8 July 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, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon all.

**Guests at Noon Today

Our guests at the noon briefing today will be Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime; Said Djinnit, UN Special Representative for West Africa; Andrew Hughes, UN Police Adviser; and Harper Boucher, INTERPOL’s Special Representative to the UN.  They will be here shortly to brief on the West Africa Coast Initiative, which is a multi-agency effort that supports the implementation of the Economic Community for West African States regional action plan to combat illicit drug trafficking and organized crime.

The Initiative will be officially launched later today at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 3.  We have more information available upstairs and in this room.  It will be, of course, after you are briefed by Enrique on the General Assembly.

**Secretary-General in Europe

The Secretary-General is currently en route to L’Aquila, Italy, where he will meet with the leaders who are attending the Group of Eight Summit there.  Today he wrapped up his visit to Ireland.  The Secretary-General met with Irish Defence Minister Willie O’Dea.  They travelled to the McKee Barracks, where the Secretary-General met with a group of veteran UN peacekeepers from Ireland and also took part in a ceremony paying respect to the Irish peacekeepers who have fallen in service to the United Nations.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Next Wednesday, 15 July, the Secretary-General will attend the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  The Secretary-General will deliver an address to the Summit, in which he will encourage the Non-Aligned Movement to build on its leadership role among nations to address today's challenges.  Those challenges include disarmament, the economic crisis and the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.  He will be back in New York the following day.

**Security Council

Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, briefed the Security Council in closed consultations today on the Secretary-General’s tenth report regarding the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701 (2006).  The report describes an overall period of calm, renewed opportunity in Israel and Lebanon, and a more conducive regional climate.

Williams informed the Council that there has been remarkable stability along the Blue Line between Lebanon and Israel during this period, with no serious incidents reported.  Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet also briefed the Council on the work of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).  Michael Williams expects to speak to you at the Council stakeout once consultations are done.

** Haiti

The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Haiti, former US President Bill Clinton, is wrapping up his visit to the country today.  This morning, he met with representatives of the private sector and discussed the key challenges facing them in Haiti today.  He also held meetings with women leaders and groups, as well as with non governmental-organizations.

The meetings aimed to ensure private sector investment in the country, coordination of NGO (non-governmental organization) activities and the inclusion of women in recovery efforts.  Last night, the Special Envoy, with President René Préval, had a working diner with donors to encourage them to honour their pledges and align their contributions with the Government’s recovery plan.

** Afghanistan

A new UN report on women in Afghanistan was issued today, which finds that violence is an everyday occurrence in the lives of a huge proportion of Afghan women.  The report describes the extensive and increasing level of violence directed at women taking part in public life, as well as the “widespread occurrence” of rape against a backdrop of institutional failure and impunity.

“This report paints a detailed and deeply disturbing picture of the situation facing many Afghan women today,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.  She said that the limited space that opened up for Afghan women following the demise of the Taliban regime in 2001 is under sustained attack, not just by the Taliban themselves, but by deeply ingrained cultural practices and customs.  Pillay also faults the chronic failure at all levels of government to advance the protection of women’s rights in Afghanistan.

The report, issued jointly by Pillay’s office and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), focuses on the “growing trend” of violence and threats against women in public life, and rape and sexual violence.  It also details numerous attacks on girls’ schools, and on girl students –- including gas and acid attacks –- by “anti-Government elements”.  We have a press release upstairs with more details, and the full report is available on line.

** Pakistan

On Pakistan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes today visited Peshawar, Mardan and Swabi in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province.  In Peshawar, he met with Pakistani officials and UN agencies and expressed his appreciation for the high level of cooperation of the Government.

His field trips in Mardan and Swabi provided a glimpse of the complex mix of displacement in this crisis, in which displaced people are living in spontaneous settlements, with host families and in camps.  Despite differing circumstances, all are suffering in the extreme heat.

Tomorrow, Holmes will visit the district of Buner.  We should have a press release on this shortly in my office.

**Occupied Palestinian Territory

Tomorrow is the five-year anniversary of the International Court of Justice’s Advisory Opinion, which found that Israel’s construction of the wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territory violated its obligations under international law.  But to this day, according to the West Bank branch of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the situation has not improved.  That Office therefore calls on the Israeli Government to comply with the Advisory Opinion, dismantle the wall within the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and make reparation for all damage suffered by people affected by the wall’s construction.

The Office also calls on Israel to end the current regime of restriction of movement within, to and from the Occupied Palestinian Territory, so that Palestinian residents are able to exercise their rights to freedom of movement, work, education and health.  We have the full statement upstairs.

Meanwhile, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Maxwell Gaylard, also spoke in Jerusalem today about this topic.  He said, "There is still time to change the situation.”  He noted that UN humanitarian agencies are calling for a freeze in the construction of the wall in the West Bank and its re-routing to the Green Line, in light of both the Advisory Opinion and the humanitarian impact.


The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports that its Commissioner General, Karen AbuZayd, just welcomed to her office a group of Gazan youth that recently returned from a three-week recreational tour to Poland.  The trip, organized by the Polish Government, aimed to help children especially affected by the recent hostilities in Gaza.

The more than 70 children spent one week in Warsaw undergoing psychological and medical treatment, and the remaining two weeks touring Poland.  The tour included visits to castles, a water park, a zoo, and a cinema.  AbuZayd said that one of the children later told her that the day he got on the plane to Warsaw was “the best day of his life”.

One of the children, a twelve-year-old named Mahmoud Samouni, had lost 48 members of his extended family during the recent hostilities.


On Cyprus, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, spoke last night at a panel discussion in Nicosia.  The topic was “the role of civil society in supporting the peace and reconciliation process”.

Zerihoun noted that, because of the continuing division of the island, one still cannot speak of a single “Cypriot civil society”.  At the same time, he added, there is currently a reinvigorated peace process, bicommunal contact is no longer the exception, and it has become much easier for Cypriots to move around the island.

In that context, Zerihoun notes that civil society is an essential vehicle for building trust between the communities, garnering support for a solution and creating an environment that is conducive to moving the peace process forward.  We have his full remarks upstairs.

** Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is currently in Athens.  Today he met with Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis.  While at the Foreign Ministry, he heard the latest views of the Greek Government.  Nimetz also conveyed Skopje’s views and presented his own amended proposals for resolving the “name issue”.  The Greek side agreed to study what was presented to them and to revert with their comments.

While in Athens today, Nimetz also met with opposition leader George Papandreou.  Nimetz reports that he is also staying in touch with a number of UN Member States that are interested in the “name issue”, as well as European Union officials, to hear their thoughts and provide a general briefing on the progress of the talks.

** International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, meeting in The Hague today, rejected an argument from Radovan Karadzic that an alleged deal with former US peace envoy Richard Holbrooke exempted him from prosecution.  The judges accepted the Prosecutor’s argument that the accused person could not show that any such deal was arranged under the authority of the UN Security Council.

** Iraq

The UN refugee agency’s office in Iraq closed down a makeshift camp that hosted Iranian Kurd refugees in the no-man’s-land situated on the border between Iraq and Jordan since 2005.  The group, composed of 186 refugees, has been temporarily relocated to al-Waleed refugee camp, on Iraq’s border with Syria.

The refugees were cooperative during the relocation process and UNHCR handled the logistics of moving them to the camp, while the Iraqi Police escorted them.  All the families are currently in al-Waleed camp.  We have more details upstairs in a press release from the refugee agency.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

In North Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, fighters from the rebel Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDLR) have continued their attacks on villages and towns in the areas of Lubero, Masisi and Walikale, committing crimes that include  forced labour, sexual violence, arson and looting.

The precarious security situation continues to be a major obstacle to the implementation of humanitarian assistance programmes in North Kivu.  Remote parts of the territories of Masisi and Walikale remain inaccessible.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that attacks against humanitarian workers have also continued.  During the first half of 2009, there were 66 incidents of violence against humanitarian workers, compared to 37 incidents during the corresponding period in 2008.  OCHA further reports that military action against the FDLR in North Kivu continues to cause displacements among civilians.  An estimated 400,000 people were displaced between January and June 2009.  The areas most affected are South Lubero, some parts of Masisi and the territory of Walikale.

** Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe, provisional results from the crop and food supply assessment, jointly conducted in May this year by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Government of Zimbabwe, reveal an overall deficit of around 670,000 metric tons of cereals for the current consumption year.  An estimated 2.8 million people in rural and urban areas may become food insecure during the peak of the 2009-2010 lean season, according to the assessment.

And this is all I have for you today.  Unless you have urgent questions, I’d like to give the floor to Enrique because our guests are already here.  Urgent questions?  Yes, Masood.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, in reference to Mr. Holmes’ visit to Pakistan, did he say anything about stabilization in the IDP (internally displaced persons) situation in Pakistan?  Are there more IDPs coming out as this conflict grows, or have they stopped?  Is it stabilized?  Did he say anything like that at all?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  As far as I know, we should be getting, as I said earlier, a full press release on this.  So we should have more information in a few minutes.  I got the information as I was coming down, so I don’t have any details yet.

Question:  The members of the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission I asked you about yesterday now say they’re receiving death threats since issuing the report.  And a group called the Liberian Human Rights Campaign has asked UNMIL (United Nations Mission in Liberia) to provide protection to them.  Is this something that UNMIL will do?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know; I cannot answer that question yet.  I will ask them the question, of course.

[The Spokesperson later added that the UN Mission in Liberia already supports the Liberia National Police (LNP) in the LNP's primary responsibility of ensuring day-to-day civil security in Liberia.  She noted that, currently, there is no credible evidence of threats to any member(s) of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).  If any such threat was made, UNMIL, in support of the LNP, would be available to assist in the protection of TRC Commissioners.  To date, no requests for additional security support have been made by the TRC Commissioners.]

Question:  I wanted to ask you another; you may or may not consider it urgent.  In connection with the G-8, the UN World Food Programme is flying Ghanaian schoolchildren to Rome for a simulated feeding programme for the spouses of G-8 leaders at a reported cost of $500,000.  Does Mr. Ban think…Some, including WFP staff, think it’s insensitivity to the beneficiaries of aid and a waste of money.  What does the Secretary-General think about it and is he or members of his family participating in it?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know, but I can find out for you, of course, whether he has any reaction to that.

Please, Enrique.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Michèle.  Good afternoon.

Also very quickly, I only wanted to flag you a couple of things for planning purposes.  Tomorrow the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, will brief on the Honduran crisis and the events of the last days.

And the second issue is that, also tomorrow at the plenary of the General Assembly, there will be the approval of the resolution on the outcome document of the global economic crisis summit.  As you probably are aware, technically the Conference approved the outcome document, but we need now the General Assembly to approve the same document in order for the follow-up to take action.

And this is basically what I have, and again, unless there is something urgent, I’d rather give the floor to the guests of the Secretariat.  George, is it urgent?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  [Inaudible]…procedural.  Will the briefing of the PGA be as part of the noon briefing here, or before or after, or you don’t know yet?

Spokesperson:  No, tomorrow [in] the General Assembly plenary will be adopted that resolution in support of the outcome document.  And then after that the President will brief the Member States on the Honduran crisis.

Question: But it’s not a briefing for us, in other words?

Spokesperson:  No, no, it’s a briefing to the Member States in the General Assembly.  But it will be open, in any case.

Question:  Thank you.

Question:  [inaudible]…whether it’s now with this mediation going on in Costa Rica and Zelaya, apparently the [inaudible]…some have said that the US’s position is no longer, you know, direct return of Zelaya; that it may be negotiate and see what happens.  What does President d’Escoto think of the talks in Costa Rica and of this reported new US position?

Spokesperson:  He has no comment right now on those issues.  When he’s back tomorrow he will brief Member States, and I think you are going to have a full picture on what’s the situation.

Thank you very much.

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For information media • not an official record