6 October 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing

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

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

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

Good afternoon, all.

**Secretary-General Statement on Rwanda Tribunal

We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the arrest of International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indictee Idelphonse Nizeyimana.

The Secretary-General welcomes the arrest, in Kampala, Uganda, of Idelphonse Nizeyimana.  Mr. Nizeyimana allegedly participated in the killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  He was indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in November 2000 for “genocide”, “rape as a crime against humanity” and “other inhumane acts as a crime against humanity”.

The United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports that Idelphonse Nizeyimana is a key leader of the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), which has been operating in North Kivu.  In this context, his arrest is an important step forward in the fight against impunity and strongly signals the Great Lakes region’s commitment to peace and security.

The Secretary-General welcomes this positive development and calls on all Member States to continue to cooperate fully with the ICTR. 

** Rwanda

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has confirmed the arrest in Kampala yesterday of Idelphonse Nizeyimana.

The accused is the second of 13 fugitives to be arrested and extradited to the Tribunal in Arusha in less than two months. He is facing charges ranging from genocide to crimes against humanity for offences that include his command of a mass-murdering unit of the Rwandan Army and the murder of the former Tutsi queen of Rwanda.

** Guatemala

On Guatemala, we issued the following statement yesterday evening.

The Secretary-General notes the concerns raised by the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, regarding the election of magistrates to the Supreme Court of Guatemala.

This is an issue of great importance to the fight against impunity in the country.  The Secretary-General trusts the Guatemalan Congress will ensure that judges of unquestioned competence, independence and integrity are named to the country's highest courts.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York, after wrapping up his six-day travel to Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland.

This morning, the Secretary-General attended a round table of Heads of State and chief executive officers (CEOs) attending the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World.  He told the roundtable that CEOs can inspire Government leaders to be bold and can help them to understand the power of information technology to address the climate threat and usher in a new green economy.

He noted that information technologies contribute 2 to 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, but they can also reduce emissions in other sectors by at least 15 per cent.  We have copies of his remarks upstairs.

**International Telecommunication Union

According to the latest statistics from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), more than a quarter of the world’s population is now online and using the Internet.  Also, three quarters of households now own a television set.

In related news, ITU chief Hamadoun Touré today noted that no country is immune to cyberattack.  That is significant since every country is now critically dependent on technology for commerce, finance, health care, emergency services, food distribution and more, he said.  We have more on that upstairs.

** Iraq

On Sunday, Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, held a high-level meeting with Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Al-Sistani, along with other senior officials in Najaf.  Among the subjects discussed were the increased activities of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) in the political, humanitarian and human rights areas.

Ayatollah Sistani and Ad Melkert also discussed the issue of the pending electoral legislation, and the Ayatollah confirmed his strong support for the electoral process and for a broad participation in the forthcoming elections in January.  Melkert noted the urgent need for the adoption of the Election Law, to allow for the speedy passing of crucial decisions regarding the timely implementation of key technical electoral issues.  He stated that the next ten days will be crucial for the Council of Representatives to live up to its responsibility to adopt the Election Law.

** Philippines

The United Nations and the international humanitarian community today requested more than $74 million to help the Government of the Philippines provide immediate assistance to more than one million of the people most affected by tropical storm Ketsana and typhoon Parma.

A day ahead of the launch of the flash appeal, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, announced an allocation of $7 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to enable humanitarian agencies to provide the most immediate life-saving assistance to those affected.

John Holmes will brief you on the details this afternoon at 1:15.

**Tsunami Warning System

And on a related topic, eighteen countries around the Indian Ocean Rim will participate in an ocean-wide tsunami exercise next week to coincide with World Disaster Reduction Day, says the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

This first-time drill will test and evaluate the effectiveness of the Indian Ocean Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System established in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami that devastated South and South-East Asia in December 2004.

Aiming to increase preparedness and improve coordination throughout the region, the exercise will replicate the magnitude 9.2 quake that occurred off the northwest coast of Sumatra, Indonesia in 2004, which generated a destructive tsunami affecting countries from Australia to South Africa.

** Somalia

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia is out as a document today. In it, he says that while the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) appears to have weathered a recent spate of threats to its existence, there remain challenges to it in both the political and security areas.

Encouraging recent progress includes advances in the reconciliation dialogue with opposition groups, building capacity for local governance and drafting a new constitution.  He urges the Government to stay the course.  He also appeals to the international community to redouble its support and rally solidly behind the Government.

The Secretary-General also notes that humanitarian conditions remain a source of extreme concern.  Assassinations, abductions and threats against aid relief workers have rendered the delivery of aid extremely dangerous.  And this at a time when fighting and a seasonal drought have increased Somalis’ need for humanitarian aid.

The Secretary-General also reiterates the UN’s firm support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and encourages it to vigorously continue its peacekeeping deployment into the country.  He also calls on international donors to expedite the disbursement of all outstanding pledges of support to the Mission.  Meanwhile, UN international staff will continue to conduct missions into the country in preparation for a second, “light footprint” phase of an increased and staged UN presence.

** Burundi

The UN Refugee Agency has warned some 2,300 Congolese refugees in Burundi against their announced planned return this week to their native South Kivu province, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

UNHCR says that security conditions in South Kivu due to ongoing military operations would make it impossible for either the Congolese government or UNHCR to guarantee their safety or assist them in any meaningful way.  This group of refugees fled the DRC between June and August 2004.  They are among some 30,000 Congolese refugees in UN-run camps across Burundi.

**Child Protection

The UN’s Children Fund has released a new report on child protection.

Entitled Progress for Children:  A Report Card on Child Protection, it gathers together for the first time data on a range of issues that impact on children, including sexual abuse and trafficking, child marriage, physical punishment of children, child labour, birth registration, the harmful traditional practice of female genital cutting, and attitudes toward violence against women inside marriage.

At the report’s launch in Tokyo, UNICEF’s Executive Director Ann Veneman said that a society cannot thrive if its youngest members are forced into early marriage, abused as sex workers or denied their basic rights.  She added that the evidence of continuing harm and abuse must inspire the world to greater effort to guarantee the rights of all children, everywhere.

And if you’d like more information on this, we have Rebecca Fordham of UNICEF here with us.  She is in the back of the room.  She can answer your questions after the briefing and I think some of you probably saw some of the reports that were stacked on the third floor.  They are the advance press releases.

**Capital Master Plan

One more note about the Capital Master plan to answer some questions asked. About Security at 380 Madison Avenue, even though we usually do not comment on measures taken so as not to compromise the security of our staff, this instance is an exception, because erroneous information has been circulating in the media already.

Before leases were signed, and before buildings were occupied after fit-out, all swing space locations were cleared by the Department of Safety and Security.  At 380 Madison Avenue, the windows of the floors occupied by UN staff are covered with blast resistant film.

On associated costs, in its resolution A/RES/63/270, the General Assembly decided “that the approved associated costs for the capital master plan will be financed from within the approved budget of the capital master plan unless otherwise specified by the General Assembly.”  The CMP stated last year and has stated again this year that they will continue to seek costs savings and attempt to absorb the associated costs.  However, the CMP is not optimistic that they will be able to absorb all the associated costs.  

**Press Conferences

We have two additional press conferences this week that were not listed on the latest “Week Ahead”.

At 1 p.m. on Thursday, some of the cast members and the Executive Producer of ABC’s Ugly Betty will be here with the Executive Director of Global Partnerships from the UN Foundation to discuss the Foundation’s “Nothing but Nets” campaign.  They will talk about how the cast and crew are starting the show’s new season by helping to raise awareness about malaria. 

At 11 a.m. on Friday, there will be a New York launch of UN-HABITAT’s (the United Nations Human Settlements Programme) Global Report on Human Settlements 2009.  The author will be here to discuss the report which focuses on “Planning Sustainable Cities.” And I mentioned that to you yesterday.  And on a happy note that has nothing to do with the multiple crises of the world, we have a new baby in the family.  Our colleague Ben Malor’s wife Debbie delivered early this morning a little girl of nearly eight pounds.  Baby Kekeli and mother are in intensive care but doing very well.  And that’s all I have for you today.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Has the Secretary-General or someone else been in touch with Kai Eide and is there any movement on the election certifications? 

Spokesperson:  Right now, for the time being, the election certification is a matter for the electoral commission and, in terms of getting in touch, the Secretary-General and his senior advisers have been in constant touch with Kai Eide in the last four, five days.

Question:  Following Peter Galbraith’s exposure of fraud in the Afghan elections and his allegations that Kai Eide is [inaudible] in favour of President [Hamid] Karzai, President Karzai’s main opponent Abdullah Abdullah has called for the resignation of Kai Eide.  Do you have any comments on this?

Spokesperson:  I answered exactly this question yesterday.  So I invite you to go and look at the transcript of what I said, and at any rate, we have a fact sheet also on Afghanistan, which is on the counter in my office right now.  Yes Khaled?

Question:  Yes Michèle.  Is there any update for us on the investigation and the WFP [World Food Programme] bombing in Pakistan and…?

Spokesperson:  Right now, as far as I know, we don’t have anything new.  They are still investigating and there will be a meeting tomorrow, most probably, again to reassess the security situation, to know whether we will be reopening our offices.  As I said yesterday, the basic services are still being provided to IDPs [internally displaced persons] through NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that are associated with the UN.

Question:  I mean besides five killed like now after the bombing, usually you get to know more about figures like that…

Spokesperson:  Yes, I do have those figures upstairs.  You can go to my office and we’ll give you the figures.  Yes, Edie.

Question:  Michèle, is the UN going to be doing its own reassessment of security, in addition to waiting for the Pakistani police report?

Spokesperson:  Definitely, definitely.  And we will certainly have an intense search, not only on what happened, but on existing security measures right now existing in Pakistan.

Question:  One short thing.  I mean, I think the last time, when the Secretary-General was asked this question, that, in essence Mr. Karzai had been declared the winner, he said, no, we have to wait.  How long do you think that we should wait for a decision to come, so that we know if it’s Karzai or if there’s going to be a run-off?

Spokesperson:  Well, the answer is not with me.  The answer is with the electoral commission.  As you know, they have been recounting a sample of ballots, which are right now being counted.  I assume that by next week we should have some answers to your question, but they will not come from us.  They will come from the electoral fraud commission.  Yes, Khaled?

Question:  Yes [inaudible] just to move to another subject about Guinea, I mean, I am sure you’ve seen all these reports about the abuse of women there.  I mean, considering that the Security Council has been issuing one resolution after the other about this subject, is there any attempt to indict the Government there and hold the Government accountable, or some investigation into these allegations?

Spokesperson:  You probably saw the statement we issued at the time it happened.  Our concern is great about what is happening right now there, and there is no doubt that we are in favour of doing an investigation on what happened, and we are in favour of the end of impunity in this specific case.  As you know, there were horrific acts that occurred in that stadium, and I think everything should be done to encourage some investigation of exactly what happened and who did it.

Question:  Michèle, after the, this Goldstone report is deferred until next March, I think.  Human Rights Watch also called that the Secretary-General should ask Israeli authorities and the Hamas authorities to conduct their own investigations into the whole thing, which the report touched upon.  Is that a thing that the Secretary-General would desire?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General has always been in favour of national investigations of what happened in Gaza, and I think he had expressed that before.  In terms of the Goldstone report itself, anything concerning what is going to happen, we have to wait for, of course, a decision by the Council.  I am talking about the Human Rights Council.

Question:  Do we have any update on whether any of the crossings, which are still being closed by Israel, have been opened as yet to allow…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have an update as of today.  We can get that for you very easily, on what has been happening at the crossings. 

[The correspondent was later informed that, on 5 October, the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza had been open.  Eighty trucks carrying goods, including food, medicine and diesel, had passed through that crossing.  However, the Karni and Nahal Oz crossings had remained closed.]

Question:  Does the Secretary-General believe that the Human Rights Council decisions to defer the subject helpful or not helpful to the peace process…?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General will not give an opinion on a decision taken by a body where Member States are represented, and, of course, as you know, the [Human Rights] Council is the one that sent Goldstone for that investigation.  It is their report, so it is for them really to react, not for us to react to what they have decided to do.  Matthew.

Question:  Follow-up on Guinea and then CMP and climate change.  On Guinea the, you said that the Secretary-General favours an investigation.  There is also a proposal that there be peacekeepers sent.  Does the UN have any view or has DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] in any way considered what it would take, you know, such a mission?  And also Francois Lonseny Fall used to be Ban Ki-moon’s envoy, maybe he is still, does he still have any UN position?  He’s a…

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.

Question:  Has anyone in the UN system I guess, given his previous role at the UN, spoken with him about his views…?

Spokesperson:  I think, yes, people have spoken to him.

Question:  What about the peacekeeper question?

Spokesperson:  Well on the peacekeepers question, of course any peacekeeping mission has to be decided by the Security Council, not by the Secretariat, nor by DPKO itself.

Question:  On the Capital Master Plan, I just wanted, the, the, I guess, two questions.  One, the statement about the blast film at Madison Avenue was made during a High-Level Committee on Management by the Staff Union, so I just want to be, you’re saying erroneous media, media council [inaudible].  Has the Staff Union been informed, that’s what they say…?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know whether the Staff Union was informed, but I do know that they have the films on the windows…

Question:  Okay.  What about in the, in the, what they call the luggage building, the building on the corner of 42nd and 2nd?

Spokesperson:  I haven’t asked, but as they mentioned, all the buildings were inspected by DSS [Department of Safety and Security].

Question:  Right, but the Staff Union says there was a safety plan, but that the blast film wasn’t put on.  I am just saying there’s a dispute between the Union…

Spokesperson:  I haven’t, but the Capital Master Plan, they know what they have done, right? 

Question:  No, I guess I’m just, I’m just asking that, and I wanted to just know, Jeffrey Sachs, speaking at this event, the Global Compact event, said that probably negotiations will not be completed before or at Copenhagen.  So I wanted to know is he, is this the Secretariat’s view?  Is the seal the deal…?

Spokesperson:  No, it’s Mr. Sachs’ view.

Question:  It’s his own personal view?

Spokesperson:  Yes

Question:  [inaudible] in Pakistan.  Until you know when the security measures are, you know, improved?  As we know, security situation was far better in Islamabad than rest of Pakistan, so what kind of security, you know, what measures do you expect the Pakistan Government and security agencies can take for the UN offices?

Spokesperson:  This is what is being discussed right now.  At this time, we are at the phase of assessment, of assessing how vulnerable our different offices are because, as you said, the threats remain.  So, to us, we are at a phase of assessment in terms of asking the Pakistani Government to do more.  Of course, that will be certainly coming in the next few weeks.

Question:  Responsibility about the attack related to [inaudible], do you have any reaction, particular reaction to that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any, to the extent that we don’t have confirmation that it is so.  They have stated so.  We don’t have any confirmation that it is so. As I said, there is an investigation going on, on the blast itself, on what happened, and we should have more to tell you, I hope, shortly.  Yes Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Michèle, thank you.  Is there any reaction from the Secretary-General regarding the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s readiness to rejoin the six-party talks?

Spokesperson:  I’m sure he welcomes it.  I haven’t spoken to him.  He is on a plane right now, but I’m sure he welcomes it.  Yes.

Question:  In the just released Human Development Report (UNDP), Timor-Leste has fallen from 140 at one time in 2004, now down to 162 out of 192.  Some are saying that this, that, that, that, the UN system, given the $8.7 billion spent in the last decade, that something should be said about, why is the, why is the quality of life or human development there falling.  Is there any response by the UN system, or by the mission in…?

Spokesperson:  Well, I could ask the question for you of course.  But I think the question should go to UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] and to DESA [Department of Economic and Social Affairs]. 

Question: There was a meeting on Friday of the host… of the Committee on Relations with the Host Country.  In the past, first there was some dispute about whether it was a closed meeting or not.  Last year it was closed, but DPI [Department of Public Information] would write press conferences of what occurred in the meeting.  This year, I mean, press release.  This year, there was no press release.  Has there been some change?  Is the meeting now entirely, is, entirely confidential?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think it is.  I can find out for you whether it is or not.  Anyway these are not our decisions, whether it is closed or not.  I’ll let you know whether it is the case.  Thank you all.

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For information media • not an official record