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

1 July 2010

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

1 July 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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

Welcome to this press briefing marking the first anniversary of the new system of administration of justice in the United Nations.  Through the administration of justice system, internal employment-related disputes are resolved in a professional manner, using informal and formal mechanisms, including the Management Evaluation Unit, the Office for Ombudsman and Mediation Services, and the Office of Administration of Justice, which services the Dispute Tribunal and the Appeals Tribunal.  These distinct and independent elements have contributed to a transformation in the way that employment grievances are addressed in the United Nations.  They have been heavily utilized by United Nations staff members during the first year of the reform that ended yesterday.

And we have with us today to make brief presentations and take your questions:  the Under-Secretary-General for Management, Angela Kane; to the right of her, the Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs and Legal Counsel, Patricia O’Brien; sitting to the left of Ms. Kane, the Executive Director of the Office of Administration of Justice, Andrei Terekhov; and over to his left, John Barkat, who heads the Ombudsman and Mediation Services, an independent area handling the informal resolution of workplace disputes.

I understand that the Appeals Tribunal has announced the outcome of some judgements earlier today.  Because there has not been time to fully digest these judgements and because the Tribunal has not yet released the full text of its decisions, it will not be possible for the briefers to comment on these judgements.  In addition, for reasons of respect for the judicial process, it will not be possible for the briefers to comment on matters that remain sub judice before the Tribunals.   The briefers will be pleased, however, following their brief initial observations, to answer questions that you may have concerning the Administration of Justice system as a whole or its individual elements.

And with that, I will first turn over the floor to Angela Kane.

[Press conference issued separately.]

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

We have the pleasure of welcoming here today Dr. Jamal Benomar, who is the Chef de Cabinet in the Office of the President of the General Assembly.  He will be briefing you on the latest developments on system-wide coherence and the new gender entity.  Dr. Jamal.

Chef de Cabinet:  Thank you.  I know that you have been very patient.  I know that you have heard various bits and pieces about what’s been happening in the intergovernmental process and the General Assembly, something historical, many people said, is happening which is the agreement now among Member States on a resolution that will introduce a number of changes in the way the UN does business in the field.  But also one that establishes a new UN entity to be called UN Women.  So, I am pleased to inform you that there is an informal agreement already that has developed in the GA about the resolution, and this resolution will be formally adopted on Friday at 3 p.m.

Let me give you some of the highlights.  So, this resolution established this new entity called UN Women and this will be the UN entity for gender equality and empowerment of women.  This entity will consolidate and receive all the existing mandates and functions of the four current gender entities that exist, which are the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, called OSAGI; the Division of the Advancement of Women, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); and the United Nations International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).  So, UN Women will be both a normative body, as well as an operational one.  It will act as a secretariat and it will carry out operational activities including guidance and technical support at the country level.  The resolution also charges UN Women with system-wide coordination of gender mainstreaming, which will be an integral part of the work of the entity.  This entity will be also headed by an Under-Secretary-General, and will have its own executive board with members elected through ECOSOC, and it will report annually to the General Assembly through ECOSOC.  The GA, ECOSOC and the Commission on the Status of Women will continue to be the intergovernmental governance structure for the normative support function of UN Women.  And then you’ll have the GA, ECOSOC and the executive board of the entity constitute the intergovernmental governance structure for the operational activities of the entity.

In terms of resources for service in the normative intergovernmental processes, this will be funded from the regular budget and approved by the GA.  But the resources for service in the operational activities at all levels will be funded from voluntary contributions and approved by the executive board.  I want to also draw your attention to the fact that this resolution deals with a number of other issues that go beyond the establishment of the gender entity.  The origins of this are in the, can be found in this four-year process that started with a panel about system-wide coherence that tried to address how the UN operational activities have evolved in the field and what can be done to introduce more coordination and coherence.

So the resolution for example here, requests the Secretary-General to circulate information on the coherence of agendas, calendars, programmes of work of the governing bodies of the UN operational activities for development.  All this is in order to enable coherence of the agenda setting and programme of work of all these bodies.  It also requests ECOSOC and the executive boards of governing bodies of funds, programmes, specialized agencies to facilitate the participation in certain aspects of their work of national policymakers in developing countries.  It establishes also independent system-wide mechanisms for evaluating the UN operational activities.  It requests the Secretary-General also to regularly brief ECOSOC on progress in the harmonization of business practices within the UN development system.  And it also addresses issues related to improvement to the funding system of operational activities, including requesting for example, UN agencies administering multi-donor trust funds to report annually, and so on.  These are some of the highlights.  I don’t want to get too much into the details.  And please feel free to ask any question you may have.  Yes, Edie.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I’d like to know two questions.  Why is this being called an entity, which to my mind doesn’t mean anything?  It’s frankly not a word I am allowed to use by the Associated Press, because the world doesn’t really know what an entity is.  Why isn’t it being called something specific?  And secondly, why are you, why is it being called gender equality, and not women’s equality?  I also am told that the word gender does not translate into many languages used by Member States of the United Nations.

Chef de Cabinet:  Look, I’m sorry that, you know, your editor does not like the word entity, but this is the terminology that we refer to whenever we want to be neutral, whether this is a fund, programme, UN Secretariat department, it’s commonly used in the UN jargon, you know, to refer to UN organizations, but even when they are not full-fledged, you just refer to UN entity.  But the one thing I want to stress is that a name, a specific name, has been agreed in the context of this resolution.  This entity, I’m afraid, is going to be called “UN Women”.  That’s how it’s being defined by Member States.  The language of the resolution specifically talks about advancement of women, empowerment of women, gender equality, human rights of women.  So, all the various mandates that guided the work of the other entities now fall, will be included, and in the resolution, here is a reference to what will be the normative framework guiding the work of this entity, which is all UN instruments, resolutions and including some of the more specific ones that are specifically enumerated in the resolution.

Question:  Just as a quick follow-up.  You yourself just used the phrase that this was United Nations jargon.  My point is that, if this is something that is supposed to be helping women around the world, it should actually have a formal name that would really translate, make sense to more than half the world’s population.

Chef de Cabinet:  Before the agreement was reached on the name of this body, if you don’t like the word entity, that’s the word that was used to refer to what we’re trying to establish.  But it is clear in the resolution that this new organization, this new entity has a name, and a name that is very clear, that conveys what it is about.  And as I said, it’s called UN Women.  So, it’s not called the entity.  It was called the entity when internally Member States among themselves were trying to find a name or trying to define what it is going to be.  But they did define that.  It’s called United Nations Women.  Can we move to the other question?

Question:  So the person who heads this is going to be the Under-Secretary-General for Women, or the Under-Secretary-General for Gender Equality, Women’s empowerment or whatever?

Chef de Cabinet:  This entity, UN Women, will be headed by a senior official at the level of Under-Secretary-General.

Spokesperson:  More questions?

Question:  Thank you.  I couldn’t agree more with my colleague behind me here, Edie Lederer.  This entity word does not do service to women in this Organization.  It is not a very dignified word.  So, my first question is, do you see that word entity in the resolution as presently drafted?  And my second question is, why not use a better expression, such as women advancement authority, for example?

Chef de Cabinet:  Believe me, you know, Member States discussed this at length.  There were various proposals, various ideas and so on, and the 192 Member States discussing specifically this issue, this is what they concluded.  They concluded that this organization will be called UN Women.  And when they refer to the entity it’s when, before they decided on the name.

Question:  [inaudible] is the word entity at present inscribed in the resolution?  Is it reflected in that resolution you were reading?

Chef de Cabinet:  The resolution refers to this new body called entity until it was defined as UN Women, yes.

Question: But, as presently drafted, does the resolution include the word entity?

Chef de Cabinet:  Yes, the word entity is in the resolution.  But the resolution is very clearly stating that the name of this entity is going to be UN Women.  So in the literature, in the way it is referred to, it is not going to be called the entity.  It is going to be called UN Women.  This has been decided by Member States.

Spokesperson:  Let’s move. First, Matthew and then Neil.

Question:  Sure.  I just wanted to ask you a little bit about the negotiation process.  It was said that in the final stages some of the issues that your office had to either bring people together or the Member States had to overcome, one had to do with how women under occupation had to be dealt with.  Another had to do with an objection by Cuba about how countries would submit their plans to this entity or body.  And also, so, and also the number of posts.  So, how, I mean, I understand you can, maybe you can’t say who said what, but women in occupation, how was it resolved, how was the Cuban objection resolved?  And who is, and if you can, just briefly, what regional groups, you know, get how many posts and how does the presidency see it, and who will actually select the Under-Secretary-General?  How will that be, is it just the Secretary-General, you know, on their own, or is there some other process, and has Mrs. Bachelet been offered the job and rejected it?

Chef de Cabinet:  Look, there are intergovernmental negotiations that involve 192 Member States.  And they developed various drafts.  There were discussions about various options.  You know, the resolution deals with a large gamut of issues, and establishing a new UN outfit obviously is a difficult task, and especially when it includes building on or bringing together various entities that currently deal with women issues and women empowerment issues.  So, it is in this context that definitely there were a lot of disagreements, like it is the case with all major resolutions being discussed in the General Assembly.  But again, in an old UN fashion, Member States discuss these issues, sometimes discussions were heated discussions, but then wisdom prevailed and Member States managed to find compromises on all the contentious issues including some of the issues that you mentioned.  And they agreed still, now informally, the resolution has not been adopted formally.  It will be adopted formally on Friday.  But you know, there was agreement there, there was consensus.  Meaning that all sides agreed with language that they felt they are very happy with.

Question:  [inaudible] is it treated specially or did that issue disappear before the draft was finalized?  Just for example.

Chef de Cabinet:  Well, the issue that you’re referring to was resolved in a very satisfactory way that with all sides involved, happy with the language.  I can find it for you.  So, that’s one issue that was discussed and [inaudible].

Question:  So this is not public? [inaudible] I’m sorry, sir, I just wanted to have, is this agreement or meeting of the minds that was reached, is this a public document?

Chef de Cabinet:  Well, there is a resolution that’s now with, you will have very soon; you know, hopefully today.  So, because it will be adopted tomorrow at 3 p.m. and it will have all the elements that you asked for.

Spokesperson:  Neil.

Question:  Just to follow up on Matthew’s question about where the process lies and who is going to head it, I believe that President Bachelet was the favourite candidate.  So where does that stand?  And could you just summarize for us why such an organization, why the UN, felt it needed such another organization?

Chef de Cabinet:  The resolution refers to the selection of the… it says that the… it will be headed by an Under-Secretary-General appointed by the Secretary-General in consultation with Member States.  So the specifics of the process of selection and so on, it’s more a Secretary-General managed process.  I’m here to, as Chef de Cabinet of the President of the General Assembly, I’m briefing you about the efforts we made to make sure that we facilitate this long process that’s now finally led to the informal agreement about the resolution.  But the specifics on the recruitment process and so on, I think you will have to ask the secretariat to give you more on this.  But on the second one…

Spokesperson:  Why do you need this detail now?

Chef de Cabinet:  That’s the first fundamental question.  Basically, throughout this process of review and reflection on UN reform that started many years ago, one conclusion that many Member States reached, or all Member States reached is that when it comes to the empowerment of women and gender equality, the work of the UN is currently segmented and dealt with, these issues are dealt with by four or more small entities in the system.  And they felt that bringing these together will bring more coherence and having one entity that has a normative function, as well as operational activities function, will be in the best interest of the empowerment of women and in the best interest of strengthening the work of the Organization in this field.  So, this was the basis on which this process has started, I’m afraid, four years ago.  It’s the realization that the UN can do more in this area, and can do it in a more effective way first, by at least bringing this segmented little part here and there for them to come together and form a critical mass that you can build on.  And that was the basis for the whole process that led to the adoption of the resolu… that led to the discussions of this resolution.

Spokesperson:  The last question will go to [inaudible].

Question:  Thank you.  You said it’s for coherence, and you also earlier said it’s for the system-wide, why did they put it in the framework of the ECOSOC, which is not a wider forum?  Why didn’t it come under the General Assembly, for example or the Secretary-General’s Office?  Why is it put in the framework of ECOSOC?

Chef de Cabinet:  Well, it reports ultimately to the General Assembly.  But, it was felt that ECOSOC has a role to play.  It was felt also that ECOSOC dealing with economic and social issues also having this new UN Women with a new board and a new [inaudible], and a new board, that executive board that guides the work of the Organization on its [inaudible] operational activities.  But, also, another one, that is it comes to the normative framework, that will be in the best interest of helping the Organization to be guided by in terms of policy, by Member States, in the sense that different boards and different arrangements deal with different sets of issues.  And this is the…

Question:  [inaudible] by placing it in the framework of the ECOSOC, doesn’t that reduce the role of women to technical issues rather than…?  It should be broader than that.

Chef de Cabinet:  No.  The mandates of this entity are much broader.  When you read the resolution, the draft resolution, you will see that it deals with the empowerment of women, gender equality, advancement of women — all this is the context of UN norms, standards, resolutions and instruments.  This is specifically cited in the resolution.

Question:  But that’s my comment, that why then put it in a narrow framework, which is the ECOSOC?  Why not put it in a broader context so as, for example, to deal with the political aspect of women advancement?

Chef de Cabinet:  When you see the resolution, then I think you will have the answer to the questions that you’ve been asking.  You know, this entity will deal with a whole gamut of issues that we will deal with in the UN system as they relate to gender equality, empowerment of women, advancement, whether they are in the humanitarian or the development or the political field.

Question:  And that’s why I asked the question.  For example, advancement of women in the field of peace and security, why put it in ECOSOC?

Chef de Cabinet:  UN Women is not in ECOSOC.  It’s an entity in its own right, with its own executive board.  What you say that they put it in ECOSOC is just not correct.  So, you will have to read much more in detail the resolution…

Question:  [inaudible] in the framework of ECOSOC, as you have read the text.

Chef de Cabinet:  No.  The framework is UN norms and standards and resolutions and instruments; many of them deal with human rights issues, others deal with development-type issues.  So, it’s not cornered only in one area of UN activity.  It’s much, much broader than that.

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much, Dr. Jamal.  Thank you all for having been so patient and supportive.  Thank you, Dr. Jamal for coming.  Good afternoon.

* *** *

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