Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

26 October 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

26 October 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
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 Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

**Press Conference Today

The guest at the noon briefing today is Janos Pasztor, Director of the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team.  He will be here shortly to provide an update on the climate change negotiations leading up to Copenhagen.

And at 1:15 today, there will be a press conference by Martin Scheinin, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism.  In fact you have a media advisory out today with the different press briefings for human rights experts and it’s upstairs in my office.

**Secretary-General in Seattle

The Secretary-General is in Seattle today, where this afternoon, he will receive an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws and deliver a lecture on the renewed multilateralism that the world is seeing today.  The United States, he is to say, is central to the renewed multilateralism, and he will discuss President Obama’s vigorous engagement within the framework of the United Nations.

A major test of the new cooperation is just around the corner, he will say, when nations meet six weeks from now at the Copenhagen climate change conference.  He will say that Copenhagen does not need to resolve all the details, but countries must agree to a deal that establishes an ambitious framework for progress on fundamental issues.  We have embargoed copies of his speech upstairs.

Yesterday, the Secretary-General attended an event hosted by the City of Seattle dubbed the “Shrinking Bigfoot”, a programme raising awareness among local students about climate change, conservation, and the responsibility to protect the planet.  He spoke to children between the ages of 5 and 16 and called on all people, young and old, from around the world to consider the well-being of Mother Earth by conserving and changing our daily lifestyles and living habits towards a more energy and resource frugal way.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General met with the CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, and expressed gratitude for the corporation’s support for the efforts of the United Nations.  This morning, the Secretary-General met with Bill and Melinda Gates ‑‑ who, he has said, are using their wealth to make the world a better place.  The Secretary-General is to return to New York tomorrow afternoon.

**Security Council

In the Security Council this morning, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, was joined by the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Field Support, Susana Malcorra, to brief members on practical ways to strengthen the capacity of the African Union to build and maintain peace, as well as to reinforce the relationship between the United Nations and the African Union.

Le Roy presented a report on the Secretary-General’s assessment of the recommendations made by the AU-UN Panel that was established by the Security Council.

The report includes recommendations for the United Nations to streamline its presence in Addis Ababa and provisions for additional capacity-building to the African Union in key areas identified by the Panel.

Le Roy welcomed the enhanced peacekeeping role of the African Union and all regional economic communities.

He noted that over the past five years the United Nations has broadened and deepened its strategic and operational partnership with the African Union.

**Iraq

We issued a statement yesterday afternoon, expressing the Secretary-General’s sorrow at the news of the car bombing attacks in central Baghdad, in which hundreds of people were killed and wounded.  He strongly condemned these senseless and indiscriminate acts of violence that repeatedly target the innocent and aim to disrupt Iraq’s recovery.

And he urged all Iraqis to unite in the face of these deplorable acts and to work with heightened urgency to protect Iraq’s political progress, including by adhering to the date of 16 January 2010 to hold free and fair national elections.  We have the full statement upstairs, as well as a press statement by the Security Council’s president on those attacks.

Today, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Ad Melkert, expressed continued concern over the humanitarian situation at Camp Ashraf.  He confirmed the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq’s commitment for the duration of this critical period of transition to monitor the situation in the Camp on a daily basis.  The United Nations calls on the international community to provide all possible assistance in this regard, including resettlement to third countries of those that want to leave the camp.  We have a press release upstairs with more details.

**Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that some 13,800 people fleeing South Waziristan in the latest influx following fighting in north-western Pakistan have now been registered, joining another 80,500 who had fled since June.  There are now about 182,000 registered displaced people in two neighbouring districts in the north-west.

The United Nations has done contingency planning for this latest influx and has had relief supplies pre-positioned and local partnerships in place.  We have already been assisting the first wave of displaced people and stand ready to increase our assistance as numbers rise.

To date, UN agencies and their partners have distributed over 1,000 tons of food.  About 30,000 people have benefited from a distribution of household items, while 35,000 have received hygiene kits to prevent the spread of disease in these difficult, congested conditions.

Also, by rehabilitating water supplies and installing hand pumps, humanitarian agencies have ensured that 45,000 displaced people have access to safe water.

**Afghanistan

As 2009 draws to a close, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) is nearing the completion of a shelter programme in Afghanistan that has provided aid to more than 50,000 returnees this year.  Since 2002 until the end of September 2009, UNHCR has provided shelter assistance to almost 190,000 vulnerable returnee families, benefiting an estimated 1.2 million returnees to Afghanistan, mainly in rural areas across the country.

Meanwhile, the provincial government of Bamyan, with the support of international agencies, has launched the literacy campaign to make Bamyan an illiteracy-free province in the next five years.  That campaign started on 17 October 2009 and we have more details in today’s briefing notes from Kabul.

**Greece

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today expressed serious concern over recently reported violent incidents at a detention centre for aliens in Greece.  According to the allegations, police officers responsible for guarding the centre abused and beat detainees, including a 17-year-old minor, who had to be transferred to a hospital.  UNHCR has called for a thorough investigation into the incidents.

Last week, a UNHCR delegation visited the detention centre in question.  It reported that more than 700 people, including refugees from war-torn countries, unaccompanied minors, women with babies, and other particularly vulnerable groups, were being held in deplorable conditions.

UNHCR has reiterated its appeal for the closing down of the centre.  It has also asked the Greek Government to review its policies and provide proper reception facilities and special care to those who are in need of international or humanitarian protection.  We have a press release on that in my office.

**Central and Eastern Africa

And still from OCHA, there has been a net increase of more than 1 million internally displaced persons across Eastern and Central Africa just in the past six months.  This is according to a displaced populations report published by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Countries with ongoing massive internal displacements include Sudan with 4 million, the Democratic Republic of the Congo with 2.12 million, and Somalia with 1.55 million.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has recorded a net increase of over 179,000 new IDPs in the last six months, as a result of renewed violence, especially in North and South Kivu provinces.

Other causes of the increased displacements are the escalation of the conflict in south central Somalia, intermittent clashes in Sudan, especially in the south and in Darfur, plus ongoing violent attacks by suspected members of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) across the region.

The combined displaced population ‑‑ IDPs and refugees ‑‑ in the Eastern and Central African region now stands at very close to 12 million people.

**Sierra Leone

In its last judgement to be handed down in Freetown, the Special Court for Sierra Leone has upheld the convictions and sentences passed on three leaders of the rebel Revolutionary United Front.

The charges include forced marriage as a crime against humanity and attacks against UN peacekeepers ‑‑ the first time that an international criminal tribunal has entered guilty verdicts for both charges.

The Court dismissed all the appeals of the defendants, except one regarding Augustine Gbao for the charge of collective punishment, which has been overturned.  Gbao will still have to serve the 25-year sentence originally imposed on him.

The other defendants, Issa Sesay, will serve 52 years and Morris Kallon will serve 40 years.

The remaining trial, involving former Liberian President Charles Taylor, at The Hague still continues.

**Malaria

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Malaria, Ray Chambers, has applauded the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, for its commitment to provide 30 million long-lasting insecticidal mosquito nets to the Nigerian Ministry of Health.

According to Chambers, this is the single largest allocation towards meeting the Secretary-General’s goals of universal net coverage by 2010.  It will save over 100,000 lives in Nigeria, he adds.  We have Chamber’s full statement upstairs.

**UNDP

The UN Development Programme honoured a British professor for her outstanding contributions to work on advancing human development at a ceremony held in Busan, in the Republic of Korea, today.  This year’s Mahbub ul Haq Award was presented to Professor Frances Stewart of the United Kingdom for her lifetime achievements in promoting human development.  Stewart ‑‑ a leading development economist at Oxford University ‑‑ has been one of the key figures associated with the concept of human development since the Human Development Report was first published in 1990.  UNDP has a press release with more details.

**Peacekeeping-Africa

The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, will travel to Abuja, Nigeria, tomorrow evening to attend a high-level meeting of the African Union Peace and Security Council.

He is also scheduled to visit peacekeeping missions in the Great Lakes region ‑‑ in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Burundi.

In the DR Congo, he will assess the security situation in eastern DRC, and discuss the extension of State authority and institution-building and other areas that are critical for peace consolidation efforts.

In Burundi he will see first-hand how the operations are working as an integrated mission of the UN.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Looking ahead, tomorrow at 11 a.m. there will be a press conference by B. Lynn Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs.  He will brief on his recent mission to Eastern and Southern Africa, particularly Somalia.

The guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Walter Kälin, Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

At 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

At 2 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Ambassador Thomas Mayr-Harting, Permanent Representative of Austria and Chairman of the 1267 Committee, and Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Monitoring Team of the 1267 Committee, that deals with Al-Qaida and Taliban sanctions.

And at 3 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.  Quite a few press conferences for you tomorrow.  Before we give the floor to [our guest], I’ll take a few questions and I thought we had here the Spokesperson for the President of the Assembly.  Obviously, he left the room.  So, we’ll just take briefly your questions and then we’ll go to Janos.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  There was some information in Israel today that the Israeli Government sent a letter regarding the espionage nets in Lebanon and that they said in this net they are not going to give up the spying in Lebanon.  Have, are you aware of this [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  No.  I’ve heard of it, the way you have through the media, but I don’t have anything more.  Yes Matthew.

Question:  [inaudible] in Afghanistan, there’s this call by Abdullah Abdullah that the head of the IEC should be, be removed for bias, and that 500 polling stations, which is similar to the number that Mr. Galbraith had given, should not be opened in the second round.  What’s, I mean, I know that, that at the stakeout, the Secretary-General had said as many should be open as possible to keep people voting, and then I think that he may have said something differently later on CNN.  But what’s the current thinking of the Secretary-General on these 500 stations or whatever number he, he is looking…

Spokesperson:  As you know, the decision is not ours.  It is the decision of the electoral, existing electoral Afghan commissions.  We are not hiring or firing any staff.  However, we are… we were told that we have received assurances from the independent election commission that you know, they will not reopen places where fraud took place.  So that’s all really we know.

Question:  And does the UN have any idea what, you know, either what standard is going to be applied or how many polling stations that would be?

Spokesperson:  Well, we don’t have the exact number, but we can tell you that they want to make sure that what happened in the first round will not happen again, or that at least if there is any fraud, there are specific ways of dealing with that fraud.  But we are trying to keep as many places open, as the Secretary-General said.  However, you know, if the decision of the Independent Electoral Commission… to open a number of those polling places, we’ll try to support that effort.  Yes.

Question:  Over the weekend, the Secretary-General issued his statement that you mentioned about the bombings in Baghdad.  Last month, the Iraqi Prime Minister had requested a special investigation, special UN investigation similar to what, what’s been going on in Lebanon.  In the wake of yesterday’s bombings and the Security Council has done nothing about this, right.  He passed it on to the Security Council and they’ve been silent.  Does the Secretary-General have the feeling that it’s time to return to this issue and maybe, an investigation of foreign involvement in Iraq and the potential link to the violence could be a good idea?

Spokesperson:  Well, you know, the Secretary-General, as you know, deferred the letter to the Security Council and was waiting for an answer from the Security Council.  The Secretary-General himself, you know, wants to wait on this until he gets some clear view of what the Security Council wants.  Yes.

Question:  Michèle, thank you.  Do you have any updates on the clashes and violence, which has been escalating in the Holy Mosque in Jerusalem, and is there anything that can be done by Mr. Ban Ki-moon to, to defuse [inaudible] over there?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think he has, he has been very concerned about this and he had expressed before, as you know, some concern about what was happening and he is certainly troubled by the disturbances at the mosque and the tensions in Jerusalem and he has called, he is calling for calm and for all sides to respect the sanctity of the holy sites and cease provocations.  And, he said that he’s grateful for, to Jordan, for its efforts to reduce tensions.  His Special Coordinator Robert Serry has been active in seeking to ease the situation.

And we continue to monitor the events very closely.  And, as you know, that issue was raised by Robert Serry.  On 8 October, he visited the Al Sharif/Temple Mount compound and he stressed that the Secretary-General had been very concerned at the recent clashes, you know, so it was at the beginning of the month and he added that incitement from any quarter regarding holy sites, as well as provocative actions in East Jerusalem, do not serve the sanctity of the city or the cause of peace.  They must stop he said then, and we have the same situation today and the same concern.  Yes.

Question:  The Israeli Government said that it’s going to reconsider a few incidents in, what happened during the Gaza war in response to the Goldstone issue.  Do you, do you think it is enough to, for Israel to do only that?

Spokesperson:  This is a very hypothetical question.  As you know, those are rumours, those are not, nothing that, we don’t have any…

Question:  [inaudible] statement that they’re going to reconsider two incidents.

Spokesperson:  Well, they are going to.  We are, we cannot comment on what they are going to.  You know, we cannot comment on what they will do.  Once they do something, then we will comment on it.  Yes.

Question:  Has the Secretary-General of the United Nations lowered the threshold on what is going to be a free and fair election in Afghanistan?

Spokesperson:  There has been no threshold lowered in any rate, in any way.

Question:  [inaudible] the website, it says that as free and fair as possible.  That means that the threshold has been lowered.  I mean…

Spokesperson:  No.  No.  I don’t take, this is not at all the case and not at least in the understanding that the United Nations has of the upcoming elections.  To us, the same standards of a free and fair election should hold, and there are basic things, which were the basis for the denunciation of the fraud in the first place.  Those principles remain the same.  Yes.

Question:  This report that a peacekeeper from Nepal and Haiti had died on duty on 21 October.  It’s only in the Nepalese press, but was that, is that the case, [inaudible] are you aware of that?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I was aware of that, yes.

Question:  And how did the person die?

Spokesperson:  It was just…

Question:  Of natural causes?

Spokesperson:  Natural cause, yes.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  He died of natural cause.

Question:  I just wanted to ask one final question about this concert that was held Friday.  I had asked about the sponsors and the money they gave and what it was in exchanged with.  I just wanted to ask two things.  One:  did the Secretary-General meet with this Frank Lu, the head of the World Harmony Foundation that paid, was said from here $110,000, to sponsor the concert?  And also, I witnessed Gambari doing, Mr. Gambari doing a photo op with these sponsors, and I wanted to know whether that was in his personal capacity or as a UN USG.

Spokesperson:  Well, they told you that there was no quid pro quo.  You had the answer yes, on Friday.  Okay.  You cannot link, you want to know whether the Secretary-General met with him.  I can find out for you whether he met with him, but at any rate, whether he met with him or not is irrelevant in this case.  There was no pre-quid pro quo, no money exchange.  We are talking about a cultural project, which is the foundation that sponsored the concert on Friday, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Question:  Oh no, the concert was great.

Spokesperson:  Okay.

Question:  I am just saying I’ve actually seen a complaint by Mr. Lu saying at one time he was going to give $375,000 and he believed that the deal was that he would have three photos with the Secretary-General and then it was… cut back to 110.

Spokesperson: There was never…

Question:  That was a misunderstanding.

Spokesperson:  There was never any deal…

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  There was never…

Question:  But can I get a factual answer of whether the Secretary-General met with him, just…

Spokesperson:  I can, I can find out for you from his schedule.

Question:  Okay.  Very good.

Question:  Michèle, what about this Kentucky Fried deal…

Spokesperson:  Yes, what about it?

Question:  The person who came and took all these pictures and all that.

Spokesperson:  Yes.  Well, we are still trying to find out exactly what happened.  It was a very unfortunate incident of someone trying to use the UN for commercial purposes, which is something we have always condemned and that we do not accept.  In this specific case, there was some lapse in security and, as you know, the individual in question was escorted to the regular visitors’ entrance.  He came into the regular visitors’ entrance and he was then on the initiative of one security guard, was taken a little beyond that limit, which is the limit for visitors, into the UN and he came to the second floor, which was a very unfortunate thing.  It did happen.  I’m not saying the contrary.  It should not have happened.  That I will stress very strongly.

Question:  He breached security with the help of a security guard.  Is that right?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question:  [laughter]

Spokesperson:  He was escorted by a security guard.

Question:  Because I’m wondering from, I mean, Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC is owned by something called Yum Brands, a conglomerate.  It actually has a kind of a partnership deal with the World Food Programme and puts out press releases saying we work with the World Food Programme obviously trying to advertise itself.  What’s the UN going to do on it, because KFC also wrote a letter supposedly to the Secretary-General.  Are you aware, they’ve put on their website a letter they claim…

Spokesperson:  I can tell you that the Secretary-General never received that letter.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  And, at any rate, that letter is void to us.  It has absolutely no meaning whatsoever.  The UN cannot be involved in a commercial venture, period.

Question:  But then, so what are the repercussions for Yum Brands or KFC for having kind of used the UN somewhat effectively to advertise themselves.

Spokesperson:  Well this is being, being touched upon by our legal department.  Yes.

Question:  And what happened to the security guard in question?

Spokesperson:  I have asked.  I don’t have the answer yet.  Okay.  Thank you all.  Please Jean Victor.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Michèle.  Bon après-midi and good afternoon to all.

Earlier today in the General Assembly, election of 18 members of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).  The candidates:  Africa, five seats:  Comoros; Ghana; Egypt; Rwanda; Zambia.  Asian States, four seats:  Bangladesh; Iraq; Mongolia; Philippines.  Eastern European States, two seats:  Slovakia; Ukraine.  Latin American and Caribbean States, three seats:  Argentina; Bahamas; Chile.  Western European and other States, four seats:  Belgium; Canada; Italy; United States.  There was also a by-election.  The Assembly proceeded to a by-election to elect four members of the ECOSOC in accordance with rule 140 of the rules and procedure.  Finland, Malta, Turkey, Australia in this by-election will be replacing four others, simply because New Zealand, Sweden, Greece and Portugal have relinquished their seats on the Economic and Social Council at the end of the year 2009 for the remaining term in favour, therefore, of these four countries; Australia; Finland; Malta; and Turkey, respectively.  You will have later on today the tallies of all these votes.  I think counting as we speak is still ongoing.  The details and all the counting and votes will be made available.  This is what I have for you today.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Is it correct that there is a meeting on Friday on the Goldstone report?

Spokesperson:  That is not correct.  Yes, Mathew.

Question:  Sure.  Jean Victor, I’m sorry this is one more on this whole “KFC-gate” situation.  Is it…  Can you, I mean, can you confirm that [inaudible] impersonator or advertising man actually met with the President of the General Assembly Treki and if so what does that say about his own security?

Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t call that a meeting.  There was no meeting, no appointment scheduled with the actor impersonating Colonel Sanders.  But I can confirm that he, that Colonel Sanders was wandering about the second floor and there was a brief encounter with the President of the General Assembly.  Yes.  Any other question?

Question:  I am sorry.

Spokesperson:  It’s alright.  Need not to be sorry.  Yes.

Question:  On the Internet, there is a picture of the two of them shaking hands with the UN flag there, so have you seen this photo?

Spokesperson:  I have seen these photos.  I just cannot really add much on what Michèle has already told you.  The commercial exploitation of the UN emblem, and logos and flags is definitively unacceptable and, you know, the President of the General Assembly, somebody walked into his office and wanted to shake hands and he shook hands because he is a very polite man in a sense.

Question:  Can you provide us [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  No.  We will not further disseminate something we are really saying it’s against that ruling.  The exploitation of that kind of symbol, the UN emblem, which is extremely important, is something that is not acceptable commercially.

Question:  Are you going to issue an official statement regarding this?

Spokesperson:  Well, as it was said earlier, I think the Organization is still looking into this matter so maybe we should give it a bit of time so that all the facts are gathered and checked.

Otherwise, I wish you a good afternoon.  Thank you.

* *** *

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