7 November 2008
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon all

**Secretary-General’s Press Conference

The Secretary-General just concluded a press conference in Nairobi, telling reporters that he had come to Nairobi with a very heavy heart, but is now able to return with some encouragement, after seeing the strong will and commitment demonstrated by leaders of the region.  And you’ll have, of course, a full transcript of the press conference later on today.

In Nairobi, Kenya, today, the Secretary-General told a regional summit meeting on the situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo that, for far too long, peace and security in Central Africa has been threatened by armed groups, domestic and foreign, present on that country’s soil.  Neither the DRC, nor Rwanda, nor the rest of Central Africa can afford to be dragged back into conflict, he argued.

The Secretary-General outlined three priorities.

First, he spoke of the need to take urgent measures to contain the present crisis created by the upsurge of fighting in the eastern DRC.  The United Nations Mission (MONUC) will continue to work to the full measure of its capacity, with the Congolese Government and with other parties concerned, to ensure that a maximum of civilians are protected.

The Secretary-General also drew attention to the huge humanitarian crisis worsened by the recent fighting on the ground, saying that the United Nations and its international partners are mobilizing all possible resources to provide urgent assistance.  He exhorted all parties to ensure that international humanitarian law is observed and that access to suffering populations is guaranteed.

And third, he emphasized the need to tackle the root causes of the crisis, saying that it is only at the political level that lasting solutions can be found.  We need to end the conflict in the east, he said, and prevent it from spilling over into the wider subregion.

To assist in this task, the Secretary-General presented former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, his Special Envoy for eastern DRC, saying that Obasanjo will work very closely with regional leaders to reach comprehensive and durable solutions to the problems created by the continued existence and destructive activities of the illegal armed groups.

Prior to the start of the African Union-sponsored meeting on Friday, the Secretary-General had a number of bilateral meetings, including with President Joseph Kabila of the DRC and President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.  He also met with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, who is also the Chair of the African Union, as well as the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping.  Special Envoy Obasanjo joined him in those meetings.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

You just heard Mr. Mulet about the situation on the ground.  Intermittent fighting continued in North Kivu this morning, according to MONUC.  A counter-attack last night landed the Congolese army the upper hand in Nyanzale, which had yesterday fallen to rebels loyal to Laurent Nkunda, who have now retreated to the town’s outskirts.  There are concerns that 65,000 displaced civilians at the Kibati camps, just north of Goma, are increasingly in harm’s way, as heavy artillery fighting intensified overnight in the area.  Thousands of camp residents who had fled the rattling of guns last night are now said to have regained their shelters.  But the situation remains tense and unpredictable.

The latest estimate by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, places at 250,000 people the number of North Kivu civilians displaced by the violence since September.  The bulk of the recently displaced came from Rutshuru and Kiwanja.  In response, UN agencies and their partner NGOs have stepped up relief operations, handing out food, health supplies, shelter equipment and water and sanitation equipment.  As of today, the World Food Programme (WFP) continued food distribution to some 135,000 people in six camps, including those at Kibati.

With more cases of cholera reported at IDP [internally displaced persons] camps, UNICEF is increasing the availability of clean water and of water purification tablets and is installing more latrines.  Diarrhoea and measles among children remain top concerns, and UNICEF is launching today a vaccination campaign for some 13,000 children at the Kibati camps.  It hopes to reach a total of 73,000 children in coming days.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo -- Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide

We have a statement by the Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Within the context of his responsibilities, the Special Adviser has closely followed the situation in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Noting the tragic history of loss of life in the region over at least the past 15 years, including on the basis of ethnicity, the Special Adviser has been especially alarmed by the escalation of violence in the past few weeks.

The Special Adviser notes that the intention to destroy an ethnic population group, in whole or in part, is a grave crime under international criminal law -- one which the international community, including Member States in the region and beyond, has an obligation to prevent and to punish when it does occur.  He emphasizes that the belligerents in eastern Congo must refrain from actions that might encourage genocide and that they, and any actors who provide material support, will be held accountable if they fail to do so.

The Special Adviser welcomes the initiative launched in Nairobi to resolve the current crisis.  He is also in contact with relevant authorities to indicate his own intention to visit the countries of the region as soon as possible to assess recent developments from the perspective of his mandate and to provide advice and support accordingly.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo -- Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict

Still on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, we have a statement also from Ms. [Radhika] Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of The Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.

“Children are increasingly victimized and traumatized by the recurrent hostilities in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo,” said Ms. Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  She urges the parties to the conflict to halt fighting and to take all necessary measures to protect civilians, including children.

“The population in the Kivus is terribly vulnerable, especially children.  They have to flee the fighting, are internally displaced and are subject to extreme violence,” stated Ms. Coomaraswamy.

The Special Representative raised specific concerns about the systematic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and child soldiering.  “Widespread recruitment of children by the troops of Laurent Nkunda and the Mayi Mayi continues.  Forcing them to participate in the hostilities is a war crime,” she underlined.

Ms. Coomaraswamy welcomed the High-Level Summit Meeting in Nairobi and urges the international community to ensure robust peacekeeping to protect civilians.  “All necessary measures should be taken to stop the suffering of the population, especially children.  The protection of the most vulnerable should be an integral part of the peace negotiations, including the immediate release of all children associated with fighting forces as a priority,” concludes Ms. Coomaraswamy.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Upon leaving Nairobi, the Secretary-General will head for Sharm el-Sheikh, where the Egyptian Government will host the Quartet meeting.  On Sunday, members of the Quartet will be briefed by the parties to the Annapolis process.

The Secretary-General will be in New York on Monday and will brief you on Tuesday at his regular monthly press conference, which was moved by one week.  That will be at 11 a.m. here in 226 on Tuesday.

** Middle East

Out on the racks today are two related reports by the Secretary-General on the Middle East.  The first report concerns Israeli settlements.  It recommends that Israel immediately dismantle settlement outposts erected since March 2001 and freeze all settlement activity.  It also says Israel should take action to halt attacks by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians.

The second report deals with Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people.  It notes the worsening human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.  It also says the General Assembly should seek help from the Security Council in implementing the International Court of Justice’s 2004 Advisory Opinion on the Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

These two reports were prepared at the request of the General Assembly.

** Sudan

We have available upstairs a press release from the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) about the ongoing African Union fact-finding mission currently in Darfur, which is in the region to mend relations between Chad and Sudan. Speaking to UNAMID, the leader of the mission, former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, said that he was encouraged by the comprehensive agreement reached on the deployment of UNAMID, saying, “We can now be optimistic that UNAMID is going to work in better conditions.”

** Somalia

Still in Africa, we have a statement by Ms. Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, saying that she was horrified by the stoning to death of a young Somali girl on 27 October 2008.  She strongly condemned the incident and urgently called for better protection of children in Somalia.

UNICEF reported that a 13-year-old Somali girl, Aisha Duhulow, was stoned to death in a stadium of spectators in Kismayo on 27 October 2008 after having been found guilty of adultery.  However, reports indicate that she had been raped by three men while travelling on foot to visit her grandmother in the war-torn capital, Mogadishu.  Following the assault, she sought protection from local leaders, who then accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death.

“The incident highlights the extreme nature of violence against children and women in Somalia, which has been heightened by the increasing lawlessness,” stated Ms. Coomaraswamy.

The Special Representative also raised serious concerns about widespread recruitment and use of children by all parties to the conflict.  She also said that children were killed and maimed on a daily basis in military operations.

“It is the duty of the international community and the local authorities to stop these violations and to ensure better protection for children.  No efforts should be spared,” concluded Ms. Coomaraswamy.

** Chad

On Chad, malnutrition is now very high among children under five in Chad’s western Kanem region, said Kingsley Amaning, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Chad.  Amaning appealed for an urgent response to the emerging crisis, calling the results of a recent health survey in the region alarming.  According to that survey, three children under five die every day for every 10,000 people in western Chad.

Chad is already experiencing grave humanitarian crises.  They concern over 315,000 Sudanese and Central African refugees and nearly 180,000 IDPs, who are heavily reliant on humanitarian aid for their survival.  Except for approximately 57,000 Central African refugees in the south, all IDPs and Sudanese refugees live in the arid lands of eastern Chad.

**Deputy Secretary-General -– Peacekeeping

The Deputy Secretary-General today made remarks at the General Assembly’s commemorative meeting on the sixtieth anniversary of peacekeeping.

She said peacekeeping has evolved into one of the cornerstones of international diplomacy, with more than 100,000 UN peacekeepers deployed in 18 missions across the globe.  But she stressed that peacekeepers need support.  They need clear and achievable mandates, as well as the political will and material resources of Member States.

The Deputy Secretary-General concluded by paying tribute to the more than 2,500 peacekeepers and other personnel who have given their lives while serving the United Nations.  We have her full remarks upstairs.

**Security Council

At 3 this afternoon, the Security Council will hold a formal meeting, followed by consultations, to discuss the work of the UN Mission in Nepal.  Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, will brief the Council on the work of that Mission.

Ian Martin has informed us that his schedule is too busy this afternoon, so he won’t be able to talk to you at the stakeout.  Instead, he’ll speak to you as the guest at the noon briefing next Monday.

After simultaneous, separate meetings yesterday, the Security Council and the General Assembly, as you know, re-elected two judges whose terms were due to expire and chose three new judges to serve on the International Court of Justice. The five elected judges came from Brazil, France, Jordan, Somalia and the United Kingdom.

**Climate Change

A High-Level Conference on Climate Change: Technology Development and Technology Transfer, is taking place today and tomorrow in Beijing.  The Conference is co-organized by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of China.

In his keynote address, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang delivered a message from the Secretary-General.  In it, he stressed that technology is one area that unites the interests of developed and developing countries alike.  All countries have an interest in the rapid development, deployment and diffusion of climate-friendly technologies, which enhance the ability of countries to take effective mitigation actions and pursue adaptation strategies, he said.  The text of that message is available upstairs.

** Honduras

We have an update from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Honduras.  Tropical Storm Paloma has caused flooding in new areas of the country, bringing the total number of people affected by floods to almost 320,000.  OCHA says that urgent support is needed to avert a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation.

So far, the World Food Programme has delivered food aid to nearly 16,000 families living in shelters in isolated areas.  The World Health Organization (WHO) is mobilizing medical teams and purchasing emergency and general medicines.  The Pan-American Health Organization has also mobilized regional experts in water and sanitation, and disaster management.

UNICEF is also providing assistance, while OCHA and the UN Development Programme (UNDP) have provided more than $200,000 in cash.  This is in addition to an allocation of $1.5 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).

** Hungary -- International Monetary Fund

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved a Stand-By Arrangement for Hungary.  Over the next 17 months, the country will have access to more than €12 billion.

Approved under the fast-track emergency mechanism, the funds are expected to help Hungary rapidly reduce stress on its financial markets.

The IMF says its support, combined with commitments from the European Union and the World Bank, should provide Hungary with sufficient reserves to meet external obligations, even in extreme market circumstances.  You have a press release upstairs.

**United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization

On UNESCO, representatives of the project “Youth Voices against Racism”, an initiative of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), have presented to the European Parliament 10 recommendations to counteract racism in, and through, sports.

One of the recommendations involved printing anti-racist slogans on containers of drinks sold in stadiums.

The recommendations emerged from a meeting with young people between the ages of 15 and 18.  There is more information also upstairs.

**World Food Programme

The World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a $12 million contribution from the Government of India that will be used to provide fortified biscuits made from Indian wheat for 1.2 million school children in Afghanistan.

The biscuits, which were produced in India, will be shipped to Afghanistan through Pakistan.  This marks a major transportation breakthrough, opening a new route for humanitarian aid from India to Afghanistan.

**Secretary-General’s Trip Announcement -– Los Angeles

More on the Secretary-General’s future trips.

Next week, the Secretary-General is set to embark on his first visit to Los Angeles, California, as part of an overall United States outreach.

During his brief two-day stay, he will meet with leaders of the LA community and beyond, including the Governor of California and the Los Angeles City Mayor.

As part of the programme, the Secretary-General will reach out to Hollywood and meet with representatives and leaders from the creative community and the entertainment industry.  These meetings aim to build partnerships to highlight issues of global concern and tell the UN story.

He will also speak at the University of California Los Angeles, where he is to receive a UCLA medal in recognition of his contribution to world peace and security.

From Los Angeles, the Secretary-General will connect on to Washington, D.C., to attend the G20 Summit meeting on the global financial crisis.

**General Assembly Culture of Peace -– 12-13 November media arrangements

And just an announcement:  there will be increased security levels on the UN campus on November 12 and 13 during the visit of Heads of State and Government who are participating in the meeting on the Culture of Peace.  Media Liaison will issue a note with today’s Media Alert on how this could impact media.  As well on Monday, a technical briefing by Media Liaison and Security will follow the noon briefing.

And that’s all I have for you today.  Yes, Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her way to Sharm el-Sheikh, said that she was also now disappointed that the Middle East peace process did not bring to fruition a two-State solution in the occupied area, and does the Secretary-General share that view that now the peace process may not be dead but at this point in time, before January 20 it cannot be done?

Spokesperson:  As I said, the Secretary-General is to meet the Quartet members this weekend in Sharm el-Sheikh.  They will be discussing the issues.  They will be briefed on the Annapolis process by the parties to the Annapolis process.  So, you know, let’s wait before I give you a reaction on the part of the Secretary-General.

Question:  Did he have any reaction to these protests in East Jerusalem by the Palestinians who are protesting Israeli construction of this museum at the cemetery over there?

Spokesperson:  Yes, we were asked the question yesterday and we’re still waiting to hear from our mission over there.

Question:  You don’t have any update on that as well?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any update, no.

Question:  Just one more question. On the dues, the Secretary-General rang the alarm bell this morning…

Spokesperson:  On?

Question:  On the UN dues…

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  …owed by the Member States.  And he listed like 31 countries who have paid and some that have not paid.  Do you have, can you tell us which is the country, what countries, I mean, have the largest amount of dues to be paid to the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  Okay, we have a full list upstairs which we can communicate too you.

Question:  So you don’t have… Okay.

Spokesperson:  I don’t have it with me, but we have a list.  We keep, of course, a regular count of which countries have paid and which ones have not paid.

Question:  And can somebody tell us at least, you know, how dire the situation is with the United Nations?

Spokesperson:  Well.  You know, I am planning, as soon as the discussions on the budgets are finished in the General Assembly, in the Committee, to have someone come brief you on the budget.

Question:  My question has to do with Lebanon.  The Prime Minister has sent a letter to the Secretary-General regarding the cluster bombs and a map.  So, my question is, has the Secretary-General received this letter and what’s his response?  Like, has he asked Israel to provide a map to these bombs?

Spokesperson:  Well, I don’t have… I can try to confirm for you if the letter was received and at any rate, such a letter would be, of course, circulated to the Security Council.

Question:  On the SG’s visit to Hollywood, is he seeking to have a specific movie made; does he have an idea?  Or is he seeking to have, you know, UN themes addressed in movies?  And when he’s there, is he going to be meeting with any sort of celebrities with whom the UN already has relationship?  I’m thinking of, you know, Nicole Kidman, Angelina Jolie, people like that.

Spokesperson:  Well, yes.  There will be quite a bit of that.  He is meeting with the Writers’ Guild and as you know, before this meeting, we had another meeting with movie producers that took place in Jackson Hole, and we told you about this at the time it took place.  And that meeting has already had some results.  We have eight short films that were already made on the Millennium Development Goals, on each one of the Millennium Development Goals.  And so, it is part of the ongoing efforts to bring the UN to the creative community and get them to be involved.  We have had a number of contacts made and I will tell you a lot more about the trip next week; about who he is going to meet and what it’s going to be like.

Question:  How about climate change?  Will he talk about climate change also?

Spokesperson:  Yes.  Well, he did last time in Jackson Hole and I am sure it will come up also during those meetings with the Writers’ Guild.  Yes.

Question:  A couple of separate questions.  Firstly, on this Somali rape business.  Does anyone know or can it be checked; does the crime of rape exist as a criminal offence in the Somali Democratic Republic?  As an institution, I am saying.  And I have two questions regarding the Middle East.  First, may I assume that there will be, you know, papers released or transcripts or something out of this Quartet meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh particularly in view of the fact that it involves the Quartet, to which the UN is a party, and it involves the SG’s personal presence.  Also, you mentioned the worsening situation in the Palestinian territory.  Is there any differentiation implied therein between the situation in Gaza and the situation in the West Bank?  The former obviously, being much, much worse.

Spokesperson:  I was relaying a report, which you can have on the racks with much more details.  And you can have everything in that report.  First thing, your question about Sharm el-Sheikh; there will be, of course, a statement from the Quartet after the meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.  So, by Sunday evening we should be issuing that statement.  In terms of… your first question was about the Somali girl.  I don’t know what, you know, what Somali law is.  I don’t have any information on Somali law.  I have to tell you the girl was supposedly stoned under the headline of adultery.  That’s what was said by the local authorities.

Question:  What I had meant to imply was if she is a victim of rape, how can she be tried -- and I’ve put the word “tried” in quotation marks -- “tried” for anything else simply for being a victim of another crime?  Unless rape is not a crime in Somalia.

Spokesperson:  I cannot second-guess the people who took that abhorrent decision; I cannot second-guess them.  All I can tell you is that this has created an uproar, really.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure, Michèle.  A couple of things:  the head of the International Maritime Organization has been quoted as saying that he’s been speaking with Ban Ki-moon about the end of, the expiration, of his ability to protect Somalia from pirating or from the pirates off the coast and that he has made recommendations.  Does the Secretariat have a view; I understand the Security Council will wind up passing it; but this guy has met with Ban Ki-moon to ask him to do something.  What’s Ban Ki-moon’s thought of what should be done?

Spokesperson:  Well, he is certainly going to send his conclusions to the Security Council on this issue.  I have no doubt.

Question:  And he has spoken…?

Spokesperson:  Yes, I can confirm, they have spoken, yes.

Question:  And also, and this is just sort of … it may seem clerical, but has the Secretary-General written a congratulatory letter to President-elect [Barack] Obama or spoken to him by phone?

Spokesperson:  He hasn’t spoken to him by phone yet, but as you know, he had to travel quite quickly, but it’s in the cards.  They’re going to be speaking, I hope soon, whenever that can be arranged.  But there is no letter.  There was just the statement that the Secretary-General made to you, right here.  And we don’t have a letter, no.

Question:  Because somebody came up with the one that Kofi Annan sent to Bush back in the day.  Is there; that was then; this is now?

Spokesperson: That was then, you know.  I am not aware of any letter being sent.

Question:  There is a report from Monrovia, Liberia, of an Australian UNMIL [United Nations Mission in Liberia] official being charged with failure to pay child support as a crime and he’s been told he couldn’t leave the country unless he faced these charges.  I guess he’s married to a Liberian woman and had a child with a Liberian woman.  What I want to know, that may seem kind of low on the radar, but is he covered by immunity?  How can a peacekeeping…?

Spokesperson:  In a case like this, no.

Question:  Because he is a civilian employee or because the charges…?

Spokesperson:  Well, because the charge has nothing to do with his mandate or his service.

Question:  The reason I don’t understand is:  if, for example, peacekeepers in the Congo were charged with rape, they were told, it was found they couldn’t be charged in the country, and presumably that’s not part of their mandate.  I don’t understand the difference.

Spokesperson:  Oh, you’re talking about now soldiers who are members of…

Question:  Okay, so the civilian ones are…

Spokesperson:  Yes, the civilians have to respond to charges in the country where they are, particularly charges like this.

[The correspondent was later informed that the person in question is no longer an UNMIL staff member.  His contract ended at the end of September.  His case has been discussed between the United Nations Mission in Liberia and United Nations Headquarters, and it was confirmed that he no longer has privileges and immunities.]

Question:  And does the UN, I mean, I understand this is one guy and maybe just a bad apple or he may be innocent, I mean, we don’t know.  Does the UN have any kind of programme to make sure that its personnel overseas, if they do marry locally, comply with laws and don’t give a bad name to the UN?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think the UN, says or does anything about that.  I mean they have to face the law, wherever they are.  For cases like this the UN has no policy.  Of course, the policy is people should pay child support, of course. 

Question:  I’m sorry, one last question about the other sideline in Serbia; it’s been reported that Serbia has won some concession over this plan from EULEX.  So I was wondering if the UN has any comment on this development.

Spokesperson:  Not yet.  Let’s wait for the Secretary-General’s report on the whole issue and you will have your answer.

Question:  Does the UN have any comment on the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] report on the Georgia situation, which indicates very clearly that the Georgian side was the one that initiated the fighting on August 7?  As a follow up, the British Officer Ryan, I believe, Grist, resigned immediately after giving his report to the OSCE on that.  Is there any explanation for his sudden resignation?

Spokesperson:  We have no comment to make on the OSCE report.  None.

Question:  Michèle, this question is a follow up on this.  If the United Nations doesn’t get enough money from the Member States, is it possible that the Capital Master Plan can be delayed?

Spokesperson:  No, as far as I know, the contributions to the Capital Master Plan have all been paid.  So the Capital Master Plan is not in question here.

Question:  I see, okay. 

Spokesperson:  Yes, George.

Question:  You just said the magic word that reminds me.  Do I understand correctly -- somebody told me this yesterday -- that the Secretariat is not moving to 380 Madison at all?  This has been changed and it’s been changed for cost reasons?  And if that is correct, it may not be correct, if that is correct, where are the Secretariat moving and for how long?  They seem to think that we were going back to the 10 floors at a time…

Spokesperson:  No, we’re not going to the 10 floors at a time.  The Capital Master Plan as it was outlined to you is pretty clear.  A number of personnel are moving out of campus and some people are moving to the North Lawn; to the temporary building.  And also some to the Library.

Question:  I understand that.  But what about the lease for the large amount, must be a couple hundred-thousand square feet of space at 380 Madison.  Has that been cancelled or is it accounted for?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, it has not been cancelled.  So I don’t know where this comes from.

Question:  Thank you.

Spokesperson:  I can always ask whether I missed something.  But as far as I know, it’s still on.  Thank you so much.  Sorry I took so long.  Enrique.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon to everybody.

As you probably know, the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto, participated today at the commemoration of the sixtieth anniversary of United Nations peacekeeping operations at the General Assembly Hall and in his opening remarks, he said, and I am going to quote:

“We should keep in mind the astonishing -- and I would say shameful -- fact that the current annual budget for United Nations peacekeeping is approximately $5.6 billion, which represents one half of 1 per cent of global military spending.  This mad asymmetry dooms our best intentions.”

And he also said, and again I am going to quote:  “As I speak, our Peacekeeping operation in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) is in crisis.  The reports of violence against civilians in the conflict zones highlight a terrifying campaign of sexual attacks against girls and women that may be unprecedented in its scale and brutality.  It is estimated that MONUC has one peacekeeper for each 10,000 civilians in the conflict areas.  This makes MONUC’s mandate impossible to achieve.”

“This glaring example serves to remind us that despite our best intentions, the bitter reality of the conflicts in many countries dwarf the ability of peacekeepers to fulfil their mandates.  The DRC conflicts points to the enormous importance of finding political solutions to these large-scale conflicts and the need to redouble efforts to resolve them through broadly orchestrated diplomatic means.”

And this is what I have for you today, unless there are any questions before the weekend.  Masood?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  About this conference, the inter-faith conferences, do you have a confirmed list?  I know yesterday you issued some names and so forth.  Are there more names being added to it?

Spokesperson:  I have the most up to date list, which I can pass on to you.  If you want, I can read it out, but there are many countries.  So, whatever you…

Question:  Is there a declaration that is being prepared now?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Member countries are still deciding among themselves what is going to be the outcome.  But there is no decision yet.

Question:  No decision on the declaration as yet?

Spokesperson:  Correct.

Question:  Enrique, do you have any sort of broad outline of what those two days are going to be like?  Is it just going to be two days of speeches or are there going to be some closed sessions? Are there going to be some roundtables, or is there going to be some interactive dialogue?

Spokesperson:  It is very clear how it is going to be.  It is going to be very similar to the general debate.  We’re going to have two days of speeches.  We will have opening remarks of the President of the General Assembly, we will have opening remarks of the Secretary-General and then the different Heads of State will make their speeches and then the Heads of Government, then the Foreign Ministers and so on.  There are not going to be any side events as such, or roundtables or anything like that.  There will be many bilaterals among the different countries.  But this is basically the format.  George.

Question:  Will all sessions of this conference be open to the press and if so, or if not, is it expected that any of the principals or Heads of State may be holding press conferences or briefings for us?

Spokesperson:  This is a General Assembly session.  All the sessions at the General Assembly are open.  They’re open to the media and they’re open to everybody.  And you can follow them through television, and you can follow them from the press gallery.  So, during the two days, that is going to be open.  Now, we don’t have a list, yet as far as I know, on the countries that have decided to hold press conferences.  I think by Monday we will have a clear idea because they will need to book this room.  And we will have the stakeout -- as usual on these occasions -- for the Heads of State, or the participants, to give remarks to the press and to attend to their questions if they want.  But on those details, as Michèle said before, we’re going to go through them on Monday.  We’ll get Gary Fowlie from the Department of Public Information, and the security people, so that we’ll know precisely what the limits are in terms of security.  Not in terms of openness, because the full meeting is open.

Question:  Before that, I take it you will have the detailed agenda or schedule of the two-day meeting?

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Prior to Gary’s briefing on Monday?

Spokesperson:  On Monday, yes.  And as you know, we’ll have also the President of the General Assembly Miguel d’Escoto on Tuesday giving here a press conference to you at 12:30 p.m., giving all the details and answering whatever questions you want to ask him.

Question:  Thank you very much.

Spokesperson:  My pleasure.

Question:  What’s the exact title of the two-day meeting?  Initially it was billed as an inter-faith dialogue; and now it’s Culture of Peace?  Is that correct?  Is it a meeting on Culture of Peace or is it a meeting on…?

Spokesperson:  No, no, it’s been always a meeting on culture of peace.  Let me explain it again and try to clarify again the confusion, which I understand.  It’s understandable.  This is a meeting under item 45 of the General Assembly, which is called “culture of peace”.  The General Assembly approved at the beginning of the session to hold this meeting at high level.  That is it, basically.  Therefore, we’re going to have a normal procedure in this case, which is, the chiefs of delegations go to the General Assembly and deliver their different speeches.  That is basically it.  Matthew?

Question:  In the General Assembly session yesterday, or late yesterday voting for the judges of the International Court of Justice, there was I think the Cameroonian delegate as well as Guinea-Bissau who said they wanted a legal ruling and they asked to hear from OLA [Office of Legal Affairs] and this never happened.  So it made me wonder, is there…what’s the procedure for that in the General Assembly if a delegation asks for a legal ruling?  Why couldn’t they get OLA?

Spokesperson:  Let me check the details for you.  But normally, if a delegation asks for legal procedures you have the representative of the Secretariat who is at the podium who knows the rules and provides those rules; those guidances.

Question:  Does he work for the Office of Legal Affairs or does he work for some other division?

Spokesperson:  He works for the Department of General Assembly Affairs.  He is a representative of the Secretariat.  But let me check that precisely for you what the rules are.  But I am pretty sure that it is like this.  But I’ll double check.

Question:  (inaudible) and also yesterday in the Fifth Committee, the representative of Cuba, there was a report put in called the Biennium report on the budgetary and financial situation of organizations in the UN system.  And the representative of Cuba made a big complaint that a lot of it wasn’t translated into Spanish.  And he said this is sort of a pattern, there is a problem of getting things translated into Spanish.  Is the President aware of this complaint by the Cuban delegation?  What’s going to be done about it?  I guess it’s a complaint about (inaudible), it seems.

Spokesperson:  I don’t think the President of the General Assembly is aware of this particular incident.  But certainly, the President of the General Assembly has a very clear policy on the rules of the General Assembly and we have six official languages and we have two working languages of the Organization.  So, in any meeting, those rules should apply.  But I don’t think the President of the General Assembly is aware of this particular incident, which I will double check for you…

Question:  It was in the written report, so it wasn’t…they weren’t asking to spend more money.  They had already translated the report in Spanish it just didn’t have the whole…

Spokesperson:  No, no, I understand.  I understand.

Question:  So I guess what I am asking is it seems like may be I have asked this of the Secretary-General’s spokesperson; that this thing of DGACM [Department for General Assembly and Conference Management] of finally getting to have some kind of a briefing on just a variety of issues and how they run things.

Spokesperson:  That’s an excellent idea.  I think we can try to get somebody because, you know, there are many rules and many administrative issues that you need to really know in detail, and you ask me questions sometimes that I really need to double-check with them.  They’re the ones who know these details.  And I am happy to learn them myself too.  Yes.

Question:  Enrique, is there a list of the Heads of State and Government who will be attending the culture of peace meeting; and also what is the outcome that is hoped for from this meeting?

Spokesperson:  As I said before, we have the list.  I have the list here which I can share with you of the attendance as it stands right now.  We have the Heads of State, the Heads of Government, etcetera, etcetera.  And, as I also said before, the countries are right now negotiating, discussing among themselves, what is going to be the final outcome.  Whether it is going to be a resolution, whether it is going to be a political declaration, they’re deciding among themselves.  They’re negotiating what is the best outcome for the meeting.

Question:  Is this meeting to the general public in the galleries because of the security and…?

Spokesperson: The meetings of the General Assembly are open to the general public in the gallery.  Thank you, have a good weekend.

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For information media • not an official record