|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
and Spokesperson of 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 Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
Good afternoon, all. I would like first to welcome the participants of the Edward R. Murrow Press Fellowship Programme, who are here attending the briefing today. Welcome.
**Human Rights Council
The twelfth Special Session of the Human Rights Council, on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and East Jerusalem, wrapped up this morning. Council members adopted a resolution, which endorsed the recommendations contained in the report of the Gaza Fact Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone.
The Human Rights Council called upon all concerned parties, including UN bodies, to ensure the implementation of those recommendations, in accordance with their respective mandates. It also requested the Secretary-General to submit to the Human Rights Council’s thirteenth session a report on the status of that implementation.
The Human Rights Council also recommended that the General Assembly consider the Goldstone report during the main part of its sixty-fourth session. Today’s resolution was adopted by a vote of 25 in favour to 6 against, with 11 abstentions. In my office, we have a breakdown of how countries voted, as well as copies of the resolution and a related press release.
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Alan Doss, briefed the Security Council this morning, saying that there is now a real prospect that the conflicts that have long blighted the eastern Congo can be ended. Yet he added that significant problems remain in the east, including new population displacements and human rights violations, as well as an appallingly high level of violence against women.
He said that, looking ahead, the areas cleared of the presence of FDLR rebels by the Congolese Armed Forces must be fully secured to ensure continuing protection for the population and to allow displaced persons to return home. Major operations against the remaining rebel strongholds should be completed as soon as possible, with proper regard for the protection of civilians. And the discipline of the Congolese Army and its allies requires constant attention to signal that impunity will not be accepted.
Doss noted that some observers have suggested that the Kimia II military operations in the eastern Congo should be suspended in order to give the Congolese Armed Forces time to “get its house in order” and improve discipline. He responded, however, that reducing the pressure now would give the rebels time to regroup and rearm. We have these remarks upstairs.
The Security Council followed its open briefing with consultations, in which Doss continued his discussion with Council members on the work of the UN Mission in the country (MONUC). Once consultations have ended, Doss said he will speak to reporters at the Council stakeout.
** Democratic Republic of the Congo
Comparing the hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced civilians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres on Friday urged the international community not to forget the Congolese in their hour of need.
Speaking in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo city of Goma, epicentre of one of the world's biggest displacement crises, Guterres noted that some 2 million people were displaced in the vast country, and he decried the enormity of the challenges facing the humanitarian and international community in meeting the needs of these civilians.
Guterres will pay a brief visit to Rwanda before attending a special summit of the African Union on forcibly displaced people. The historic meeting will take place in the Ugandan capital of Kampala from Monday through Friday.
The UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) continues to play a vital facilitation role, despite the political realities on the ground. That’s what the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, told the Security Council yesterday afternoon. He also called for participation by Kosovo Serbs in local political processes. He said that, putting status considerations aside, greater participation in Kosovo’s local structures could benefit all of Kosovo’s communities and foster the development of multi-ethnic local institutions.
There have been new outflows of people from Pakistan’s South Waziristan region this week, in anticipation of military operations against insurgents. As of early September, there had already been more than 80,000 displaced people from South Waziristan, who had been registered by local authorities. In recent days, the local authorities have begun registering new arrivals, with more than 800 families registered over the past three days, out of an estimated 2,000 families that have moved into the area. If full-scale military operations are launched, the numbers of displaced people are likely to rise significantly.
As part of an inter-agency effort, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has been working with local partners to distribute relief supplies, such as plastic sheets, sleeping mats, jerry cans and kitchen sets, to displaced people from South Waziristan. In September, the agency distributed relief items to more than 6,500 people through its local partners.
UNHCR has stocks of relief supplies in the area to assist new waves of displaced people, and more can be dispatched within 24 hours from various stockpiles in Pakistan. But the key challenge is security and humanitarian access to people.
The deteriorating security situation in Pakistan continues to hinder UNHCR humanitarian operations in the country, including its ability to assess needs, and provide and monitor relief assistance. The agency has had to adjust its operations in the wake of attacks on UN staff and general insecurity, but it remains committed to continuing its work to help displaced people in Pakistan. We have more in today’s UNHCR notes.
The United Nations continues to appeal for humanitarian access to Al-Jawf, in northern Yemen, and to be able to distribute essential supplies to internally displaced persons living outside camps in Amran. The situation in the other governorates affected by the influx of refugees varies. Relief efforts have been hampered by security constraints, as well as local and tribal divisions, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Access is extremely limited in Sa’ada Governorate due to ongoing military operations. UN agencies are currently operating at limited capacity through local partners.
The settlement of displaced persons in the new camp established by the authorities in Khaiwan was interrupted due to a series of security related incidents over the last three days.
The total number of internally displaced persons registered and verified by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is 40,846 out of an estimated caseload of about 119,000. A flash appeal, issued in response to this crisis, has received $4.57 million, almost a fifth of the $23.7 million requested since it was launched on 2 September. Also, a further $3.6 million has been pledged.
**Iraqi Refugee Resettlement
The UN refugee agency says it has now referred more 80,000 refugees from Iraq to resettlement countries worldwide. UNHCR’s resettlement programme for Iraqi refugees began in 2007, and as of October this year, 82,500 individuals had been referred to more than a dozen countries. Around 75 per cent -- or just fewer than 62,000 -- Iraqi refugees have been referred to the United States. The remaining 25 per cent of the cases have been referred to a total of 14 resettlement countries, including Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden.
**Horn of Africa
Vulnerable communities in the Horn of Africa, already hit by the worst droughts in a decade, are now bracing for El Niño floods, according to the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Countries most at risk of flash floods are Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania and Uganda, but Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia could also be affected.
The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, says that more than 23 million people are reeling from the impact of water and food shortages, pasture scarcity, conflict and insecurity. An additional shock in this intersection of human vulnerabilities would be devastating, he adds. We have a press release on this upstairs.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Guinea
We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Guinea.
The Secretary-General remains deeply concerned by the tense situation in Guinea following the violent crackdown, which he had strongly condemned, on unarmed civilians on 28 September in Conakry. This crackdown resulted in many deaths and injuries and allegedly in gross violations of human rights, including rape.
The Secretary-General has therefore decided to establish an international commission of inquiry to investigate those incidents with a view to determining the accountability of those involved. A mission will be sent immediately to look into the modalities for the setting up of this commission.
The mission, led by Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Haile Menkerios, will depart early this afternoon and will consult with Guinean authorities, regional organizations and leaders regarding the work of the commission. We have a statement upstairs, as well as a statement in French, on Guinea.
** Côte d’Ivoire
The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire, Choi Young-Jin, will begin next week a series of consultations on the electoral process.
According to the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), the initiative aims to give new impetus to efforts leading to the posting of the provisional electoral list as soon as possible.
You’ll recall that the Special Representative was here at Headquarters Tuesday. And in his briefing to the Security Council, he stressed the need to carry out the remaining task which would lead to the posting of the provisional electoral list.
Today is World Food Day. The theme this year is “Achieving food security in times of crisis”. Marking this occasion, the Secretary-General says in a message that over the past two years, volatile food prices, the economic crisis, climate change and conflict have led to a dramatic and unacceptable rise in the number of people who cannot rely on getting the food they need to live, work and thrive.
The Secretary-General calls on all to respond to the needs of the hungry -- by ensuring adequate political and financial support for emergency food assistance and by investing in food production and distribution. We have the full message upstairs.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) is calling on the world to remember the more than one billion urgently hungry people with inadequate access to food. “World Food Day is actually ‘No Food Day’ for almost one out of every six people around the world this year,” said WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. She added that, for decades, WFP has been able to feed around 10 per cent of the world’s hungriest men, women and children, but this year, for the first time, the agency is unlikely to reach that target.
And Jacques Diouf, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Programme (FAO) asked world leaders to reach a “broad consensus on the total and rapid elimination of hunger” when they gather in Rome for the World Summit on Food Security, on November 16-18. We have more on this upstairs.
**Stand Up against Poverty
This morning, the Secretary-General led the students at the UN International School to stand up against poverty, as part of the global campaign of the same name. He told the students that by taking a stand and by acting, we could end poverty in our lifetimes. And he urged them to lead the way, to learn about the Millennium Development Goals and talk about them with families, friends and teachers.
The Secretary-General reminded them that young people are often the hardest hit by poverty. We know that investing in children and securing their rights is one of the surest ways to ending poverty. And I know that no one can better speak for young people than you, he added.
The Stand Up Against Poverty campaign starts today and runs through 18 October. Now in its fourth year, the campaign established a world record last year with 116 million people standing up against poverty.
And also, tomorrow, Saturday, will be the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In a message marking this occasion, the Secretary-General says that we are at a critical juncture in the fight against poverty. Now is the time to amplify the voices of the vulnerable and ensure that the world follows up on its pledges, he says. We have more on this upstairs.
** Europe -- Human Trafficking
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has issued a new report showing that human trafficking is an under-detected crime in Europe. The study shows that only 9,000 victims were reported in 2006 -- around 30 times less than the total estimated number.
It also notes a high degree of internal trafficking, both domestically within European countries and regionally within the European Union -- predominantly from South-Eastern to Western Europe.
At the same time, European victims represent just a fraction of the total number of victims detected in Europe. More and more victims are, in fact, coming from China and Central Asia. We have more on that upstairs.
**Financial Situation of the United Nations
Under-Secretary-General for Management Angela Kane, today briefed the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) of the General Assembly on the UN financial situation. The overall picture for 2009 remains mixed. Cash balances are projected to be positive for all categories at year end.
Another positive element is the reduction in the level of unpaid peacekeeping assessments. At $2.1 billion, unpaid peacekeeping assessments are $763 million lower than at the end of 2008, and $796 million below October 2008 levels. The current level of unpaid assessments reflects reduced amounts owed for peacekeeping by major contributors, as well as the lower level of assessments issued for this peacekeeping fiscal year pending the approval of a new scale of assessments for 2010.
While unpaid assessments have decreased for peacekeeping operations, there have been increases for the regular budget, the Tribunals and the Capital Master Plan. There is a note on this upstairs, and Ms. Kane will be my guest next week. I do not have the date yet, but I will confirm that with you shortly. Currently, unpaid assessed contributions total to $3.1 billion; with $830 million for the regular budget, $2.121 million for peacekeeping, $63 million for the Tribunals and $86 million for the Capital Master Plan. Upstairs there are more details.
**The Week Ahead at the United Nations
On Monday, at 11 a.m. in Room S-226, there will be a press conference by Rachel Mayanja, the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Gender Issues, on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, and following the noon briefing there will be a press conference by Ibrahim Assane Mayaki from the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), on recent efforts to keep Africa’s development programme on course, despite the impact of the current international economic crisis.
At 1:15 p.m. in Room S-226, there will be a press conference by James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedom of indigenous people.
On Thursday, at 10:30 a.m. in Room S-226, the Secretary-General will hold his monthly press conference.
The Secretary-General will open a special event on “Giving voice to the victims and survivors of human trafficking” hosted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber. You have the full Week Ahead upstairs.
**Questions and Answers
Question: On this briefing that you gave earlier on Pakistan, the new IDPs that have been created, in South Waziristan. With the latest report that 250,000 have been displaced right now, I think even UNHCR [inaudible]. Is the United Nations ready to halt this operation somehow, to help these people, or will it take time to assess and take action?
Spokesperson: You are talking about the security situation?
Question: After what happened in WFP, the operations of the United Nations have somewhat halted, not cancelled, but will it start helping out the IDPs wherever necessary, in that area now, again?
Spokesperson: I think this is what the decision is. Right after what happened last week, we had people on the ground, critical staff, still linking with our partners on the ground for the distribution of food by WFP partners. So we never really stopped. We never really halted. We continued. We are trying our best, and there are security issues, and we have to sometimes adapt to some security issues, but we do as much as we can for the IDPs, and I think we have been doing so.
Question: So the UN personnel are willing to help the IDPs, will they need additional security protection?
Spokesperson: The security issues are being assessed. I cannot give you any details on what has been decided and what will be done. As soon as I get information I can make public, I will let you know. On issues of security, we avoid giving too many details.
Question: Regarding the Human Rights Council resolution that was issued in Geneva, among the decisions they took was to endorse the recommendations contained in the report. And they call upon [inaudible] in the United Nations [inaudible]. One of the recommendations is for the Secretary-General to refer the report to the Security Council, Mr. Goldstone’s report. I was wondering if the Secretary-General plans to take this step.
Spokesperson: The decision was taken this morning, and the Secretary-General takes note of the resolution, which was adopted earlier today. The resolution requests him to report on the status of implementation of recommendations contained in the report of the independent international Fact Finding Mission. We’re reviewing actually the specific language of the resolution and of the report. In the meantime, the Secretary-General reiterates his support for the work of Justice Goldstone and the Mission. We are going to examine the different issues on which the Secretariat is expected to take a decision on, do follow-up, and of course, we will do whatever is asked of us.
Question: Regarding Ban Ki-moon’s support of Goldstone. Mr. Goldstone, in his report, asked the Secretary-General personally to refer the report to the Security Council. In light of this support [inaudible].
Spokesperson: We are seeing now how this can be done, the best way of doing so.
Question: Will there be an official statement from the Secretary-General in response to the Human Rights Council?
Spokesperson: There will be no statement. I gave you the reaction that we have. There won’t be a statement. Of course you know it is a matter, the Human Rights Council just reports to the General Assembly and they have specific requests of the General Assembly, and so there are different recommendations. There were about 30 of them in the original report, plus the additional ones in the resolution, and we are going to be looking at each one of them on which the Secretariat has to take a decision and do something.
Question: Can we have a briefing about the steps?
Spokesperson: At this point, we are done. We can try as soon as there are definite steps being taken. You will be informed of all the steps being taken. Of course a number of those steps depend on the General Assembly on one hand, and depend on the Human Rights Council on the other. As soon as different decisions are taken on how to implement the recommendations, then we will let you know of course.
I have just been informed that Alan Doss will be coming to the stakeout in the next few minutes.
Question: On Gaza, [inaudible]
Spokesperson: I don’t have anything additional. I know that they were seeing what could be done. I know that in diplomatic channels, the Secretary-General has been pursuing some recommendations made by the Commission. If you saw the readout of his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, this issue of Gaza was raised.
Question: They did not get any pledges?
Spokesperson: At this point, we are still pushing.
Question: On this announcement of sending an inquiry on Guinea, was that done with the consent of the de facto Government, or was it done unilaterally by the UN? Was a request made to the Government of Guinea to investigate itself? I’m just wondering how it compares to, for example, his actions on Sri Lanka, and other cases where he always defers to the Government.
Spokesperson: The lead on this issue was taken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is the subregional organization, and the UN has been working with ECOWSAS on this issue and the request was made to the Secretary-General that such an investigation take place. He has decided to do so.
Question: There was also a request that Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe, announced that he is not going to work with the Mugabe Government anymore and seems to have requested a UN, among others, sponsored free and fair election. Is that a call that the UN is aware of, and would it be willing to provide that support in Zimbabwe?
Spokesperson: We have been following this situation very very closely in Zimbabwe. I cannot answer right now on what is happening. We have been following the situation. As you reported, there are different, several issues, of concern right now, political issues. Most of them have to be resolved by Zimbabweans themselves, and we remain very much aware and attentive to the situation.
Question: The Congolese Ambassador in the Security Council Chamber said that there was an incident 31 July, 1 August, in which UN [inaudible] were involved in a brothel just outside the airport in the Congo. And he calls it a [inaudible]. And he says where are we on the politics of zero tolerance created in 2005? I am going to try and ask Mr. Doss.
Spokesperson: Please do.
Question: Given that there are a lot of issues out there, I’m asking you what DPKO or the Secretariat’s response to the Congolese Ambassador is. He names a date, a place and he says zero tolerance, where are we?
Spokesperson: On most questions regarding the Congo, you should ask the person who is most concerned by it. You can get him as he gets out of the Security Council, as you know.
Question: Can you tell us who the major [inaudible] a lot of countries have not paid? [inaudible]
Spokesperson: I can get those figures for you. We have a list of people who have not paid their contributions that you can have upstairs. The US has paid an extensive part of their dues.
Question: They are still in arrears?
Spokesperson: I have to check on the specifics and I don’t have them with me.
Question: On Pakistan, what is the status of the investigation into the assassination of Benazir Bhutto?
Spokesperson: The Commission was there. We don’t have a report on them. They have told us that they will not report every time they go to Pakistan and meet different people. When they are ready to issue the report, then we will have something. They are not willing to discuss the specific steps that they are taking.
Question: Do you know when the report might be ready?
Spokesperson: I don’t know. It’s an independent commission. They are the ones who dictate the terms.
Question: Next Saturday, 24 October, is going to be United Nations Day. Are there any events planned at Headquarters? In regard to this date, how will you describe the role the UN has played in the global arena these days?
Spokesperson: It’s a very general question about the role of the UN. I think the UN is playing a very vital role at a time when so many issues are global issues -- from climate change to food security to hunger -- so the role of the United Nations is an important one. In terms of specific events that are going to take place in the United Nations Day, I will give you more details on that later. Thank you.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Bonjour. Welcome to those who are visiting us today.
We already reported yesterday about elections for non-permanent members of the Security Council, and today, what is really topical is the informal consultations of the General Assembly on the high-level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation.
This morning, Mr. Ali Treki, President of the General Assembly, in pursuance of GA resolution 64/1 of 6 October 2009, inaugurated consultations aimed at reaching an agreed outcome for the High-Level United Nations Conference on South-South Cooperation, to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, 1-3 December. In his statement, which has been posted online, President Treki expressed the hope that concrete results will be achieved by the end of November in producing a draft outcome prior to the Nairobi Conference, as stipulated in the resolution. Abdullah Alsaidi, Permanent Representative of Yemen, and Gunnar Pálsson, Permanent Representative of Iceland, have agreed to facilitate this process.
**Meeting with Secretary-General
Later today, in a short while, the President of the General Assembly will have a working lunch hosted by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
**Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural)
To facilitate your work, a series of press briefings with human rights experts taking part in the Third Committee of the General Assembly will be held here in Room 226 every day next week.
The first one will feature Mr. James Anaya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedom of indigenous people, on Monday, 19 October at 1:15 p.m.
The second one, scheduled for Tuesday, 20 October, at 3:30 p.m., will be by Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
On Wednesday, 21 October, at 10 a.m., Olivier de Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, will speak to the press. On Wednesday at 2:45 p.m., there will be a special press briefing giving voice to victims and survivors of human trafficking.
John Ruggie, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, will speak to the press on Thursday at noon. On Thursday there will be a press briefing at 2:30 p.m. by Tomas Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. Later on Thursday at 3:15 p.m., Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, will also meet the press.
Then on Friday at 2:30 p.m., there will be a briefing by Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing. A schedule of the press briefings and a full schedule of all human rights experts expected to participate in the Third Committee are available at the Office of the Spokesperson. These press briefings are jointly organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, New York, and the Department of Public Information.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Is there any reaction of the President of the GA to the Goldstone or the Human Rights Commission to the recommendations in the Goldstone report?
Spokesperson: The President of the General Assembly doesn’t have a formal reaction yet. If and when he has one, we will keep you posted. But we are still going through what was decided earlier today in Geneva.
Question: Is he going to act on the recommendation that it requests or recommends the General Assembly to consider the report of the independent Fact Finding Mission, during the sixty-fourth session?
Spokesperson: The President of the General Assembly and the General Assembly have been expecting that they would address this issue once they are formally seized of this matter. The President will abide by the procedures guiding this type of process and definitively, the Council reports in a way that if requested, the GA will certainly take that up.
Question: With UN Security Council reform, will it be possible to have a briefing from Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin?
Spokesperson: We will make a request.
Question: Can you say a little bit more about “once the General Assembly is seized”? They did recommend that the General Assembly consider the report. What’s the process now? Is this something official that has to come from the Human Rights Council besides the resolution?
Spokesperson: This only happened a few hours ago, so this actually has to reach us physically. It takes some time to process it too. I think very early next week we’ll be able to tell you, maybe even before.
Question: Can you arrange a briefing for us on procedures we might expect, because there have been reports and nothing has happened? This is a very serious matter and something has happened now, so we need to have a way to monitor and understand what to expect and then see if there’s a way being fulfilled. I am requesting the General Assembly help by briefing us.
Spokesperson: I take your point. I wouldn’t necessarily go along that nothing has happened on all the reports. I think we have to specify that. I think you are quite right on this report indeed, I’ll be requesting a briefing. By early next week we will know.
Question: Among the Third Committee human rights reports issues, can we have a briefing on the Iran situation?
Spokesperson: I’ll request that.
[Later, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly clarified that there is no Special Rapporteur on Iran.]
Question: A rapporteur for freedom of expression and I’ve just seen a report, I wonder who that is and in what context that Rapporteur functions, because it’s not listed. Is there a way to find out?
Spokesperson: Absolutely. We can check that with Committee Chair but, we first have to check the comprehensive list of briefings next week, and if that specific information is not there, we will check that with focal persons and with the chairs of the committee that deal with this.
[Later, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly clarified that the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, Frank La Rue Lewy, is not coming to the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.]
Question: The Security Council reform intergovernmental activities have basically all been closed. A number of the things that all the nations submit and nobody’s looking at them outside the little meetings that go on. Is there some way to open up the process, because it’s hard to understand how there can be reform of the Security Council if the process isn’t subject to more scrutiny.
Spokesperson: We can discuss that outside this briefing, and I can find a colleague who is working on this substantive and important issue so you can be briefed, and who can keep you informed and to whom you can ask a question. This is very technical and important, and we will try to help you.
Thank you and I wish you a pleasant and safe weekend.
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