27 July 2007


27 July 2007
Spokesperson'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 Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.  I’m still waiting for a few possible announcements, but because we will have Alicia Bárcena here at 12:30, and we have the GA President’s Spokesperson here as well, I will start with the announcements that I do have.

**Guest at Noon Today

And as I mentioned, Under-Secretary-General for Management Alicia Bárcena will update you on the Capital Master Plan.  And she will be accompanied by Mr. Michael Adlerstein, the incoming CMP Executive Director, who she will introduce to you, and his official duties begin on 30 July.  And that’s Monday.

**Secretary-General in San Francisco

The Secretary-General is in San Francisco today, where he will soon begin a joint programme with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, to examine businesses that demonstrate innovative responses to climate change.

Last night, the Secretary-General was the guest speaker at a Town Hall meeting and reception organized by the World Affairs Council, where he told the roughly 1,300 participants, “Global problems demand global solutions.  However powerful, however resourceful a country may be, it cannot address these issues alone”.

He added that, today, there is a new appreciation for multilateralism and diplomacy in coping with crises, adding that “issues like climate change -– the UN’s natural turf –- have risen to the top of the global agenda”.

We have that speech upstairs and it’s also posted on the website.

And earlier yesterday, the Secretary-General drove to the town of Novato, where he was reunited with Libba Patterson, the woman who, in 1962, hosted the young Ban Ki-moon on his first trip overseas as a visiting student.

Speaking to reporters at the end of his reunion with the Patterson family, the Secretary-General said he was delighted to see his friends again.  “I’m very touched to be able to visit this place, my second home”, he told journalists following the meeting.  He later said, “I really did leave my heart in San Francisco.”

And we’ll get an update of his programme later today.

** Iraq - Education

Warning that a generation of Iraqis could grow up uneducated and alienated, UNICEF and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) today issued a $129 million joint appeal aimed at getting tens of thousands of uprooted Iraqi children back in school.

The two UN agencies presented a plan to support host Governments, such as Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, in providing schooling for an additional 155,000 young Iraqi refugees during the 2007-2008 school year.

More than 2 million Iraqis have fled to nearby countries and about 500,000 of them are of school age, but have limited or no access to education.

And we have a press release upstairs detailing the specific activities of the UNICEF/UNHCR programme.

** Iraq - Health

And also concerning support for Iraqi refugees, the World Health Organization (WHO) is convening a ministerial consultation on Sunday and Monday in Damascus to address their health needs.

WHO reports that, with thousands of people leaving Iraq every month, the national health service of neighbouring host countries are overwhelmed by the growing demand.

The conference will bring together the Ministries of Health of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Syria, but also representatives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), among others.

And there’s a press release on this subject upstairs, as well.

**Human Rights - Rwanda

And the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today hailed Rwanda’s abolition of capital punishment, calling it a powerful endorsement of the importance of pursuing justice while repudiating violence in all its forms.

With the death penalty ban in place, Arbour said that the extradition to Rwanda of persons accused of genocide, in order to stand trial in the national courts, should now be possible.

We have copies of her statement upstairs.

**Human Rights – Democratic Republic of the Congo

And also in a report issued today, the High Commissioner for Human Rights points to the excessive and indiscriminate use of lethal force by the Congolese military and police in putting down demonstrations in the Bas-Congo province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

While she said both sides shared responsibility for the violence, Arbour deplored the impunity being enjoyed by the security forces.  She also deplored that the trials of civilians involved in those events were being conducted before military tribunals –- a clear violation of international human rights standards.

And there’s more on this subject in the briefing notes from Geneva.

**OCHA – Uganda

We also have a humanitarian update on Uganda from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  OCHA says that close to 500,000 former residents of camps for internally displaced persons have now returned to their home villages, but they must still trek long distances to reach health services, schools and water.

The UN refugee agency estimates that, on average, a return family takes 77 minutes to reach a safe water source.  Meanwhile, UNICEF estimates that there are more than 73 persons on average per latrine at the spontaneous camps populated by IDPs en route to their homes.

Plans are under way by the UN to provide targeted assistance to individuals residing in these internally displaced persons camps and return sites, as well as returnees who have just reached home.  OCHA expects to announce details on this soon.

**Economic and Social Council

The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today concluded its substantive session for 2007 in Geneva.

The Council’s President, Ambassador Dalius Çekuolis of Lithuania, told the press that the session had been a successful one, in which an annual ministerial review and a Development Cooperation Forum were introduced, to help step up efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

And there are further details in a press release on the ECOSOC session from Geneva.

**The Week Ahead

And we have for your planning purposes for next week, “The Week Ahead at the United Nations”.

Just to flag a couple things, Tuesday, 31 July, will be the last day of China’s presidency of the Security Council.

And on Tuesday and Wednesday, in the Trusteeship Council Chamber, the General Assembly is scheduled to hold an informal thematic debate on "Climate Change as a Global Challenge”.  I think Ashraf will have more details on this shortly.

And then on Wednesday, 1 August, through Friday, as we mentioned yesterday, the Secretary-General is scheduled to pay official visits to Haiti and then to Barbados.

And then, 1 August is the first day of the Republic of Congo’s presidency of the Security Council for the month of August.  And the Security Council President will, as usual, hold a press briefing for the programme for the month of August around 12:30 on 2 August here in room 226.

And then one last item, this is next Friday, there will be leading personalities of non-signatory movements to the Darfur Peace Agreement who are scheduled to participate in a meeting hosted by the African Union and the United Nations in Arusha, Tanzania, on the next step on the political process to end the conflict in Darfur.

So that’s what I have for you.  We’ll turn over to Ashraf if you have no questions for me.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can you elaborate on the role the Secretary-General sees the UN playing in Iraq in the future?

Deputy Spokesperson:  In what ...?

Correspondent:  In Iraq.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, as you know, the Secretary-General has made clear his determination to enhance where possible the UN’s role in Iraq.  Already, in addition to the humanitarian work that it is doing, the UN has played a key political role, particularly in our support for elections and in the constitutional process, and in our leading role in bringing Iraq’s neighbours together to assist the Government through the International Compact with Iraq, which we just held a meeting for last Friday.

But, of course, the extent of the UN’s presence in Iraq will continue to be determined by the prevailing security circumstances on the ground.

Question:  I was going to ask the same thing.  What “enhanced” means.  The Iraq Compact is one thing.  Aside from that, we haven’t heard much from the UN in a couple years.  So how [Ambassador Zalmay] Khalilzad has his own idea what “enhanced” is.  The security is not improving.  So where does that leave -– anything you can find out would be appreciated.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think the position is what the Secretary-General has said on a number of occasions and has been articulated in addition to the Iraq Compact, which is obviously something that is looking towards the future, the UN’s role has been ostensibly in the humanitarian and political work.  And those are the two areas that it continues to ...

Correspondent:  [inaudible] political means ...

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, it’s been in the assessment, the assistance in elections, it has been in the constitutional process, but it continues to look into areas where it can make a difference in that area.

I now have the statements.  I have three announcements and a statement.  I think I’ll start with the statement, and the statement is on Burundi.

**Statement on Burundi

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the recent withdrawal of the armed group -- Palipehutu-FNL -- from the Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism (JVMM) of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement signed by the Government of Burundi and the FNL in September 2006.  He urges FNL to resume its participation in this Joint Verification and Monitoring Mechanism without delay and calls on both parties to refrain from any actions that might lead to a resumption of hostilities.

The Secretary-General commends the efforts of the South African Facilitation, the Regional Peace Initiative on Burundi, and the African Union aimed at bringing the Burundi peace process to a successful conclusion.  He has requested his Executive Representative for Burundi to continue to work closely with these regional partners to help restore dialogue between the parties, with a view to ensuring the expeditious implementation of the Comprehensive Ceasefire Agreement.

And we have the statement in English, as well as in French.

**Secretary-General Appointments

And the three appointments with which I will end this briefing.

The first is the appointment of Edmond Mulet as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.  The Secretary-General has announced his intention to appoint Mr. Edmond Mulet as Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations.

Mr. Mulet will replace Hédi Annabi of Tunisia, who will be appointed as Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).  Mr. Mulet’s appointment will be effective 1 September.  And his bio is available upstairs.

And in this connection, the Secretary-General has also informed the President of the Security Council of his intention to appoint Mr. Annabi of Tunisia as his Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti.  And his bio is also available upstairs.

And the third appointment is:  the Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Dmitry Titov of the Russian Federation as Assistant Secretary-General for the Rule of Law and Security Institutions in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO).

Just by way of background, Mr. Titov has been working in peacekeeping since joining the UN in 1991, overseeing a number of operations.  He led the UN team in the restoration of Rule of Law and Security Sector Reform, a strong feature in all complex peacekeeping operations in Africa, and Mr. Titov has played a key role in developing the programmes for Security Sector reform and rule of law in all these missions.

I explain this because this is a new post.  Yes?

Question:  We have two of the top people in peacekeeping moving out.  When does Mr. Annabi move out?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have a date on Mr. Annabi.

Question:  And who’s substituting for Mr. Titov, who’s in charge of all of Africa, which is where all the peacekeeping missions are?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’ll have to get you –

Question:  And why are these changes at once when the whole department has got so much responsibility?

Deputy Spokesperson:  These are the three announcements that I have today.  Mr. Mulet’s appointment will be effective 1 September, so there’s the answer to that question.

Question:  Can you [inaudible] when Mr. Annabi takes over?

[It was later announced that Mr. Annabi will take up his new functions on 1 September and that there was no start date for Mr. Titov.]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  What’s the nationality of Mr. Mulet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Mr. Mulet is from Guatemala.  Sorry.

Question:  Just one more on that.  With Mulet and Mr. Annabi just basically swapping jobs, did they request that or is there some national distribution?  Why would -– what’s the thinking behind that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I think they were the two people who were best qualified for the positions that the Secretary-General saw fit for the positions.

If there are no other questions, let’s turn over to Ashraf, and then we’ll have Alicia Bárcena.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.  Normally, I’d feel concerned seeing Warren and Evelyn in the second row, but I know you’re waiting for the CMP.  So I’m alright.

**Thematic Debate on Climate Change

We would like to flag again the Assembly’s thematic debate on “Climate Change as a Global Challenge”, scheduled for next week, Tuesday and Wednesday, 31 July and 1 August.

It’s aimed at building momentum towards translating the current scientific consensus into political consensus for action.  The debate will consist of a day of interactive panel discussions and a second day of general discussion by Member States.  The panel discussions are expected to bring together experts and spokespersons on a variety of issues, including:  the impact of climate change, mitigation and adaptation strategies, new technologies and finance.

The participants will include academics, representatives from civil society and the private sector, as well as two of the Secretary-General’s envoys on climate change.  Member States are expected to speak on their national strategies and international commitments to address climate change on the second day.

The programme, the list of participants and their bios, and a concept paper for the debate are all posted on the GA website.

On Tuesday, at 1 p.m., here in room 226, we will have a press briefing by two panellists -- Sir Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics and Jim Rogers, Chairman and CEO of Duke Energy -- on what they think is necessary to move forward in addressing climate change.

That’s all I have.  Enjoy the CMP.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Is there any update on this Office of the Special Adviser for Africa -- the presentation or what was said was going to be done?

Spokesperson:  No.

Question:  You’ll let us know?

Spokesperson:  Of course.

Deputy Spokesperson:  So 12:30 is Alicia Bárcena.  I can call up and see if she’s available sooner, but otherwise, be back at 12:30.  Thanks.

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