2 November 2005


Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Pragati Pascale, the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Spokesman for Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  As you well know, our guest today will be Chris Burnham, the Under-Secretary-General for Management, and he will be joining us to provide an update on management reform.

**Secretary-General Appointment

Speaking of reform, management reform, the Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Rajat Kumar Gupta today as his special adviser for management reform.  In his new role, Mr. Gupta will act as a personal adviser to the Secretary-General on overall strategy, as well as participate in the Deputy Secretary-General’s Post-Summit Coordination Committee.  He will help to ensure that the overall management reform programme is in line with best global practices and provide focused, specialist assistance on key issues of concern.

Mr. Gupta is currently a Senior Partner and a former Managing Director at McKinsey & Company, the global consulting firm.  And we have a bio available upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council, in its first meeting of this month, today held closed consultations on its programme of work for November.  At 3:00 this afternoon, Ambassador Andrey Denisov of Russia, the President of the Council for this month, will be here to talk to you about the Council’s work.

Also in this morning’s consultations, Council members heard a briefing from Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno on the situation in Africa’s Great Lakes region.  Council members will visit four countries in that region, starting on Friday.

And this afternoon at 3:30, the Council will reconvene to hear a briefing by Special Envoy Terje Roed-Larsen on the implementation of Security Council resolution 1559, and Mr. Larsen has told us he will speak to you at the stakeout, the Security Council stakeout, after his appearance in front of the Council.

**South Asia Quake

Turning to the aftermath of the South Asia earthquake, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that a lot of progress is being made on the ground, despite difficult circumstances.  It also says that the UN is enjoying excellent cooperation with the Pakistani Government, which is pulling out all the stops to help as many people as possible.

However, OCHA also says that it still needs all pledges to the flash appeal to be urgently converted into commitments and contributions, noting that some UN agencies have borrowed heavily to fund their relief work.  As of today, out of the $550 million in the flash appeal, $71 million is actually in hand.

Shelter remains an overriding priority, with between 100,000 and 200,000 tents still needed.  In addition, food aid is required for more than 2 million people.  OCHA also notes that acute respiratory infection is the most common diagnosis in all the health facilities across Pakistan’s quake-hit areas.

** El Salvador

From Central America, OCHA reports that the humanitarian needs of the victims of Hurricane Stan in Central America are increasing, but the response to its appeal for aid has been disappointing.  Several UN agencies are assisting more than 47,000 homeless people in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and southern Mexico.  Pledges have run behind needs, the agency says, and cash is running below pledges.  We have full details in a press release upstairs.

**Secretary-General and IPU

Yesterday the Secretary-General met with Pier Ferdinando Casini, the Speaker of the Italian Parliament and the new President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, known as the IPU.  The Secretary-General pledged his full support to the substantial strengthening of cooperation between the UN and the IPU, and looks forward to working closely with Mr. Casini and the IPU towards that end.

**World Food Programme

From Africa, the World Food Programme (WFP) reiterated today its appeal for $25 million to assist 1.2 million people in northeast Kenya hit by critical food shortages that are following erratic rains this year.

Meanwhile, in southern Africa, WFP is warning that nearly 10 million people in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe require urgent food assistance through April 2006.

Unless donors come forward with cash contributions to plug WFP’s immediate shortfall of $157 million, many people will not receive help in time.  We have a press release available upstairs with more details on that.


Major progress has been made in the fight against measles in Africa.  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 million children have now been vaccinated against measles, and 1 million lives have been saved since 1999.  WHO has put out a press release on that upstairs.

**Secretary-General and Bird Flu

Tomorrow the Secretary-General is scheduled to deliver his first major speech on avian flu.  That will take place at the Time Global Health Summit, which takes place in New York City.

In that speech, he is expected to describe the highly complex challenges involved and outline a set of key priorities for the UN system and the international community as a whole -- actions needed in seeking to avert, and preparing for the possibility of, a human pandemic.  He will describe the coordination mechanism set up by the UN family to address the threat, and call for collective action among all partners of the United Nations.

We will have embargoed copies of that speech available upstairs.

**ECOSOC and Bird Flu

Tomorrow here, the Economic and Social Council is also scheduled to meet on the avian flu threat and the coordination of the UN system's response.

Discussion will be initiated by Ambassador Munir Akram, President of ECOSOC, and General Assembly President Jan Eliasson.  Among the panellists will be Dr. David Nabarro, the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, and after that Dr. Nabarro will be here at 1:15 to talk to you in this room, accompanied by Ambassador Akram.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

Speaking of tomorrow, there are quite a few press conferences scheduled, and the reason for that is, as you know, Friday is a UN holiday so we will be closed.

At 10:45 Ambassador Jean-Marc de la Sablière of France will brief you on the upcoming Security Council mission to the Great Lakes region of Africa.  His briefing was originally scheduled for 3:30 this afternoon but was rescheduled due to the Security Council consultations.

At 11:15, Elizabeth Longworth, Director of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) Information Society office, will launch the “UNESCO World Report:  Towards Knowledge Societies”.

At 2 p.m., Ronald Nobel, the Secretary-General of the International Criminal Police Organization, known to you and I as Interpol, will brief you along with Howard Stoffer, the director of the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate, and Richard Barrett, the Coordinator of the 1267 Committee Monitoring Team, and they will brief you on Interpol/UN cooperation in counter-terrorism.

And also tomorrow at noon, our guest will be Adolf Ogi, the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace.

Any questions before we move to Mr. Burnham?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You’ve got the list of Sevan, Picco, Maurice Strong, Riza, all of those are one-dollar-a-year hirees.  Is it wise while, as you said before, you’re reviewing this whole one-dollar-a-year hiring practice, is it wise to hire a new guy in charge of reform on a one-dollar-a-year basis, which to say the least, violates the principle as it is of some competition in hiring.  You know, I mean, this is just...I understand.  The way I understand is that Annan hired this guy without any open bidding or anything like that.

Spokesman:  First of all, this is not a staff job.  The Secretary-General is free to hire whomever he pleases and whomever he thinks would be right to advise him on a special project, and I think Mr. Gupta’s biography makes it clear that he is fit for this job.

Question:  But you’ve said that you’re reviewing the one-dollar-a-year practice altogether as part of the reform?

Spokesman:  Review doesn’t mean it would be abandoned, but part of the review, which Mr. Burnham will surely talk to you about, is the need for the dollar a year and for those, when actually employed, to fill out financial disclosure forms, which Mr. Gupta will do.

Question:  Suffice it to say that, in his advice as an advisor for reform, he will not advise against the one-dollar-a-year practice.

Spokesman:  Mr. Gupta will come in and give us a fresh pair of eyes from the outside world and how to make the reform process best fit in with our best practices.

Question:  Was he involved in the previous McKinsey study of the function of the United Nations?

Spokesman:  I’m not aware, but you can check his biography upstairs.

Question:  There was a letter from Mark Malloch Brown to the Staff Council in response to a resolution the Staff Council passed (inaudible) trading of the documents, and in that letter he, Mark Malloch Brown, noted that the policy was to destroy chron files after a year.  Two questions.  One is why did he wait so long before he destroyed the 1998 chron files?  Secondly, given that we’ve discovered that a number of documents are missing in the Volcker probe, including some of the original correspondence to the Secretary-General’s office on the [inaudible] investigation of the Secretary-General’s son’s business dealings, including the letter, the memo, that Wagaye Assebe wrote on the purchase of the car, including a letter that must have been written in order for that car to be purchased in Switzerland at a great discount, is it a wise policy for the United Nations to have that chron files should be destroyed after a year?  Wouldn’t it be a wiser policy, in terms of what we’ve learned from oil-for-food, to preserve chron files because so many documents seem to go missing that don’t have duplicates?

Spokesman:  First of all, chron files are duplicate files.  Second, I think I will reiterate here for the nth time that Mr. Volcker’s report did not make any findings that Mr. Riza intended to obstruct the inquiry, did not make any adverse findings against him…

Question:  I said that there were a number of documents identified by the Volcker report as missing, and I named a few of them, and clearly there aren’t duplicates of those files, and my question is that, given that there weren’t duplicates of those documents that are missing where they should have been, is it a wise policy that chron files should be destroyed after a year, and shouldn’t the UN consider changing that policy so chron files are preserved to make sure…

Spokesman:  Chron files are duplicate files, are files that exist in central…

Question:  They are all duplicates of things that there should have been duplicates of…

Spokesman:  I’m not going to go on and reopen this discussion.

Question:  It’s awfully embarrassing, I know, but it would be interesting to have an explanation of where those documents are.

Spokesman:  I think Mr. Volcker and his, what, 4,000 pages, have given us quite a wide explanation of what happened in the oil-for-food programme.

Question:  Is it true that that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), I think Ms. Inga-Britt Ahlenius, has hired an outside firm to advise her on the working methods and so forth of OIOS?

Spokesman:  I will check for you.

Question:  One question on (inaudible).  Is there a date for Mr. Egeland’s visit to Zimbabwe, and the broader question is, following the resolution adopted, whatever it was, two days ago, which gives Detlev Mehlis significant powers to go and sequester Syrian documents and travel throughout Syria and so forth, is the United Nations Secretariat in any way considering how he might go about doing that?  Will he be setting up a specific office in Syria?  Are you going to be sending in security staff to Syria?  What happens next on this?  And also on the question of where he might send…do interviews, is there any sense of where those might take place?  Basically, all the practical follow-ups to those really quite, almost Blix-esque powers?

Spokesman:  On the first point, those dates for Mr. Egeland are still being discussed.  On the point of Mr. Mehlis, we will do whatever we need to do to support him as he asks us to do that.  I will try to get an update for him, as to his plans over the next couple of weeks in terms of scope and people, and if he’s asked for more manpower.

Question:  Just a quick question on the reform appointment, why is there this reform appointment when the UN already has this office led by the capable and enthusiastic Bob Orr to handle implementing the Outcome Document?

Spokesman:  I think the appointment of Mr. Gupta will look –- a lot of the management reform, as I said, is in the announcement.  He will bring a fresh pair of eyes from the outside to help us put our management reform in line with best practices.  But Mr. Burnham, who I see chomping at the bit in the back, I’m sure will be happy to answer more of those questions.

Question:  Also, do we have an update on Jerome Ackerman, or is he…?

Spokesman:  No, but I will get one for you.

Question:  A follow-up on both of Mark’s questions.  After the Secretary-General’s rather pointed statement the other day about Zimbabwe, when they rejected the UN’s help.  Does that jeopardize Mr. Egeland’s trip?  Is there any doubt now after that?

Spokesman:  No, those discussions are still going on, from the last I was told.

Question:  And the second one about Mehlis, has he requested security of some sort after statements that his team was threatened…

Spokesman:  Not that I’m aware of.

Question:  Have there been any statements or some sort of follow-up coming from Iran after the Secretary-General sent his message to them emphasizing his outrage at what the president had said, and what is the status of his trip at this point?  When do you expect him to be in Iran?

Spokesman:  We’ll expect to have a more formal announcement tomorrow on dates, but there’s been no change in his plans to visit Iran, as he said in the statement.

Question:  And any reaction from Iran?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  On the Pakistan quake relief, has the UN shortfall been filled as yet?  If yes, do you have any figures on that?

Spokesman:  Has the shortfall—sorry, what?

Question:  Underfunding of the United Nations relief…

Spokesman:  I think the shortfall is $71 million in hand, against a $550 million appeal.

Question:  Nothing more?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  A follow-up on that.  Has the Secretary-General received letters from a congressman, congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen and his good friend Tom Lantos and others, who urged him not to go to Iran after the statements that the Iranians…?

Spokesman:  He has received the letter from Mr. Lantos.  I will check on the other one.

Question:  Did Iran request or tell the Secretary-General not to bring any press with him on the journey?

Spokesman:  No, not that I’m aware of.

Question:  Just on Ethiopia and Eritrea, there were reports from UN sources this morning saying that there was an increasing build-up of troops on both sides of the border.  Could you confirm that and sort of give a sense, as far as the UN is aware, how serious and how large is the build-up of troops?

Spokesman:  We’re trying to get details from the mission on the build-up, but it continues to be a situation of very serious concern for the Secretary-General, as it should be for the Security Council.

Question:  I’d like to follow up on that.  Mr. Guéhenno just said out at the Security Council mike that the Secretary-General had issued a statement on this, but your office says that he hasn’t.

Spokesman:  We’re expecting one shortly.  It’s in the often-named “pipeline”.

Question:  To your knowledge, are there any other current United Nations officials involved in oil-for-food that might have emerged from the final report?

Spokesman:  No.

Question:  Tun Myat?

Spokesman:  Nothing beyond what’s in the report.

Question:  Mr. Gupta is only going to do in-house reform, right?

Spokesman:  That’s correct.  Thank you.  Pragati?

Briefing by Spokesperson for General Assembly President

In the General Assembly this afternoon, informal consultations of the plenary will be held on the Peacebuilding Commission, to review a new text circulated by the co-chairs.

Tomorrow morning the Assembly will meet in plenary to consider a number of items, including sport for peace and development.  Under that item, the Assembly will consider two draft resolutions, one reviewing progress during 2005, the International Year for Sport and Physical Education and calling for a further action plan, and the other urging Member States to observe an Olympic truce during the Winter Olympics to be held in Turin, Italy in February 2006.  It is in connection with this debate that Mr. Ogi will be at the noon briefing tomorrow.

I have some additional information regarding revitalization of the General Assembly, in response to a question asked yesterday.  On 31 October, the President circulated a letter to all Member States on this subject, stating that he would be following up on the Assembly’s decision last year (resolution 59/313) to establish an ad hoc working group to identify ways to further enhance the role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the General Assembly.  The President said that he intends to appoint two co-chairs of such a working group in the near future, who would then begin consultations on the issues to be addressed, with the aim of convening a working group early next year.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  So in order to deal with a proliferation of working groups, the UN General Assembly sets up another working group to deal with that?  But I’m wondering, could you tell me a little more details about what the talks are with the co-chairs and all the rest of it and the General Assembly on management reform that, I understand, was agreed or half-agreed yesterday?

Spokesperson:  The President is holding consultations in preparation.  He’ll be sending out a letter to Member States in the next few days outlining the next phase of follow-up to the Summit, including a process on management reform and one on development.

Question:  And one other final question.  Do you consider that sports and development is a crucial issue that the General Assembly should be spending countless man-hours debating, or is this another possible candidate for something that might be got rid of as a waste of time in the General Assembly?

Spokesperson:  I’ll let Mr. Ogi tell you tomorrow how much has been accomplished this year.

Question:  I hear the President’s having trouble appointing, getting co-chairs approved or even the concept of them, for the internal management reforms.  Has that gone through?

Spokesperson:  I think, in the letter, he’ll be setting out the process and then the [designation of] co-chairs would follow that.  I don’t have the impression it’s difficult.

Question:  Stéphane made the point that when the dollar-a-year people are appointed, they aren’t staff posts, and therefore, they’re circumventing the General Assembly, which decides the budget.  What’s the view of the General Assembly Presidency on the appointment of Mr. Gupta to a-dollar-a-year post on reform, when the General Assembly is itself setting up its own working group on reform?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know of any view that he has on that.  Thanks.

* *** *

For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.