28 September 2006


28 September 2006
Spokesman's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York


And the spokeswoman for the general assembly president


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Yves Sorokobi, Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and by Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Associate Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Security Council, this morning, began an open meeting to hear briefings from the chair people of its subsidiary bodies.

The Ambassadors from Argentina, Denmark and Slovakia -– who chair, respectively, the committees dealing with Al-Qaida and the Taliban, with counter-terrorism and with the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction -– all briefed the Council on their respective committees’ work.  The debate is continuing, with 19 speakers inscribed in all.  Then, at 4:30 p.m., following the straw poll for Secretary-General candidates that are scheduled at 4 p.m. today, the Council will hold consultations on Georgia.

In a later announcement, the Spokesman announced that the straw poll is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

** Lebanon Events Tomorrow

Now turning to Lebanon.  Tomorrow morning, the Security Council has scheduled an open briefing, followed by consultations, to hear from straw poll Serge Brammertz about the latest report of his International Independent Investigation Commission that is working in Lebanon.

That Commission, you’ll recall, is looking into the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others.

Following the morning’s Council activity, Brammertz intends to talk to you at the Security Council stakeout.

Also tomorrow, in this room at 11 a.m., we will have a background briefing by a senior UN official concerning the Board of Inquiry that examined the death last July of four UN military observers in Khiyam, in southern Lebanon.

** Lebanon – Humanitarian

Still on Lebanon.  Lebanon is making speedy progress towards recovery following the destructive conflict between Israel and Hizbollah this summer, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).  Tomorrow, in fact, OCHA plans to handover its coordination role in southern Lebanon to the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

Humanitarian operations are scheduled to end on 24 October, and UN agencies are preparing to close down or switch their activities to relevant Government authorities or development agencies.  The World Food Programme will wind up its cargo movements and food distributions by 15 October.  We expect to have a press release on that from OCHA later this afternoon.

**Human Rights Council

Turning to the Human Rights Council.  In Geneva today, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour briefed the Human Rights Council on the work of her office around the world.  She focused special attention on the situations in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Uganda, Guatemala and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

On the Middle East, Arbour announced that she would soon have the opportunity to conduct a first-hand assessment of the situation by visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

And we have more on this upstairs.

**Central Africa Security

Now about Central African security.  The twenty-fourth ministerial meeting of the UN Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa opened today in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

In prepared remarks that were delivered by the UN Resident Coordinator, the Secretary-General said that despite recent progress in the areas of peace, democracy and the re-establishment of the rule of law, particularly in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the security situation in the subregion as a whole remains fragile and the future of the subregion continues to be uncertain.

The Secretary-General added that the UN stands ready to provide the region with all possible support in ensuring security.

We have the Secretary-General’s remarks upstairs.

** Rwanda

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda says that its prosecutor, Hassan Bubacar Jallow, and representatives of 25 diplomatic missions in Kenya, yesterday met with the Kenyan Minister for Justice and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs to streamline their efforts in securing the arrest of fugitive Rwandan businessman Félicien Kabuga.

Kabuga, who is believed by the Tribunal to be a regular visitor to Kenya, is sought in connection with charges relating to his role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.  He was indicted by the Tribunal in 1997 and he has eluded arrest ever since.  And we have more on this upstairs.


Now an announcement that the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today that Rodrigo Vivas Rosas of Colombia and the Tenadi Cooperative Group of Mauritania will be the recipients of the 2006 UNEP Sasakawa Prize.  The co-winners are being honoured for their achievements in combating desertification and land degradation, and they will receive their awards next month.

We have a press release on this from UNEP upstairs.


And, we also have upstairs copies of a statement by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Tsunami Recovery, former US President Bill Clinton, on recent progress in the political reform process in the Maldives, and its links to rebuilding there in the wake of the tsunami.  That statement is available upstairs.

**Secretary-General Lecture Series

Former US Vice President Al Gore will deliver the latest lecture in the Secretary-General’s lecture series today.  Mr. Gore will speak on global warming.  That lecture will be followed by a series of questions and answers, and the entire event takes place in the ECOSOC chamber, from 6 p.m. today to about 7:30 p.m.

The Secretary-General will introduce the lecture with brief remarks of his own.  You can find more information on this event upstairs in my office.

**Press Conference this Afternoon

Immediately following today’s noon briefing, Ann Veneman, who is the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), will be here to launch UNICEF’s report, Progress for Children, which this year focuses on the world’s water and sanitation crisis.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

And Toby Lanzer, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Central African Republic, will be our guest here at noon tomorrow.  We will again announce this tomorrow at the noon briefing.

And before I take questions from you, I should warn you that we are a little tight on schedule so, I will take just a few questions before passing the floor on to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly and then on to Ms. Veneman for her briefing.  So, any questions?

Questions and Answers

Question:  First, Adamantios Vassilakis had told us yesterday, the Council President, that he would brief us at a stakeout after the straw poll.  Was that likely to be right after the straw poll or after the consultations to follow?  I realize that this is not your question to answer.

Associate Spokesman:  Well, I guess you’ve answered your questions.  I really do not have any details.

Question:  There is an item here that comes from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.  A UN human rights envoy had said that Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison.  John Dugard made the comments Tuesday to the Human Rights Commission.  Who is this Mr. Dugard and what is his position?  Can you look this up?

Associate Spokesman:  I believe Mr. Dugard is a Special Rapporteur.  But, I will find out the full description.

[The Associate Spokesman later added that John Dugard is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967.  He is an independent expert who reports to the UN Human Rights Council.]

Question:  On the Ivory Coast, since the meeting here that President Gbagbo didn’t attend, there’s this attempt to mediate by the President of South Africa.  The rebels or the opposition in Côte d’Ivoire said he shouldn’t be the mediator.  Has the UN taken any position on that, and, what is the UN’s continuing involvement now that the meeting here did not result in any solution?  What are the next steps?  Does the Secretary-General view the South African President as a fair mediator in this?

Associate Spokesman:  The Secretary-General supports the work of Mr. Mbeki, who was appointed by the African Union to mediate the conflict in the Ivory Coast and I believe that as far as the UN is concerned, the peace process there and the negotiations towards a resolutions of the conflict are proceeding fairly well.  And we have, as I told you, I believe last week, we have a series of regional meetings planned.  The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will be holding a meeting in the next 10 days or so, which will be followed by an African Union meeting, and we hope to have, sometime towards the end of October here, another formal meeting of the Security Council to address the situation in Côte d’Ivoire.  But, the negotiations for achieving peace in Côte d’Ivoire are proceeding well.

Question:  I think that World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director James Morris has said he is going to leave.  Is the Secretary-General, before he leaves here, going to appoint a successor and what is the process due to appoint a successor at WFP?

Associate Spokesman:  Well, I don’t have information on that and I haven’t seen the report that you are referring to in which the Director of WFP said he was leaving.

Question:  The US is circulating a new candidate that is why I’m raising it to you?  If you could, later today, confirm it?

Associate Spokesman:  I will look into that, but I don’t have information on that right now.

[The Spokesman’s Office later announced that the process to find a successor to the current Executive Director of the WFP was under way and that they expected a shortlist of candidates to be made available soon.]

Question:  Does the Secretary-General have any plan for a new action on Security Council reform?  I mean this was a major initiative of his, and then, in the GA debate it probably came up in about 80 per cent of the speeches.  A lot of people are talking about how they were surprised that something that had been seen as dead is obviously so at the front of the minds of a lot of countries.  Is there anyway that he is going to respond to that call?

Associate Spokesman:  I think the general debate just wrapped up yesterday, and the Secretary-General, of course, is committed to his work toward achieving reform not of just the institution, but of the Security Council in particular.  The statements that were made by the delegates during the general debate will have now to be studied and some of the proposals and ideas will have to be carefully considered.  I believe on that basis that the Secretary-General will have proper guidance from his Member States to be able to press through his work in the field.

Well, thank you and now I’ll pass the floor to Gail.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly

Good afternoon everyone.  President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa concluded the general debate on Wednesday, expressing her appreciation to all delegates for their valuable contributions and reminding them that, for dialogue to be fruitful, values such as mutual respect, tolerance and understanding should guide the Assembly’s work and deliberations.

In highlighting many of the issues raised, she expressed her pleasure at having heard a number of statements which addressed this year’s theme, “Implementing a Global Partnership for Development”.  There was a clear message, she said, on the need to redouble efforts towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and breaking the deadlock in international trade negotiations.  The question of poverty, the need to explore creative methods of funding the development agenda, including contributions from the private sector, were also high on Member States’ list of concerns, as well as their commitment to follow up and implement the reform agenda adopted at the World Summit last September.  She noted that Member States had also flagged their interest in moving forward on implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy and concluding negotiations on a comprehensive convention on international terrorism.

The President observed also that interest had been expressed in having the United Nations assume a more proactive role both in prevention and resolution of armed conflicts, with Member States highlighting, in particular the need to reach a just and lasting solution to the Middle East crisis and to resolve the situation in Darfur.

On institutional reforms, high on the agenda of the Member States was the need to see further progress on Secretariat and management reform, including a review of mandates; Security Council reform; strengthening of the Economic and Social Council; and revitalization of the General Assembly.

The President committed to using many of the ideas and suggestions as she prepared her programme of work.  She encouraged Member States to share any new insights they may have, noting that her door would always be open to them.  She said the approach to the Assembly’s work this year must stress transparency, efficiency and a coherent approach to work.  She also underscored the need to build trust and confidence among members of the Assembly in order to better serve “our common interest”, making a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world.  She promised to communicate her proposal on the way forward to Member States next week.

And, for those of you who may not have seen it, the programme of work for the General Assembly plenary is now out as a document.  It’s [document] A/INF/61/4, and that tells you where a lot of the emphasis will be in terms of the agenda.

Any questions?

Questions and Answers

Question:  It’s sort of a general question, having seen that 15 out of the 16 meetings held today are closed -- at least the ones listed.  If you could, who decides what General Assembly meetings are closed to the press and public?

Spokeswoman:  That depends on the Member States in large measure, whether the meeting is open or closed because it would depend on the item on the agenda.  And, at this point in time, most of it is organizational, and I think that’s probably the reason why it’s closed to you -- because they are looking at organizing their agenda, in each committee, getting everything in order.  Once that’s finished, I don’t think that you will be precluded from most of them.

Question:  Would the President of the Assembly consider giving some guidance at the start of this session?  Even in the last one, I remember, there were meetings that were sometimes closed and then you go in and nobody cared that you went in.  I guess I’m just raising it, maybe at some point, when she has a position on it, if more things should be open under her tenure.  At some later date, you could maybe address it?

Spokeswoman:  I will certainly raise it with her -- that there is a concern.  Thank you.

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