4 May 2006


4 May 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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General and Pragati Pascale, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Guest at Noon

Joining us shortly will be David Nabarro, the Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza.

We announced yesterday that Victor da Silva Angelo, the Executive Representative of the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone, would be joining us today.  We are trying to reschedule his briefing for tomorrow.

**Secretary-General’s trip to Washington

The Secretary-General, as we announced earlier, will be in Washington, D.C., this evening, to attend the centennial gala dinner of the American Jewish Committee.

He will speak at that event, detailing the ways in which, in recent years especially, the United Nations and the Jewish community have moved closer together.  He will describe how the United Nations is fully engaged in the struggle against anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination.

And tomorrow, the Secretary-General is planning to deliver a speech on the relationship between the United States and the United Nations, during the convocation of the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University, where he will also receive an honorary degree.

** Sudan

Turning to Sudan, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland will be heading to Sudan this weekend.  He is scheduled to land in Khartoum and then visit South Darfur.  Then, on Wednesday, 10 May, he will head to Chad for a one-day visit.  The purpose of his visit is to get a first-hand look at the humanitarian situation on the ground, and to hold discussions with Government officials and aid workers.

Egeland has warned that funding for aid in Darfur has all but dropped off.  Donor support in Europe and the Gulf States is seriously flagging.  The UN appeal for lifesaving support has less than 20 per cent of funds needed, and the United Nations will soon be forced to cut daily food rations in half.  And the total amount needed, according to OCHA, is $648 million for Darfur.

** Uganda

And again, speaking of Jan Egeland, he welcomes today Uganda’s new Joint Monitoring Committee, which was launched today by the Ugandan Government.

The Committee, which was discussed between Egeland and the Ugandan authorities last March, will focus on improving conditions in camps for internally displaced persons in that country’s north.  And there’s a press release on that upstairs.

** Nepal

Turning to Nepal, a senior political officer from the Department for Political Affairs, Tamrat Samuel, is travelling to Nepal today, as a continuation of consultations the United Nations has maintained to encourage a peaceful resolution of the country’s armed conflict and political instability.

It will be the first opportunity to review the situation on the ground, following the important developments of the past several weeks, including the announcement of a three-month ceasefire by the Maoists and its reciprocation by the Government.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Then, on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission there says that soldiers from the national Congolese armies, as well as members of the Mai-Mai groups, are systematically committing human rights violations against civilians in the Katanga province.  The findings follow an investigation by the Mission’s Human Rights Division in North Katanga, in February.

The Mission has addressed recommendations to that country’s Minister of Defence –- and these include replacing a brigade, prosecuting identified perpetrators of human rights violations, and opening an investigation into alleged summary executions and alleged mass graves.  And we have more on this upstairs, in the form of a press release from MONUC [the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo].

**Security Council

And, you know that the Security Council just concluded consultations on Sierra Leone.  And the Executive Representative of the Secretary-General, Mr. Angelo, introduced the Secretary-General’s first report on the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone.  We flagged the contents of that report to you yesterday, and it’s out on the racks today.

And, yesterday afternoon, the Council held consultations on non-proliferation, to discuss the latest report by the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] on Iran.  And Council members received a draft resolution on that matter.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has called on donors to provide urgently needed funds to its Afghanistan operation, to ensure food assistance to 3.5 million Afghans.  It warns that there will be a break in food supplies this month, without fresh donations.  WFP requires more than 50,000 tons of food, costing $40 million, to maintain its operations until December 2006.  And we have a press release from WFP upstairs.

**African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria

Today is the last day of a three-day African Union Summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Addressing the gathering, the World Health Organization’s Regional Director for Africa said the burden of the three diseases remains “unacceptably high” in sub-Saharan Africa, and that a special approach is now needed to address the specific needs and challenges of children affected by the illnesses.  And there’s a press release on that subject upstairs.

**Background Briefing

And tomorrow, at 11 a.m., senior UN officials will hold a background briefing in this room on the Human Rights Council’s procedures for elections.  And I think Pragati Pascale, the General Assembly Spokesperson, who will come up here shortly, will have more information on that for you.

And, before I turn to Pragati and then to Dr. Nabarro, does anybody have anything for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  A couple things.  Do you have anything on Fritz Reuter?

Deputy Spokesman:  I don’t have anything right now, but I am expecting… the Secretary-General did meet with Mr. Reuter just a short while ago.  And, since then, he’s been tied up, as you know, in the meeting on the Group of Friends of Darfur.  So, I’m expecting something shortly in the form of a statement.

Question:  Follow-up.  Is there somebody lined up in case Fritz Reuter…?

Deputy Spokesman:  I have nothing further on this subject.  I will have an official statement very soon.  Hopefully, even maybe during the course of this briefing.

[The Secretary-General later told reporters:  “I am very sad about Fritz Reuter’s resignation.  He is a good man.  He brought lots of energy, professionalism, and creativity to the task.  And I am sorry that he has had to leave because of frustration and a lack of major stakeholder commitment.” In addition, a statement by Reuter himself was issued, following the briefing.]

Question:  So, Mr. Egeland, did he get permission to go to Darfur now, finally?  Is he going to Uganda again?

Deputy Spokesman:  On this trip, I believe, as I just announced to you, that he will be leaving tomorrow, and he will be going first to south Darfur and then on to Chad.

Question:  He was asking whether he actually has a visa or an invitation.

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, he does.  Mr. Abbadi?

Question:   Marie, you may have mentioned this already, but the Secretary-General is scheduled to give a press encounter -– an interview -- to Channel 13.  Has it been pre-registered or is it going to be impromptu?

Deputy Spokesman:  I’m not familiar with what you are talking about.  Are you talking about something that’s happening today?

Question:  Channel 13 just announced that they will have a briefing with the Secretary-General –- some kind of encounter.

Deputy Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, as you know, is on his way to Washington, D.C.  His full programme is upstairs, so I don’t think I will get into that.  He does have… just one second, let me pull up this programme… he does have an interview scheduled for later this afternoon for airing later tonight.  So, yes… the answer is yes. 

Yes Irwin?

Question:  A couple other things.  I asked yesterday if the Secretary-General has any press availabilities or “Q&As”, while he was in Washington, planned in addition to the speeches.

Deputy Spokesman:  As of now, other than the interview that Mr. Abbadi referred to, I am not aware of any scheduled press conferences or encounters.  He has the speech tonight and a speech tomorrow.

Question:  But no plans to take questions, for instance?

Deputy Spokesman:  As far as I know, right now, they are just statements.  One is at a dinner, as you know, and the other is at the University.

OK, Irwin?

Question:  The Darfur meeting on the Secretary-General’s schedule for 11 a.m.  Is that a reference to a meeting of the Friends of Darfur?  Is that what [inaudible]?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, the Secretary-General…

Correspondent:  Is attending a meeting…

Deputy Spokesman:  He is attending a meeting of the Group of Friends of Darfur.  The list we have upstairs.  It consists of 18 countries and 3 organizations.  And he was there this morning and addressed them.  The focus of his discussion with them was on the need for the support for the humanitarian side, which I just flagged to you.  And that will also be the main focus of Jan Egeland’s visit.  Yes?

Question:  One more.  Was there any reference made by the Secretariat in the briefing on Sierra Leone today to search for finding a new home for Charles Taylor, if he’s convicted?

Deputy Spokesman:  You’d have to ask the Security Council members about the discussion on that.

Question:  [Inaudible] the Secretary-General, who was leading that?

Deputy Spokesman:  The Sierra Leone report, as we reported to you yesterday, is the first report under the post-peacekeeping operation.  And it did make reference to the fact that, although things have stabilized on the security front there, it does mention that there was concern about the possibility of instability, because of the high profile prisoners at the Sierra Leone Special Court.  But, that is the extent of that report, and the mandate of the representative there does not cover the Special Court for Sierra Leone.

Question:  So the Secretariat is not aware of any progress in finding a place for him to go?

Deputy Spokesman:  I have not heard anything further, but please ask the Council members if that’s something that came up amongst themselves.

Question:  In a study that was released yesterday, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.  The Secretary-General is recommending in that study, which was also asked for by the Member States, that the journalists eschew interviewing any so called terrorists or militants.  He’s making that recommendation to the General Assembly.  What I’m saying is that he does not say who will define who is a terrorist and who is a militant that we do not like, who we can interview and who we can’t interview  How is that guideline being created?

Deputy Spokesman:  Let me look into that for you and I’ll get back to you after the briefing.

Question:  There was a briefing earlier today in this room by the ILO, about child labour.  An issue that arose was that at least two members of the Secretary-General-sponsored Global Compact have been alleged to be using child labour in cocoa production in West Africa.  So, I put in a question to the Global Compact and I’ll wait to hear back from them.  But I wonder, if you, on behalf of the Secretary-General, could say something about whether membership in that type of a UN organization should mean that issues like this need… what should the Secretary-General’s Global Compact do in the face of allegations of the use of child labour by members of the Global Compact?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, first of all, I’m hearing this for the first time, from you.  So I do need to look into from the Global Compact people what… the details of this case.  I mean, obviously, the Global Compact is set up to encourage corporations and the business world to adhere to the kinds of international standards that the UN is striving for.  So that is the ideal bar, and about the specific case, I really have to look into it further for you.

Question:  This particular issue that I touched upon, it is very important that you look into this issue, because this issue of censorship of the press, in this case, he’s recommending self-censorship, which is really not [inaudible].  So can you look into this more?

Deputy Spokesman:  I promise to do that.  Pragati?

[The Deputy Spokesman later clarified to the journalist that the section of the report, to which the reporter was referring, was about the media voluntarily avoiding being used by terrorists to disseminate propaganda.  She added that the report merely suggests that journalists should consider examining the experiences of media that have adopted voluntary codes of conduct. Additional consideration of the topic could address ways to counter extremist ideologies and messages of hate, she said.]

Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

General Assembly President Jan Eliasson concluded today a two-day visit to Nairobi, where he discussed issues related to development, UN reform, Africa and the environment, with senior officials at the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and UN-HABITAT, and with Kenyan Government representatives. 

Yesterday, President Eliasson visited the Kibera slum to witness, first-hand, conditions in what is reportedly the largest slum in Africa.  He was welcomed by members of the community and was briefed on UNEP and UN-HABITAT projects there.

At a press conference today, he commented on his visit to Kibera and the need to translate the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) into reality, by improving the lives of people in need.  He said “We can talk about the MDGs, but we must make them more concrete, in the form of malaria medicines, clean water, toilets and sanitation.  We are in a hurry.”

This morning, the President addressed Government delegations in Nairobi, where he called on the permanent representatives to embrace the programme for United Nations reform and to help strengthen the UN.  He said that his vision was of a world in which countries understand that “well functioning international structures are in the national interest of each country”.

President Eliasson will be returning to Headquarters at tomorrow afternoon.  He will hold a number of meetings in the afternoon, to assess where we stand on a range of issues.  It is expected that a plenary meeting to take action on all the remaining reports of the Fifth Committee, including on management reform, will be held sometime next week.

And, to help you prepare for the elections for the Human Rights Council, as Marie mentioned, those elections are scheduled for Tuesday, 9 May.  There will be a background briefing by UN officials on the procedures for the elections.  That’s tomorrow at 11 here in 226.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I read the speech of the President of the General Assembly that he delivered in Jordan.  And he sounds like he’s running for the post of Secretary-General.  Will he accept to be a candidate if he were offered the opportunity?

Spokesperson:  He has said that he is not a candidate.  He used to say he was completely focused on being President of the General Assembly.  Now he has two jobs to completely focus on.  He’s also Foreign Minister.  So, he’s not running for Secretary-General.

Question:  But the question is, if he were to be offered the opportunity to run for the post, would he accept?

Spokesperson:  He is not a candidate.

Question:  Pragati, there’s still no date that sets for the General Assembly Plenary to basically debate and adopt the Committee resolutions, including the whole management reform?

Spokesperson:  It’s looking like it may be Monday afternoon.  But it’s not definite yet.  We should be able to be more definite tomorrow.

Question:  Would that be a vote or more discussion?  Do you know?

Spokesperson:  The consultations are still going on among delegations, and it’s not clear, yet, what the scenario will be.  I’ve heard that some delegations are eager to avoid a repetition of the vote, but it’s not clear, yet, if that’s possible, or how they could arrange that.

Question:  Is President Eliasson planning, when he returns Friday, before it’s taken up by the General Assembly, to set up an informal gathering of the two sides of the debate, to see if they can reach common ground on it?

Spokesperson:  Actually, there are no plans for renegotiating the text.  So, it’s not clear, exactly, what the scenario will be.  The meetings he will have tomorrow afternoon are mainly to assess what the situation is.

Thank you.

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