|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
Our guest today is Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Over to the left we have Sir Mark Lyall Grant, who is the Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom, and Federico Alberto Cuello Camilo, Permanent Representative of the Dominican Republic. And next to me, Olav Kjørven, who is Director of the Bureau for Development Policy at UNDP. And the purpose of the briefing is for Ms. Clark and the other colleagues here to brief you on the most recent report, which is entitled: What will it take to achieve the Millennium Development Goals? An International Assessment.
And just very briefly before we start, I can tell you that Jean Victor Nkolo will brief you on the activities of the President of the General Assembly a little later. And I will also be able to take a few questions once this part of the briefing is over. So, let me hand over to Ms. Clark.
[Press Conference by UNDP Administrator Helen Clark issued separately.]
**Secretary-General on Israeli Review of Gaza Policy
So I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General on Israeli closure policy.
The Secretary-General is encouraged that the Israeli Government is reviewing its policy towards Gaza, and he hopes that today’s decision by the Israeli security cabinet is a real step towards meeting needs in Gaza.
The Secretary-General has asked his envoy, Robert Serry, to immediately engage the Israeli Government to learn more about the decision and the additional measures and steps of implementation still required.
The United Nations continues to seek a fundamental change in policy, as agreed by the Quartet, so that humanitarian assistance, commercial goods and people are able to flow through functioning open crossings, and so that reconstruction can take place.
The United Nations has demonstrated the integrity of its programming and stands ready to scale up its efforts to help Gaza recover and rebuild if enabled to do so.
I can also tell you that tomorrow the Secretary-General will speak to reporters at the stakeout position on the second floor of the North Lawn Building. This will be, of course, to brief you on his recent trip to Africa, amongst other things.
It will be at approximately 3:10 p.m., approximately 3:10 p.m., if that is approximate, but in the middle of the afternoon. And we will give you, obviously the time, once it’s locked down. But that’s roughly where we are at the moment.
And just very briefly, turning to the humanitarian response to events in Kyrgyzstan. The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) says that the violence there has forced an estimated 300,000 people to flee their homes and seek shelter elsewhere in the country. And this is in addition to some 100,000 people, according to UNHCR, who have fled to neighbouring Uzbekistan since 10 June. Most of the internally displaced are being sheltered by family and host communities, but some 40,000 people are in need of shelter, UNHCR says.
And the figures for internal displacement have been provided by the Kyrgyz Interim Government and non-governmental organizations on the ground. UNHCR says that the situation in the town of Osh and nearby villages appears to be volatile and sporadic clashes have reportedly taken place around the town of Jalalabad, where the situation on the ground is tense.
**Secretary-General on Transnational Organized Crime
The Secretary-General addressed the High-Level meeting of the General Assembly on Transnational Organized Crime earlier this morning. And in his remarks, he said that the international community’s ability to deliver justice in cases of transnational organized crime is not evolving as quickly as the criminals’ skill at evading justice. As a result, states and markets are being infiltrated. Police and armies are being outgunned. And security is under threat. And we have his full remarks available in my Office.
So that’s what I have for you, and I am happy to take questions. Masood?
**Questions and Answers
Question: As the Secretary-General welcomes Israel’s decision to…
Spokesperson: I didn’t say he welcomed it, I said he is encouraged.
Question: …he has recognized a certain movement over there on part of Israel to ease the pain of Gaza. The thing is, has the Israeli Government, which earlier rejected any inquiry by the United Nations in that incident, have they accepted the Secretary-General’s proposal that an inquiry, international inquiry, can be held under the United Nations auspices?
Spokesperson: Well, you’d have to ask the Israelis what their position is. They have not communicated to us their position on the Secretary-General’s proposal for an international inquiry. And as we have said before, that proposal remains on the table and he is hoping for a positive Israeli response.
Question: Yesterday I had asked Farhan this, but he didn’t have the answer; maybe you will have it. Amre Moussa visited Gaza just about two weeks ago. And obviously this was his first visit in almost a decade or so. Was that visit, was the United Nations aware of that visit, and was there anything that he made to the United Nations — did he give a report to the United Nations on his visit?
Spokesperson: We can find out.
Question: He was not located over there so how would he say what was happening over there?
Spokesperson: Well, I am not here to speak for the Arab League. But what I can say is that we have a very strong team on the ground in Gaza, and if information was sought by a leading personality from the Arab League, Amre Moussa, then I am sure they would have been very pleased to help to brief him. But I don’t have any details further than that. Yes, Rhonda?
Question: Yes, I wondered if the Secretary-General is aware of — and if so, what his opinion is — the fact that a prominent NGO, the Peoples’ Solidarity for Participatory Democracy in South Korea, is being investigated by the prosecutor for communicating a letter and report with the Security Council and, I think I’ve read in the papers, sending it also to the Secretary-General, and this has been characterized as McCarthyism by some parties inside Korea. And whether the Secretary-General upholds the right to freedom of expression and freedom of opinion for the citizens of South Korea, and that they have the right to communicate, as other NGOs and other people around the world, with UN bodies and with the UN. I would appreciate an answer to this.
Spokesperson: Well, two things, two things, Rhonda. First of all, I am not aware that the Secretary-General is aware of this particular case. We’ll look into it, but I am not aware that he is. Second is that freedom of expression, freedom of the media, these are fundamental rights.
Correspondent: Can I just, there is already a [inaudible] 10-page report about the scaling back of this prior to this incident. And now the Government has encouraged there to be sets of people, right-wing people, groups camping out in front of the PSPD headquarters and having demonstrations against them, telling them to go, to leave the country. So it’s a very serious matter at the moment, and I would appreciate it if we can get some response from the Secretary-General.
Spokesperson: As I’ve said, I’m not sure that the Secretary-General is aware necessarily of this particular case. He could well be, I just do not know for a fact. I need to find out. And secondly, as I said, freedom of expression by anybody is an inalienable right. Matthew?
Question: Sure, a few questions. On Kyrgyzstan, there are these reports of ethnic Uzbeks saying that there were attacked by, at a minimum, people in Kyrgyz army uniforms riding on Kyrgyz army tanks. And being on the tank seems to say that’s a soldier unless there is somebody keen and somehow commandeered the tank. I wonder when, in the Secretary-General’s communications with the Government of Kyrgyzstan, does he have any concerns? How is the UN going to look into the allegations that, in fact, the Government and its forces may be responsible for some of the killing of ethnic Uzbeks? And in his conversation with [President] Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, did Ban Ki-moon ask that the border be opened? What about these 300,000 internally displaced people? Do they have a right to cross the border if they feel they’re under fear or must they remain in Kyrgyzstan under this threat?
Spokesperson: On the first point, clearly the Secretary-General has been speaking to a wide range of people. You already know that that he spoke to Ms. [Roza] Otunbaeva, who is chairing the Interim Government. And he has expressed his concern quite publicly and clearly about the need for restraint on all sides, and ensure that there is an end to the violence. The specific case that you’re referring to, we’re aware of various reports of what may or may not have happened in Osh, in Jalalabad and other places. And that will take some untangling, I think, to fully understand precisely what has happened. And we have Miroslav Jenča on the ground there, and he obviously will be seeking to find out more details of precisely this kind of thing. But the key point has to be that there needs to be restraint on all sides, and vulnerable people need to be protected and not placed under further threat in the way that you’re suggesting.
The second point about displaced people, internally displaced people, ethnic Uzbeks and others too, the Secretary-General, in his telephone conversation with President Karimov of Uzbekistan, was appreciative of the Uzbek Government’s approach in allowing refugees to cross into Uzbekistan and also then to take care of them with the limited resources that they have. And he was also appreciative, and remains appreciative, that the Uzbek authorities are liaising with UN agencies to ensure that aid can be brought in to supplement the limited supplies that they themselves have in that particular area.
Question: Some have raised the concern that some of the ethnic Uzbeks in and around Osh were actually people that fled after the Andijan, what’s called the massacre, earlier carried out by the Uzbek Government, and that that may be one of the reasons that they closed the border, they did not allow them back in. Is that something that the Secretary-General, he is aware of the Andijan, I am sure, but what role does that play in this cross-border?
Spokesperson: Well, I think you’d have to ask the Uzbeks what role that plays. Our primary concern is, regardless of where people have come from, if they are in need, they should be helped. And if people have fled their homes, however long they have been in those homes and wherever they originated from, they need help. If people are desperate because they feel that they’re under threat, then they need assistance. And it’s secondary, I think, at this moment to address the kind of points that you’ve mentioned. Yes, Erol?
Question: Martin, just as a follow-up, actually, and you mentioned before that in addition to this 100,000 that were counted by UNHCR that are fleeing from Kyrgyzstan, there are 300,000. I wonder whether this report is only consistent by the local authorities, including the Government of Uzbekistan or Kyrgyzstan, you said, or are also somehow counted by some other independent sources. So, my question also is, what are the options for UN, since you addressed all these issues, what you will do more to help the people who are in need?
Spokesperson: Okay. Right. First of all, the figures that I have mentioned — UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is estimating that 300,000 people have fled their homes and are seeking shelter elsewhere in the country — so, internally displaced, 300,000. And they are estimating, UNHCR is estimating, that 100,000 people have fled to Uzbekistan. Now these are estimates. It’s very difficult; it’s not as if someone is standing there and counting them. These are estimates. And the figures for internally displaced, the 300,000, those figures are being provided by the Kyrgyz Interim Government and by NGOs, non-governmental organizations, on the ground. As I say, these are estimates. But the figures, however precise or imprecise, the scale of the figures is what counts here. You can see that there is a major humanitarian crisis, and the UN is responding in an extremely coordinated way.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the UN refugee agency and others — World Food Programme — are actively involved in coordinating efforts to make sure that aid gets into Uzbekistan for those who have fled into Uzbekistan, and also to Kyrgyzstan to ensure that supplies can reach the south of Kyrgyzstan. That is not easy at the moment because, needless to say, it is quite dangerous. But the aim is to try to provide as much aid as possible. And for example, the World Food Programme has distributed food to a group of about 13,000 people in Osh with the help of a local partner. And the World Food Programme says that, as I have just mentioned, transporting aid from the capital, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, of course, is difficult because the roads aren’t safe.
The United Nations refugee agency and the other United Nations humanitarian agencies do not have direct access at the moment to southern Kyrgyzstan, but despite what’s happening, UNHCR is providing relief items that it has in stock to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to distribute to about 10,000 displaced people in Osh. So there is coordination between United Nations agencies and also with the International Committee of the Red Cross. Yes?
Question: Yes, in today’s New York Times — I don’t know whether you have seen this article — is a rather scathing article entitled “Review panel judges see a culture of UN secrecy”, in which there are a number of allegations concerning the refusal by the Secretary-General’s representative, his attorney, to produce evidence in various proceedings, and some judges are actually quoted as saying that there has been an attack on the rule of law by the lack of cooperation of the Secretariat. I was wondering whether the Secretary-General either has any comment on the substance of this article, or if not, I’m sure he might not have had opportunity to read it; is it possible that you can ask him for a comment, given the rather specific and rather pointed criticisms that are contained in the article?
Spokesperson: Well, three things. First of all, I can assure you he has read it. Secondly, as we’ve said repeatedly, the Secretary-General is fully committed to upholding the system of administrative justice, as prescribed by the General Assembly. And by filing appeals — and this is what this is about — that by filing appeals, the Secretary-General is exercising his rights under the administration of justice system, while fully respecting the system. It’s part of the system to be able to file an appeal. Either the person who has gone to the Tribunal or the United Nations itself can appeal a ruling. And that’s what’s happening. The third point is that the Secretary-General, as you heard me say, will be speaking at the stakeout tomorrow, and I am sure if you ask him the question, he will answer it. Yes, Masood?
Question: I just want to ask, has the United Nations verified — yesterday this question was asked, but I did not get that — a report attributed to a UN official that perhaps this crisis in Kyrgyzstan was triggered off by Government officials for a certain objective? Has that report been verified or rejected or accepted?
Spokesperson: Look, as I have said in a different context here, there are all kinds of reports floating around. What’s most important at the moment is to ensure that those people who need help get it. And that’s where I’d like to leave that.
Question: I just want to know who the panellist was next to you.
Spokesperson: His name, as I mentioned at the start is Olav Kjørven, if I remember correctly. I can spell the name for you, Kjørven, I beg your pardon, K-J-Ø-R-V-E-N, and he is Director of the Bureau for Development Policy, and as you also heard, he is an Assistant Secretary-General.
Question: Sure, and it’s just a follow-up to the question on the administration of justice. The article ends with a reference to the Shabaan Shabaan USG case. Can you — how long do these appeals take? What’s the status of that appeal? It was ordered that he pay $20,000 to this allegedly wronged… Has that money been put in escrow? How long, when does the UN anticipate a ruling on that appeal?
Spokesperson: We don’t comment on individual cases. If you want to know precisely what the schedule is, you can ask the Registrar.
Correspondent: And I wanted to know, because there is sort of growing, I guess, misunderstanding from your point of view, of the Secretary-General’s approach to the rule of law within the UN, this seems like a topic on which Patricia O’Brien might want to give a briefing, just to explain not individual cases, but what the thinking is. See, normally when judges have said, “Please bring documents,” I guess these articles are saying it’s kind of contemptuous not to provide the documents at all, and then to wait for a ruling, and then appeal it. Like it seems, and especially when there has been no decision on any of the appeals yet. So I am just wondering, this is a request that OLA, or Mr. Ban tomorrow, but that OLA explain how this is consistent with the rule of law to simply ignore judges’ orders to produce evidence.
Spokesperson: There is one fundamental point here, that this was an initiative of the previous Secretary-General, and then it was further pushed by this Secretary-General. So to suggest that somehow the Secretary-General is ducking his responsibility is rather odd. As I have said, he is fully committed to upholding the system of administration of justice that is prescribed by the General Assembly. And of course you can ask the Secretary-General tomorrow. Rhonda?
Correspondent: Sort of another matter with regard to secrecy that I had asked Farhan. There is a letter submitted by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the Cheonan situation to the Security Council, supposedly on the 8th, according to news reports, and it still has not been made available. And I wondered if, when I have asked the Security Council, they say it is the Secretariat. And Farhan said he’d look into it. So I’d appreciate if you could follow up on that and…
Spokesperson: Yeah, you could also ask the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Question: You had earlier said that the Secretary-General will meet some members of the Security Council whenever he arrived in New York. Whom did he meet and what result has come out from those meetings?
Spokesperson: He’s met in an informal setting a number of key members of the Security Council. And I am sure you can ask him more about that tomorrow too.
Question: Can you give us details?
Spokesperson: No, okay? You can ask him tomorrow. Okay, thank you very much. And Jean Victor is, must be the most patient man in this room, is going to brief you now.
Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Bon après-midi, good afternoon.
Yesterday, 16 June, the President of the General Assembly, Ali Abdussalam Treki, met with Roberto Maroni, Italian Minister for the Interior. They discussed transnational organized crime ahead of the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly held today on this issue.
Mr. Maroni thanked President Treki for organizing this special session 10 years after the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention), adopted by General Assembly resolution 55/25 of 15 November 2000.
President Treki thanked the Italian Government for its leadership on this issue. Dr. Treki added that the General Assembly has pledged its commitment to fighting organized crime in several important resolutions, but efforts need greater coherence. In his 17 June statement at the High-level Meeting of the General Assembly, President Treki called for a strong message from the General Assembly that transnational organized crime must be stopped before it spreads even more fear, poverty, violence and impunity.
At today’s proceedings in the General Assembly, President Treki noted the significant contribution of many Governments, national and international law-enforcement agencies and judges, who have paid a high price in the fight against transnational organized crime. In this context, he highlighted the efforts made by the Governments of Italy and Mexico, specifically mentioning Judge Giovanni Falcone of Italy, whose work and sacrifice paved the way for the adoption of the Palermo Convention.
Yesterday, President Treki also met separately with Angelino Alfano, the Italian Minister for Justice. They discussed important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fourth session of the General Assembly.
That’s what I have for you today. Yes, Rhonda?
**Questions and Answers
Question: [inaudible] I guess I wondered what President Treki is planning to do with regard to the important issue that was raised in the previous General Assembly session of the economic and social crisis and the role for the UN and the G-192 in, somehow in the economic affairs that was presented as a very critical issue. I know the economic and social forum has been taking that up, but it seems that the programme they had about the role for the UN got somehow directed towards what the UN would do with the G-20 and that new presidency, who is going to be the President from Switzerland, said that that’s his priority. So I wondered what President Treki would think about that. Is there anything that the UN is going to do to follow up on what seemed a very strong sense last year that there had to be a role for the UN? And I thought even the Economic and Social Council discussion said that there was a basis under the Charter for the UN to be a coordinator of the different economic entities — the Bretton Woods entities and others. So does he have some plan with regard to this issue, and if so, what is it?
Spokesperson: Well, President Treki’s efforts on that front have remained unrelenting, and he travelled to South Korea not long ago, and he invited the South Koreans, chairing the G-20, to come and address the General Assembly, and they will be doing so very shortly. We can give you more specifics about…
Correspondent: But I am saying the opposite. I am saying what I heard last year, is that it wasn’t the G-20, it was the G-192. So [inaudible] give me an answer that the G-20 is the answer, that was, there was a very specific, you know, sense last year that you had to involve the whole of the United Nations set of nations in these decisions because it affected all of them they could…
Spokesperson: Rhonda, that was last year. This year is the sixty-fourth session. And when the next session comes, the sixty-fifth session, you can follow that up with the President-elect, who has made specific comments.
Correspondent: I asked him, but that’s why I am asking you now. I was at the meeting, I went to the meeting where the Economic and Social Council, a number of nations complained that there wasn’t enough follow-up on the role for the UN as the G-192, and they asked that that be, you know, attended to in this session. So, I am asking you to look into that matter and to let me know more specifically what this session, you know, intends to do with regard to that issue.
Spokesperson: I shall. I may ask the President and maybe we’ll come up with some specific response to your question. Yes, Matthew?
Question: Has President Treki met with Joseph Deiss, the new incoming?
Spokesperson: Yes, they have been in consultation and this has been going on just to ensure that there is a very smooth transition, which actually hasn’t specifically started per se, because Mr. Joseph Deiss was elected on 11 June; that is very recent. So they have been meeting and the President of the General Assembly is very committed not only to a smooth transition, but also to ensure that the General Assembly continues to be revitalized and that the next session is successful.
Question: So these meetings in consultations, these were before 11 June or since?
Spokesperson: Well, there has been a meeting on the occasion of the election. As you quite well know, President-elect Deiss made an acceptance speech at a session that was presided over by Dr. Treki. So they have been meeting and they have been talking.
Question: I am just trying to get the specifics of it, like, they were on the same podium, but like, is it, I mean, I’m just, have they met? You give readout of meetings, so I am just wondering why. Like, have they actually had a sit-down meeting, and if so, what was discussed?
Spokesperson: Well, what they have discussed is first and foremost the status of what the sixty-fourth session has done so far in terms of going through its agenda. And also, what is in store for the future, as well as housekeeping issues and so on. So they have been discussing, but I think it’s very early days to talk about the next session because we are still in June, and the sixty-fifth session will not start before mid-September. Yes, Rhonda?
Question: There was another issue which I mentioned during the earlier period of this, and that is that there is currently going on in South Korea that the Government is viciously harassing, putting charges against bringing, law suits against, bringing to the prosecutor and, well, encouraging right groups who are sort of right-wing groups to attack any NGOs and people who have a disagreement with the Government in particular. There is one prominent NGO that did send a letter and a report to the Security Council on a matter before the Security Council. And the Government is investigating them for charges, the prosecutor, for prosecutor of charges. I guess this is a very serious issue.
It’s been called McCarthyism, and it’s also impinging on the right of people in South Korea to communicate with the UN. And so, in light of all of this, to invite the President of South Korea to address the General Assembly when he is bringing charges against people in his nation who have tried to use their right to communicate with the UN I think is a very serious issue. And I would appreciate the President, you know, looking into this matter, and giving some response to how the UN deals with this, because it doesn’t seem appropriate that any country that brings charges against someone for communicating with the UN, that’s a particular problem. If the UN doesn’t, you know, doesn’t somehow support people and their freedom of expression to communicate with it, then that leads to, you know, to encouraging that kind of behaviour on the part of a Government. So I guess I would appreciate some response from the President on, and looking into that situation and responding.
Spokesperson: Thanks Rhonda. We don’t have the facts on the situation you are referring to, and I do not believe that a specific submission has reached the General Assembly or the President of the General Assembly on this issue. But, since you are asking, I will relay your query and we will see if the President of the General Assembly has a specific response. He may or he may not have a position on that.
Question: Just as a follow-up to that question. Isn’t there either a rule or a protocol of the General Assembly that if a Head of State wishes to address the General Assembly he will have the prerogative to do so? I mean, after all, [President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad of Iran, who is not known for his sterling human rights record, had the opportunity to address the General Assembly. So is this something that the General Assembly President could even decline or rule [inaudible] towards the Head of State of South Korea?
Question: I am not saying he shouldn’t ever address the General Assembly; he’s been invited by the General Assembly at a time when he is bringing, they’re bringing, very serious trouble against…
Spokesperson: If I may just [inaudible] before it turns into a triangular. Just to say that your comments on the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran are yours. And in the General Assembly all Member States are equal, and…
Correspondent: Well, that’s what I was asking. That there are no standards that say that, because of the human rights record of a particular country, that country is going to be somehow treated differently in terms of invitations or opportunities to address the General Assembly. That was the basis of my question.
Spokesperson: Well, I don’t see from our own perspective the basis for that question when it comes to a Member State and its leader. All Member States are equal, and they all take the floor on specific proceedings such as the general debate and so on.
Correspondent: Which exactly was the sense of the question, in response to, in response to the issue of whether the South Korean leader…
Spokesperson: The South Koreans were invited in their capacity as presiding over the G-20, on the occasion of a visit that the President of the General Assembly paid to South Korea. And they’re going to come and address the General Assembly in that capacity.
Question: In that capacity?
Spokesperson: The address by the South Korean leader to the General Assembly is a different and separate matter.
Any other question? Thank you very much. Have a good afternoon.
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