9 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.

Good afternoon, all.

**Secretary-General at G-8 Summit

In L’Aquila, Italy, today, the Secretary-General addressed the meeting of the Major Economies Forum Leaders, on the margins of the Group of Eight Summit.  He told them that the commitments expressed today on climate change, while welcome, are not sufficient.  They do not meet the scientific bottom line for reducing emissions, and much more will need to be done if Governments are to seal the deal on a new climate agreement in Copenhagen this December.

He emphasized, “The time for delays and half-measures is over.”  He warned that if the countries represented in L’Aquila fail to act this year, they will have squandered a unique historical opportunity that may not come again.

The Secretary-General welcomed the G-8’s agreement for a long-term goal to reduce emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.  But for this to be credible, he said, we need ambitious midterm targets and clear baselines.

The Secretary-General also noted the continuing problem of food security, and welcomed the G-8’s pledge of $15 billion over the next three years to deal with it.

And he said that the H1N1 pandemic is starting to accelerate in a disturbing way.  The G-8 leaders need to commit to helping the countries that are affected, he warned, which could require a commitment of at least $1 billion.  We have a press release with more details upstairs.

The Secretary-General also met earlier today with a number of leaders attending the G-8 Summit, and discussed climate change with all of them.  Among other topics that came up, he discussed Myanmar with United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown; he talked about regional security in Africa with South African President Jacob Zuma; and he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel touched on the H1N1 flu and food security.

**Security Council

The Security Council has been holding an open meeting today on Somalia, with briefings from Under-Secretaries-General B. Lynn Pascoe, for the Department of Political Affairs, and Susana Malcorra, for the Department of Field Support.

Pascoe stressed to the Council that it is in the interest of the international community to ensure that Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) does not collapse.

He recommended an expression of full support to the TFG as the legitimate authority in Somalia, and the need to honour financial pledges made at April’s Brussels Donors Meeting for Somalia.  Pascoe also urged the international community to assist in building up the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), with the necessary resources to enable it to continue its support to the Government and people of Somalia.  On the issue of piracy, Pascoe said that the Secretary-General has dispatched his Legal Counsel to Kenya to explore possible initiatives for combating piracy and armed robbery off the coast of Somalia.

Under-Secretary-General Malcorra briefed the Council about the systematic progress being made by her department to support AMISOM.  She also urged all Member States and regional organizations to deliver on their financial pledges to Somalia.

She said the deployment of international staff in Somalia would be instrumental in the delivery of the required level of support associated with a UN peacekeeping mission.  But she warned that such a deployment could only be done based on security conditions on the ground.

The Council’s open debate has 18 speakers inscribed.

** Pakistan

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes today went to Buner District in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province.  He visited the town of Sultanwas, which suffered extensive destruction during the military operation, and Daggar, the district centre, where he met members of the community.

In the town of Daggar, he noted that most shops had opened, and that normal business seemed to be resuming.  In Sultanwas, Holmes viewed a residential area partially destroyed by the military operation, and saw evidence of collapsed homes, damaged power supplies, and visible ordnance craters.

Holmes noted that recovery and reconstruction after such damage would require time and substantial resources.  He reaffirmed the utility of short-term humanitarian assistance when people return, combined with the Government’s cash grants.

This Friday, Holmes is scheduled to meet the President and Prime Minister of Pakistan, as well as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and donors.  He will depart Pakistan on 11 July.

** Lebanon

The Secretary-General has appointed Mr. David Tolbert of the United States as the Registrar of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon.  He will commence his duties on 26 August.

Mr. Tolbert is the second Registrar of the Tribunal, succeeding Mr. Robin Vincent.  The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Vincent’s assistance in the establishment and commencement of the Tribunal’s work.

Mr. Tolbert has served in a number of senior capacities in all three organs of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY).  He also served as the Secretary-General’s Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials (UNAKRT).

We have more information on Mr. Tolbert upstairs.

** Kenya

Luis Moreno Ocampo, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), today received from Kofi Annan, the Chairman of the African Union’s Panel of Eminent African Personalities, a sealed envelope and supporting materials on the post-election violence that erupted in Kenya in late 2007 and early 2008.

The situation in Kenya has been under preliminary examination by the Office of the Prosecutor since 2008.  Last week, following the visit of a high-level Governmental delegation from Kenya to The Hague, all the actors involved in ensuring accountability for post-election violence in Kenya agreed on the need to move the process forward now to prevent the recurrence of such events.

The transmission of documents by Kofi Annan forms part of the collaborative efforts to ensure that justice is not delayed and that future crimes can be prevented, Moreno-Ocampo stated.  Let me remind you that Annan’s work in Kenya was supported by the Secretariat of the United Nations.

** Cyprus

The Cyprus leaders met today in Nicosia under UN auspices.

Speaking to reporters afterwards, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, noted that the main topic today was the issue of security and guarantees.

He also noted that the leaders would meet again on Friday, July 17th.

We have the full transcript of his press encounter in my office.

**Small Arms

The 2009 edition of the Small Arms Survey states that the value of the authorized global trade in small arms and light weapons, including their parts, accessories, and ammunition, jumped by 28 per cent from 2000 to 2006.  This is an increase of some $653 million.

According to the report, the growth was most pronounced in transfers of parts and accessories for pistols or revolvers, which doubled over the period.


In Geneva today, the ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) High-level Segment, which opened Monday, concluded its annual ministerial review.  A Ministerial Declaration, agreed upon early this morning, will be adopted later today at the closure of the High-level Segment.

The ECOSOC-negotiated outcome document has put the issue of health on the political agenda at the highest level and sent a message that the world cannot afford to neglect its commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), despite the current international crises.  The global economic and financial crisis seriously threatens to derail progress already made on the MDGs.

A copy of the outcome document is available upstairs.

**Women’s Health

Ahead of World Population Day, which falls on Saturday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) says that investing in women and girls during the global financial crisis will help set the stage for economic recovery and reduce inequality and poverty.

According to UNFPA, women’s health has critical economic importance in developing countries.  Women are more than half the agricultural labour force.  They grow 80 per cent of staple crops in Africa.  And in South-East Asia, 90 per cent of rice growers are women.

UNFPA’s Executive Director, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, stressed that even before the current crisis, women and girls were the majority of the world’s poor and are now falling deeper into poverty.  She called on all leaders to make the health and rights of women a political and development priority.


The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) today announced that it will now be collaborating with Qualcomm, a digital wireless communications company.

The goal of the partnership will be to improve emergency communications for disaster preparedness and to coordinate relief activities in the aftermath of disasters.

According to ITU, wireless technology becomes essential when terrestrial networks are knocked out by natural disasters.

We have more on that upstairs.

**Higher Education

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has concluded its World Conference on Higher Education yesterday, calling for increased investments in higher education.

In a final communiqué, participants from around 150 countries stress the importance to invest in higher education as a major force in building an inclusive and diverse knowledge society and in advancing research, innovation and creativity.

You also have more on that upstairs.

** Babylon

UNESCO presented its “Final Report on Damage Assessment in Babylon” at a press conference in Paris today.  The report concludes that the archaeological site suffered serious damage while it was used as a base by coalition forces in Iraq, between 2003 and 2004.

This renowned archaeological site is most famous for being the home of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which is one of the Seven Wonders of the World.  UNESCO’s report calls on the Iraqi authorities to heighten their conservation efforts and provides recommendations for the restoration and management of the site.  Additionally, the report states that all activities should be undertaken with a view to nominating Babylon as a World Heritage site.


The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) announced today that it is launching an online Investment Monitoring Platform that maps investment flows in Africa.  This new platform will provide data and information for African countries, on the characteristics of foreign and domestic investors.

There is a press release on that upstairs.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Ahead, 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference here by the Alliance of Small Island States on issues concerning climate change, including those emerging from the ongoing G-8 and Major Economies meetings.

Our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  He will be here to brief you, following his meeting with the Security Council.

And this is all I have for you today, thank you.  Yes.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In connection with the Secretary-General’s expressed disappointment with the progress of climate change commitments that you described, does he have a specific position or recommendation concerning the refusal of India, China, Brazil and other underdeveloped countries to commit to any mandatory targets, either intermediate or even long-term?

Spokesperson:  I will invite you to go and look at the press release we just issued.  We issued it about half an hour ago concerning the different aspects of his statement.

Question:  Can I ask you, does it specifically address the issue [interrupted]?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know whether in the press release it does, but the Secretary-General has over and over again addressed that in different statements on climate change.  We can help you get back, research that.

[The Spokesperson later added that the press release to which she had been referring stated, "Developing countries also need to contribute by undertaking national efforts to mitigate emissions that are measurable, reportable and verifiable.  However, developing countries should not have to choose between reducing poverty and reducing emissions."]

Question:  Michèle, I asked you yesterday about these IDPs (internally displaced persons) in Pakistan, and Mr. Holmes is there also.  I just wanted to find out whether you have had any opportunity to talk to Mr. Holmes or to find out whether these IDPs, which are now languishing, some of them are languishing in the camps and they want to go home.  Has the war abated?  What is the assessment of Holmes and OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) now?

Spokesperson:  On Mr. Holmes, you have more extensive information upstairs on his trip there and who he met and what they discussed.  OCHA can give you additional information, I am sure, on the details of his trip, who he saw.  And in terms of the repatriation process of the IDPs returning to their homes, as you know, there is a cash grant which is given by the Government -- the UN has nothing to do with it -- and there is also some assistance that the UN is giving.  However, we’re not in charge of the process itself.  The Government of Pakistan is.

Question:  Yes, the Pakistani Government also says that it has given most of… entrusted most of that responsibility to the United Nations, because somehow the people over there trust the United Nations more than they do the Government.  I mean, which is not saying much for the Government, but at least that’s what they say.  That’s the reason why I asked of you:  do you have any updates since then, since Mr. Holmes was there?

Spokesperson:  No, this is the last update I have.  He is still there, by the way.

Question:  Yes, because, you know, I saw the update on the Internet, but another update is there after that, right?

Spokesperson:  Yes, there is.  There is more upstairs.  We have more extensive information.

Question:  On this Israeli wall that you talked about yesterday -- there was, if you remember, if you recall, there was a registry under the mandate by the United Nations General Assembly, and it was to, what you call, register the people who were affected by the construction of this wall.  Has that registry being maintained and is it being updated all the time?

Spokesperson:  The site is being maintained and is being updated.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  The Government of Sri Lanka has ordered the Red Cross and other international aid agencies to scale back their work.  In the case of the Red Cross, it’s 140 staff in previous conflict zones.  Given the Secretary-General’s and others’ joint statement and everything else, and given what the UN said when Sudan, you know, ejected NGOs, what does the UN have to say about this scaling back of international aid agencies?

Spokesperson:  We’re certainly concerned about it.  We’re trying to get more information on it.

Question:  And about the doctors and their purported recanting.  Was this consistent with the Secretary-General’s call that they be treated correctly?  What do you think of that?

Spokesperson:  All we can say is just that we had those statements made by the doctors earlier, and we have new statements that they made when they came out of jail.  At this point, I really cannot say what exactly is the truth since the two statements contradict each other.  There is nothing I can add on this.  What we did was to ask for their release and they were released.  But on everything else, we don’t have any specific and direct knowledge on what happened.

Question:  I think it said they’re still going to be tried, actually, I mean, for what it’s worth.  I guess this is the last of the last [inaudible]; is the Secretary-General still calling for their release and that they not be put on trial?  Is that what he is calling for?

Spokesperson:  He didn’t mention a trial because there was no question of a trial.  But he has been saying over and over again that he was asking for their release and, you know, as far as I know, they have been released.  I don’t have any other information on a trial.

Question:  Michèle, over the past five days there have been a whole series of cyberattacks on United States Government agencies, South Korean agencies, commercial agencies.  Have there been attacks on the Secretary-General’s communications or anything connected to the Security Council?

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, there have been some disturbances within our own internal system.  I don’t know whether we can attribute that to the same cyberattacks that occurred around 4 July against the United States and South Korean websites and computers.  But we have had some disturbances here at the Secretariat.  Yes, we have.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Thank you, Michèle.  On Tuesday, the Vatican issued an important document whereby the Pope, Benedict XVI, called for, among other things, the reform of the United Nations, and in particular, he called for the establishment of a world political authority to oversee the economy and work for the common good.  Does the Secretary-General share his views?

Spokesperson:  Well, the Secretary-General is certainly for UN reform; he has been working on it.  In terms of what the Pope essentially meant by his reforms, it is for the Pope to actually detail and explain.  I don’t know what the specifics are on the Pope’s propositions.  Yes, Matthew?

Question:  North Korea has said to the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) that it should scale back its international staff, including not having international staff that speak Korean.  They apparently “PNG’ed” a South Korean staffer of the World Food Programme.  What does the UN system think of a country saying that they can’t have staff in it that speak the language of the country?  Is the Secretary-General following, is he concerned about it?

Spokesperson:  I think the Secretary-General is always following what is happening to the different agencies, but I think you should address your question to WFP itself.

Question:  And just one follow-up on WFP.  This event that they’re having, now it’s tomorrow, at the headquarters of WFP, will be closed down for the simulated feeding programme with Ghanaian children flown in.  Yesterday, you said you’d ask.  I know he is busy.  Is the Secretary-General’s wife there?  Is she going to attend?

Spokesperson:  No, she is not.

Question:  She is not there?

Spokesperson:  No.

Question:  And does he think this is an appropriate use, I guess, of UN system facilities and funding to fly in children--

Spokesperson:  Usually, the Secretary-General does not have express specific opinions on the way agencies deal with their own affairs.  As you know, WFP is an agency.  It is independent from the Secretariat, autonomous from the Secretariat, and they have their own policies.  So I think you should ask them what their justification is for that event and get more details from them.

Question:  Okay.  I guess, since it may affect sort of confidence, you know, people are always asked to give funds to these agencies.  So I just wanted to know whether he thinks it’s an appropriate use, but…

Spokesperson:  We don’t usually comment on what the different agencies do.  Thank you so much.  Yes, Pat?

Question:  Yes, we were promised at least one, if not a series of briefings ‑‑ not by you, but by whatever it’s called, the people running the move.  And a lot of us have been talking, we’re kind of all abuzz, excited, about what to anticipate and how to prepare for the move.  Will we have… what kind of desk space will we have?  Do we have to throw away half of our stuff or take it home or...  Do you have any idea when he is going to come round…?

Spokesperson:  The move won’t be until October in your case, and I think we certainly have time to arrange for other different background briefings for you.  It’s not a briefing, an open briefing, it’s a background briefing for you journalists.  If you want to have it, I can certainly ask them to do so.

Question:  [Inaudible] as I said to relieve the anxiety.  Have some, you know…

Spokesperson:  Sure, I understand that.

Question:  Speaking of housekeeping issues, is there, literally, is there going to be a place set aside where we can throw the 40-year-old statistical analysis and the hundreds of pounds of paper that we’ve acquired?

Spokesperson:  I think this is not the place to ask for this.  I will certainly give you the information outside of this briefing room.  And there is a huge, big bin, by the way, right in the hallway where you can actually dump all those reports that you don’t want to keep.

Question:  Since you’re kind enough to point that out, I will mention that it’s full.

Spokesperson:  It’s full?  Okay, we’ll let them know.  I mean, we can let housekeeping know.

Question:  [Inaudible] follow up to that, which is that this issue that’s arisen about the swing space for four or five years, not having enclosed office space for journalists, including investigative journalists, some here have raised that it will make it more difficult to actually, for example, for whistle blowing staff members or others to be able to approach press members with, you know--

Spokesperson:  Well, they can approach you at other places besides your own office, can’t they?

Question:  I guess the question is what’s the rationale behind the--

Spokesperson:  As I said, this has already been explained in different meetings with you.  This is an internal subject which can be discussed very openly with the Capital Master Plan people.  I am inviting you to do so, but not during a briefing that is for international issues.

Question:  My only question is since it affects, it’s a decision by the Secretariat that affects the way the press can actually cover the UN, I view it as other than housekeeping issue.  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  May I suggest that we discuss this elsewhere?

Correspondent:  Okay.

Question:  Anything set for the Secretary-General’s monthly briefing?

Spokesperson:  We’re trying to negotiate something in between trips.  But it will most probably be Monday.

Question:  It will be this Monday?

Spokesperson:  This coming Monday, yes.  But we don’t have the approval of the Secretary-General yet.

Question:  He is coming back and then going…?

Spokesperson:  He is coming back and leaving on that same Monday.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi?

Question:  Michèle, are there any new developments regarding Mauritania?

Spokesperson:  No, we don’t have anything new. Thank you so much.

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For information media • not an official record