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

24 September 2010

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

24 September 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.

**Secretary-General on Disarmament

The Secretary-General opened a high-level meeting on revitalizing the work of the Conference on Disarmament and taking forward multilateral disarmament negotiations this morning.  In his opening remarks, the Secretary-General urged members to push forward on bridging the gaps on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through stronger multilateral partnerships.  He said the next few years would be crucial.

The Secretary-General said much remains to be done both on weapons of mass destruction and conventional weapons, and the political will of Member States was the decisive factor.  He underscored that members of the Conference on Disarmament must accept that the privilege of limited membership comes with responsibility, and added that non-members place their trust in and hold them accountable.  The Secretary-General also urged the non-members to express their views through the Conference.

The Secretary-General is set to close the session this afternoon, and he will be presenting suggestions on some action-oriented steps for consideration by the Member States.  He will also present his Chairman’s Summary to the President of the General Assembly, and request that the General Assembly follow up on revitalizing multilateral disarmament negotiations.

**Secretary-General’s Other Events

Also this morning, the Secretary-General addressed a ministerial meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends. In his remarks, he said that dialogue is not an end in itself — it’s also crucial to economic, social and human development. He called for more pledges and building on the work of the Alliance.  He praised Spain’s and Turkey’s leadership of the Alliance, while noting that there’s room for more countries to assume a greater role and provide increased support.

The Secretary-General also addressed the High-level Meeting on small island developing States, in the General Assembly this morning.  That Meeting’s focus was the five-year review of the Mauritius Strategy, which deals with advancing the sustainable development needs of small island developing States.

In his remarks there, he said these States still lack sufficient access to financing for the dramatic changes they need to make, including for achieving their targets in the Millennium Development Goals, and called for the Meeting to devise new ways of approaching and redressing such matters.

Later today, the Secretary-General will address the ASEAN-UN ministerial meeting and a joint statement is expected from that gathering.

We have, or will have shortly, copies of the Secretary-General’s remarks at these events.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Côte d’Ivoire

We have just issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the certification process in Côte d’Ivoire.

In it, the Secretary-General notes the certification by his Special Representative in Côte d’Ivoire of the final voters’ list established by the Independent Electoral Commission. He congratulates the Ivorian political leaders and the Facilitator on this important achievement.

The Secretary-General calls on all Ivorian political actors to build on this consensus in order to maintain a peaceful environment before, during and after the elections.

He commended the Ivorian people for their patience and hopes this crucial step forward will lead to the holding of open, free, fair and transparent presidential and parliamentary elections. And he reiterated the United Nations’ willingness to assist, in accordance with its mandate and resources.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo published today the preliminary results of an investigation into mass rapes and other human rights violations in the Walikale region at the end of July and beginning of August.

The 15-page report confirmed that at least 303 civilians had been raped.  The preliminary report follows a public briefing to the Security Council by Assistant Secretary-General Atul Khare, after his mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He identified a number of areas in which the measures taken by the UN Mission MONUSCO had proven inadequate and had failed to prevent these attacks or protect the civilians.

And during his briefing at that time, Mr Khare said that a human rights investigation team was deployed from 25 August to 2 September, and interviewed victims and witnesses in each of the 13 villages in the area.  He also said the report would be finalized and made public.  The report published today is the one he was referring to.

** Yemen

The UN refugee agency says that it is closely following developments in south-east Yemen, where fighting between Government forces and militants has forced some 4,000 civilians to flee. The UN refugee agency is concerned that the number of displaced is on the rise. It also hopes that the warring parties have been taking measures to avoid civilian casualties.  The agency is working with Yemeni authorities and UN partner aid groups to provide humanitarian assistance to the displaced civilians.

**Questions from Yesterday

I was asked yesterday and I also commented on Rwanda’s peacekeeping contribution to the United Nations.  And since then President Paul Kagame has given an interview to the Wall Street Journal, which people may have seen. I can say that the United Nations deeply appreciates Rwanda’s contribution to UN peacekeeping as well as the performance of Rwanda’s troops under UN command, as the Secretary-General personally mentioned to President Kagame during his recent visit to Kigali.

The Secretary-General welcomes President Kagame's comments and looks forward to a continued collaboration so that Rwanda's peacekeepers carry on the excellent work performed in critical peacekeeping operations such as in Darfur.

And also yesterday, I was asked about Taylor Swift, and in answer to that question, we can confirm that Taylor Swift's album launch has been booked at the Delegates’ Dining Room as an external event.  And there is no UN office involved in this event.  The Delegates’ Dining Room is a commercial space managed by an external company, Aramark, and it can be booked by anyone.

I can also say that we have with us here Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, and he will brief you after me.

So questions, please. Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I definitely have some questions.  One is, yesterday you were asked about the African Union peacekeepers in Somalia and the idea of, you know, the UN support to them through AMISOM and otherwise.  And you’d said it may be discussed in the Somalia meeting.  At the end of that meeting, Jean Ping of the African Union came out and said in no uncertain terms that UN peacekeepers are compensated at a rate of $1,080 a day, and that, even as recently increased, the African Union peacekeepers were at $750. He thinks it’s unfair and his quote was that all the peacekeepers want to go to Darfur since they are better paid there. I am wondering what either the Secretary-General or Mr. Alain Le Roy, Ms. Susana Malcorra, what is the rationale for peacekeepers in Somalia and some of the most dangerous conditions being paid at now three quarters of what other peacekeepers are paid?

Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, AMISOM is not a UN operation.  AMISOM is not a United Nations peacekeeping operation.  That’s clear.  The European Union, for example, is pledging to help to increase the funding for that peacekeeping operation there.  The Secretary-General, in the remarks you will have seen made at that meeting, was quite clear on the need for there to be the right level of support for peacekeeping operations in Somalia.

Question:  Are we to read that to lead to equal compensation for that force in terms of payment to soldiers or not?

Spokesperson:  I would defer to my colleagues in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, who may be able to give a more precise answer.  But I would reiterate that the Secretary-General has been extremely supportive of the countries that have contributed to the peacekeeping operation of AMISOM in Somalia.  And indeed, when he was in Burundi, he did meet with the soldiers who had served there.

Question:  I wanted to ask about Sudan. There is this communiqué that is going too come out this afternoon, a copy of which I have pretty much seen.  And I wondered, I know that DPKO has been making representations about the communiqué.  What was the UN’s role – DPA and DPKO, I mean -- in this communiqué that is going to be issued? They seem to be sort of presenting themselves as in a central role, whereas obviously it’s sort of, it’s a Member States thing or it’s a participants in the meeting thing.  What was their role in creating this document?

Spokesperson:  There is a draft communiqué, and so I am not going to comment on something that is a draft, whether you…

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Well, it’s a draft until it is agreed, and so I am not going to comment on that.  On how documents are put together, obviously there is expertise within the Department of Political Affairs and [Department of] Peacekeeping Operations.  Exactly how they liaise with Member States who are taking part in that meeting, I couldn’t say.  But clearly they have expertise which they can deploy to best effect with Member States if they require that help.

Question:  [inaudible] all Member States participate in today’s meeting; do they have equal access to DPKO and DPA to draft this document or…  [inaudible] elements?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know the answer to that, Matthew.

Question:  Okay. Is there a way to find out? I mean, not for you or, how de we find out?

Spokesperson:  I think you have the numbers for both the spokesman for DPKO and for DPA as well. Yes, other questions.  Yes.

Question:  Iranian President in his speech yesterday accused thst UN has done nothing…

Spokesperson:  Who, sorry?

Question:  Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in his speech yesterday, accused the UN that UN has done nothing to prove its independent role, particularly in cases of nuclear power development.  And the Western Powers have had overridden its decision, right?  So, what is UN’s reaction on this? And what is UN’s reaction on Iran proposing to set up an independent inquiry into 9/11 attacks?

Spokesperson:  Well, on the first, Iran needs to comply with Security Council resolutions that deal with its nuclear programme.  That’s very clear.  The Secretary-General has made that clear repeatedly, including in a meeting this week with President Ahmadinejad. That’s the first thing. The second point is that you will have, I think, heard the Secretary-General’s remarks in his speech to the Alliance of Civilizations Group of Friends meeting just a short while ago.  And in that speech he strongly condemned the comments made yesterday by President Ahmadinejad that called into question the cause of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on United States soil. The Secretary-General believes that it is unacceptable for the platform of the General Assembly of the United Nations to be misused in this way.  And he repeated what he said in the General Assembly himself yesterday, that he stands against the politics of polarization, and he rejects the language of hatred.  That’s what I can tell you.  Okay, all right.  Jean Victor.  Over to you.

Question:  I have more questions.

Spokesperson:  By all means.

Question:  Okay. You’d said that, you know, this new Human Rights Council report on the rapes in eastern Congo, so I guess what I had wondered, has the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence and Conflict, Margot Wallström, there were some indications that after this 7 September briefing of the Council by she and Mr. Khare that she would be going to the area. Has she gone, and if not, why not?

Spokesperson:  I do not know the movements of Ms. Wallström here and now, but I am sure we can find out.

[The Spokesperson later added that Ms. Wallström would be arriving in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on Tuesday.]

Correspondent:  And also I had wanted to ask about the Staff Union.  I have spoken with them.  There is a report that they produce every year that’s views of the representatives of the staff representatives of the UN that in previous years has always been transmitted to the General Assembly by the Secretary-General. I’ts sort of a ministerial function that he performs so that this view is known.  

Spokesperson:  What function?

Question:  The Secretary-General takes this report from the Staff Union and transmits to the General Assembly’s Fifth Committee.  In previous years it has happened without a hitch.  It happened under Kofi Annan, it happened before.  But this year they have been told that the Secretary-General’s Office and Catharine Pollard and OHRM will not.  First they were told it would only be transmitted to the General Assembly if the SMCC, which is not the official representative but it seems to be the favoured body to negotiate with, if that report was also transmitted.  The Staff Union, they tell me, said yes, that would be fine.  And now they were told it won’t be transmitted at all; that the Secretariat doesn’t like the report and therefore it won’t pass it on to the General Assembly. So I am just wondering, since this has always been the practice, I am not sure what the legalities are, since in the past this has always been, and the report is pretty damning, it talks about bad staff relations, and making calls for a GA independent inquiry into various things.  What is the rationale for the first time - at least they say the first time — this document not being passed on to the General Assembly by the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  Yes.

Question:  We all know far too well about Charles Taylor’s reputation and his atrocities.  But apparently there was anther military guy who now is running for president who at the same time was committing even worse atrocities in that Government for that country, who is running for president. I have not heard of him, I am sorry I don’t really know his name now.  But he was on NPR this morning – a piece about him.  And I was wondering, does the UN have, since the UN has been, UN-related bodies have been following Charles Taylor, would this other guy also be looked at by the UN bodies?

Spokesperson:  Well, I am aware of the reports you are referring to.  I, of course, I am aware of the reports you are referring to.  I don’t have any particular comment on that at the moment, but we are aware of it and if I have anything further I will let you know. 

Question:  There two question I wanted, they are about the events here these days in the UN.  So I wanted to ask them today, if I could.  I’ll keep them very brief.  One is that thee is a report that a former Nigerian President and UN envoy, Olusegun Obasanjo, was blocked from the building. There is a report here describing 15 minutes of him trying to get in saying he wanted to meet with a UN official.  It just made me wonder, number one, is there any provision for former, I mean, I guess he was a USG at that time when he was performing the special envoy function for them to continue to access.  And so it seemed since they did in fact let him in, were any special provisions, you know, special provisions made, and who did he meet with?  And also there was an incident in which a Sudanese diplomat last night on 42nd street was, you know, taken to the hospital by the Fire, you know, FDNY ambulance. But there seemed, a Sudanese journalist on site said that there had been some incident in the Hilton Tudor Hotel involving security.  He said it was UN security. I didn’t, it’s not clear to me that it was UN security, but I just wanted to ask if you’ve heard of any incident of protocol of [inaudible]?   

Spokesperson:  On the second topic, we can try to find out, but that’s not UN turf, as you well know.  42nd …

Question:  [inaudible] UN security, I was there and I saw there was a lot like DSS people.

Spokesperson:  Yeah, but as I say, we’ll try to find out, but I haven’t heard about that one.  I have heard about the first one that you mentioned.  This took place on Tuesday morning, as I understand it. And as I understand it from my colleagues at DSS, Chief Obasanjo and a small party came to gate 40, the gate which is at 46th street and 1st Avenue. He was wearing an event pass for an event in the North Lawn Building, to the new building.  And his aides were also holding event passes for an event but they didn’t have UN-issued identification.  And to gain access to UN Headquarters you need to have a valid UN grounds pass, as you have or some kind of other special access pass.  And you also need to be escorted by the event organizer.  UN security officers carefully review, about, well, more than 12,000 people with various badges and event passes every day during the UN General Assembly period that we are in at the moment.  There was no event organizer there to meet them.  However, in order to assist Chief Obasanjo, UN security officials personally escorted him to the North Lawn Building where the event was being held and he and his aides who had event passes were permitted to get into the UN complex and they left the complex about two hours later with accompanying journalists.

Question:  So he never did meet an official?  One of the stories I’d seen said, it just said he’d come to New York to go to the Clinton Global Initiative.  He’d wanted to meet a UN official and was, maybe that’s something that he said.

Spokesperson: Well…

Correspondent:  I understand  [inaudible] he went into the North Lawn and then he left, and that’s that.

Spokesperson:  He went in…

Question:  Can he come back tomorrow?  I mean, does he have the, is the idea that he has to, like Kofi Annan, does he have to get a blue pass?  Or is there some special…

Spokesperson:  I think we are kind of wandering off into different territory here, Matthew.  You got an answer to your question, I think.  Alright. So, Jean Victor, over to you.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après-midi, good afternoon to all.

I would first like to brief you on the numerous meetings and bilaterals that the President of the General Assembly Joseph Deiss has been holding over the past few days.  On 22 September he met with several leaders and dignitaries including the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, with whom he had discussions on important issues of the General Assembly at its sixty-fifth session.  They discussed United Nations reforms, Millennium Development Goals, the role of Africa in the international community and many other important subjects.  On 23 September the President met with the President of Ukraine, Prime Minister of Romania, Prime Minister of Japan, the President of the United States, the Foreign Minister of the Comoros, the President of Switzerland, and the President of Monte Negro.

Today, just before I came into this room the President just met with Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika, who is the President of Malawi, who is also the chair of the African Union.  Earlier this morning, the President had a call to Aleksander Kwasniewski, former President of Poland.  And, the President also attended this morning the high-level meeting on the revitalization of work of the Conferenceon Disarmament, as convened by the Secretary-General.  The President is currently meeting with theForeign Minister of Armenia.  He will be meeting later today with the foreign minister of Algeria, with the Vice Prime Minister of Luxembourg, with Asian Foreign Ministers, with the Secretary of State of San Marino and with the Foreign Minister of Germany.  These obviously are separate meetings. But I would like to give you the gist of most of the President’s meetings and encounters in a capsule.

The President of the General Assembly would like to expresshis appreciation for the positive determination by Member States at the High-Level Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals at the General Assembly.  All are committed to ensure that the Millennium Development Goals must be reached by 2015.  Pledges are great, but action is even better.  The commitments, as expressed by developing nations and donor countries, are of equal importance.

The President of the General Assembly would also like to underline the strong and positive statement made yesterday by the President of the host country, the United States.  The Middle East was indeed very central in President Barack Obama’s Statement. The President of the General Assembly hopes that the General Assembly will have a positive and constructive atmosphere in this session to support peace between Israel and Palestine.  As a footnote, let me add that the President of the General Assembly will travel to Washington, D.C. in the next months and meet againwith President Obama.  The President of the General Assembly would also like to stress that the statements made yesterday and today by leaders who spoke from the podium were all very valuable.  The President of the General Assembly thanks all Member States fortheir goodwill and determination. 

The President of the General Assembly is particularly pleased with the support thatspeakers are giving to global governance as a central theme for the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly. Indeed we allneed a strong, inclusive and open United Nations as a guarantor of global governance.  If you would like to have some specifics or a readout on a specific meeting, particularly bilateral, let me know or send me an e-mail at nkolo@un.org, and we will try to help as quickly as we can.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  Yes, Matthew.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yeah, I have some questions.  First, there was, at the end of the meeting on biological diversity, there was an intervention by Venezuela in which they said they took issue with the summary that President Deiss gave of the meeting and they asked for the procedure to object to it formally. He didn’t, he answered in some way, he said, well I haven’t referred to the sixty-fifth session and that the General Assembly took note of the objection. And then he gavelled and the meeting was over.  I am just wondering what, can you explain a little bit more about what the reasoning was. It seemed like a Member State was trying to, not only object, but to ask for the explanation of procedures of how to object to President Deiss’ summary, but was pretty summarily shut down.  Admittedly it was late at night, but are you aware of that incident? And what, how will it be handled?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think I can jump that gun and saythat there was a summarily shutting down of anyone. First we have to go back to the tape and see if there is any specific record of an objection.

Question:  It was on UN TV and basically the gavel went down, the screen went black and suddenly they were showing a film about the United Nations work in Africa.  So, it felt pretty summary.

Spokesperson:  That’s pushing it a bit, Matthew.  I think what is on UN TV doesn’t constitute a record for the proceedings of the General Assembly. So, we have to go back and see if there is an objection and what that objection is.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  You may want to ask the country you referred to a bit more, specifically.  But as far as the proceedings are concerned, I do not know.  I don’t think the General Assembly had any qualms or concerns.  If that would have been the case, as you quite well know, Member States are absolutely free to raise objections.  And this has happened; this happens regularly.  This happened last year, this will probably happen this year.  It has happened in the past years. And the President of the General Assembly abides by all rules and proceedings of the General Assembly.  He always does that very, very systematically.  So, let’s go back and see exactly what, if there was any, objection.

Question:  When you say he, does the he refer to Mr. Deiss or just President generally? Because he has only been in office for a couple of days. I don’t know if he has done anything systematic yet.

Spokesperson:  Well, he has. He has so far.  I refer to President Deiss on behalf of whom I have the honour to speak.

Question:  Sure. No, no, and I just wanted to ask this:  And it’s just to understand.  We got a copy, I mean, I understand he works for the GA, he’s the President of the entire body.  Nonetheless the Swiss Mission for example, sent out his speech that he gave at the GA.  So, I am trying to find out what is the relationship between the Swiss Mission and the President of the General Assembly.  Why, I mean, it seems strange to some, for example, even under Ali Treki of Libya, didn’t send out his speeches.  Maybe they are just a big fun of Mr. Deiss. But I am wondering, can you see, what do you say about that? And does that clear the confusion of who is doing the publicity for Mr. Deiss?

Spokesperson:  Is that the speech that I also sent?

Question:  I am not sure.  Possibly so.

Spokesperson:  I think if I send a speech for Mr. Deiss you have to just take what I send as his spokesperson.

Question:  That is the official version?

Spokesperson:  That is the official version.  I will not comment on what any Member State does.

Question:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  What we do, if you, I’ll come back to you, maybe we give somebody else a chance?

Question:  Oh, yes.  No, no, go ahead.

Spokesperson:  I’ll come back to you; no problem.  Yes, please.

Question:  And I just wanted to say I hope that you will share with all of your response to Matthew’s question.

Spokesperson:  Oh, yes, absolutely. 

Question:  I mean, other briefing, because that would be useful too.

Spokesperson:  Absolutely.  I’ll come back here.

Question:  Because they are not all half as useful at all!

Spokesperson:  No, I hear you.  I’ll come back here and provide you with a specific response.  We’ll try to find out what objection there was, if there was an objection.  Because that is a big if.  Matthew back to you.

Question:  Sure, sure. And I mean, I’ll keep this very brief.

Question:  Thank you.

Question:  I just wanted, it’s something that I asked President Deiss when he did his press conference here.  I notice now that the team, the PGA team has now gone on line.  Apparently like number three official, the head of policy issues is in fact Heidi Schroderus-Fox, who was the Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland.  Since the question arose of whether a commitment had been made to Finland in the course of getting the WEOG [Western European and Others Group]nomination for the PGA post, I wanted to know, I mean, he said either he was unaware of it or it didn’t happen.  I wasn’t sure which of the two he said.  But when was it decided that either Ms. Schroderus-Fox or a Finnish national would be given one of these posts?  Is her post funded out the UN budget, one of the four posts?  And can we get a breakdown of the people on the team?  Who is paid by the UN and who is paid by a country and, or some other entity?  Is that, Mr. Treki did it, Mr.Kerim did it?  Can you do it in the sense of just knowing who is who and who is paying who?

Spokesperson:  Fair enough.  That’s a fair question.  We’ll go back into the records and find for you the breakdown of who is paid by whom and how.  But I can assure you again just to respond to your question, that the way President Deiss did all that is very transparent.  Absolutely nothing to hide, and again, there has been no deal whatsoever between the President, his Office and Finland. Absolutely not. Any further question?  No?  And I wish you a pleasant weekend.  Bon weekend.

* *** *

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