4 October 2006


4 October 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 Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.

**Briefing by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will be joining us shortly after Gail briefs on behalf of the General Assembly President.  Mr. Guéhenno will be here to talk to you about the recent surge in peacekeeping operations, and apparently, we do have a handout available in my Office, but maybe someone can bring it down as well.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

Late yesterday afternoon, we issued a statement on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, and I will read it into the record:

“The Secretary-General shares the global concern regarding the declared intention by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to conduct a nuclear test in the future.  Such action, if undertaken, would further aggravate tensions in the region.  It would bring universal condemnation by the international community and will not help the DPRK achieve the goals expressed in its statement, particularly with regard to strengthening its security.

“The Secretary-General urges the DPRK leadership to exercise utmost restraint and adhere to the international community’s norm on nuclear testing and also observe the current moratorium.  The Secretary-General believes that the DPRK should return to the six-party talks so that the nuclear issue on the Peninsula, as well as other security concerns between and among the parties, could be solved through negotiations.”

And, that statement is available upstairs.

**Security Council

The Security Council on that very issue is holding closed consultations now on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Earlier, the Council held consultations on Guinea-Bissau.  Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Tuliameni Kalomoh briefed on the latest report by the Secretary-General on that country.

** Guinea-Bissau Appointment

And also, related to Guinea-Bissau, the Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Mr. Shola Omoregie of Nigeria as his Representative to Guinea-Bissau and Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNOGBIS).

Mr. Omoregie will succeed Mr. João Bernardo Honwana of Mozambique, who left in mid-September to return to Headquarters.

Mr. Omoregie has served with the United Nations since 1978, most recently with the Department of Political Affairs.  And, his full biography is available upstairs.

** Iraq

From Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in that country, met today with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and briefed him on his recent travels, including the high-level meetings convened by the Secretary-General concerning the International Compact with Iraq.

President Talabani expressed his appreciation for the United Nations partnership with Iraq, and looked forward to the implementation phase of the commitments made by Iraq and the international community.

President Talabani also discussed with Qazi the progress made on the various initiatives intended to decrease the level of sectarian violence.  Qazi also brought up the human rights situation in Iraq.

And, we have a press release on that available upstairs.

** Somalia

From Somalia, the United Nations Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, met earlier today in Asmara with Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki on the second leg of his seven-nation mission to promote peace and reconciliation in Somalia.

Mr. Fall and President Afewerki discussed how to avoid any further deterioration of the political and security situation in Somalia, including the planned resumption of the Khartoum dialogue between the Somali Government and the Islamist Courts and the proposed peacekeeping mission by the Inter-governmental Authority on Development, better known as [Intergovernmental Authority for Development] IGAD.

In the next few days, Mr. Fall will also visit Djibouti, Egypt, the Sudan, Uganda and Yemen for consultations with their respective leaders.

** Rwanda

Juan Mendez, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, met today with Rwandan President Paul Kagame during a visit to Rwanda. 

Mendez intends to learn from the experience of Rwanda’s reconciliation process in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, so that he can draw lessons from the way in which Rwandans are leaving behind a difficult and violent past.

And, we do expect a press release on that a little later today.

**Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council met earlier today in Geneva to discuss a joint report by four United Nations experts on their mission last month to Lebanon and Israel.  Those experts were:  Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Paul Hunt, the Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Walter Kalin, the Secretary-General’s Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons; and Miloon Kothari, the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing.

The report concludes that serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the recent conflict in Lebanon.   The experts also concluded that Hizbollah violated humanitarian law in many instances by targeting civilian populations and by disregarding the principle of distinction.

Tomorrow, the Council will begin considering nearly 50 resolutions and decisions on a number of issues raised during the three-week session, which is scheduled to end this Friday.

And, we have more information on that upstairs.

**United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) says that a rising tide of sewage is threatening the health and wealth of far too many of the world’s seas and oceans.

In a new report called the “State of the Marine Environment”, UNEP says pollution -– linked with rising coastal populations, inadequate treatment infrastructure and waste-handling facilities -– is also putting at risk human health and wildlife, as well as livelihoods from fisheries to tourism.

We have more of that upstairs from UNEP.

**Humanitarian Response

And, lastly, the United Nations Foundation and the Vodafone Group Foundation today announced a five-year plan that offers the latest telecommunications technology to support United Nations emergency response in their worldwide operations.  Also involved in the project are the humanitarian [non-governmental organization] NGO Télécoms Sans Frontières, [United Nations Children’s Fund] UNICEF, and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Meanwhile, in related news, the World Food Programme today launched a new humanitarian response network, with strategic hubs in Africa, Europe and the Middle East, as well as Asia and Latin America.  Each emergency hub will stock strategic supplies of relief goods and equipment, ready for transport within 24 to 48 hours by air or sea.

**Press Conference

And, lastly, at 3 p.m. this afternoon, the Permanent Mission of the Czech Republic will be sponsoring a Press Conference in this room by the representatives of the Asian Inter-Parliamentarian Caucus on Democracy in Burma.

And, that is it for me.  And, before we turn to Gail, any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I just want to ask you, the report or the suggestions, I don’t know what I would call it, by Nicolas Michel [Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs] on the tribunal of an international character, is that going to be released soon?  And, how is it going to be presented?

Spokesman:  The discussions between Mr. Michel and the Lebanese Government are continuing.  I think they are getting fairly close, at which point, if I am not mistaken, the recommendations will be given and presented to the Security Council.  But, we will be happy to ask Mr. Michel to come down and talk to you about that.

Question:  Would this be before the end of this month, or is it going to be sometime this month?

Spokesman:  I don’t know when that would happen.

Question:  In Uganda, the Government’s Army has now moved into the northern part, from which it withdrew in conformity with the ceasefire of 26 August, and the Lord’s Resistance Army is saying that it is going to resist.  Is the Secretary-General concerned that maybe there will be a breakdown of peace in that northern zone?

Spokesman:  Let me see if I can get some guidance on exactly what’s going on the ground, and get back to you.

Question:  Also, on Uganda, he previously suggested in a report that a special envoy be sent to northern Uganda, which has not been acted on by the Council.  Is he still, is that still the position?

Spokesman:  I have nothing new on the eventuality of a special envoy, but, let me see what I can get on that.  I am obviously not prepared on the Ugandan file.

Question:  Now that the new Secretary-General is all but selected, and that for this Secretary-General the end is near, one of the things that has defied resolution since he has been in office, and even before him, has been the Middle East situation, which has always been back and forth.  Recently, the Quartet met, but nothing has happened.  Is the Secretary-General going to make one last valiant effort to somehow bring the parties together and go to some sort of a goal to resolve the situation, which has defied resolution?

Spokesman:  The Secretary-General, in the months that he has left in office, will be devoting quite a bit of his time to the issue of the Middle East, working both with his Quartet partners and on his own.  It is, as you will recall, in his statement to the Security Council recently, something that he very much feels is at the centre of a lot of the issues, troubles, we are seeing today.  So, he will remain, and it is one of the focuses of his efforts.

Question:  This WFP…?

Spokesman:  No, I don’t have anything further to what I’ve said on the selection process, which is ongoing, but I know you had some more detailed questions, which I am going to get you answers for.

Gail, you have the floor, and then Mr. Guéhenno will be down in just a few minutes.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly

Thank you.  Good afternoon, first of all.  The Special Political and Decolonization Committee continued its consideration of decolonization items on its agenda on Tuesday, with many speakers addressing the question of Western Sahara.  The Committee had before it the report of the Secretary-General, which summarizes the reports he submitted to the Security Council from 1 July 2005 to 30 June 2006.

In the Third Committee, which handles social, humanitarian and cultural issues, the focus was on a general discussion of social development goals, with speakers highlighting the importance of education, trade and technology access in achieving social development goals.  The Committee today will begin consideration of its agenda item on crime prevention and international drug control.  Mexico is expected to sponsor a resolution on this matter.

Meanwhile, general debate continued in the Second Committee, which looks at economic and financial matters, with several speakers addressing the problems of landlocked countries and Small Island Developing States that were faced with a unique set of problems, including rising sea levels, environmental pollution, natural disasters, infectious diseases and weak transportation networks, among others.  Debate continues today.

The President of the Assembly, Sheikha Haya Al-Khalifa, met today with the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme.  She also met with representatives of Chile, South Africa, Sweden and Thailand to discuss an initiative dubbed the “Four Nations Initiative on Governance and Management of the United Nations”.  In addition, she is expected to brief the Assembly’s General Committee on her programme of work.

Just before I take your questions, yesterday I was told that people were interested in finding out what the steps are for the appointment of the Secretary-General by the General Assembly.

What happens next is that the Security Council President will notify the President of the General Assembly, through a letter, of the decision of the Council on the candidate recommended for appointment by the Assembly as the next Secretary-General.  The Council will attach to this letter the text of its resolution recommending the appointment of the Secretary-General.

A General Assembly draft resolution will then need to be issued for the Assembly to take action on the appointment.  As is customary, this draft resolution is coordinated by the chair of the regional group from which the Secretary-General comes [in this case, Japan] and co-sponsored by the Member States holding the chairs of the other regional groups.

The President of the General Assembly will then fix a date for the Assembly to take up the draft resolution on the appointment of the next Secretary-General, taking into consideration the date of the Assembly’s draft resolution and bearing in mind Rule 78 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly, which is a 24-hour rule, this means a minimum of 24 hours have to elapse between the time the draft resolution is published and the time when the Assembly takes the steps, which means that this will not necessarily happen on Monday.

Questions and Answers

Question:  So, how long does this process take?

Spokeswoman:  The time that it takes for all those steps to take place, which means it could take a few days

Question:  A month?

Spokeswoman:  No, not a month, it certainly won’t take a month.  I know a lot of people have been speculating that it would happen on Monday.  But, according to the rules, this means it may not happen on Monday.

Question:  Is there a timeline, or a window?

Spokeswoman:  It is very difficult to give a timeline at this stage.  Probably, once the President of the Assembly actually holds consultations with the regional groups, then we would be a little clearer as to the date.

Question:  Does the President of the Assembly believe that it should be, as in the past, a pure rubber-stamp?  Or, is there any thinking that there may actually be some kind of a debate on the merits of the candidate?

Spokeswoman:  Well, I think the President will go by what has happened in the past.  In particular, because you have now a new General Assembly resolution which looks at this issue, and which sets up certain steps, I certainly think that she will be subject to what the Member States want to do.

Question:  As of now, there is no plan to have anything other than a rubber-stamping session?

Spokeswoman:  I wouldn’t say that.  I would say that, as of now, what she intends to do is to consult with the regional groups, to find out how they would like to proceed and then proceed from there.

Question:  When do the 24 hours start counting?

Spokeswoman:  From the date that the Assembly issues its draft resolution.

Question:  Do you have any insights, or do you have any expectations?  Are you going to have a full house when the time comes for voting on the official candidate for the Secretary-General at the General Assembly?

Spokeswoman:  I am sure this is an important moment for the Assembly, and that all Member States have a stake in it; I am sure there will be a full house.

Question:  And, the voting doesn’t differ in any way to any other way the General Assembly votes?

Spokeswoman:  It is a simple majority.

Question:  There are no procedural differences?

Spokeswoman:  Not to my understanding.  I will double-check on that with General Assembly Affairs just to make sure the procedure is the same.

Question:  Could you put on the agenda, at the same time as you have a full house, as you say, that you move to request a two-thirds majority for voting on the new Secretary-General?

Spokeswoman:  Could I ask whether that would be on the agenda?  Is that what you are asking me?

Question:  I mean, could the General Assembly put to a vote for the election procedure to require a two-thirds majority instead of simple majority?

Spokeswoman:  The rules say a simple majority.  I am not sure that they would suddenly come up with a new procedure.  But, I can check and find out whether that is a possibility.

Question:  Because there is a commentary, as of yesterday, that that could happen actually —- a news commentary.  That’s why I am asking.

Spokeswoman:  I would certainly check and get back to you.

Question:  Sorry to follow on the rules, the voting of the Member States, would it be public?  Is it one of these things where the little lights appear on the board or is it secret?

Spokeswoman:  That I would have to check, because I don’t think we talked about whether it would be secret or not, but I will check and find out for you.  I think Mr. Guéhenno is waiting.  Unless there is any other pressing …

Question:  In her consultation with delegates regarding the procedure of the selection of the Secretary-General, is the President advising appointing the candidate by consensus?

Spokeswoman:  Again, I would have to check with her as to whether that is one of the things she intends to do.

Question:  Is the candidate going to be present?

Spokeswoman:  I have no idea whether the candidate would be present.  I don’t know what the procedure has been in the past, but we can certainly check and find out.

Question:  Once assuming the vote goes ahead and he is adopted, is there any kind of ceremony, blah, blah, blah?

Spokeswoman:  My recollection when the current Secretary-General was elected, there was a ceremony.

[The Spokeswoman has confirmed that the current Secretary-General did take the Oath of Office on the day he was appointed by the Assembly.  The Oath of Office is in fact the only customs that takes place.]

Question:  Sorry, I was a little too young to remember this, but was there no sort of formal hand over?  For example, when the General Assembly President takes over, they hand over the gong.  There is nothing before December?

Spokeswoman:  In my recollection, no.  Well, Stéphane is here, so, he can maybe correct that.  But, I do recall there was nothing like that the last time.

Thank you very much.

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