6 September 2000


6 September 2000

Press Briefing



The United Nations Millennium Summit had been billed as the largest gathering of world leaders ever, and, with over 149 heads of State and government so far in attendance, it was living up to its name, Therese Gastaut, Spokeswoman for the Co-Chairs of the Millennium Summit told correspondents at a press briefing today.

Quoting remarks made earlier by one of the Co-chairs of the Summit, Ms. Gastaut said the Summit had started well this morning. There was clearly momentum and the world leaders wanted to use the historic moment to create a common will to address the major global issues of today and to strengthen the global capacity of the United Nations.

Ms. Gastaut went on to say that another sign of the great interest raised by the Summit was the number of "hits" on the United Nations Web site. Normally, she said, the site received between 500,000 and 800,000 hits a day. On Monday, it had 2.7 million and yesterday, it had 2.2 million. She hoped that the total for today would be close to 3 million.

Ms. Gastaut noted that the Summit co-chairs, President Tarja Halonen of Finland and President Sam Nujoma of Namibia were joined on the podium this morning by the Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. She said that Ms. Halonen had highlighted the three-fold task of the leaders of the attending delegations: to meet the demands of the outside world; to clarify the role of the United Nations in world affairs; and to change the United Nations into a modern institution.

Ms. Gastaut said that President Nujoma, for his part, noted that the people of the world had had high expectations for social change. Now was a time for a new beginning to give renewed impetus to peace, cooperation, security and stability in the world. The next speaker to take the floor had been President Clinton of the United States, as President of the host country. He was followed by the head of State of Guatemala.

Ms. Gastaut next drew attention to the events set to occur on the final day of the Summit, Friday, 8 September. At the close of the Summit, the world's leaders were expected to adopt a "Millennium Declaration", which outlined their vision for the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century. The draft of the Declaration had been adopted by consensus yesterday morning during the final meeting of the fifty-fourth General Assembly. That draft declaration was currently available, she added.

As the Summit was also considered a "working session", Ms. Gastaut said that it was important to note that the heads of State and government would participate in one of four round tables discussions. They would meet in conference room 5-6, around a specially constructed table. Although these meetings would be closed to the media, each chairperson would brief the press 15 minutes after the conclusion of their respective round table discussions.

Gastaut Press Briefing - 2 - 6 September 2000

The first round table, which would be held later this afternoon, would be chaired by Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore, she said. The Prime Minister was expected to give a press conference at 6:15 p.m.

A correspondent asked if, in addition to the briefings by the respective chairmen, there would be any other outcomes from the round tables?

Ms. Gastaut said that one of the most important outcomes would be the very fact that the round tables were informal, closed and interactive sessions. The discussions were indeed expected to be quite open-ended. It was hoped that the heads of State would take advantage of them to have a thoughtful exchange of views and that they would give the United Nations a sense of what the world leaders wanted from the Organization. The chairpersons of the respective roundtables were expected to present the summaries of those meetings at the closing meeting of the Summit.

Ms. Gastaut said that, in another unprecedented event, leaders from 85 countries would be taking action on over 40 multilateral treaties. This would result in nearly 250 treaty actions.

Regarding the programme of the Co-chairs, Ms. Gastaut said that following this morning's plenary, President Halonen and President Nujoma were expected to attend the Secretary-General's lunch in honour of attending heads of State, heads of government and heads of delegation. There, they would be toasted by the Secretary-General and the President of the United States.

Following the lunch, the dignitaries were expected to take a "group photo" which would capture this historic moment. Representatives from Kodak would shoot the official Summit photo on a pro bono basis, using the latest digital technology. It was expected that 193 people would be in the photograph. The photo would be available to the press immediately after it was taken. All requests for information on this event should be addressed to Lily Chau at ext. 2123.

A correspondent asked how the world leaders would line up for the group photograph. Ms. Gastaut said that correspondents would have information regarding the position of each leader immediately after the picture was taken. She then gave the floor to Tim Wall, Information Officer in the Development and Human Rights Section of the Department of Public Information, to better explain the special arrangements that had been made for the photo session. He said that there would be 10 rows of leaders with approximately 24 leaders in each row. They would be on a stand that had been built for the occasion in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

There would also be a number of bilateral meetings occurring during the Summit, Ms. Gastaut said. At this point, more than 150 bilaterals were expected to take place today at Headquarters alone.

A correspondent wondered if there was any particular reason why the speech by Iranian President Mohammad Khatami was brought forward this morning. He said there had been rumours that the United Nations was doing some "match-making".

Gastaut Press Briefing - 3 - 6 September 2000

Ms. Gastaut said that the changes to the speakers list were made by mutual arrangement of all those on the list. The list was an evolving one and if everyone on the list agreed with a change, it was arranged. The changes were for the benefit of the speaker and with the agreement of the other speakers.

She went on to say that one of her colleagues would monitor the list as closely as possible so that announcements could be made as soon as information about a change became known, even if such announcements came just five to 10 minutes prior to the statement. This morning's change was a bit unexpected, but her office would be as vigilant as possible.

Finally, she said that for the first time, the United Nations had employed state-of-the-art technology to stage a high-level meeting. There are giant video screens in the General Assembly Hall following an initiative by the Government of Japan. The Japanese broadcasting corporation (NHK) had offered, on a pro bono basis, services and equipment with high definition television technology for coverage of the Summit.

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For information media. Not an official record.