon.
Tomorrow morning, the Secretary-General leaves for Paris, where he’ll chair a gathering of the UN System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB).
On Afghanistan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today urged the Afghan Government to rescind a new law, reportedly signed by President Hamid Karzai earlier this month, that she said would seriously undermine women’s rights in Afghanistan and contravene the Afghanistan Constitution, as well as universal human rights standards.
The new law, which has been passed by the two houses of Afghanistan’s Parliament, denies Afghan Shia women the right to leave their homes except for so-called “legitimate” purposes; forbids women from working or receiving education without their husbands’ express permission; and explicitly permits marital rape.
“For a new law in 2009 to target women in this way is extraordinary, reprehensible and reminiscent of the decrees made by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in the 1990s,” Ms. Pillay said. She said it was another clear indication that the human rights situation in Afghanistan is getting worse.
The High Commissioner cited a number of other human rights setbacks in Afghanistan that have been undermining efforts to build the rule of law in the country, including an increasing assault on freedom of expression by media and civil society activists, and a lack of progress in ensuring justice or accountability for past war crimes and crimes against humanity. We have more details in a press release upstairs.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo is out today as a document. In it, he calls once again on Security Council members and troop-contributing countries to come forward with the necessary means, including air and intelligence assets and military trainers, to beef up the overstretched UN peacekeeping force.
He also says that there has been a marked absence of progress in reform of the security sector, due in large part to the crisis in the north-east.
The Secretary-General also notes that efforts to end the dangerous presence of the Rwandan rebel group FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) and the recent integration of the Congolese armed groups into the national Army present a unique prospect for the country. He advises that advancing the security sector reform agenda be made an overriding priority.
On Guinea-Bissau, in a statement yesterday, the Secretary-General’s Representative in Guinea-Bissau, Joseph Mutaboba, expressed consternation at, and condemned, the attack by uniformed armed men on Francisco Fadul, the President of the Audit Court.
The assault reportedly occurred in the early hours of the morning at Fadul’s residence in the capital, Bissau. It appears to be connected to critical statements he made on the radio a day earlier.
The Secretary-General’s Representative also condemned the illegal arrest a week ago of lawyer Pedro Infanda by the military. He was apparently mistreated while in custody.
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN peacebuilding work in Guinea-Bissau is out as a document today. In it, he appeals to the country’s friends and to the international community to keep providing their technical and financial assistance at this critical moment.
**West Bank/World Food Programme
The World Food Programme (WFP) launched yesterday a food voucher operation to assist some 30,000 people in the West Bank ‑‑ where the price of basic food commodities increased by almost 70 per cent in 2008. The 12-month voucher operation is the first of its kind in the Middle East.
According to WFP, Palestinian families are now spending about 60 per cent of their income on food. The project will improve people’s access to food while, at the same time, providing a financial stimulus to the local economy. Families will receive eight vouchers per month, with a monthly value of $50.
WFP is also planning to start a food voucher operation in Gaza for about 15,000 people. We have more in a press release upstairs.
** Sri Lanka
On Sri Lanka, still the World Food Programme (WFP) said today that 1,000 metric tons of critically needed humanitarian food assistance has been dispatched to a designated safe zone in north-eastern Sri Lanka, where an estimated more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting.
The WFP food assistance was sent aboard a ship chartered by the Government of Sri Lanka, sailing under the flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and was due to be unloaded this afternoon. WFP says the food aid would be sufficient to feed approximately 100,000 people for 20 days.
Since road convoys to the Vanni region were discontinued in late January because of security concerns, WFP has dispatched a total of 2,219 metric tons using the sea route. Overall, WFP is providing food to 1.2 million people through emergency feeding and recovery programmes in Sri Lanka.
**Russia Federation-United States
Mohamed ElBaradei, the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), welcomed the Joint Statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and United States President Barack Obama, in which they committed themselves through concrete steps to fulfil their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world.
ElBaradei believes that the commitment made by the two Presidents demonstrates leadership and finally moves us beyond the cold war mentality. He believes that these measures would also contribute to the strengthening of the non-proliferation regime.
The Director General shares the views of the two Presidents on the urgent need for a verifiable denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. His full statement is upstairs.
On climate change, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is urging policymakers to include agriculture in negotiations for a new climate change treaty. FAO made this appeal as the first of a series of major UN negotiating sessions being held this week in Bonn, Germany.
FAO stresses that agriculture accounts for about 14 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions, and land-use changes, such as deforestation, for another 17 per cent. But it adds that farmers could also become agents of change by helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increasing soil cover, improving grassland management, planting trees or using fertilizer more efficiently for example. We have more in a press release upstairs, with details.
The first of three meetings aimed at negotiating an international regime on access and benefit-sharing of the use of genetic resources started today in Paris, France.
According to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, this regime would ensure that all countries obtain a fair and equitable share of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources ‑‑ the wide variety of plants, animals and micro-organisms ‑‑ originating from their territory. It adds that sharing benefits of genetic resources can contribute to poverty reduction and sustainable development in biodiversity-rich developing countries. We have a press release on that also upstairs.
Health ministers from countries with the greatest burdens of drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) have agreed to a series of actions to accelerate efforts to halt and reverse the global epidemic of the disease.
Four of the countries represented at the three-day meeting in Beijing ‑‑ China, India, the Russian Federation and South Africa ‑‑ account for 60 per cent of the global number of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) cases and have increased their financing for tuberculosis control.
Still, only 3 per cent of the half million of these cases estimated to emerge each year worldwide are known to be receiving treatment, according to WHO guidelines. There is a press release from the World Health Organization with more details.
And today is World Autism Awareness Day. In a message, the Secretary-General welcomed the growing international chorus of voices calling for action to enable children and persons with autism to lead full and meaningful lives. This is not a far-off dream, he added ‑‑ calling for the promotion of positive perceptions about autism, as well as greater social understanding.
He called for intensified global efforts to ensure that children and people with autism everywhere can reach their full potential and contribute to society.
And on this occasion, the World Health Organization has reaffirmed its commitment to assist Member States in delivering integrated health services to people with autism ‑‑ especially in developing countries.
**Press Conference Tomorrow
Our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). He will brief you on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.
And this is all I have for you. We have a very short time for questions because I have to leave the room for the President of the Security Council.
**Questions and Answers
Question: With this announcement, the G-20, there was a trillion dollar figure, $1.1 trillion. How does it compare to what the Secretary-General requested in the letter? It seems like $750 million of it, a billion of it, excuse me, are meant for just the IMF. Does that commitment do enough for poor countries and for the poor globally?
Spokesperson: Yes, I am going to ask you to be a little patient. We’re going to come out with our own reaction to the decisions taken by the G-20 a little later today, and you will have it as soon as it is issued from there by our people there.
[The Spokesperson later read the G-20 statement, which is included at the top of this transcript.]
Question: Maybe just some description of the Secretary-General’s kind of activities while he was there, how he pushed this trillion dollar figure and, I mean, I guess there are still a lot of statements...[interrupted].
Spokesperson: His activities... this is what I told you, the people he met and he participated, of course, in the plenary meetings.
Question: Michèle, I hope you get better.
Spokesperson: Thank you.
Question: In any case, can you tell us, this North Korean-proposed test, which is creating a lot of ripples all over and in the peninsula, whether in Japan, [which is] particularly concerned. Has the Secretary-General been engaged in any conversation with the...?
Spokesperson: No, he has not been. But I am sure that you will have a reaction later on. For the time being, we will stick to what the Secretary-General said at his last press conference with you. And you probably could ask the question to the Security Council since the President will be here shortly.
Question: I just want to ask about the Secretary-General’s representative. Kofi Annan had one for North Korea talks, but he was finally let go after there was some information of some wrongdoing on his part. Has this Secretary-General considered appointing a representative like Kofi Annan did?
Spokesperson: Not that I know of. But if it happens I will let you know, of course.
[The Spokesperson later added that the United Nations has been working with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Mission to revive the dialogue channel with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which was suspended four years ago. This dialogue is proceeding smoothly, through the Department of Political Affairs.]
Question: Thank you, Michèle. There are some reports, press reports about a meeting happening between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and President [Omer al-] Bashir in the Doha summit [that] ended last week. Can you confirm these press reports coming from Khartoum itself? And also, is there any response or any position taken by the Secretary-General towards the air strike which targeted a convoy in eastern Sudan two months ago or two and half months ago?
Spokesperson: On your first question about a meeting, as I said before in this room, there was no meeting between the Secretary-General and President Bashir of Sudan. There was no meeting. They were in the same room participating in the same meeting, which was a meeting of the League of Arab States, and that was it. Now, your second question about reaction to the Israeli thing; we have no reaction. They already gave an answer about it yesterday. We don’t have the information. We have no way of independently verifying the information.
Question: It is confirmed already by Khartoum and by other sources.
Spokesperson: What is confirmed by Khartoum?
Question: The air strike itself.
Spokesperson: Well, we don’t have any independent confirmation; that’s what I’m saying, that we don’t have anything to say about it.
Question: The press conference with John Ging, will that be here or...[interrupted]?
Spokesperson: He will be here.
Question: ...because I thought I saw him.
Spokesperson: Yes, he will be here.
Question: Then my second question is ‑‑ is there a particular position that the Secretary-General has that he will not speak with President Bashir? What is the position?
Spokesperson: Well, we have been saying over and over in this room, the Secretary-General himself has said it, there were no planned meetings since the ICC [International Criminal Court] took their decision.
Question: Well, is that on the basis of the position of the Secretary-General that he will not have contact?
Spokesperson: The situation right now is that there will be no contact. If there is to be something amazingly dangerous for the population of Darfur, the Secretary-General does not rule out having to talk to him. The situation is not this case yet, and the Secretary-General has only publicly appealed for the Sudanese Government to reverse their position about the humanitarian workers. However, on the part of the Secretary-General there has been no contact.
Question: But if the UN is separate from the ICC [International Criminal Court] is there a particular reason that the Secretary-General is not having contact since it’s a different organization?
Spokesperson: Well, even if it is a different organization, it is an international tribunal. And the position of the Secretary-General is that he respects the ICC decisions.
Question: I need to ask the question in French.
Question: [Correspondent asks question and follow up in French.]
Spokesperson: [Spokesperson responds in French.]
Question: I have two things about the Security Council, about the Secretariat…
Spokesperson: I have to go soon.
Question: Absolutely. One is that the Secretary-General was called on to give a report on Eritrea-Djibouti, that conflict by 26 February, and it hasn’t yet been turned in and it is now April. Can you say why that report hasn’t been turned in in the timeline that the Council said?
Spokesperson: Okay, I will check that for you.
[The Spokesperson later confirmed that the Secretary-General’s report was out as a letter to the Security Council and was now available on the Internet.]
Question: And the other one is the report on Kenya that was supposed to be 8 February. The presidential statement said that the Secretary-General was supposed to report on the Kenya situation to the Council. That hasn’t taken place. Those are just two things that... to get the Secretariat’s view.
Spokesperson: Okay, I’ll try to find out where those things are.
Question: Just those two, thank you.
Spokesperson: I have to leave the room for... ooh, we have something. So I’ll just stay for this. We have the statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Group of 20 London summit outcome. I’m quoting:
[See beginning of briefing.]
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