|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.
The Security Council will discuss Nepal this afternoon at 3 p.m. Karin Landgren, the Secretary-General’s Representative for Nepal, will brief the Council on the recent developments there and on the work of the UN Mission (UNMIN), in an open meeting that will be followed by consultations.
Right now, the Security Council is holding a private meeting with the troop-contributing countries for the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT).
In his report to the Security Council on the work of the United Nations Mission in Nepal, the Secretary-General highlighted that no substantive progress has been made on the main outstanding tasks of the peace process in Nepal since his January report to the Council.
Should the Government, in consultation with the parties, request an extension of UNMIN’s mandate, the Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council respond positively. He underlines his expectation that such a request specify the areas in which UNMIN should strengthen its support, in order to both expedite progress in the peace process and to enable the Mission to complete its mandated tasks.
**Central African Republic and Chad
The Secretary-General’s latest report on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) is out. And in it, the Secretary-General lays out a revised mandate for the Mission.
As you know, last January, the Chadian authorities said that they would bear the primary responsibility for the security and protection of civilians, following the end of the current mandate of MINURCAT on 15 May. The Secretary-General recommends that the Security Council approves a revised mandate for MINURCAT for one year.
The Secretary-General’s report to the Security Council on the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) is now available as a document. In it, the Secretary-General notes the continued denial of access to UNAMID by the various parties, particularly to the areas in which clashes have reportedly occurred, such as Jebel Marra.
He urges Abdul Wahid to engage in negotiations under the auspices of the Joint Chief Mediator and he urges those Member States with influence over him to encourage him to join the talks in Doha. The Security Council is scheduled to discuss the report on 20 May.
The Deputy Secretary-General is in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, today to attend the twentieth World Economic Forum on Africa — which continues until Friday. This year, the Forum will look at how leaders are rising to the current challenges facing the continent and using the economic crisis as an opportunity to redesign a sustainable road map for Africa’s future within the new global economy.
The Deputy Secretary-General will, in particular, speak during sessions focusing on fostering public sector leadership, the empowerment of girls, as well as on African continental cooperation. She will also hold bilateral meetings with Tanzanian Government officials and other visiting dignitaries.
In a joint statement, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake and Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said they are appalled at the recruitment and use of children as soldiers by armed groups, and the fact that this is rising in Somalia. All parties to the conflict are involved, they say, and in some cases children as young as 9 years old are being recruited.
They emphasize that the use of children by armed forces and groups is a war crime, which must stop immediately. All parties must release the children within their ranks. Children who have been recruited are victims and must be treated accordingly. We have copies of the joint statement in my office.
**Press Conferences and Stakeouts Tomorrow
Jean Victor Nkolo is here to brief you on matters related to the General Assembly. And I can tell you of a number of press conferences that are coming up tomorrow.
At 10:45 a.m., the Commission on Sustainable Development will hold a press conference about its eighteenth session.
At 11:15 a.m., the Secretary-General and Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, will speak to reporters after the General Assembly’s session on the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, and that will be at the General Assembly stakeout position.
At 12:30 p.m., Jomo Kwame Sundaram, the Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and Amr Nour, Director of the UN Regional Commissions New York Office, will hold a press conference to launch the 2010 ESCAP survey.
And at 5 p.m., the Foreign Minister of Iran will hold a press conference here. That’s at 5 p.m.
And that’s what I have. And I am happy to take questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: Yes, Martin, you made this announcement earlier, but if you don’t mind going through it again. The selection of [Ivan] Šimonovic for the ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] post for Human Rights — the Justice Ministry that he runs came under criticism last month from Amnesty International for showing bias towards Serbs in selections of war crime prosecutions, and not full cooperation with the Yugoslav war crimes Tribunal. And he is also a long-time official in [Franjo] Tudjman’s Government, which had not a great record on human rights. So, if you could give us some indication of the qualities of why then Ban [Ki-moon] and [High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi] Pillay selected him, why he is a good candidate — anything to his credit would be useful.
Spokesperson: I am sure that my colleagues who work with the Human Rights Commissioner will be able to provide you with some more details on this. This is, after all, an appointment working as Assistant Secretary-General for the Human Rights Commissioner, so I know that they will be providing some more information. What I can say is that, and as I already mentioned, the selection process for a senior position like this is extremely rigorous and involves a number of candidates. And when you get to a shortlist of candidates, then clearly all are looked at extremely carefully before a decision is taken. And it was the panel that was selecting the final person for this position unanimously agreed that Mr. Šimonovic was the man for the job. And as I mentioned yesterday already, the process is a standard and rigorous one, in recruiting someone to a senior position like that. So, any other questions?
Question: No, no, that’s fine. I have e-mailed to them as well. But the Secretary-General makes the final decision on this — he doesn’t have any personal thing that he wants to say about him?
Spokesperson: I know that the Secretary-General is comfortable and happy with the choice of Mr. Šimonovic. And I know that this is an important position for the Secretary-General, this position here in New York, a new position, Assistant Secretary-General for the Human Rights Commissioner’s Office here in New York, and a lot of thought went into it.
Question: Can I just follow up on that? I guess I am going to ask more specifically what I was asking yesterday. I have been told by a Croatian diplomat that Mr. Šimonovic as Justice Minister has committed to his Prime Minister to remain in his current post until a negotiation with the EU [European Union] on legal topics is concluded. And it was predicted to me that he will not come here until September. So, I am just wondering, is the Secretary-General aware that those are the terms of his service, and how, if it’s such an important position, how does he justify choosing that can’t come for those many months?
Spokesperson: Matthew, what I can tell you is that the Minister of Justice, who is going to become the Assistant Secretary-General, will be visiting Geneva very soon to discuss the timing of when the appointment starts. Clearly, our aim is for this to be sooner rather than later.
Question: Was the Secretary-General aware of this commitment that he had made to his Prime Minister in choosing him?
Spokesperson: This is something that will have been discussed, if at all, between the Human Rights Commissioner’s team in Geneva and the Croatian authorities.
Question: So, does the Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva tell Mr. Ban who to appoint or does she choose?
Spokesperson: Matthew, what I’ve said is that this is something that is clearly under discussion, that Mr. Šimonovic will be going to Geneva shortly to talk about this. Clearly, the aim is for Mr. Šimonovic to start sooner rather than later for what you rightly reminded me is an important position.
Question: Hi. Will the Secretary-General participate in the Istanbul conference on Somalia, on reconstruction of the country, on 22 May, I think?
Spokesperson: That event is an important one and we’ll get back to you on the Secretary-General’s participation. Yes, other questions?
Question: Kyrgyzstan and then Afghanistan. Mr. Jenca, Miroslav Jenca, was quoted on 21 April as saying in response to a request by the interim or de facto leaders of Kyrgyzstan that the UN is not a grant-issuing organization, in turning down a request by them for $10 million to run a referendum. Now it is being reported, just some days later, 4 May, that the UN is issuing a grant, or financial aid, it’s been called, of $12 million. Where is that money coming from? What changed between the two quotes by Mr. Jenca and what UN agency is going to be in the lead, and where did that money come from?
Spokesperson: Good question. I will find out.
Question: And on Afghanistan, Louis Maxwell’s sister has contacted me with some concerns about the investigation and the report, among others, saying and I just would like, I understand, I guess you’re not going to release the report, but maybe you can find out if this is the case of not. She contends that, in the fire-fight and afterwards, among other things, he was wearing shorts, which she thinks is inconsistent with him being mistaken as one of these attackers. She also says… It was unclear to me given the statements made from her of how much the UN is briefing Mr. Maxwell’s family. Does that include this sister, Ms. Muhammad? Because she is somehow not convinced by the reports.
Spokesperson: I don’t have here and now a list of the family members who have been briefed. I do know, and you also heard Ms. [Susana] Malcorra say that the family members have been briefed regularly throughout. Not just briefed, but supported, and spoken to, visited regularly, throughout this. As I say, precisely who, I do not know. So, we’d need to find out. I don’t know the answer to that right now.
[The Spokesperson later said that, among others, the United Nations has been in touch with Latanya Ginn, the mother of Louis Maxwell’s son.]
Question: And this is sort of a follow-up. You’d said in response to previous questions about the access of your office to Security Council consultations, to ask the Security Council. So, yesterday, Ambassador [Nawaf] Salam, President for this month, was asked. And his answer seemed to be that the agreement reached is that representatives of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General can come in. Some people take this to mean people from the 3rd floor of the North Lawn Building. Is that incorrect? Does that also include your Office? I have asked him, so now there is no one else to ask but you. What’s your understanding of your access to Security Council consultations?
Spokesperson: I have read with interest and listened with interest to the question you posed and the answer you got. And I would like to know exactly what it means myself. That has not been communicated directly to me. So, I would like to know myself exactly what it means, and I will try to find out.
Thank you. Anything else? In which case, Jean Victor.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Bon après-midi and good afternoon to all.
The President of the General Assembly H.E. Ali Abdussalam Treki has just concluded an official visit to India at the invitation of the Government. President Treki and his delegation held a meeting earlier today with the Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh. They discussed a wide range of important issues on the agenda of the United Nations, including Security Council reform, revitalization of the General Assembly, climate change and development. They also discussed the situation in the Middle East, and the prospects for peace.
During the visit, President Treki and his delegation also held a working dinner with H.E. S.M. Krishna, the Indian Minister for External Affairs, and his senior advisers. They discussed issues related to the programme of work of the General Assembly such as Security Council reform, revitalization of the General Assembly, preparations for the high-level summit on the Millennium Development Goals in September 2010, disarmament, and peace and security in the greater Middle East. Within the past hour, President Treki and his delegation landed in Islamabad, Pakistan.
That’s what I have for you today. Questions? No? Yes?
**Questions and Answers
Question: These are all subjects that many of us write about regularly. Is there any way to get the details of what they discussed, why he went to India to discuss these matters? I guess because India is clearly an emerging super-Power. But do you have anything further on the content of the recommendations they agreed on or disagreed on for reform and restructuring the UN?
Spokesperson: We have been providing detailed readouts and summaries of his meetings throughout his visit, starting with his visit to the People’s Republic of China, and his visit in India just ended. We hope by the end of the week to provide you with more details. His visit to Pakistan is just starting now, as we speak. We will try to find more details for you, but, basically, the President takes this opportunity to discuss with his counterparts, with those who invite him, some of these very important issues. And there is the upcoming high-level meeting on the MDGs. There are still some thematic debates that the President has initiated. He discussed that with all his interlocutors. And there are some very critical issues, such as the reform of the Security Council. One should not expect to have some kind of a conclusion or agreement on a process such as the Security Council reform that is still ongoing, and we hope to have Ambassador Tanin brief you on that, but it is important that the President briefs and hears from his interlocutors about the very important issues that are on his agenda.
Question: We would also be very interested to know what a representative from a country like India did have to say, apart from India’s point of view. So, I guess you’re saying we’ll be…
Spokesperson: We’ll try to get you more details, but for India, you’ll have to ask the Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of India. I will speak for the President of the General Assembly. But we’ll try to provide more details. Okay? Yes, Matthew.
Question: Sure, Jean Victor. There was a presentation here in the UN by two NGOs about the upcoming vote for the Human Rights Council, countries to be on it. Among other things, they were urging, you know, I guess Member States, to vote against Libya and some certain other candidates for it. But it was unclear since the regional, and I couldn’t really get a straight answer from them how this would work, if the regional groups put forward only you know, two names for two African slots. If in fact a country like Libya were not to receive the 97 affirmative votes, what would be the procedure to actually, to fill that slot? I mean, what is, is being named by a regional group an automatic that you get the seat or is there some, do they have some basis to say that by choosing not to vote, this would somehow reopen it and another country could be elected?
Spokesperson: I think we have to allow the General Assembly proceedings to be implemented in the full transparency that the Member States usually apply on these processes. Nothing is sealed, nothing is automatic. That’s why you have a vote. And there are…
Question: The vote is for two spots, with only two candidates. What happens if people choose not, just choose, as these two NGOs were urging, not to vote for one of the two. Then…?
Spokesperson: There are many votes in the General Assembly and in other organs, and in other proceedings of the UN when you have a limited number of candidates or in some other instances, many candidates. So, we should really not make a pronouncement on this very specific case. I will not comment on the particular of a specific country.
Question: [inaudible] I’m asking about the procedure, because they seem to be urging people to simply not, you know, not vote, and that this would somehow, you know, this could have an effect, is what they were saying. They were also saying that if people write in another country, that under the GA rules that is not supposed to be recorded as a vote for another, for somebody that is actually not on the ballot. But they say that it is.
Spokesperson: What I will be very happy to do is to put you in touch with our colleagues in the General Assembly Affairs who deal with these very complex, intricate proceedings. But, I believe that Member States should be given not only the chance, but also should be accepted as partners in these proceedings and they implement it quite fairly and transparently. If you do not have many candidates or if proceedings lead to the conclusion that you take these are your own conclusions. But…
Question: What I am asking, just to be clear, I am asking, this was done, this was inside the UN, it was Freedom House and UN Watch, they had a list, they have a report out; may be you can ask the President Ali Treki if has any response to this type of lobbying by NGOs. I just wanted to, you know, it’s a procedural…
Spokesperson: Well, this is lobbying by NGOs. This has nothing to do with Member States, per se. But, I will still ask the questions, and we will try to find out on the proceedings side. But these are proceedings that are set and that have to be implemented for the time being. I really see no procedural problem that might have been infringed, per se.
Thank you, and have a good afternoon.
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