Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

18 September 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

18 September 2009
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.  It’s going to be a short one today because I just have 15 minutes to tell you everything.


**Press Conferences Today


Our guests at the noon briefing, Tibor Tóth and Annika Thunborg from the Preparatory Commission of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, will be here shortly to highlight the current political momentum for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty in light of the upcoming ministerial conference and the high-level Security Council meeting to take place next week here at Headquarters.


Following that, at 12:30 p.m., Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro [see Press Release DSG/SM/470-ECO/167] and Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planning, will be here to present the initial findings of the Secretary-General’s report on the impact of the economic crisis on the poor and vulnerable, and brief on a new initiative to improve the availability of real-time data on the impact of the crisis.


And at 1:15 p.m., Ali Abdussalam Treki will be here to hold his first press conference in his current capacity as the President of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.


** Myanmar


The Secretary-General [takes note of] the release of a [certain] number of political prisoners as part of a larger amnesty announced yesterday.  Following his visit to Myanmar in July, the Secretary-General called on the Myanmar authorities to take credible steps in response to several proposals, which he left with the senior leadership, including the release of all political prisoners.  He reiterates his call on the Myanmar authorities to take further steps to ensure the release of remaining political prisoners, including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as a necessary step towards a credible process of national reconciliation and democratic transition.


**Secretary-General’s Statement on Yemen


We also have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Yemen.


The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of recent air strikes during the course of military operations in the north of Yemen and the reported civilian casualties resulting from this.  The Secretary-General urges all sides of the conflict to immediately cease all fighting and to urgently allow humanitarian access to the afflicted areas.  The United Nations has launched a flash appeal to cover the immediate needs of those affected by the conflict in the country and stands ready to provide any additional assistance needed.


And we also have upstairs a statement by High Commissioner [for Human Rights] Navi Pillay on the same issue.


** Somalia


We have an update on the bombing of AMISOM [the African Union Mission in Somalia].  The Secretary-General has spoken today, on the phone, with the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, about yesterday’s suicide bomb blasts in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. 


The Secretary-General repeated his shock and outrage over the attacks against the headquarters of the African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM.  He again condemned the attacks in the strongest terms and conveyed his sincere condolences to the African Union, the families of the victims and the contingents.  The Secretary-General further renewed the UN’s steadfast commitment to support the African Union Mission in Somalia.


On the casualties, we wish to correct one piece of information we shared yesterday.  That is to rectify that it was the outgoing Deputy Force Commander who died, and not the incoming Deputy Force Commander, who survived with some minor injuries.


Immediately following the attacks, United Nations aviation resources from the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) have been deployed to assist AMISOM and the AU in helping to save the lives of the injured bomb victims.


**Group of 20


The Secretary-General mentioned to you yesterday that he had written to the G-20 leaders gathering in Pittsburgh and asked for their commitment to protect poor countries through the crisis, and to accelerate action on climate change and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.


More specifically, the Secretary-General, in that letter, has asked G-20 leaders to:  deliver the $1.1 trillion promised in London last April, especially the $50 billion for poorest countries; honour the Gleneagles pledges to increase official development assistance (ODA).  The international community should reach $155 billion by next year -- with $65 billion for Africa; third, accelerate actions to achieve the Millennium Development Goals; set the stage for significant progress on climate change by establishing a fair financing mechanism to reach the estimated $250 billion a year needed by 2020.


In Pittsburgh, the Secretary-General will update the G-20 on our new Global Impact and Vulnerability System (GIVAS) which will deliver real-time data on the impacts of the economic crisis on poor people around the world.


**Sri Lanka


On Sri Lanka, you will find upstairs the opening remarks by Under-Secretary-General [for Political Affairs] B. Lynn Pascoe.  He had a press conference today in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he explained his mission and made a number of statements.  Following his conversation earlier this week, he said, the Secretary-General asked him to come to Sri Lanka to hold discussions on what needs to be done to move forward on these issues; and this he said to you himself before he left.


He held meetings with President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa and other senior officials of the Government and military, discussions with the leader of the opposition and the Tamil National Alliance, as well as with human rights, NGOs and other leaders in civil society.  A critical focus of his discussion has been the issue of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the camps and the importance of moving them out quickly and back to their homes.


Yesterday, in the north, he travelled to Mana, Jaffna and Vavuniya.  And he expressed his concerns.  The United Nations, he said, is very concerned about the lack of freedom of movement for IDPs and, in particular, the closed nature of the camps.  People are not free to come and go and they are understandably upset, he said.  “We picked up great frustration on this point in the camps that we visited yesterday.”  And you can go to the full statement upstairs; it is available in my office.


** Mexico


On Mexico, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it is authorizing an emergency cash grant of $100,000 to help provide immediate support to flood survivors in Mexico City’s Valle Dorado suburb.


You’ll recall that, during his visit to Mexico City last week, the Secretary-General made an unplanned helicopter trip to the flood-hit areas, where he saw first-hand the devastation, personally consoled victims, and offered the UN´s support and assistance.


The OCHA-administered cash grant, which contains funds provided by the Governments of the Netherlands and Norway, comes as a result of the Secretary-General’s pledge to ease the suffering that he witnessed in person.  The funds will be put towards life-saving and life-sustaining measures, which may include procuring vaccines, medical supplies and emergency equipment; providing food for the elderly and others whose homes have seen disruptions in electricity and cooking gas supply; distributing blankets and mattresses to needy families; and assisting in urgent home repairs.


** Burundi


The Secretary-General’s latest report on children and armed conflict is out today on Burundi.  Noting that as of August 2009, there are no more known cases of children associated with armed groups in Burundi, the Secretary-General says the priority should now be to ensure that all children formerly associated with armed groups are fully reintegrated.


**H1N1 Influenza


On the H1N1 flu, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan welcomed the announcement of donations of pandemic vaccine made today by the United States of America, in concert with Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.  She said that the announcement demonstrates the commitment of these countries to fairness in sharing of scarce resources as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic continues to evolve.  Current supplies of pandemic vaccine are inadequate for a world population in which virtually everyone is susceptible to infection by a new and readily contagious virus.


**International Day of Peace


I will have to stop here; I see my guests are here.  I just want to mention that 21 September is the International Day of Peace.  Marking the occasion this morning, the Secretary-General attended a ceremony in the UN’s rose garden.  He was accompanied by UN Messenger of Peace Jane Goodall and the President of the General Assembly.


**Next Week


And we have available for you a comprehensive “Week Ahead”, which includes the Secretary-General’s main activities, press conferences in the building, and other events.


As always, we will make available the Secretary-General’s daily programme containing his bilateral meetings the night before.  I’ll get a chance to answer your questions at another time.  Today, you can come to my office, I will be glad to do so.  Right now, our guests are here and we have a series of two press conferences -- one after the other.


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