|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICEs OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
And the spokesperson for the General Assembly president
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.
**Guest at Noon
Good afternoon, all. Our guest at the noon briefing today is Nicolas Haysom, Director of Political Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, who will brief you on the upcoming high-level events surrounding the General Assembly’s sixty-second session. And I will give you also some media arrangement possibilities. We are not quite finished yet with all the arrangements, but I’ll give you what I have after Nicolas’ briefing.
**UNICEF/Child Mortality Report
UNICEF has issued a new report showing that deaths of children under the age of five dropped below 10 million for the first time last year, representing a substantial drop from nearly 13 million in 1990. UNICEF credits such basic health interventions as measles vaccinations, mosquito nets and increased breast-feeding.
UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman hailed the news as “an historic moment” that must be built on, but noted that 9.7 million deaths are still unacceptable and that most of those deaths are preventable. We have more information for you upstairs.
High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour addressed the Human Rights Council today in Geneva.
Regarding Myanmar, she said she had been following with growing concern the suppression of peaceful protests in that country. She urged Myanmar’s authorities to release detainees and political prisoners and ensure respect for fundamental rights.
On the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she regretted that none of the perpetrators of the serious crimes committed during the first half of this year had been arrested and brought to justice. She added that recent trials raised serious questions about the independence of the Congolese judiciary.
Arbour also expressed particular concern about Iran, regarding the application of the death penalty to juveniles and the need to protect the right to peaceful public expression. We have her full remarks upstairs.
On Sudan, the level of grave human rights violations against children in Sudan remains high, including their recruitment and use by armed forces and groups, as well as rape and sexual violence. That is the conclusion of a new report by the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict in Sudan, which is out today.
In general, the Secretary-General says, the situation for children in Sudan is showing small signs of improvement. But cases of the killing, rape and abduction of children continue to be recorded.
The Secretary-General urges all parties to the conflict in Darfur to take concrete steps to implement their commitments to end grave violations of children’s rights. He also urges the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan to take concrete steps to undertake an independent verification exercise, with the support of the UN Mission in Sudan and UNICEF, to assess and identify the children presently associated with their forces and allies.
The Secretary-General will be receiving an award today from the Pony Chung Scholarship Foundation, which was established by the Hyundai Corporation. The Pony Chung Innovation Award recognizes individuals who bring about innovative and effective changes in the realm of politics, economics, society and culture.
The award includes a monetary prize of $100,000, all of which the Secretary-General has had transferred to UN-HABITAT. The money will be used for skills training for poor youth in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, which the Secretary-General visited on his first trip after taking office.
The Secretary-General was selected for the award in December 2006 for his accomplishments while he served in the Government of the Republic of Korea.
This is all I have for you today. We’ll have Nicolas Haysom with me in a few minutes, but I’ll take a few questions then Ashraf will brief you. I think he has some news.
Questions and Answers
Question: I just wanted to ask on Indonesia -- the tsunami which really didn’t happen. They say that the death toll stands at approximately 10. Does the UN department of humanitarian assistance have any figure on the death toll from the Indonesia tsunami? Have they assessed the damage and do they have any report on that?
Spokesperson: Well, as far as I know there is an assessment team that toured the region and the United Nations country team concluded that a major international relief operation is not required at this time, and the Indonesian Government also conveyed to the UN that its national response is sufficient. Indonesian officials have distributed medicine, tents and meals to those affected so we’re not going beyond that. If anything else happens, of course, our teams will be ready.
Question: It only impacted that particular area and didn’t go beyond that, right?
Spokesperson: As far as we know, no.
Question: Does the Secretary-General intend to comment on the Israeli-Syrian situation?
Spokesperson: Not at this point.
Question: Today, the General Assembly is considering the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It looks like it’s going to pass on this vote. Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the rights of indigenous people?
Spokesperson: Well he’s, of course, waiting for the vote and he’s hoping to give his support to the declaration and we’re waiting for the vote.
Question: Michèle, on the Middle East process, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have declared that there should be a clear agenda and discussion of the core issues, and Saudi Arabia said that if there are no such things, their presence at the November conference will be in doubt. What is the Secretary-General’s view regarding this issue of the agenda?
Spokesperson: Which specific conference are you referring to, the US conference or the UN conference?
Spokesperson: What I can tell you is that all the Arab partners of the Middle East initiative, of the Quartet, will be here -– and we’ll be talking about this in a few minutes, about that special event that will take place here at Headquarters –- then I think your questions will be asked.
Question: Is there any thinking by the Ethics Office whether to take the two UNDP complaints about whistle-blowing and retaliation that are not related to North Korea?
Spokesperson: I don’t have an answer on this at this point. I already said everything I could say about this. As you know, there is an initiative that the Secretary-General has taken with the heads of agencies, he has spoken to them and we don’t know at this point what decisions will be taken. So it’s very difficult to answer that question at this point.
Question: The UNDP’s Kemal Dervis has said that there’s a meeting on the 21st where he’s going to be proposing a high-level management meeting to UNFPA and others, something about the Ethics Office. But you’ve all said that it’s up to the GA. Can the funds and programmes themselves, at the level of the chief executive, say “we accept the Ethics Office
Or does it require …
Spokesperson: I have always said that there are two possibilities: either it is the General Assembly that takes the decision, or the different executive boards of the funds and programmes.
Question: But Mr. Dervis seems to imply that the actual chief executives can do it without their executive boards.
Spokesperson: He’s probably referring to the CEB meeting, the Chief Executives Board meeting.
Question: Is Mr. Ban encouraging them to do that?
Spokesperson: Mr. Ban is encouraging any solution that will bring closure to this. He has said how strongly he feels that ethical standards should be throughout the system. He stands by that. He’s trying to find a means to carry on what he had said.
I’m going to first invite Ashraf and then Nicolas will join us.
Briefing by Spokesperson for the General Assembly President
Good afternoon, I was hoping to tell you the result of the vote, but they’re still in the process of voting right now. But I’m going to quote from the President’s statement.
“Today, by adopting the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples we are making further progress to improve the situation of indigenous peoples around the world. We are also taking another major step forward towards the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, and actively demonstrating the General Assembly’s important role in the field of international standard-setting.”
As soon as the results are out I’ll let you know. I may come back or have Freh circulate them to all of you.
On a more positive, lighter note, it has been a very eventful year for me -– I still have tomorrow and Monday; if anything happens I’ll be briefing you again –- but I’ve enjoyed very much every single briefing that I attended here and I thank you all for making this a very pleasant year for me.
Do you have any questions, yes Mark.
Questions and Answers
Question: Looking back on this year, did anything happen that mattered in the General Assembly? What were the highlights of things in terms of the things that happened over the last year and did they have any impact on the rest of the world?
GA Spokesperson: We adopted the Convention on the Rights of People withDisabilities. I think that’s a great leap forward. The internal justice system –- the most arcane system I’m aware of in the history of any organization or any country or any entity in the whole world -– was completely reformed. These were, whichever way you look at it, achievements of the Assembly this year.
Comment: I just want to interrupt you for a second; the resolution was passed.
GA Spokesperson: Thank you. The declaration was adopted. We’ll get the numbers very soon.
Question: Was the Declaration adopted by consensus?
GA Spokesperson: No, absolutely not, it was by a vote.
Question: What was the breakdown of the vote?
GA Spokesperson: I’ll tell you the exact results, but to start with we had some 60 co-sponsors plus the African Group, which is 53 countries, so you would have at least 120 votes in favour, which is very close to two thirds.
Question: There were these efforts to reform the Security Council…
GA Spokesperson: Actually the Working Group is continuing its meeting this afternoon to see if they can adopt the reform.
Question: There’s supposed to be a resolution on setting up a new collective centre for women. When is that?
GA Spokesperson: Well, to be discussed in any part of this current session it would be discussed under system-wide coherence.
Question: When is that supposed to happen? Today?
GA Spokesperson: Maybe tomorrow. Okay, 143 votes in favour, 4 “noes” and 11 abstentions.
Question: Which were the “noes”.
GA Spokesperson: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.
Spokesperson for the Secretary-General: Excuse me, I can now give you the statement of the Secretary-General.
This is a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
The Secretary-General warmly welcomes the adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People as a triumph for indigenous peoples around the world. He notes that this marks a historic moment when UN Member States and indigenous peoples have reconciled with their painful histories and are resolved to move forward together on the path of human rights, justice and development for all.
The Secretary-General calls on Governments and civil society to urgently advance the work of integrating the rights of indigenous peoples into international human rights and development agendas as well as policies and programmes at all levels, so as to ensure that the vision behind the Declaration becomes a reality.
Spokesperson for General Assembly President: Okay, the statement by the President will be circulated as soon as she delivers it in the Assembly.
Question: A couple of days weeks ago you explained how the Ethics Office was approved in 2005 and how it had to go back to the General Assembly to approve its jurisdictions over funds and programmes. Now the UNDP is saying it could be done at the High-level Committee on Management or they could do directly it themselves.
GA Spokesperson: The Chiefs Executive Board basically meets to coordinate anything system-wide. So, instead of the Secretary-General meeting with all of them to agree on a system they can all use, they can voluntarily accept the competence of the Ethics Office and that would render the need to go back to the General Assembly just a matter of formality.
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