8 March 2006


8 March 2006
Spokesman'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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

Today, as you know, is International Women’s Day, and our guest will be Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, otherwise known as UNIFEM.  She will be here to talk about exercising power for change.

**Secretary-General on International Women’s Day

Earlier today, the Secretary-General spoke at, what he called, his last International Women’s Day as Secretary-General.  He told the audience that, although much has been accomplished for women in the past quarter century, we have far more to do, both in the UN and in the world as a whole.

He said the world is starting to grasp that there is no policy for progress more effective than the empowerment of women and girls.

He said that, when he leaves his job here, he and his wife, Nane, intend to devote quite a bit of time to the advancement of women and girls’ education.

[Cell phone rings.]

And please, throw that cell phone out, whoever has it, thank you… Sir, if I could ask you to turn off your cell phone thank you.  Zero tolerance…

**Security Council

The Security Council, as you know, held consultations on Côte d’Ivoire.  Dmitry Titov, Director of the Africa Division in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, briefed the Security Council members on the latest developments in that country.  He also discussed the redeployment of UN troops from the peacekeeping Mission in Liberia to the one in Côte d’Ivoire.

Following consultations, the Council President, Ambassador César Mayoral of Argentina, just read out a press statement relating to International Women’s Day.

**Latest Reports by the Secretary-General

Out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Iraq, and that is a report to the Security Council.  In it, he says that, while Iraq has met all the key benchmarks of its transition timetable, it continues to face formidable political, security and economic challenges.

Sectarian violence has emerged as a main threat to the security and stability of Iraq.  The need for sustained intercommunal dialogue and confidence-building measures to promote national reconciliation is all the more urgent now, he says.  And the UN will continue to do everything possible to support such efforts.

He also notes that the human rights situation in Iraq remains a cause of great concern.  While the Government has taken initial steps to address the situation, there is a need for further measures to ensure that both past and present abuses are dealt with, based on the rule of law and in accordance with international obligations.

And also relating to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, met today in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdul Ilah Khatib, and thanked the Jordanian Government for facilitating the UN Mission’s work in Amman.


And turning now to operations in… I’m sorry, one more report that is out; the Secretary-General’s latest report on Ethiopia and Eritrea is out as a document on the internet.  In it, the Secretary-General says the proposed convening by the Boundary Commission of a meeting with the parties in early March, comes at a crucial moment.  He urges both countries to seize the unique opportunity and extend the necessary cooperation to the Commission, so that the expeditious demarcation of the common border can take place.

**Update - Democratic Republic of the Congo

And turning now to military operations involving UN peacekeepers in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the UN Mission in that country says that “Operation South Sentinel” against armed militias in South Kivu province has been completed successfully, with militia members pushed out of strongholds in the area of Kahuzi Biega Park and Hombo.

Meanwhile, a separate operation, “Operation Engraver”, reports that there’ve been no new contacts between the opposing forces in the operation aimed at removing militia members from the town of Tchei, some 60 kilometres south-east of the town of Bunia, which is located in the Ituri district.

And also on the DRC, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it has received reports of some 1,900 internally displaced families being registered in and around Bunia, since the end of last month, and the World Food Programme (WFP) is helping with food needs.

And also in the DRC, the head of the Peacekeeping Department, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, met yesterday with President Joseph Kabila to discuss, among other things, the current electoral process and security issues.  Guéhenno reaffirmed the commitment of the international community to support the electoral process in the DRC.

And last but not least -- out on the racks is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, on his appointment of five people to the Group of Experts for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  The appointments follow the Council’s request that the Secretary-General re-establish the group.

And we do have a transcript of Mr. Guéhenno’s press conference… we will have a transcript of his press conference hopefully later today.

** Cambodia

Turning now to Cambodia, the Secretary-General yesterday sent a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, submitting his nominees for international judges and other senior officials of the Extraordinary Chambers to prosecute Khmer Rouge crimes in Cambodia.

The Secretary-General forwarded the list of seven nominees for international judges -- we have that list upstairs -- and they include nominees from New Zealand, Austria, Sri Lanka, the US, Poland, France and Japan.

And he also nominated three people -- one from France, the US and one from Canada -- to be co-investigative judges.  We have the press release with the names available upstairs.

**Press Conferences/Upcoming Events

Today at 3:30… this afternoon at 3, rather, the Secretary-General will be meeting with Mr. E. Neville Isdell, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Coca-Cola Company, on the occasion of the company’s joining the UN Global Compact.  This latest development reflects the growing membership of the Global Compact around the world, with almost 3,000 participating organizations in 90 countries, as of now.

Guest noon tomorrow will be Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, who will be joining us to launch the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which we’ve been talking to you about.

And also, at 11 in the UNCA Club, Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon will be briefing you.

That is it for me. Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I don’t know whether you said it at the top of the briefing, but did you speak about Mr. Lavrov’s meeting with the Secretary-General, and do you have any readout on that?

Spokesman:  No, I do not have anything. I know Mr. Lavrov gave you an extensive readout and we will see what we can get you.  But I did not have time to do that before the briefing.

Question:  And I have one more question about the crackdown on the press by the Kenyan Government.  Television stations have been closed down and newspaper trucks have been attacked and so forth -- which was last Thursday.  No formal statement has been issued by the Secretariat, noting this crackdown at all. Why?

Spokesman:  Well, I think I would take exception to what you’ve said, because when there was a crackdown, I believe a week ago, against a television station and a newspaper, Klaus Toepfer, who is the head of the UN Office in Nairobi, and the most senior Secretariat member in Nairobi, did issue a statement condemning those actions.

Question:  Did the Secretary-General take note of those…

Spokesman:  I think the Secretary-General takes note, and has absolutely no objection with what Mr. Toepfer said.

Question:  Are there any plans or any announcements that you may have, Kofi Annan perhaps setting a meeting with the “P-5” or something to discuss what he discussed with Foreign Minister Lavrov, any developments on the Iran front?

Spokesman:  Not that I know of.  The Secretary-General met with the “P-5” late last week -- on Friday night… Friday afternoon if my memory serves me right -- to discuss exactly that, Iran, and he was briefed, by the Russians, notably on the discussions that they had had.  But I don’t see any… I’m not aware of another meeting he will call of the “P-5”, but if that changes, I’ll let you know.

Question:  And a follow-up question to yesterday’s briefing by Mark Malloch Brown and Mr. Gupta.  There’s this proposal… I mean the math may differ depending on how you put the numbers together, but it looked like an out front necessity to pay about half a billion dollars, $500 million dollars, to work out payouts for people leaving and what not.  Is there any new information that you could provide us on how the UN would go about securing that money, to be able to finance such a…

Spokesman:  Obviously, the report talks about an investment in the UN where we felt there had been underinvestment, notably in the issue of staff.  But that money will have to come from the Member States.

Question:  Is there some sort of formula worked out?

Spokesman:  But, obviously, the Member States are just now beginning their discussions of the report, so we’ll see where they go.  But a lot of the figures in the report were obviously estimates and will have to be more detailed out, once the implementation of the report becomes clearer.

Question:  But how does the actual negotiation go to make the position known to the Member States…

Spokesman:  I think the strategic vision laid out by the Secretary-General on management reform was given to the Member States yesterday.  And I believe the President of the General Assembly said clearly that he would now begin consultations on how the report would be taken up.  But this was a report asked for by Member States, and it is now in their hands and, meanwhile, we will go ahead with extensive consultations with our staff.

Question:  On the issue of delegating the powers of the Secretary-General to the DSG [Deputy Secretary-General], as the Secretary-General has done in the report, I was talking to some ambassadors who believe that this matter should be brought to the attention of the UN General Assembly for approval -- that it can’t be done by the Secretary-General by himself arbitrarily, because it was the GA which gave the approval for the DSG post.

Spokesman:  Obviously the Member States are going to discuss the report and express their feelings on it.  But, I think if you look at the way the new responsibilities of the Deputy Secretary-General’s post were laid out in the report, it is a delegation of some authority, but it in no way changes the Secretary-General’s responsibility, as it is laid out in the Charter, where he remains the Chief Administrative Officer, and he remains at the head of the Secretariat, and the ultimate responsibility remains with him.  So that is clear, and the report in no way changes what is in the Charter.

Question:  It does change… he says it very openly; that the reason why he is delegating the authority is because…

Spokesman:  Of course, he has… I think as anyone who heads a large organization needs to delegate some authority.  But the ultimate responsibility will remain with him, as it is laid out in the Charter.

Thank you very much.  Oh!  I’m so sorry.  I’m always so eager to leave.  Please stay.  We have Noeleen Heyzer who is our guest today. You know, I just want to run away so quickly…

* *** *

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