|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of the noon briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.
Good afternoon. I will start with two appointments by the Secretary-General:
The Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Sergio de Queiroz Duarte of Brazil as the High Representative for Disarmament at the Under-Secretary-General level.
Mr. Duarte is a career diplomat and holds the rank of Ambassador in the Brazilian Foreign Service, where he has served for 48 years. During his career, Ambassador Duarte represented his country at numerous international meetings in the field of disarmament, arms control and non-proliferation, including the General Assembly’s First Committee and the UN Disarmament Commission. He has served as the Chairman of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)Board of Governors.
There is more information in his bio upstairs.
**Capital Master Plan Appointment
The Secretary-General has also appointed Mr. Michael Adlerstein of the United States as Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan (CMP). This appointment will enable the United Nations to move forward with the implementation phase of the Capital Master Plan, the $1.9 billion renovation project of the Organization’s New York Headquarters complex, which will take place over the next seven years.
Most recently, Adlerstein was the Vice-President and Architect of the New York Botanical Garden. He has had a long and distinguished career with the US Department of Interior. Most notably, he oversaw the restoration of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. He led the Master Planning team and managed the team of architects, engineers, landscape architects and other consultants through the planning and design process, and later managed the complexities of construction on Ellis Island. The success of the project led to his promotion to Chief Historical Architect for the Department of the Interior.
There is a bio with more of his background upstairs. He also served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Colombia, and has worked as a State Department consultant on preservation issues on numerous projects, including the preservation of the Taj Mahal.
**Secretary-General in Geneva
The Secretary-General today is in Geneva. Speaking this morning at the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council in Geneva, the Secretary-General underlined the need for a strong, sustained effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. It can mean, the Secretary General said: “The difference between the success and failure of our grand endeavour. Needless to say, millions of lives quite literally hang in the balance”.
The Secretary-General welcomed the focus of the meeting on two of the Millennium goals: cutting extreme poverty and hunger in half and building the global partnership for development. Speaking later at a press conference, he added, “The goals are achievable if countries commit themselves to sound governance and accountability, and receive adequate financial and technical assistance from the developed countries.”
Turning to Darfur, the Secretary-General stated that it has been the highest priority on his agenda and said that “During the last six months, we have made slow, but credible and considerable progress. The people in Darfur have suffered too much, and the international community has waited too long. It is now high time for us to take the necessary action, and I hope that the Sudanese Government will implement faithfully the commitments they have made,” he said. It is vital, he added, that the African troops, now deployed on the ground until December, receive the financial resources so badly needed to protect and assist the population in Darfur.
On climate change, the Secretary-General emphasized the need to galvanize “political will and coordinate concrete action before the Bali negotiations in December. Time is of the essence”, he said.
And recalling his brief visit to Afghanistan over the weekend, the Secretary-General once again expressed his concern and sadness by the continuing violence and particularly the casualties suffered by civilians. He said he had made a strong request to Afghani leaders, as well as military commanders, to avoid such casualties.
We have the full text of both the Secretary-General’s remarks to ECOSOC and his press encounter upstairs. And there is a correction: his visit to Afghanistan, as you know, was last Friday.
And then tomorrow, he travels from Geneva to Rome, where there is a two-day conference on the rule of law in Afghanistan, which actually opened today in Rome, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, is co-chairing it today on behalf of the Secretary-General, who will arrive in Rome tomorrow, as I just mentioned.
One of the key goals of the conference is to ensure international and Afghan support at the highest levels for the consolidation of the rule of law and for improving the justice and law enforcement institutions in post-conflict Afghanistan. Among the documents being presented today are the Government’s justice sector priorities, a donor implementation plan and an outline of the national justice programme for Afghanistan.
President Karzai is leading the Afghan delegation and is expected to meet the Secretary-General in the course of the event to continue the conversation they began on Friday during his visit there.
**Secretary-General Statement on the United Kingdom
And then just for the record: We had issued a statement yesterday, in which the Secretary-General deplored the terrorist attack, which took place Saturday at Glasgow airport in Great Britain, as well as the attempt to explode car bombs in London on Friday.
The Secretary-General in that statement reiterated that no cause or belief can justify such acts of terrorism.
That is available for you upstairs.
**The Deputy Secretary-General in Ghana
The Deputy Secretary-General is participating today in the two-day summit of the African Union, which ends today, in the Ghanaian capital, Accra.
Addressing the opening session of the summit on Sunday, the Deputy Secretary-General stressed the need for strong partnerships to help Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
She stated that the Secretary-General, during last month’s G-8 summit in Germany, had launched the MDG Africa Steering Group, bringing together the leaders of UN entities, international financial institutions and the African Union Commission to work closely with donors and developing countries to provide a vital new impetus for a continent-wide scaling up of interventions.
On the subject of a Union Government for Africa -- the theme of the summit -- the Deputy Secretary-General noted that the UN’s long-standing support for stronger regional integration in Africa is a way of assisting efforts to overcoming obstacles to closer union.
She has also highlighted UN-AU efforts to bring a speedy resolution to the crisis in Darfur.
She has been holding bilateral meetings with a number of Heads of State and Government, including Presidents Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia, Laurent Gbagbo of Côte D’Ivoire, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Blaise Compaoré of Burkina Faso, Ahmad Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone and also with the Chairman of the African Union Commission, Alpha Oumar Konaré, which is taking place right now.
The Deputy Secretary-General is now scheduled to leave Accra this evening for Nairobi, Kenya, which is the last stop of her current trip overseas.
And here in New York, China has assumed the presidency of the Security Council for the month of July, and Ambassador Guangya Wang will hold his customary press conference in this room tomorrow to brief you on the Council’s programme of work for the month.
On Friday, the Security Council adopted a number of decisions, including a technical rollover extending the mandate of the UN Mission in Côte d’Ivoire until 16 July and a Presidential Statement condemning the attack on a plane carrying Prime Minister (Guilluame) Soro.
On Bosnia and Herzegovina, Council members adopted a resolution approving the recommendation by the Steering Board of the Peace Implementation Council to appoint a new High Representative. The Council also approved the Steering Board’s recommendation to extend the mandate of that office until 30 June 2008.
The Committee on Missing Persons in Cyprus announced today that the bodies of the first 28 missing persons have been positively identified. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cyprus, Michael Møller, urged everyone to exercise all due restraint in this sensitive and emotional time and to respect the privacy of the affected families.
Both the Committee and the Special Representative hope that, despite their sorrow, the families will find relief and solace after so many years of uncertainty about the fate of their relatives.
According to UN data, over 1,400 Greek Cypriots and 500 Turkish Cypriots are listed as missing. Some 270 remains have been unearthed on both sides of the ceasefire line following an agreement last year.
**Internally Displaced Persons in Côte d’Ivoire
The Representative of the Secretary-General for Internally Displaced Persons, Walter Kalin, concluded his week-long visit to Côte d’Ivoire this weekend. Saying it was time for action, he called on the Government to implement the necessary means to help the return process of internally displaced persons (IDPs). He also called on the international community and donors to support these programmes.
During his trip, the representative continued his dialogue with the authorities and all concerned actors concerning IDPs. He was also in Côte d’Ivoire to identify the needs of IDPs in the country and to assess their overall situation, following the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement.
And in Timor-Leste, Saturday’s parliamentary elections were conducted in a generally peaceful atmosphere, and the security situation remains calm with no major incidents reported.
The National Election Commission announced that, so far, approximately 20 per cent of the total votes cast have been counted. Preliminary results of the elections are expected to be out this week.
And then, as I just mentioned, tomorrow, following the noon briefing and the Security Council consultations, Ambassador Wang of China will brief you here, in room 226, as the Security Council’s President for July, on the Council’s programme of work for the month.
And that is what I have for you today.
**Questions and Answers
Question: I wanted to ask you a question about the note to correspondents that was put out on the Western Sahara last Friday. First of all, it mentions that the Special Envoy is going to give an oral briefing to the Council, so I would like to know when that will be. And the second thing is, is that the note to correspondents refers to the fact that there was a paragraph in “Observations” that was taken out of the report. It became a revised report. But what was in the paragraph was not retracted. And that is the question that I have.
Has there been a change in policy? I asked that question on Friday, and Michèle said that the paragraph would be retracted, or that the report would be revised. But it just says that “It would be in the best interest of the process for the Secretary-General’s Envoy to share observations and recommendations to the Security Council in this coming oral briefing to the Council and to the parties directly within the negotiations themselves, rather than in a public report.” So, that means that the UN still believes that the only viable report is the Moroccan proposal. That is what I don’t understand. There is no reference to the Frente Polisario proposal. So, is there now a change of policy in the UN on this issue?
Deputy Spokesperson: There are two things we have to wait for now. One is, as you mentioned from the note to correspondents, there will be a revised report. I am told that that will come out sometime today, so we will follow that up. The second thing is, we really do have to find out, once the report comes out, what Mr. Van Walsum has to say about the talks. So that will happen, as you mentioned, during the month of July. And we can ask Ambassador Wang tomorrow, or as soon as the Security Council programme is adopted, which will be tomorrow morning, we’ll know when that is.
Question: So the revision is also going to have a retraction, is that what you are saying?
Deputy Spokesperson: Let us wait for it to come out now. All I have now is what you saw on Friday, and we are expecting something shortly.
Question: Sorry, I have one more question on policy. I noticed this is very late, but it is better late than never, I was told that when Ban Ki-moon visited the Occupied Territories and Israel, that he went and spoke to UN staff members in Occupied East Jerusalem, and when he did, he said, “I am happy to be in Israel.” So, is there a change in policy in regards to the Occupied Territories, because this is news to me. But I just wanted to see what comments the UN has on this.
Deputy Spokesperson: We would have to go back. I don’t remember his remarks when he was there. This is a while back. So let me go back and check to see if those are his remarks. But no, there is no change in UN policy.
Question: Well, his comments were not released to the public because they were to the UN staff. And that is the reason why…
Deputy Spokesperson: There is no change in UN policy.
Question: Two questions on the appointments. First on the Disarmament appointment: Is the budgeting available for this new post in the Secretary-General’s office, because I understood that either ACABQ (Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions) or the Fifth Committee had actually budgeted for the Disarmament Department. So, why don’t you do this one and I have another one on the next appointment.
Deputy Spokesperson: Okay, I don’t have details on that. I can tell you that this is a new post and one that the Secretary-General welcomes as a result of being voted on as part of his reform package. Let me look into the specifics of the funding.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent that the High Representative will report directly to the Secretary-General with greater access and participation in top policy-making.]
Question: On the Capital Master Plan. In light of the Secretary-General’s commitment to the “greening” of the United Nations, is there going to be any kind of a rethinking about how the Capital Master Plan is carried out to make it more “green”, perhaps?
Deputy Spokesperson: Your question is, would they revisit the…?
Question: Will it be revisited at all in light of the Secretary-General’s stated commitment to trying to reduce…
Deputy Spokesperson: I think it will definitelybe part of the work that will, I mean, as you know, the work has not started yet…
Question: Will they be rethinking the Plan?
Deputy Spokesperson: The Plan has been approved by the General Assembly in terms of the scope of it. But obviously, in the course of carrying it out, the Secretary-General has now made it known that he would like these considerations on the “greening” to be taken into account. So I am sure that the new head of CMP (Capital Master Plan) will do so. As soon as he starts –- he will start soon –- and he gets accustomed to all the UN terms and the project in more depth, we will try to get him here to give you a briefing. I think that will be the best thing.
Question: I was just wondering, is there a new date for the Quartet meeting in which the Secretary-General is taking part?
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t think there is a firm date that has been announced. I know that there they were looking to have the next principals’ meeting in the region soon.
Question: Can we have Mr. Van Walsum to brief us again, to remove a lot of the misunderstandings?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, when he briefs the Council, we certainly will ask him to brief you afterwards.
Question: Excuse my ignorance about the procedure here. Is it normal heree, or regular to have a report that is out, already distributed and then you have some remarks, and you say we are going to have another report, or we are going to do some editing to the original one… is this regular, or normal, or…?
Deputy Spokesperson: No, this is not something that happens all the time. But in the course, as you know, in this specific case, given the sensitivities and the delicate situation of these talks regarding Western Sahara, I think there was a lot of consideration that went into it, and as a result of that consideration that the decision was taken to do so. So, no, it is not something that is done regularly. It is not.
Question: And when it is out today, it is supposed to be the final one, yes?
Deputy Spokesperson: That is correct.
Question: I want to support that the question about the Occupied Territories must be answered. It is very important, I mean, did he just misspeak, or was…? It is very, very important. Another thing I wanted to ask you, was Pakistan has again requesting some help from the United Nations? Earlier, help was given. UNICEF was very quick in coming to help Pakistan. And now, the Government of Pakistan has again asked for help, because there are some more floods coming. Is there any update on that?
Deputy Spokesperson: We have not received one today from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, but I am sure that we can get one for you.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent that the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is not aware of any request from the Pakistani Government for help from the United Nations in the wake of the recent storms and flooding. The United Nations has provided an initial cash grant to the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan, and preparations are also being made for a United Nations disaster and assessment coordination team to go there. An announcement on United Nations disaster assistance is expected tomorrow.]
Question: On UNMOVIC (United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission), has any decision been made by the Secretary-General on what is going to happen to those voluminous files? Are they going to the Department of Disarmament? Is some of the old staff being kept on to classify them? What happens now? And then I have another short question.
Deputy Spokesperson: I had something on UNMOVIC for you. But why don’t you ask the other question while I look for it.
Question: We are finding out later and later the Secretary-General’s plans, the Deputy Secretary-General’s plans, the itineraries, even when it was Washington and Afghanistan, after the fact. And the DSG’s little schedule today helps absolutely no one, rather than the people we have staffed on the spot.
Deputy Spokesperson: We announced the DSG’s trip, her itinerary about a week ago, according to normal. Yes, we announced the DSG’s programme.
Question: I take it back then.
Deputy Spokesperson: Washington, in general, we announce a day or so before. We try to announce the other trips generally about five days before they start. Afghanistan was a surprise visit because of security reasons. So, no, there has been no change of policy and we try to…
Question: …also, when you have busy people you have to make time for it. So I just hope this is not going to be a procedure. Now UNMOVIC?
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, just on UNMOVIC, for the record: “The Secretary-General commends the dedicated work of the UNMOVIC and the IAEA in implementing their mandates given by the Security Council to verify Iraq’s compliance with its obligation under relevant resolutions. The Secretary-General will take all necessary measures to implement the decisions made by the Security Council in relation to the appropriate disposition of archives and other property and to transfer the remaining funds to the Government of Iraq. The Secretary-General looks forward to Iraq’s adherence to all applicable non-proliferation treaties and arrangements.”
That is what I have for you.
Question: Can you check on, because that does not answer the question.
Deputy Spokesperson: And your question is?
Question: Where do the archives go, is it the Disarmament Department? And who sorts out the classified…
Deputy Spokesperson: I think this is something that is precisely what this resolution that was just passed Friday, and I think this is something that is being looked into as we speak. There will be expertise left in UNMOVIC to be looking into all those issues. So, the decision, I believe, has not been made yet.
Question: Two questions. One is about another Ban Ki-moon visit. I think after Afghanistan, he went to Georgia? And there is a report from Georgia saying that he dined with the President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, and was only filmed by the Protocol Service because, quote: “Ban Ki-moon himself was said to have demanded that the media not be allowed to film his visit.” Is that the case? And why was nothing said about his visit to Georgia?
Deputy Spokesperson: It was, as you know, the visit to Afghanistan was a surprise visit. His next official stop was Geneva, and the stop in Georgia was a technical stop-over stop. And that was due to regulations of the flight crew, etcetera. It was designated as a technical stop-over. There was no meeting that had been previously scheduled with the President. It was only upon arrival that a dinner was spontaneously set up, so to speak.
Question: But is this report correct, that Ban Ki-moon or his staff said that the Georgian media should not film this meeting with the President?
Deputy Spokesperson: I am not familiar with that.
Question: And I wanted to ask, I have heard about this meeting of the UN Communications Group in Madrid, recently. Supposedly, among the things discussed was: What is a journalist? I am wondering if you could confirm this meeting of the UN Communication Group, and also give some kind of a readout, particularly on that topic, but also on other topics discussed.
Deputy Spokesperson: Sure.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent the following:
The United Nations Communications Group, which is composed of 40 United Nations system entities, holds an internal annual meeting of heads of public information and communications at rotating locations to discuss issues related to United Nations information policies and programmes. Thirty-seven United Nations entities participated in this year's meeting, which was hosted by the World Tourism Organization in Madrid.
The main focus of this year's annual meeting was to discuss the "One UN" initiative and its impact on United Nations public information and communications at the global and local levels.
The annual meeting also discussed the further coordination of United Nations system-wide public information plans on the 2007 Millennium Development Goals midpoint year, climate change and pandemic influenza, among others.
The annual meeting also provided an opportunity to discuss a number of practical issues, like, for example, media accreditation, and ways to share and coordinate media lists; and the need to build and regularly update a United Nations system-wide calendar for coordinating United Nations media launches and events.
The United Nations Communications Group this year also discussed the phenomenon of new media, including webzines, podcasts, wikis and blogs, and how to engage and use these new media, together with traditional media, in communicating the work of the United Nations to a worldwide audience.]
Question: I have a follow-up to the question about UNMOVIC. It just seems that there was some substantial sets of issues raised with regard to the inspections, and the UN’s role, and other countries’ roles, and these conclusions now –- and I guess it is a question for the Security Council –- but I wonder if the Secretariat is looking into dealing with those recommendations and the report, because it seems a lot of work and effort was put into this. There are the consequences of what happened and is there a lesson that can be learned towards the future, and how is the Secretary-General addressing that?
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I think I just read in the statement that the Secretary-General will take all the necessary measures to implement the decisions made by the Council.
Question: But could you ask, maybe, or… because there is a set of recommendations; we can look on the website and see them, but that’s it. And those recommendations are very serious, because there is a real problem at least in Iraq, at this point, because of that, and there is the potential of that happening again? So, it just seems that it is not quite adequate to just have some report of that nature, just going into some archives, and somebody take some recommendations… it just seems that some more serious attention to this and us hearing who is taking the serious attention and what the lessons are from this and how this will affect UN policy and the Secretary-General’s policy from now on.
Deputy Spokesperson: Thank you.
[As foreshadowed in its quarterly report late last month, the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) has now published on its website (www.unmovic.org) its compendium of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programmes. It’s a 1,000 plus page document that provides a detailed account of Iraq’s chemical and biological warfare programmes and associated delivery systems, as well as United Nations efforts to map and verify the true extent and nature of Iraq’s activities.
The lessons learned chapter of this compendium represents the views of the inspectors themselves and is deliberately presented in a bold and honest way, highlighting at times the difficulties faced by inspectors and many of the strengths and weaknesses of the United Nations inspection system. No attempt has been made to shy away from the mistakes made and difficulties encountered. By highlighting these issues, it seems the best chance that this document will prove beneficial, should another United Nations verification system become operational in the future.]
Question: My question is kind of generic. The reason I bring it here, Marie, is because this is the only place for a public forum. The question I ask is, why am I being profiled by this Organization? This morning was the second time a dog was called to sniff my bag. I waited 10 minutes, this morning. Unheard of. I get into the building. There is no problem. I don’t go through the X-ray machine. This is the second time. That is two times too many. And I want to know why. In fact, I am the only journalist, ever, that I know of, that DPI (Department of Public Information) sent the FBI to his house. So this needs to stop. I want to know why I am being profiled, and I want it to stop, or I go to my computer, and I start writing. Because I think that I am the only one who is going through this. And I sat at my window this morning and watched the gate. And nobody else had their bags sniffed like that. That is profiling. I don’t let the NYPD do it and I won’t let the UN get away with it. Thank you.
Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we will certainly look into that for you.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent that it is standard operational procedure to have bags on wheels entering the building to be sniffed.]
Question: I guess in the follow-up to the UN peacekeepers in Kosovo, the two deaths by rubber bullets? There is a report today that the UN Special Prosecutor Robert Dean is recommending that the UN not use rubber bullets any more. I don’t know if that is limited to Kosovo. Is it the UN’s intention to continue to use rubber bullets?
Deputy Spokesperson: I saw the press report, but I don’t have anything directly. So, let me find out for you afterwards.
Question: Okay. And then one more. Friday there was this question of how individuals’ photographs become part of the array of people to be stopped at the gate, or some sort of heightened security. One had to do with the UNDP [United Nations Development Programme) whistle-blower. Senator Norm Coleman had written to Ban Ki-moon, naming the individual. It was also in The New York Times Friday. I never got any kind of answer in terms of confirmation that this person is in the security array of photographs that runs in the computers on First Avenue. And also, most importantly, how the person, given that he is a whistle-blower who has filed with the Ethics Office, was put into that array to be stopped at the gate.
Deputy Spokesperson: I believe my colleague did get back to you on that question.
Question: I didn’t receive anything.
Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have it with me, but I am pretty sure that a response was sent to you. Let me check upstairs, because I remember seeing something. But in terms of a letter from Norm Coleman, I believe, yes, there was a letter from him. But I can’t get into specifics of that letter. You’d have to ask him.
[The Deputy Spokesperson later reminded the correspondent that the Ethics Office had written to him that, in relation to any case involving an individual seeking protection against retaliation, the Ethics Office will neither confirm nor deny that it is reviewing a case, unless the particular individual has provided his or her informed consent to do so.
Given that the individual has not given informed consent, the Ethics Office could not confirm whether he/she is in a security photo library of people not allowed by security to enter the building or not.]
Question: Another thing on letters. There was a question last week about these Rwanda requests. There were two separate requests. One was from an association of genocide survivors, asking that the archives of the Rwanda Court be returned to the Rwandan Government when it is finished. And there was also a request by the guy profiled in “Hotel Rwanda”, saying that he has spoken with Ban Ki-moon. There is a big dispute in Rwanda right now about whether he did or not. Can you… have either of those communications, were they received by the Secretariat, and what is the Secretariat’s response?
Deputy Spokesperson: On the latter, I believe, I think we were asked if a letter was received. And I think that the answer was that we could not track down any such letter. The former was from a group of, what was the first letter?
Question: One was from the Ibuka, the genocide survivors’ group.
Deputy Spokesperson: Yes, I believe we did receive a letter from the first group, and I think there will be a response, but I don’t know what it is.
Question: On UNDP. Would it be possible to request someone from UNDP to brief us again, because there are lots of questions we have.
Deputy Spokesperson: We can put in a request. You can also pose your questions directly to them.
Question: It would be better to have them on camera so that [inaudible].
Deputy Spokesperson: We can relay the request.
Have a good afternoon now. Thank you.
* *** *For information media • not an official record