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

19 November 2010

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

19 November 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 President of the General Assembly


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Farhan Haq, Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Acting Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Guests Today

We will be having very shortly, as guests today, George Assaf, the UN Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDO) Representative to the United Nations; Ambassador Tete Antonio, the Permanent Observer of the African Union to the United Nations; and Ambassador Oumar Daou, the Permanent Representative of Mali to the United Nations.  And they are here to brief you on Africa Industrialization Day, which is tomorrow, 20 November.

We will also be having with us shortly, Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.  But first, let me talk to you a little bit about some of the other news around the system.

**Secretary-General’s Trip to Portugal

The Secretary-General will travel to Lisbon, Portugal, this weekend.  He will attend the meeting on Afghanistan, to be held there under the aegis of NATO at the level of Heads of State and/or Government.  Following the meeting, he will participate in the joint press conference with President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.  The Secretary-General will also hold a number of bilateral meetings with world leaders gathered in Lisbon, including President Karzai, to discuss the situation and the UN's efforts in Afghanistan, as well as other key issues.  And the Secretary-General will be back in the office on Monday.

** Cyprus

The Secretary-General held what he called a constructive meeting yesterday with the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.  Governance and power-sharing, the economy, European Union matters, property, territory and security were among the issues discussed.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Secretary-General said that he invited the leaders to New York because the peace talks on Cyprus were losing momentum and needed a boost if the two sides are to reach a settlement while there is still the time and the political opportunity to do so.

He stressed that only the leaders of the two communities can arrive at a solution, noting that the UN respects these talks as a Cypriot-led process.  The people of Cyprus and the international community want a solution, not endless talks, he said.

The Secretary-General expressed hope that yesterday’s meeting has helped to restore momentum to the process.  Although serious differences remain, both leaders expressed their commitment to work together to reach a settlement.  He added that he will meet again with the leaders at the end of January next year in Geneva.

**United Nations Population Fund Appointment

I have an announcement to make on an appointment.

Following consultations with the Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Secretary-General today announced the appointment of Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria as the agency’s new Executive Director.  Dr. Osotimehin replaces Thoraya Obaid for a term of four years.

The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude to Thoraya Obaid for her services to the Organization and her commitment in championing the cause of women's and young people's health and empowerment.  The Secretary-General is particularly appreciative of the exemplary leadership displayed by Ms. Obaid in the implementation of UNFPA’s mandate over the two terms she has led the Organization.

Dr. Osotimehin will bring a wealth of experience and passion to the work of UNFPA, coupled with extensive knowledge and understanding of the global and national framework and processes that are critical to the work of UNFPA.  Dr. Osotimehin previously served as Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  He was also the Director General of the National Agency of Nigeria for the Control of HIV and AIDS, the body which coordinates all HIV/AIDS activities in Nigeria. 

We have a statement as well from Thoraya Obaid, who said:  “Dr. Osotimehin’s qualifications and extensive experience position him well to lead the global agenda for population and development and to promote the right to sexual and reproductive health.  We will work closely with him to ensure a successful transition.”

** Haiti

In Haiti, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Edmond Mulet, asked demonstrators to stop blocking roads, bridges and airports to allow medical and humanitarian assistance to get to those who need it.

In a statement issued last night, he said that if this situation went on, more and more cholera patients who need medical care would die, and more and more people who need assistance would be affected by cholera.

Meanwhile, a French epidemiologist met with the senior management of the UN Mission (MINUSTAH) yesterday, and they had an exchange of ideas.  As I said yesterday, MINUSTAH is willing to participate in any further investigation into the source of the cholera outbreak, and this was part of that effort.  MINUSTAH has actually met with several epidemiologists who are in the country.  The goal is to see how to contain and prevent the further spread of cholera.

** Guinea

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is deeply concerned at the use of excessive force by Guinea’s security forces in response to rallies linked to the presidential election.  The Office says that between 15 and 17 November, security officers fired live ammunition on demonstrators, leaving four people dead and another 300 injured.

The Human Rights Office says its own staff in Conakry and members of the international press witnessed the violence at various locations, and that their presence was wilfully ignored by security forces as they abused demonstrators.  

The High Commissioner’s Office urges the Guinean authorities and security forces and political leaders to refrain from violence and from inciting ethnic hatred.  It also calls on the Government to ensure that members of the security forces respect international standards on the use of force and firearms.

** Sudan

And last, on Sudan, today, the three members of the Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in the Sudan visited Abyei, where they met with the Chief Administrator of Abyei and other senior local officials, as well as with Dinka chiefs.  They also received a briefing from UN officials based in Abyei on the latest developments on the ground.

Panel Chairperson Benjamin Mkapa stressed to the Dinka chiefs that the problems in Abyei can and must be resolved peacefully, and he urged them not to lose hope that ongoing negotiations will result in an end to the dispute.

The Secretary-General's Panel is scheduled to travel tomorrow to Wad Medani in the north of Sudan to visit voter registration centres and speak with local officials.  Their latest visit to Sudan will conclude on Monday.

**Press Conference Today

I think our guests are arriving soon.  And I do want to point out that after the briefings right now, we will also have, at 1 p.m., here in the Library Auditorium, the Department of Public Information will hold a press conference about the launch of UN Academic Impact.  That will be with Kiyo Akasaka, the Under-Secretary-General for Public Information; Michael Adams, President-Elect of the International Association of University Presidents (IAUP); and Ms. Guo Shan, Alliance of Asia-Pacific Region Orchestra and China Symphony Development Foundation.

Our guests are just about here.  I think I can take a couple of questions and then we’ll turn to them.  Yes, James?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You mentioned the epidemiologist in relation to Haiti, is it the same one that Mr. [Nigel] Fisher referred to in an interview with CBC, an epidemiologist who claimed that he has got more compelling evidence of a link between the Nepalese peacekeepers and the strain of cholera?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  This is the same person.  They didn’t discuss any conclusive information about a linkage, but they did talk about the methodology that this epidemiologist was using.  This is someone who is an expert in tracing the origins of diseases.  So, we are trying to get further information, and this is part of our process of working not just with him, but with other epidemiologists and other experts in terms of getting to the bottom of how this particular strain originated in Haiti.

Question:  What’s his name and who does he work for, and what’s his essential point?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I’d need to get the details, I don’t have that.

Question:  In his meeting with the Afghan President, the Secretary-General, when the Afghan President raises this question about NATO night attacks and drone attacks, what is he expected to say to this, will he ask him?  Will he ask the NATO forces…?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, first of all, let’s have that press encounter.  That should be tomorrow.  And we’ll give you a transcript of that once that happens.

Question:  Yes, I just want to follow up on what you said about the meeting between the UN delegation in Sudan with the Abyei Governor.  Any updates on possible postponements of the referendum of Abyei or mediating some sort of a deal?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  There is nothing on that.  It’s still scheduled for January.  But as you know, some of the framework for holding the Abyei referendum is not in place yet, and that needs to be done.

Question:  So does this mean that the UN is involved in some sort of mediation to reach a settlement on how to deal with the fact that the referenda are delayed?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the referenda panel has been visiting all these areas, meeting with senior officials.  And they’re encouraging that that this process continues.  And this is what Benjamin Mkapa has been saying consistently during his travels.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  Sure.  I want to ask about Sudan and Sri Lanka.  On Sudan, on this Secretary-General’s panel, a just-released ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] report about the panel saying that… it was saying that the Secretary-General has indicated that it was expected that the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] would contribute $900,000 towards that panel, but that the Committee has informed that those funds are somehow uncertain, no vote by the basket fund group of UNDP.  I guess I wondered:  this question has come up before whether this panel is in fact somehow independent from UNMIS [United Nations Mission in Sudan] although it’s getting paid by UNMIS.  Has there been any progress…?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as we made clear a few weeks ago, the entire point of having UNMIS process the payment was to have some ready mechanism for funding.  They do remain an independent panel, and we do stress that they have independence from UNMIS in terms of reporting authority.

Question:  And on the basket fund, since this is… it’s a UN report itself saying that there’s an expectation that this funding would be coming from outside.  Has there been any progress on getting it?  And also, to the degree that’s a UN system fund, there are some indications from UNDP that a number of the donors have not actually contributed to the fund — that’s a separate question.  But I wanted to know whether the Secretary-General’s panel, has it received the UNDP funding or not, as indicated in the ACABQ report?

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  I think the funding process is part of an ongoing procedure.  As you know, at this time of the year, everything passes through the ACABQ and also through the Fifth Committee.  And we’ll see — you know how that develops at the end of that process.  And you have one more question on Sri Lanka and then we’ll turn to our guests.

Question:  Yeah.  There has been a journalist… there are reports of a journalist, Mr. [Karthigesu] Thirulogasundar, being arrested in Colombo Airport based on, I guess, reports that he had filed, and I just wonder if it’s something that either Mr. [Neil] Buhne or anyone in the UN system is aware of and has any comment on.

Acting Deputy Spokesperson:  We don’t have any comment on it at this stage.  As you know, UNESCO [United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization] normally follows up on ground-level matters having to do with press freedoms.  On the general matter, of course, what I would stress is the Secretary-General implores that all journalists be allowed to go about their work freely and without hindrance.  And let’s see now also what UNESCO finds as they follow up.

And with that, two of my guests are here.  So, our guests are here to talk about Africa Industrialization Day, which is tomorrow.  Would you like to make some brief statements before we take any questions?

[Press Conference on Africa Industrialization Day issued separately.]

And I would like to remind you that Jean Victor Nkolo the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly is also here.  And we will have a briefing on Academic Impact at 1 p.m. in this room.  Jean Victor.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you.  Bon après-midi, good afternoon.

**Situation in Haiti

We will start with a statement by the President of the General Assembly on the situation in Haiti.

Since the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January 2010, the General Assembly has remained seized of the situation in the country.  Concerned by recent developments, the President of the General Assembly, Joseph Deiss, will convene an informal meeting on 3 December in New York.  On that occasion, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will brief the General Assembly on Haiti.  The interactive session will also give Member States the opportunity to take the floor.

In the meantime, the President of the General Assembly continues to closely follow developments, and further urges Member States to support the appeal recently launched by the United Nations.  President Deiss calls on the institutions of the United Nations system and the entire international community to remain fully engaged in further mobilizing the necessary assistance for Haiti.

**General Assembly President’s Visit to France

And I would also like to remind you of an item that we disseminated yesterday regarding the visit to France of the President of the General Assembly.

During his official visit to Paris, Mr. Deiss met with Michèle Alliot-Marie, Minister of State, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France.

They discussed global governance, in particular, the G-20 and its interconnection with the General Assembly, in the context of the French presidency of the G-20.  Security Council reform, disarmament and the contribution of France to the Millennium Development Goals were also discussed.

Mr. Deiss also met several heads of international organizations based in Paris.  With the Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, he discussed issues pertaining to global governance, rapprochement between cultures and dialogue among civilizations, cultural diversity, the Millennium Development Goals and the contribution of UNESCO to education.  With Mr. Abdou Diouf, Secretary-General of the International Organization of la Francophonie (OIF), President Deiss spoke of relations between the United Nations and OIF, cultural diversity, as well as global governance and Security Council reform.

President Deiss also addressed the Council of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the OECD, and highlighted efforts to reaffirm the central role of the United Nations in global governance.  This theme was taken up during the bilateral meeting President Deiss had with Angel Gurría, the OECD Secretary-General.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?  No questions?  Oh, yes, Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Okay, I’ll just, because it sort of goes back to that, the G-20 informals that were held.  Is this meeting on Haiti, is it… is that… is it open, you know… open to the public, open to the press?  This is one of the questions I wanted to know, because I remember the previous ones you were saying informals are closed, so it seemed like a strange… but also I just wanted to ask you something, maybe you can answer now or later.  There is this thing called human security, not… I mean a UN concept, not a… and there are some that are saying that the former Japanese Permanent Representative, Yukio Takasu, is about to be named a special adviser on human security.  I want to know if you are aware, is that a… I know the last, under the previous General Assembly President, there was some kind of an event was held, there was some controversy, I think some countries don’t… it’s sort of like responsibility to protect, there is some queasiness about what exactly it means.  I am just wondering, does appointing a new position, a new UN high-level post on something like human security, does that require any kind of GA review?  Have you heard of this and what can you say about human security as regards to GA approval of the concept?

Spokesperson:  Thank you.  I would like to start with your second question.  I wouldn’t like to use the word queasiness, but of course I have heard of human security, and I have heard of the discussion around the issue.  While it is true that an issue such as human security is still kind of being discussed, I would very much like to not comment on the possible appointment or no appointment of a Permanent Representative.  I think this is not part of our brief.  But you are correct, it is a subject that is being discussed and the discussion has not yet reached full conclusion when we speak about human security.  So, this is something that our own senior advisers are looking into, and I may well find out among our team the person who is most capable in providing you the full details on this so that you can be briefed further. 

On your first question regarding the coming meeting, I take this opportunity to first thank you for your question and to say that I did indeed discuss this with the General Assembly President, and his opinion is that, as much as possible, these meetings should be open.  So, it is likely, but we have to wait.  We still have some time to go between now and 3 December to see what will be decided.  But in the views of the President, and following the questions that have been asked in this room, he believes that these meetings, as much as possible, should be open to the press.  Yeah.  

No further questions? I would like to wish all of you a pleasant and safe weekend.  Thank you.

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