Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily press briefing by the offices of the spokesperson for the Secretary-General
And the spokesperson for the General Assembly president
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
Good afternoon, all.
**Secretary-General Statement on Bhutto Commission
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the Bhutto Commission.
The Secretary-General has informed the Government of Pakistan, by letter to President Asif Ali Zardari, that the Commission of Inquiry into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto will commence its six-month mandate on 1 July 2009. The Commission will be composed of the Permanent Representative of Chile, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz, as the head of the Commission; Mr. Marzuki Darusman of Indonesia; and Mr. Peter Fitzgerald of Ireland. The biographies of the three Commissioners are upstairs.
In accordance with the agreed Terms of Reference, the Commission’s mandate will be to inquire into the facts and circumstances of the assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto. The duty of determining criminal responsibility of the perpetrators of the assassination remains with the Pakistani authorities. The Commission will submit its report to the Secretary-General within six months of the commencement of its activities. The Secretary-General will share the report with the Government of Pakistan and submit it to the Security Council for information.
The Secretary-General notes that the anniversary of the birth of former Prime Minister Bhutto is on 21 June, and is a reminder of the tragic loss suffered by her family and the Pakistani people. The United Nations is committed to assisting Pakistan by determining the facts and circumstances of her death.
Still on Pakistan, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, welcomed the airlift yesterday of more than 35,000 kilograms of relief supplies, donated by the Irish and the Norwegian Governments, for its operations on behalf of displaced people in north-western Pakistan. The urgently needed relief goods include tents, blankets, kitchen sets and mosquito nets. The goods are now on their way to the refugee agency’s operational hub in the North-West Frontier Province, where they will be used to help improve conditions in camps for displaced people.
We have more details in UNHCR’s briefing notes.
As for our $543 million humanitarian appeal to deal with the needs of Pakistan’s displaced people, so far, one month since the appeal went out, only 30 per cent of the funding has been received.
**Secretary-General Statement on Guatemala
We have another statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, CICIG.
The Secretary-General met yesterday afternoon at UN Headquarters with Carlos Castresana, head of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and expressed his strong support and appreciation for the work of the Commission and all of its staff, under difficult circumstances, to help strengthen justice and the rule of law in Guatemala.
With the Commission now involved in a critical phase of its operations, the Secretary-General calls on Guatemala’s political and judicial authorities, and all sectors of Guatemalan society, to help CICIG carry out its work. He urges full respect for its mandate and independence.
The Secretary-General appreciates the strong political and financial support being provided to CIGIG by the international community, and welcomes continued backing in the period ahead. The United Nations remains committed through the efforts of CICIG to help ensure that the people of Guatemala can be protected by, and have trust in, their judicial institutions.
On Iran, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said today that she is concerned about reports of an increasing number of arrests in Iran. She also expressed concerns about the possible illegal use of excessive force and acts of violence by some militia members in the aftermath of the recent presidential elections. “The legal basis of the arrests that have been taking place, especially those of human rights defenders and political activists, is not clear,” Pillay said.
The High Commissioner commended the largely peaceful and dignified conduct of the huge demonstrations that have been taking place in the Iranian capital, Teheran. But she expressed particular concern about reported acts of violence by members of the Basij militia, which may also be in contravention of international and Iranian national law. We have her full statement on Iran upstairs.
On Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, MINUSTAH, categorically denies allegations that MINUSTAH troops fired on a demonstrator, yesterday in Port-au-Prince.
After the funeral of Reverend Gérard Jean-Juste, a demonstration took place in which one person died. According to initial information gathered by the UN Mission, the death resulted from a blow from a blunt object, such as a stone, and not a bullet wound.
The Mission also stresses that, although MINUSTAH peacekeepers were present and fired in the air to disperse the crowd, their actions seem to have no link with the death of the demonstrator. It adds that the peacekeepers used minimum force as authorized in these circumstances. There is more in a press release by the Mission, upstairs.
**Democratic Republic of Congo
On the DR Congo, the Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUC, says that this week has seen the highest rate of return to Rwanda by former Hutu rebels. Fifty-seven former members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and 26 others left the restive north-eastern DRC for their country in a move facilitated by the UN. Meanwhile, more than 1,650 children have been extracted from the ranks of armed groups since the start of the year.
The Mission says that UN peacekeepers have established an alert and surveillance system across North Kivu in the context of their joint operations with the Congolese Army against illegal armed groups. These operations received a boost this week with the opening of another joint coordination centre, bringing their total number to eight.
On Darfur, the second round of talks between the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement, (JEM), in Doha, Qatar, which have been going on since 27 May, were suspended today and are expected to be reconvened at the end of July.
The two parties broke negotiations to further consider the two main issues on the table at this point, i.e., the cessation of hostilities vis-à-vis the exchange of their respective prisoners of war. During the current round of negotiations, the JEM called for the release of prisoners before an agreement on the cessation of hostilities, while the Government maintained its position that the cessation of hostilities should precede the release of prisoners.
During this period, the Mediation will continue to consult with other major stakeholders in the peace process.
The Security Council began its work this morning by discussing the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, UNDOF, first in a meeting with troop-contributing countries and then in consultations. The Secretary-General, in his latest report, recommends a six-month extension of the Force’s mandate; that report was introduced by Wolfgang Weisbrod Weber, Director of the Asia and Middle East Division of the Department for Peacekeeping Operations.
The Security Council then received an update on the work of the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, (UNRCCA), by the head of that Centre, Miroslav Jenca.
Also in its consultations today, Council members expect to discuss the work of its Sanctions Committee dealing with Sudan, which is chaired by Austria.
**Deputy Secretary-General in Norway
Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, has been on an official working visit to Norway since Wednesday. Her activities there have focused on international justice, especially in the context of violence against women and girls and the protection of children’s rights. Yesterday, she spoke about domestic violence in a keynote speech to the Conference Ministers of Justice of the Council of Europe. Surveys from around the world, she said, show that half of the women who die from homicides are killed by their current or former husbands or partners. She said ending this violence will require adopting new laws, enforcing the ones that exist and working to change the backward mindsets that condone, excuse or ignore such violence. She pledged the UN’s support to achieving this goal.
The Deputy Secretary-General also held a number of bilateral meetings, including with the Norwegian Minister of Justice and the Deputy Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. She is expected back in New York this weekend.
World hunger is projected to reach a historic high in 2009, with more than 1 billion people going hungry every day, according to new estimates published by the Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO), today. This is an increase of some 100 million people ‑‑ or 11 per cent ‑‑ for the current year. It also means that one sixth of humanity is affected by hunger.
The UN agency says that this increase is not the consequence of poor global harvests, but is caused by the world economic crisis. The crisis, it adds, has resulted in lower incomes and increased unemployment thus reducing access to food by the poor.
FAO, the World Food Programme, WFP, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, IFAD, are calling on States to take quick actions to eradicate hunger, including by boosting agricultural production and the productivity of poor countries. There is more in a press release upstairs.
**Disaster Risk Reduction
A major conference on Disaster Risk Reduction has ended in Geneva, with a call on Governments to work on reducing by half the number of deaths from natural disasters, by the year 2015.
The conference ‑‑ which was chaired by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, John Holmes ‑‑ identified, among its key recommendations, the need for a global structural evaluation of schools and hospitals to make them safer, especially in all disaster-prone countries.
The recommendations also include the need for appropriate measures to be enforced in building and land codes for all major cities in disaster-prone areas of the world, by the year 2015. Most importantly, the conference recommends that clear financial commitments to disaster risk reduction should be established nationally and internationally by the end of next year.
The conference also examined the rising threat of climate change as a major contributing factor to disasters. We have full details in a press release upstairs.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, issued a survey today that reports a major decline in cocaine production in Colombia. The survey also shows that drug trafficking is being seriously disrupted. UNODC’s Executive Director, Antonio Maria Costa, says that cartels are becoming more violent as a result of the shrinking cocaine supply and the drop in demand in the major markets of North America and Europe.
In his video message to the International Labour Conference that ended today in Geneva, the Secretary-General said that he will carry the Global Jobs Pact’s message with him to the General Assembly and the G-8 Summit. The pact speaks to the concerns of enterprises large and small, and addresses the hopes of young people seeking opportunity as they enter this turbulent market.
Following the strong support that was voiced during the three-day ILO Global Jobs Summit, the Global Jobs Pact was adopted today to guide national and international policies aimed at stimulating economic recovery, generating jobs and providing protection to working people and their families. There is a press release on this upstairs.
And today the United Nations system is raising awareness about sickle-cell anaemia. The Secretary-General has issued a message urging Governments and civil society to improve research and understanding of this inherited and incurable disease, which every year affects hundreds of thousands of newborns, especially in low- and middle-income countries.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last December recognizing this disease as a public health problem. The Secretary-General joins his voice to that of the entire international community to raise global awareness so that people afflicted with sickle-cell anaemia may lead full and productive lives.
The Health Minister of the Republic of Congo, Her Excellency Madame Emilienne Raoul will chair a press conference right after this briefing on sickle-cell anaemia and what is being done throughout the world to mitigate its effects.
The Secretary-General’s message is available upstairs. And, of course, the press conference on sickle-cell anaemia will come right after the briefing by Enrique [Yeves ‑‑ Spokesperson of the GA President].
And tomorrow is World Refugee Day. In a message to mark this occasion, the Secretary-General underlines how much refugees have lost and how much the humanitarian community must do to help them.
He says there are gaps in meeting their basic needs such as shelter, health services, education, food, clean water, sanitation and protection from violence and abuse. To address these gaps, he calls for commitment, action and a response based on solidarity.
“Let us ensure that people displaced by conflict, persecution and upheaval get the support and services they need to build a better life,” says the Secretary-General.
Also marking the Day, the High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, says that refugees are not faceless statistics ‑‑ they are real people, who, through no fault of their own, have lost everything. He adds that in these difficult times, those working with refugees are struggling more than ever to meet even their most basic needs. He says that with adequate resources, many of these ills can be eliminated or minimized.
According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, there were more than 42 million refugees and internally displaced people worldwide at the end of 2008. And the number has grown significantly since the beginning of this year ‑‑ in places such as Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Somalia.
UNHCR offices worldwide will have a range of activities for World Refugee Day. You can find out more on the UNHCR site.
**Japan Trip Announcement
The Secretary-General is planning to make an official visit to Japan later this month. During his stay in Tokyo, scheduled from 30 June to 2 July, the Secretary-General plans to hold meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso and Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone. Also on his agenda is a meeting with Japanese business leaders.
In addition, he is expected to have a town hall meeting with students at the University of Tokyo, meet with the UN’s Goodwill Ambassadors in Japan and make a guest appearance on a children’s news programme on TV. And further details of this trip and possible additions to it will be announced as they develop.
**Week Ahead at United Nations
And in the Week Ahead ‑‑ it’s upstairs ‑‑ just to flag a few things.
As I announced yesterday, the Secretary-General will be on Sunday in Birmingham, UK, at the invitation of Rotary International, to receive an award for his contribution and efforts on the eradication of polio.
On Monday at 3 p.m., in this room, there will be a background briefing on media arrangements for the forthcoming Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis, to be held 24-26 of June. Again, it is a background briefing.
Monday and Tuesday, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, will be in Washington, D.C., for a discussion at the National Defense University, as well as meetings with senior officials from the US Department of State and the National Security Council. The Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, Susana Malcorra, will also join Mr. Le Roy in Washington, D.C., for the meetings on 22nd of June.
Next Tuesday, the 23rd, at noon, the Secretary-General and New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, will hold a joint press conference to highlight major events this fall to promote action on climate change.
Starting on Wednesday and through Friday, the General Assembly will hold a Conference on, “The World Financial and Economic Crisis and Its Impact on Development”. And I’m sure you’ll get other details, and update, from Enrique.
And on Friday, the Security Council will hold an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict.
And this is all I have for you today. Yes, Laura?
**Questions and Answers
Question: Michèle, the European Union has given its support for an early visit by the UN Secretary-General to Burma; that statement was issued this morning. Do you have any comment about whether he may add a trip to Burma onto his Japanese trip?
Spokesperson: As I said, it is a possibility; however, the Secretary-General has not decided yet whether he will do it. Yes?
Question: Last week, Ban held a high-level health meeting with Margaret Chan, and then ‑‑ on the importance of delivering health care ‑‑ and then, this week, there were two reports published in The Lancet, and I was wondering if the Secretary-General had seen those reports and what his comments are that there’s a lack of mechanisms to monitor UN funding ‑‑ about $196 billion, and that, in some cases, the UN programmes are leading some countries to slash their health spending or…?
Spokesperson: As you probably know, this is a WHO report. So, WHO is looking critically at its own programme. So, we don’t have at this point a reaction. I think it’s a very positive sign that WHO criticizes the programme, how the programmes are led. Yes?
Question: Thanks Michèle. I’m wondering if the Secretary-General has a plan to send, or if he’s already done so, any kind of congratulatory note to President Ahmadinejad since the Government there has said, and the Supreme Leader has said that, his election was fair, that it stands, or if he’s going to wait until after, there’s some, this investigation, or internal probe or recount of elections is done?
Spokesperson: He hasn’t sent any congratulatory letter as yet because we are still trying to get a better sense of what really happened. And the Secretary-General mentioned himself the investigation ‑‑ when he spoke to you at the stakeout at the beginning of the week. We have nothing new on this really.
Question: The Christian Science Monitor, writing about Sri Lanka, says, has reported, that UN officials have been stopped from bringing in cameras and mobile phones to the UN-funded camps. I wonder, is the newspaper wrong in reporting that and, if it’s not, what is the UN doing about being barred from, what would be the purpose of such a restriction and would the UN accept it?
Spokesperson: I don’t think the UN would accept it. I think what I would have to do first is to check the information, itself, which I haven’t had a chance to do yet, but which I will do.
Question: Michèle, the European Union today on (Aung) San Suu Kyi’s sixty-fourth birthday, appealed again for her release and political prisoners. Does the Secretary-General have any kind of message today?
Spokesperson: No, not today. But, you know, his message has been consistent about her release, not only her release, but about the full resumption of a political dialogue in that country. And also the fact that she’s not the only one ‑‑ there are a number of other political prisoners that should be released ‑‑ and the Secretary-General has spoken about that.
Question: I have a question about a figure, which the Secretary-General announced in his last new conference, about $11 million, which he will ask Israel to pay for compensation of damages on the UN quarters. And my question is will this amount of money also include compensation to the people who were killed or injured in those attacks, or is this just material financial compensation?
Spokesperson: I don’t have the exact ‑‑ the ballpoint figure was $11 million, you are right ‑‑ I think probably does include compensation.
Question: And is it possible to change this figure? You know, is this an initial estimate?
Spokesperson: This is an initial estimate. You know, of course, there will be [more detailed] evaluations done.
Question: So someone who was killed or injured in those attacks ‑‑ they are able to get compensation from this amount?
Spokesperson: I cannot say for sure. I have to find out for you what the exact terms of the compensations will be, because they are going to be determined.
Question: Why did the Secretary-General call for the meeting this afternoon with the Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman? Can you outline perhaps what’s on the agenda?
Spokesperson: The agenda will always be the issue of settlements, it is one [item] on the agenda, the issue of a two-State solution, which the UN, as you know, supports very strongly, and the issue of Gaza, and of course, opening the crossings to Gaza.
Question: Can I ask if there’s going to be two other issues? Lieberman has said that there must be change in Iranian policy, no matter who becomes the President. Is that likely to be discussed?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. What I will do is give you a read-out after the meeting. Okay? That’s the best I can do, really. Yes, Masood?
Question: Thank you, Michèle. Can you tell me…
Spokesperson: You finally got an answer to your question today, didn’t you?
Question: [laughter] Is there a timeline on that, on the Commission’s work?
Spokesperson: Six months.
Question: Okay, now. Is it going to remain only in Islamabad, or will it travel to other cities, and have the security arrangements for the team been made to their satisfaction?
Spokesperson: The security arrangements, as you know, should be done by the Pakistani Government. About what the Commission will do, it is to be determined by the Commission, itself. I cannot speak on their behalf; they have to go there and determine where they will go and what they will do. This hasn’t been done yet.
Question: And, the funding of the Commission. As you know, you receive $1.8 million from the Pakistani Government. Has there been more funding coming?
Spokesperson: I can ask for you whether we have more funding. Last I checked, it was what we had. [The Spokesperson later said the first donation is from Pakistan, and those funds are being used to get the Commission started. “A number of Member States have undertaken to contribute to the Commission, but these processes take time. We’re confident that we will ultimately have a diverse set of donors,” she said.}
Question: And does it [inaudible]? And the other question is IDPs in Pakistan, last we heard, it was still short by $425 million, [inaudible] said last week. Has there been more…?
Spokesperson: I just said that only 30 per cent was funded, so you can do the math.
Question: Another Pakistan question and then something else. It’s been reported that the UN has raised its security phase in Islamabad and Peshawar to level 3 and that family members are to be pulled out. I wanted to know whether or not you’ll confirm the security phase, and when these phases are implemented, how do they apply to national staff members, and what protections are offered to people that work for the UN in the cities that are Pakistani nationals?
Spokesperson: As you already know by now, we never comment on the security levels in any specific country. We never do.
Spokesperson: Well, in the abstract, there are a number of measures that are taken for every step, and you can certainly get that information from the Department, from DSS, and DSS can tell you exactly what are the different steps. I know that, in Peshawar last week, the staff stayed on, but was working from home for a while, and I can tell you now that actual assistance to the people in Peshawar was led from other places in Pakistan. As far as I know, I will check for you whether the Peshawar operation has started over again and whether the staff is working there on a full-time basis. [The Spokesperson later added that the UN office in Peshawar has since re-opened, as of 16 June.]
Question: And then I just wanted to ask ‑‑ there’s this controversy about UNCTAD, about reappointing or not reappointing Mr. Supachai. And it said that the G-77 there has written in support of him, but the African Group within that has said they didn’t support the recommendation, that they have other candidates from the Ivory Coast and Kenya, and finally, it’s been written to miscellaneous of OIOS that there’s been pressure put on staff to support the current head to be reappointed. One ‑‑ has the Secretary-General gotten this letter from G-77, and does he acknowledge it as the position of the full group, or does he know of this African Group counter-position?
Spokesperson: He has received the different letters and the different positions and, as you know, he still supports his reappointment.
Question: And what about this claim that staff are being pressured as a condition of keeping their jobs?
Spokesperson: Pressured by whom?
Question: Pressured by senior members within UNCTAD.
Spokesperson: I’m not aware of that. I’m not aware of that at all.
Question: I wondered, I hadn’t seen anything, so I just wonder if I’d missed it, has Ban Ki-moon made any statement about the 15 June anniversary of the Joint Declaration for Peace and Reunification on the Korean peninsula? Was there any statement that he made to mark that date?
Spokesperson: No, as far as I know, he hasn’t. We had a statement recently, as you know, about the Korean peninsula. Not specifically on the anniversary.
Question: A UN Rapporteur has released a report describing what he calls “systematic practice of Colombia soldiers killing civilians, and making them like guerrillas”. Has there been, will there be, any communication with the Colombian authorities from the Secretary-General? Colombia has also announced it will carry out its own investigation. Is that something the UN would support?
Spokesperson: The Special Rapporteurs as you know [submit their reports to] the Human Rights Council in Geneva. So the report will go to them.
Question: I have a question of the Pakistan commission: From the statement that you read, you said that the duty of determining the criminal responsibility of the perpetrators remains with the Pakistani authorities. So, I was wondering what will the Commission do then? And the second issue, you said in the end of the statement, the Secretary-General will submit the report to the Security Council for information. So, does this mean determining beforehand there’s not going to be any action by the Security Council after being informed?
Spokesperson: No, the Security Council can act anytime, and put something on its agenda, as you know. So, informing the Security Council is because it was a matter that was dealt with by the Secretariat. In terms of responsibility, what it is saying is that the Commission is not a tribunal; it is not going to actually indict people and actually try people. That’s what it is saying.
Question: Basically, it becomes a totally redundant exercise, you’re doing nothing a waste of money.
Spokesperson: Well, it is doing the investigation.
Question: …and then hand the result to the Pakistani authorities [talkover]…
Spokesperson: …to the judicial authorities, yes.
Question: But what if they disagree?
Spokesperson: You know, we cannot force a Government to try specific people. We do not have the power to do that. This is an intergovernmental organization. The Bhutto Commission was set up because of a request by the Pakistani Government. Whatever they decide to do with the results of that investigation is, to a certain extent, for them to decide. The request came from them.
Question: Will the results be made public, though, of that Commission? When they come out with their report, will the full report be made public?
Spokesperson: They are the ones who should decide that.
Question: The other paper in The Lancet was by the University of Washington, and it said the UN was propping up dysfunctional health systems in Africa. Is there a tracking system, or would the UN consider supporting monitoring mechanisms to go back over the…?
Spokesperson: I think they are quoting what was done by WHO, itself, if I understand correctly.
Question: Because there were two papers.
Spokesperson: Yes. The one from the university, I think, is quoting WHO.
Question: So they’re all stemming from…
Spokesperson: …from the same source, which is WHO. And that’s what the report is asking about ‑‑ how to make these more efficient, and this is what the report is about. It’s questioning the methods and planning to, of course, create mechanisms for this not to happen any more. It’s a critical report about their own system.
Question: So it’s just for the WHO to deal with in the future, and create maybe an auditing system or something.
Spokesperson: Yes. Okay, please.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Thank you, Michèle. Good afternoon to everybody.
**Economic Crisis Conference
Let me give you an update on where we are on the Global Economic Crisis Summit. Let’s start by attendance. We have up to now 126 countries’ confirmed participation, and I have here the full list. I will make it available later on. But let me give you a heads up on the first group ‑‑ the group of Heads of State and Heads of Government, including Vice-Presidents ‑‑ we have 21. I’m going to name them right now. We have Ecuador, Philippines, Venezuela, Barbados, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Serbia, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia, Iran (First Vice-President), Gambia (Vice-President), Honduras (Vice-President), Zimbabwe (Vice-President), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Vice-President), Luxembourg (Deputy Prime Minister), and Russian Federation (Deputy Prime Minister).
Then, we have this right now, because it’s only a draft: we have 31 Ministers, 21 Vice-Ministers, 35 chairmen of delegations, and still five countries to determine the level of participation. And that’s in terms of attendance.
Question: Iran, Vice-President?
Spokesperson: I said Iran, First Vice-President, Islamic Republic of Iran, First Vice-President.
Let me give you an idea of how the meeting is going to be. It’s going to be for three days, as you know ‑‑ 24, 25 and 26. That’s Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, and apart from the regular and traditional speeches that we will have at the General Assembly, we’ll have four round tables. The whole idea is to have the meeting be as interactive as possible, with the participation at round tables.
The first round table will be on Wednesday, from 3 to 6 in the afternoon. It will be on role of the United Nations and its Member States in the ongoing international discussions on reforming and strengthening the international financial and economic system and architecture.
The Chairs will be the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, and the Prime Minister of Serbia, Mirko Cvetkovic. And among the panellists, we will have Professor Joseph Stiglitz, Mr. Murilo Portugal, Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), among others, including Alicia Barcena (United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)).
Round table 2 ‑‑ that will be on Thursday, 25 June ‑‑ is going to be on coordinated and collaborative actions and appropriate measures to mitigate the impact of the crisis on development. The Chairs will be the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Tongloun Sisoulit) and Deputy Prime Minister of Luxembourg (Jean Asselborn). Among the panellists are Secretary-General of UNCTAD (Supachai Panitchpakdi).
Round table 3 ‑‑ I will give you this paper later on. I’m just giving you a brief readout for the benefit of those who are following on UN television ‑‑ on Thursday, from 3 to 6 in the afternoon, will be present and future impacts of the crisis on, inter alia, employment, trade, investment and development goals and the Millennium Development Goals.
The Chair will be Minister of Coordination of Economic Policy of the Republic of Ecuador (Diego Borja), and Minister for Development Cooperation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (Bert Koenders).
The last round table, round table 4, will be on Friday at 10, on contributions of the United Nations development system in response to the crisis. And it will be chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh (Dipu Moni) and Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland (Paavo Matti Vayrynen).
And, we have other panellists, including Miss Helen Clark from UNDP, and Mrs. Thoraya Obaid from UNFPA, and Mr. Pedro Paez, former Minister for Economic Coordination of Ecuador.
We’re going to have, as you can imagine, several press conferences with the participants. I’m going to give you a brief overview, but some of the times might change. I’m going to keep you updated on that.
We will have on Tuesday, the 23rd, at 11 in this room, the President of the General Assembly, who will give you an overview of where we are in the Conference. And then at 12:30, the NGOs will be briefing, also here. And then the following day, the 24th, we have a scheduled conference with the Presidential Commission of Experts, including Mr. Stiglitz, but that ‑‑ we have to confirm that.
On Thursday, the 25th, we will have the President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa, at 11 a.m., and then we will have at around 3, some ECOSOC Heads of State giving you a press conference on their views on the issues being discussed. And, on Friday, we hope to have the traditional closing by the President of the General Assembly.
And we have for you some press kits with background information and programmes already available in the back of the room. In addition, all information will be available in special pages on the Web, on the President’s webpage. Everything’s going to be available there.
And lastly, a few comments on the negotiations. The different groups are still negotiating. They plan to negotiate the whole of today, as well as the whole day on Saturday, and most likely, the whole day on Sunday. Progress has already been made, but as you have a lot of experience in these kinds of negotiations in this house, we are getting there slowly.
This is basically what I have for you. Oh, I forgot to mention, there are several panel events organized at the same time, by Missions, NGOs, etc. But it is a very long list, so I will provide you with that in writing. As I said, this is what I have for you, so if you have any questions?
Question: Any information on the participation of President Chavez of Venezuela, at any press conference?
Spokesperson: Not that I’m aware of right now. As I said, this is a provisional list; it might change with several names from here to Wednesday.
Question: Are you satisfied with the level of participation, with no Western countries attending, and the total is like 22 Presidents and Vice-Presidents? Are you disappointed that no other world leaders are taking part?
Spokesperson: No, the President of the General Assembly, first of all, feels that regardless of who is coming, the important thing is what is decided; the importance is the substance of what is going to be agreed, if eventually there is agreement among the Member States. Then, it is up to the Member States to decide at what level their participation is. In any case, this is something that was conveyed by all 192 Member countries, and all of them agreed it was going to be at the highest level possible. Right now, this is the participation we have. But again, I would like to stress that the issues being discussed here are very important, and we have ministers, foreign ministers and ministers of finance. And certainly, as I said, for the President of the General Assembly, the most important thing is the substance of the agreements.
Question: A question about the format: in addition to the press conferences and round tables, will there be a general debate going on simultaneously?
Question: And that’s starting at the highest level, so Heads of State will go in the morning on the first day?
Question: Is there a schedule of speakers yet?
Spokesperson: Not yet. But it will be a traditional one. The Heads of State will speak first, then you go down from there, to the Heads of Government and so on. I don’t think a speakers’ list has been prepared yet.
Question: Are they getting 15 minutes or shorter?
Spokesperson: That is the request.
Question: Did I hear you correctly, that either the Head of State or Government of both Bosnia and Serbia are coming?
Spokesperson: We have, yes, the Head of State of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Question: You were quoted as saying no Head of State from the West; none from the West. Are these countries from, how are you defining “West”?
Spokesperson: That’s a good question. As I said yesterday, we didn’t have the full list available yesterday. But this is by now, obviously [talkover].
Question: And there’s this controversy at UNCTAD about this reappointment, or not, of Mr. Supachai that has to be voted on by the GA. Has the President received any correspondence? There’s a split in the G-77, where one group supports it and the African Group says no. Is he going to get involved in that?
Spokesperson: He’s not going to be involved in that. It has nothing to do with his mandate and he has [no interest] to do so.
Question: Can you just say a little more about what’s in the press kit and what we can hope to get on the substance of the Conference because I see that A/2009/63/838 ‑‑ the recommendations of the Commission of Experts ‑‑ how does this compare to what you’re negotiating and what will be the substance of the material of the meeting, and are there other documents we should keep our eyes open for?
Spokesperson: The most important document is the draft outcome document, which is being negotiated right now, which is available online. We didn’t put it in there because it is being modified by the different parties, and this is part of the negotiations. Let me give you very briefly what is being negotiated in terms of substance, because I think it’s important.
As I said, everything is in that draft outcome document that the different delegations are negotiating right now. There are basically three main elements being discussed in this Conference. The first is the global emergency stimulus plan that will help, not only the rich countries, but also the weakest countries, the low-income and middle-income countries, and how that package, the amount of that package, and where the sources of funding for such a package are coming from. That’s the most important element.
The second important element is the sustainability of such a plan. You make an emergency plan and then we might have the same crisis in 15 years. So they are now trying to see how to make such a plan sustainable, and there is where the whole issue of the restructuring of the current system of international financial structure comes in. There’s the focus on human needs. In other words, can we make any action sustainable in the longer-term with the current situation, or should we basically change the rules of the game. That’s the second important part of it.
And the third is the discussion of the way forward, the follow-up. What is going to be a follow-up mechanism, and what is the role of the United Nations, if any.
Those are the three basic elements. Those basic principles are basically agreed by most of the Member States, but the more we go into the details, the more disagreement there is. I’ll give you an example. Everybody agrees, or, most of the countries agree, that there should be a restructuring of the current international financial architecture. And we go from extremes, with countries saying we should make a new one, we should reform the current one, to we should simply reinforce the IMF with additional funding, etc. So, those are the main discussions. If you go into the details, that’s where it gets much more complicated. Discussion of the global stimulus with a much greater focus on the human needs of the people around the world brings into play the question of how you finance that. Then, there are some countries that say we should get taxes on cyberspace, or taxes on ocean waters, or taxes on carbon emissions ‑‑ so these are the discussions, and as I said, this is a very general overview.
Question: Enrique, can I make a request that on Tuesday, when the President of the General Assembly does his briefing here, that we get the top negotiators on this document here as well to find out the status of negotiations and what’s been accomplished and what the stumbling blocks are?
Spokesperson: I can certainly ask them, the co-facilitators appointed by the President of the General Assembly. However, different groups have different positions on several issues, so it’s very difficult for me to say what their positions are. It would be much better if you talked to them directly. But certainly, I can make such a request.
Question: It would be much easier if the co-facilitators, who have to know what the different positions are, could come and tell us what the different positions are.
Spokesperson: I will certainly ask them.
Question: Has there been a definitive statement by the President of the General Assembly that certain Western countries may be undermining this Conference?
Spokesperson: The President has undertaken a major effort to achieve a major success by managing to achieve consensus on all the issues. We had in Doha on 2 December (2008) the 192 Member countries asking the President of the General Assembly to organize this meeting, and the 192 Member countries decided this was going to be on the first, second and third of June. The President of the General Assembly put together this Commission of Experts ‑‑ I’ve been told that we’re running out of time ‑‑ okay, so let me finish with this answer. He has been getting the support of all the 192 countries all along on the decisions for this meeting by consensus. It is sometimes a little surprising that we hear in the media, or from anonymous sources or delegations, that this is not a good meeting or that it’s a waste of time. They should say that publicly, because certainly it does not correspond with their actions at the political level. As I said, this is a meeting that has been approved by all of them.
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