3 June 2009
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.

Good afternoon, all.

**Guest Today

My guest today is Michael Adlerstein, Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of the Capital Master Plan (CMP), who will be providing you with an update on the CMP.

**Climate Change

On climate change, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) says that the latest round of talks on climate change taking place in Bonn, Germany, are progressing well.  It adds that the first drafts of a negotiating text for an international climate change deal, to be agreed in Copenhagen in December, have been accepted as a good starting point for negotiations.

Countries have agreed to undertake two detailed readings of the negotiating text, which covers action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to the effects of climate change, and the provision of finance and technology to enable developing countries to act on climate change.

In addition, says UNFCCC, contact groups have been established to discuss negotiating texts which specifically cover the emission reduction commitments of industrialized countries.  Other groups are discussing the issues of the transfer of clean technology to developing countries and how to build the capacity of Governments in order to respond to climate change.  The Bonn meeting will continue through 12 June.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, a total of 12,000 households in nine provinces in northern and north-eastern Afghanistan have been affected by floods since April, according to the results of the latest assessments carried out by UN agencies, the Government of Afghanistan and non-governmental organizations.

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), fresh flooding is expected to hit the north-eastern region as the remaining snow in the mountains there begins to melt over the next two to four weeks.  Contingency plans for relocation of the affected population, as well as pre-positioning of adequate stocks of relief supplies, are urgently needed.

OCHA is preparing detailed information on the situation in these areas, as well as predictions based on past flooding patterns, and will distribute these to humanitarian partners shortly.

** Pakistan

On Pakistan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that basic food needs can only be met for 2.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Pakistan for the month of June, and possibly for July.  The United Nations so far has received only 43 per cent of the $280 million required for the IDPs’ food needs.

Also, current stocks of essential drugs will be depleted as of the end of this month, and urgent funding is required to cover the health response for the next six months.  There is a shortage of hygiene kits and soap for personal hygiene in all camps.  The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, out of 50,000 pregnant women expected to deliver in the next six months, an estimated 5,000 will need emergency obstetric care and hospital referral.

** Somalia -- Washington Meeting

On Somalia, former senior military officers of Somalia will be meeting in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, 4 June, for two days of talks organized by the UN Political Office in Somalia (UNPOS).

The meeting, being held under the auspices of Somalia’s Ministry of Defence, aims to solicit the support and participation of these former officers in current efforts to address the security needs of the war-ravaged country.

According to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, these Somali officers are “respected for their past professional experience during a period in Somalia’s history when it was called upon to help train soldiers from other African nations”.  We have the full press release upstairs.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

Our Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says its police advisers have begun training some 2,500 Congolese police in Kinshasa.  This is part of a UN effort to help ensure public safety during upcoming local elections.

The training programme will include courses on intelligence gathering, managing voter lines at polling stations and escorting and transporting voting material.  After their training, the Mission says, the Congolese police will deploy the officers at 143 voter registration centres in Kinshasa.

Training will also be provided next week by the UN to police officers in the Bas-Congo region.  The Mission expects to train a total of 75,000 officers nationwide in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, the Mission says it expects revision of the voters lists to start this coming weekend.

** Côte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations Operation in the country (UNOCI) took part yesterday in discussions on the deployment of mixed units -- made up of former rebels and Government forces -- to ensure the security of the ongoing electoral process.

This was the first in a series of weekly military meetings aimed at creating a discussion framework for monitoring the fourth supplementary accord to the Ouagadougou Political Agreement.

The head of the UN police in Côte d’Ivoire and Deputy Force Commander of UNOCI participated in the meeting, held at the Office of the Special Representative of the Facilitator in Côte d’Ivoire.  We have more on that in a press release upstairs.

** Cyprus

Talks between the Cyprus leaders continued today in Nicosia under UN auspices.  Speaking after the leaders’ meeting, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, said that they had tête-à-tête session and had further discussions in the open session on economic matters.

He added that the leaders would continue discussing these topics when they meet again next Thursday.  Downer also said the leaders will at that time begin discussion on the issue of territory.  We have more on this upstairs.

** Estonia

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, today participated in a meeting of emerging European donors, in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been actively engaged in efforts to build on its partnerships with countries involved in international aid through the multilateral system.  The meetings have resulted in the successful development of regional response networks, common needs assessments and methodologies, and better cooperation, says OCHA.

**International Labour Organization -- Decent Work

The Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Juan Somavia, has called for a fair and sustainable global economy where sustainable enterprises and decent work can thrive.

Addressing the International Labour Conference -- the highest governance body of the ILO -- today, Mr. Somavia criticized the dominant economic policies that produced the current global financial crisis.  He added that the ILO’s values were ignored.

The ILO Director-General said that the world may be looking at a jobs and social protection crisis that could last for 6 to 8 years.  He warned that lack of jobs and social protection could breed instability.  We have the full text of Mr. Somavia’s intervention upstairs.

**Clean Energy Investments

A new report launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that renewable energy drew more investments than fossil-fuelled energy technologies during 2008.

$155 billion was invested in clean energy in 2008 -- more than two thirds of which was spent directly developing power generation for wind, solar and other geothermal sources of energy.  We have more information on this report also upstairs.

**Food and Agriculture Organization

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is calling for millions of poor farmers around the world to participate in fighting climate change and global hunger.  It says that their contribution is crucial and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and alleviate hunger around the world.  Therefore, FAO is emphasizing the need for new and additional funding for climate change activities through agriculture in developing countries.  There is more also on this upstairs.

** Gaza

I have been asked in recent days about the Secretary-General’s position concerning inquiries into what happened earlier this year in Gaza, and I wanted to make a few points clear.

The Secretary-General has certainly not rejected the notion of an inquiry into the recent Gaza conflict.  On the contrary, and apart from the Board of Inquiry that he had instituted into the damages against the UN, he has both privately and publicly supported the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission.  He has also counselled and urged the Israeli Government to cooperate with this inquiry.  Indeed, he last did so yesterday at his meeting with the Israeli Deputy Prime Minister.  It is precisely because such an inquiry exists that the Secretary-General did not contemplate establishing another commission to undertake the very same task.

The Secretary-General is conscious of the fact that the Human Rights Council is especially well placed to commission an investigation into whether breaches of international humanitarian law have taken place, and had done so, inter alia, by selecting respected jurists to undertake this task, and had revised their terms of reference to ensure a balanced approach.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Looking ahead, at 11 a.m. tomorrow the Permanent Mission of Finland is sponsoring a press conference on Darfur by the Coalition for the International Criminal Court, here in S-226.  Speakers will be Richard Dicker, Director, International Justice Program of Human Rights Watch, and Omer Ismail, Vice-President of the Enough Project.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, on the money in hand for the emergency relief in Pakistan, you said 43 per cent has… Is that in hand or pledged?

Spokesperson:  That’s in hand.

Question:  So, if the United States comes up with the more than $100 million that President Obama told Ban Ki-moon they were going to come up with, you will be pretty close to 100 per cent.

Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  So has someone asked Ambassador Rice “where is the money”?

Spokesperson:  Well, we’re waiting.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure, Michèle, I wanted to ask you, on Sri Lanka, there are these OCHA reports they put out, you know, situation reports.  And the one of 30 May says that, you know, in essence it says that, it decreases the number of IDPs in the camps by 13,000 and it says, in a single line it says this decrease is associated with double-counting.  In the previous report, which had 13,000 more IDPs, it said that the system was improved systematic registration.  So what is the UN doing to make sure that people aren’t actually disappearing from the camps when its own numbers reflect 13,000 people missing?

Spokesperson:  Well, I have to say that it is a rather an unusual situation.  There is such a massive influx of people, which can explain that the registration process -- which is still ongoing, by the way -- there was some double counting that was involved.  And, as soon as they found out they rectified the numbers to reflect that.  So, the UN can, you know, we’re there… They’re not our camps, you know.  We’re there to assist for better treatment of the IDPs.

Question:  Since the numbers were so specific, can the… is the UN then by saying that the entire 13,130 that are missing are just double counting, is it saying that no one has been taken out of the camps?

Spokesperson:  That is what OCHA is saying.  It is double counting, they went through it several times, and it is double counting.  It is not about people missing.

Question:  I wanted to ask another question about Sri Lanka.

Spokesperson:  Yes, sure.

Question:  There are media reports quoting Vijay Nambiar on 17 May as having said that he spoke with these two LTTE leaders, not the founder, but the two that tried to surrender, that he spoke to them through this one person called KP and conveyed it to the Government and conveyed back through KP that they should come out with a white flag.  By all accounts, they were then shot.  And what I am wondering is whether… In this media account it says that Vijay Nambiar was invited to go and witness this surrender, somehow to go to northern Sri Lanka and become more involved.  Can you confirm that these communications, you know, there are quotes that are out there, so the UN can either deny or confirm them?  But did it take place and what’s its role?

Spokesperson:  Let me… I’ll ask Mr. Nambiar.

Question:  And does the UN believe that, whatever the record of the LTTE is, that to shoot people carrying a white flag, is that a war crime or is that not a war crime?

Spokesperson:  Well, this is not acceptable, you know, shooting someone with a white flag, of course it’s not acceptable.  Whether this happened or not, this is what I have to check for you. Yes.

Question:  [inaudible] the Israeli Vice Prime Minister at the stakeout had said, seemed to be saying that Iran with nuclear weapons is a fact that they cannot live with, and they seemed to be drumming up support for, in addition to future sanctions, possible military action against Iran.  Did the Secretary-General talk to the Vice Prime Minister or Mr. [Ehud] Barak on Monday about these statements that seemed to be kind of looking to drum up support for action militarily against Iran in terms of not helping the situation?

Spokesperson:  Well, the concerns about Iran were expressed by the Israelis, yes.  What the Secretary-General said about this that was not reflected in what I got in terms of, you know, readout of the meetings, but I can find out what happened yesterday.  We didn’t have a readout of last night’s meeting.

[The reporter was later informed that the Secretary-General and Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Silvan Shalom discussed the situation on the ground in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the region, including Iran.  They discussed the need for the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian political negotiations and for socio-economic projects in the West Bank.  The Secretary-General expressed his concern for the humanitarian situation of the people of Gaza and urged the Government of Israel to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid and reconstruction materials.]

Question:  Michèle?

Spokesperson:  Yes, Joe.

Question:  In principle, I am following up on that.

Spokesperson:  Yes, sure.

Question:  Do you feel that diplomacy is the only way to go in Iran, military actions should be out of the question, given the consequences?  Has he expressed himself on that?

Spokesperson:  I think he has at times.  I can check for you what he has said in the past about it, and I can check again what his position is.  Yes.

Question:  [inaudible] questions.  Could you, I guess, find out or state how the Secretary-General, and on whose plane or whatever, travelled from Bahrain to Geneva, after his trip to Bahrain for the…?

Spokesperson:  From Bahrain to Geneva?  I can check that for you, yes, of course.

Question:  That would be good.  And the other one is I saw Mr. [Ibrahim] Gambari in the hall.  I didn’t speak to him, but I did want to ask you, since he’s back, has he had any statement about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the trial in Myanmar?  What has he been doing on the issue for which he is the envoy for the UN?

Spokesperson:  Well, yes, I saw him briefly.  He is just back. I’ll ask him, you know, what update we can have for you on this, sure.  Okay, that’s all I have for you.  Mr. Adlerstein is already with us.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record