9 November 2006


9 November 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, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Spokesman for the Secretary-General

**System-Wide Coherence

Good afternoon.  The Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the Areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and the Environment presented its report to the Secretary-General this morning.  According to the report, called Delivering as One, the sprawling UN system must be radically revamped in order to fulfil its potential and help countries reach the Millennium Development Goals.

In remarks to an informal meeting of the General Assembly this morning, the Secretary-General said the report’s analysis and recommendations opened the way to a decisive realignment of the UN system, which will make it more coherent and more effective in crucial areas of its work.  He also said that he would transmit the document to his successor, Ban Ki-moon, who in due time may wish to make more specific proposals for implementing it.

And at 12:30 p.m. today, right after the briefing, there will be a press conference in this room on the report, by the Panel’s Co-Chairs, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz of Pakistan and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway.  Other members of the Panel will also be present in the group.

**Security Council

Meanwhile, the Security Council today began an open debate on the Middle East and Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Angela Kane opened the debate by discussing the incident that occurred in Beit Hanoun on Wednesday, in which, she said, “men, women and children, who posed no threat, were killed as they slept in their home”.

She noted that the Secretary-General has repeatedly expressed his deep concern about the rising death toll caused by the Israeli military operation in northern Gaza, given that such operations inevitably cause civilian casualties.  The Secretary-General has reminded both sides of their obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians in armed conflict. 

Kane said that the UN hopes that both Israelis and Palestinians will, in the wake of yesterday’s tragedy in Beit Hanoun, pause and reflect on the fact that the conflict between them will not be resolved by force, and that ways must be found to bring about negotiations.  The United Nations therefore reiterates its call for a return to dialogue as the only way out of this spiral of violence, she added.

The open debate is continuing, with about 27 speakers inscribed.

** Sudan

Yesterday, concerning the Sudan, the Secretary-General told reporters after the Security Council luncheon that they had discussed the situation in Darfur and the need to work urgently with the Sudanese Government and other parties concerned to find a way out of the impasse which exists today with the deteriorating situation on the ground.  He mentioned that a series of meetings on Darfur are being planned in Addis Ababa, beginning on the thirteenth of this month.

The Secretary-General added that, “Everyone hopes that between now and the end of the month we will be able to come up with a workable alternative so that we can move ahead with the implementation of resolution 1706, and help the people concerned.”

Hédi Annabi, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, will depart today for Khartoum where he will discuss with Sudanese Government officials the way forward in Darfur and other issues of common concern, including the UN support package to the African Union Mission in the Sudan (AMIS).

From there, Mr. Annabi travels to Addis Ababa for the 13 November consultations on Darfur with African Union officials.  He will then proceed onto Brussels for another series of Darfur-related meetings there.

Also on the Sudan, Jan Egeland is scheduled to arrive tomorrow in Nairobi, Kenya, at the start of his final mission to Africa as the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

During his ten-day mission, Mr. Egeland is expected to travel to Juba, in southern Sudan, at the request of the parties to the ongoing peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and then onto Kampala, Uganda.

While in Juba, Mr. Egeland has indicated his willingness to meet with the LRA senior leadership in the event of a significant humanitarian development such as a transfer of non-combatants, wounded or sick civilians into the care of specialized humanitarian agencies.  He is then expected to continue onto Khartoum and then proceed onto Darfur.

And we do have a press release with more information on his travels available upstairs.

** Myanmar

Regarding another travelling Under-Secretary-General, Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, arrived in Myanmar today, beginning a four-day working visit being carried out within the framework of the good offices mandate, given to the Secretary-General by the General Assembly.  Mr. Gambari is continuing the dialogue initiated in May of this year with senior authorities and other key actors from across the political spectrum.

In meetings in Yangon today with the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Labour and Planning, Mr. Gambari discussed enhancing cooperation between the United Nations and Myanmar, while stressing the need for concrete results in areas of concern to the international community.  These include:  the need to make the road map political process more transparent and inclusive, the release of political prisoners, the opening up of space for humanitarian assistance and the situation in the Kayin state.

And Mr. Gambari is also scheduled to meet over the next few days with all of the groups and persons he was able to see during his previous visit to Myanmar.

** Lebanon

Turning now to Lebanon, following the withdrawal of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday from most of the areas around the village of Ghajar, the UN Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) carried out intensive patrolling and set up temporary checkpoints in the specified areas to confirm that the Israeli forces were no longer present.

After verification of full withdrawal by UNIFIL, the Lebanese Armed Forces began to deploy their troops on the ground in the area at about 9 a.m. local time today.  Or 9 a.m. today, I don’t know if it’s local time or New York time.

The IDF, meanwhile, remain present in the northern part of the village of Ghajar, which is inside Lebanese territory, and in the immediate vicinity of the village.

** Sri Lanka

Turning now to Sri Lanka, Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, said that yesterday’s massive attack on civilians -- in an area of eastern Sri Lanka controlled by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam -- shows that force continues to be used indiscriminately in that country’s conflict.

Noting that this particular artillery bombardment by the Sri Lankan Army hit a school that was hosting some 1,000 internally displaced persons, Egeland called upon all parties to the conflict to ensure the protection of civilians under all circumstances in accordance with international humanitarian law.  And we do have a press release upstairs on that.

** Kenya

Also, the Director of the UN Office in Nairobi and head of UN-HABITAT, Anna Tibaijuka, expressed her deep concern today over the continuing escalation of violence and rising death toll in Nairobi’s Mathare slums.  Ms. Tibaijuka has called for calm and urges all stakeholders to work together to find a peaceful and lasting solution. 

And that statement is upstairs.

**Press Conference this Afternoon

A couple things to flag for you.  In addition to the 12:30 briefing on the High-Level Panel, at 2 p.m. this afternoon, Ms. Bani Dugal from the Baha'i International Community, Ms. Doris Mpoumou of Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era, Ms. June Zeitlin from Women's Environment and Development Organization, and Ms. Cynthia Rothschild, from the Centre for Women's Global Leadership, will brief here on the response of women's groups to the recommendations on gender equality in the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel Report on UN System-Wide Coherence.

**Human Solidarity Day

And tomorrow, the Nobel Peace Laureate and former Polish President, Lech Walesa, will be at Headquarters to observe International Human Solidarity Day.  There will be a 10 a.m. ceremony in the Trusteeship Council.


And also tomorrow, in observance of its sixtieth anniversary, the UN Commission on the Status of Women will have a roundtable discussion on its role in promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, progress made and in future opportunities.  This will take place in the ECOSOC Chamber from 3 to 6 p.m. tomorrow afternoon and the Secretary-General, as well as the President of the General Assembly, will make some opening remarks.

That is it for me.  I will now let you ask some questions.  Excellent.  Thank you very much.  That’s a perfect game.  Gail, all yours.

Briefing by the Spokeswoman for the President of the General Assembly

Bearing in mind the time limit, I don’t have very much today either.  The General Assembly, on Wednesday, for the fifteenth consecutive year, expressed its support for ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba.  By a recorded vote of 183 in favour to 4 against (Israel, the Marshall Islands, Palau and the United States) and 1 abstention (the Federated States of Micronesia), the Assembly called on States to refrain from promulgating laws in breach of freedom of trade and navigation.  It also called on all States which had such laws and measures to repeal or invalidate them.  It also requested the Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the resolution at the Assembly’s next session.

Meanwhile, in the plenary this morning, the President of the General Assembly hosted an informal briefing to allow the Panel of Experts on UN System-wide Coherence to present their report to the Member States and to facilitate an informal exchange of views.  The President looks forward to formally receiving the report from the Secretary-General, with his views both on substance and implementation.  The report, entitled “Delivering as One”, is expected to suggest recommendations for reconfiguring all parts of the UN system which deal with the issue of development.

In news of the work of the Committees:  the Fourth Committee, which has been discussing the report of the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and other Arabs of the Occupied Territories, will conclude its work for the main session today.  Among the resolutions are one related to the operations of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), another on assistance to Palestinian refugees, a third on Palestinian refugee properties and their revenues, and a fourth resolution on persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 conflict and subsequent hostilities.

In the Third Committee, discussions continued on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with Zambia urging that urgent national and international attention needed to be paid to addressing the needs of the 13 million internally displaced people living in Africa.  The Committee also heard the introduction of a draft resolution on enlarging the Executive Committee of the Programme of the High Commissioner for Refugees and a draft resolution on hostage taking.  Today, the Committee will focus its attention on programme planning and taking action on a number of draft resolutions.

That’s my report for today.

Questions and Answers

Question:  (Inaudible)

Spokeswoman:  There are four draft resolutions in the Fourth Committee.  All on the situation of Palestine and related issues.

Question:  …adopt them or they’re just debating them now.

Spokeswoman:  They are expected to adopt the resolutions today because they’re hoping to finish their work today.  On the Sixth Committee, I am still waiting to hear whether they actually are going to finish today.  My understanding is that they may be asking for an extension until next week because there are issues that they’re still discussing.  Anything else?  Great.  Have a good afternoon.

* *** *

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