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

23 February 2010

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

23 February 2010
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 Martin Nesirky, 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, everybody.

**Secretary-General’s Travel

The Secretary-General will travel to Los Angeles from 28 February to 2 March, to engage the creative community and explore ways in which the United Nations and the entertainment industry can join forces to raise awareness and mobilize the public around global issues.

The Secretary-General will also address the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), on the role of the United Nations in an era of global challenges.  He will focus on the power of citizens everywhere to get involved in addressing the world’s problems and building a better world.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Choi Young-jin, has called for an end to the violence in the country.  Choi told journalists that we need to preserve the achievements made so far in the electoral process -- in particular the provisional electoral list.  He also said that a new Government and Independent Electoral Commission would need to quickly process appeals concerning this list in order to obtain a final voter’s list.  The Special Representative is scheduled to meet with the leaders of the Ivorian opposition later today.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning began an open debate on Timor-Leste.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, Ameerah Haq, briefed Council members on the progress that Timor-Leste has made in recent years, including its vibrant civic life and decreasing crime rates.

She said that long-term stability and security depend on the development of a national police force that is professional and impartial.  She detailed the process by which Timorese police are resuming primary policing responsibilities.

Haq said that she was working with the Timorese Government and other partners to develop proposals for the reconfiguration of the UN Mission up to the end of 2012.  That would include a gradual drawdown of UN police, which is to be assessed later this year.  The Council’s open meeting is continuing now, with 24 speakers inscribed.

** Haiti

In Haiti, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the number of people who have left Port-au-Prince for outlying departments had increased to almost 600,000.  It adds that the majority of these displaced have been received by host families, increasing the vulnerability of these already poor host communities.

And on the health front, the World Health Organization (WHO) says that 62,000 persons have been vaccinated through the campaign started in mid-February; and that’s 10 per cent of the target population.  It says that more immunization teams are urgently needed in order to finish this campaign.

And finally, the revised humanitarian appeal for Haiti, launched last week, is now 48 per cent funded, according to OCHA.

** Niger – Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is affecting some 8 million people in Niger, including 2.7 million who are at severe risk of going hungry.  The World Food Programme (WFP), which released these estimates earlier today, also says that more than half of Niger’s population have just enough food to last them two months.  The next seasonal harvests are not expected until October.

The World Food Programme also says that some 29,000 cases of malnutrition have already been reported to local authorities since the start of the year.  The agency says it is seeking some $659,000 to provide emergency food to children in Niger.

** Yemen

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has responded to an acute funding shortfall for its Yemen operation by approving an internal loan amounting to $4.7 million, so that it can continue programmes for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons in Yemen until the middle of this year.  Without that internal loan, the agency would have been forced to scale down or suspend its programmes that have helped the civilian population, who were forcibly displaced by seven months of conflict between the Government and Al Houti rebels in northern Yemen.

A weak donor response this year has threatened UNHCR’s operational capacity and protection efforts to register and document some 250,000 displaced people.  And to date, the agency has received fewer than 10 per cent of the needed funds, which amounts to some $39 million.  And we’ve got more information on that in a UNHCR press release.

**Press Conference Today

As you can see, Jean Victor is here, and will brief you after my briefing.

And at 2 p.m., as I mentioned yesterday, there will a press conference by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), about their new report, Measuring the Information Society 2010.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

And tomorrow, at 12 p.m., at the start of the noon briefing, Anthony Banbury, Acting Principal Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), will join us here in person, not by video link, to update you on the situation in Haiti.

And at 4:15 p.m. tomorrow, the Foreign Minister of Argentina will hold a stakeout on the second floor of the North Lawn Building, following his meeting with the Secretary-General.

So, I’ll take some questions.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  First on the OCHA, on the revised appeal for Haiti, when you say that it’s 48 per cent funded, is that of the new amount needed?  I assume it is.  That’s the $768 million?

Spokesperson:  Yes, correct.  That’s the new amount needed.  But that’s my understanding.  If it’s different from that, then we’ll let you know.

Question:  And also, I want to put on the record that this is about one week, and correspondents who moved offices have yet to receive any mail.  And I think it’s pretty outrageous that the UN hasn’t been able to get mail to us for a week, because, you know, this includes timely news releases, invitations, etcetera.

Spokesperson:  I’ve heard the expression “the cheque’s in the post”.  But that doesn’t help you very much here, I’m afraid.  I was aware that you would mention this, and we have been in touch with the relevant folks and they’re looking into it as a matter of some urgency.  Okay, other questions?

Question:  Just to follow up, Martin, my question yesterday about Mr. [B. Lynn] Pascoe’s briefing to the Security Council about the status of the Middle East and the fact that he made no mention about the assassination attempt of the Hamas leader.  They issued a statement yesterday criticizing that in particular.

Spokesperson:  This is the…?

Question:  Hamas.  Hamas’ spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, issued a statement saying Mr. Pascoe should have mentioned that incident like this, and criticized this.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything more for you on that.  I’ll ask Mr. Pascoe’s people.  But I don’t have anything for you right now.

Question:  You said yesterday you’d try to look into a response or UN position about the attempt itself, if there is any.

Spokesperson:  That’s right, I did say I would.  And if I had something I would tell you, but I don’t.

Question:  Martin, two things.  Regarding Zimbabwe, there has been this interview and sort of exposé by George Tadonki, who is OCHA’s head in Zimbabwe, saying that he tried to raise the alarm about up to 30,000 cases of cholera in Zimbabwe and was told by Mr. [Agostinho] Zacarias, as the country team leader, to downplay the number, such that it was projected here that it would only be 2,000.  I’m assuming that you’ve seen it and I’m wondering what the UN’s, since this really seems to say that the UN radically underplayed the number of people that would die in Zimbabwe, what the UN’s response to what this former UN employee is saying.

Spokesperson:  Well, on the specific details of the case, as the proceeding is under way at a tribunal in Nairobi, we cannot comment on the specific details.  As for the broader question of “did the UN cover up the scale of this cholera outbreak”, OCHA has given fairly detailed guidance, which I have here.  I don’t propose to go through absolutely everything, but I’m sure if you contacted them they will be able to give you more details.  It’s fairly extensive guidance.

What I would limit myself to saying is that the facts on the ground at the time clearly indicated that there was an acute crisis and the agencies concerned responded accordingly.  And there was certainly never any attempt at covering up.  Indeed, the WHO [World Health Organization] surveillance, for example, which informed all of the decision-making, was publicly available, as were the situation reports from OCHA and the other agencies involved in the response.  And a measure, if you like, of that response is that, as a result of what was put in place in 2008 and 2009, there is in fact almost no cholera in Zimbabwe now.  As for the other parts of the guidance, which is quite lengthy and detailed, I would refer you to OCHA to give you that.  But they do have it.  But I’m limiting myself to what I have just said.

So, firstly, no, we can’t comment on the specific details of the case, because this is something that is under way in a tribunal, and secondly, as I mentioned to you about the response to the outbreak.  Okay.

Question:  I just wanted to ask one other… also on tribunals, but something different; in this case it is the Shaaban Shaaban case, Abboud v. Secretary-General.  I understand yesterday, earlier you’d said an earlier ruling was going to be appealed.  Maybe you could say if it’s been appealed, but yesterday Judge Adams ruled saying that the respondent, i.e. the Secretary-General, is to appoint an official of at least the rank of Under-Secretary-General other than Mr. Shaaban to consider afresh the complaints of the applicant.  And what I am wondering is that, is this something that the Secretary-General is going to do, even pending appeal of I guess the findings against Mr. Shaaban.  This seems like… This is the judge yesterday has asked and he talked about “as a matter of courtesy”.  Is this also going to be appealed, so that no one other than Mr. Shaaban will consider the applicant’s case?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, but I am sure I can find out.  All right, other questions? No?  Okay, Jean Victor.

[The Spokesperson later reiterated that the Organization has determined that an appeal of the Abboud judgment would be appropriate and would be filed.]

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thanks, Martin.  Good afternoon.

**Upcoming Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly

Maybe I should start with the upcoming plenary meeting of the General Assembly

Following the submission of United Nations Secretary-General’s report A/64/651 on the follow up to resolution 64/10 pertaining to the “Goldstone Report” as requested by Member States, the President of the General Assembly, H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, will convene a plenary meeting of the General Assembly.  The tentative date for this meeting is 26 February 2010.

**Meetings of the President of the General Assembly in Cairo

Now, on meetings of the President of the General Assembly in Cairo.  Earlier today in Cairo, the President of the General Assembly met with the Egyptian Prime Minister, H.E. Dr. Ahmed Nazif.  The meeting was attended by the Foreign Minister.  The meeting focused on the Millennium Development Goals Summit and the preparations undertaken by the President of the General Assembly in this regard. The Prime Minister discussed with President Treki efforts deployed by Egypt to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  President Treki discussed with Dr. Nazif the reform process in the United Nations, in particular the Security Council, System-wide Coherence and the revitalization of the General Assembly.  The Prime Minister and President Treki agreed on the need to strengthen the role of the Organization in the fields of development, climate change and conflict resolution.  The meeting also touched on the situation in the Middle East and Africa.

President Treki met with the Speaker of the National Assembly, H.E. Dr. Fathi Sorrour, together with the Chairman of the International Relations Committee, Dr. Moustafa Elfeki, and several members of the Committee.  The meeting focused on the situation in the Middle East, in particular the Palestinian question.  They also discussed dialogue among civilizations, religions and culture.  The Speaker briefed Dr. Treki on the many events taking place in this regard in the Middle East and the Mediterranean.  Dr. Treki briefed the Speaker on the state of preparations for the MDG Summit.

President Treki also met with former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Dr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, who is currently the Chairman of the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights.

That’s what I have for you today.  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can we get any additional informational on the meeting on 26 February, an agenda, what is going to be discussed?

Spokesperson:  First, the date is still tentative.  A draft resolution is still in the works.  So, when and if this is finalized ahead of that date, the date will be confirmed and announced in the UN Journal.  But for the time being, there is still a draft resolution that is being coordinated among Member States.  Yes, Edie.

Question:  Is that the only thing, is that the only reason for the tentative date, basically that the resolution has to be completed, there has to be a final draft of the resolution, or is there any other reason that you are calling it tentative?

Spokesperson:  I do not see any other technical reason beyond this one, because clearly for a plenary meeting to discuss a draft resolution, that resolution must be finalized ahead of time and circulated among Member States.  So, it’s rather a technical matter.

Question:  Has he circulated the draft resolution?  I mean, is it available to the Member States…?

Spokesperson:  I said it is still in the works.  So, it is the usual coordination before it is formally circulated ahead of the meeting.

Question:  Is the President of the General Assembly involved in the negotiations with the groupings, so that, to assure, you know, a smooth…?

Spokesperson:  The President of the General Assembly does not represent a Member State.  He is the President of the General Assembly that comprises all the 192 Member States.  He is a facilitator, a consensus-builder, and of course he is very much involved and interested in finding a lasting solution to all the conflicts that have been lingering for a while.  So, he is not personally that much involved in the coordination of… that is for Member States, but of course he is very much on top of this process.  Yes.

Question:  Jean Victor, can you tell us when we’re going to meet Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin on Security Council reforms?

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much for that question.  Just before coming here, I discussed this and I think we will know this week when Ambassador Tanin will brief you.  It will probably be next week.  And I discussed this yesterday after your question and today, and we’ll probably have a date some time next week.  We’ll try to fit it in a schedule that doesn’t conflict with other briefings and stakeouts and meetings taking place in the building.  Yes.

Question:  Do you have an update on the issue of the Swiss list and whether it includes the name of the General Assembly president, Mr. Treki?

Spokesperson:  Nothing really to add on top of what we said yesterday.  I haven’t seen the list, I don’t even know if there is list, who is or who is not on the list.  So, I really cannot comment further.  I really recommend that you check this with the Member States concerned in this.

Question:  As a President, and as an officer of the President of the General Assembly, you have not received anything from the Swiss Government informing you officially that Mr. Treki is on the list, as a former Libyan official?

Spokesperson:  Had the office of the President of the General Assembly received such a list, I would have told you so.

Question:  I just wanted to, and I’ll try to keep this brief, but the Foreign Minister of Italy, [Franco] Frattini, has been quoted as saying that there is a Schengen warrant, warning out and that Mr. [Muammar Al-]Qaddafi, Foreign Minister [Musa] Kusa and Ali Treki are on the list and he has asked to have them removed.  So unless, like you’re saying ask the Member States, but this is… that’s the Foreign Minister of a Member State saying that he is on the list.  Was he… Is that wrong?

Spokesperson:  You know I don’t speak for H.E. Mr. Frattini.  I speak for President Treki.  And you may want to double check that with the spokesperson of the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs.  What I am telling you is that our office has not received the list.  This whole situation does not impact, as far as I know, the travel of the President of the General Assembly.  And I cannot comment on a list that I have not seen.

Thank you.  Keep warm, and bon après-midi.

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