26 November 2007


26 November 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Janos Tisovszky, Spokesperson for the General Assembly President.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

**Press Conferences Today

Our guest at the noon briefing today will be Marijke Velzeboer-Salcedo, Chief of the Latin American and Caribbean Section of UNIFEM, who will brief you on a regional report on violence against women, entitled “Not one more!  The right to live a life free from violence in Latin America and the Caribbean”.

And at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Sweden, in collaboration with the Stockholm International Peace Research and Uppsala University, on a recently launched report entitled “United Nations arms embargoes:  Their impact on arms flows and target behaviour”.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is travelling to Washington today, where this afternoon he will meet with the other principal members of the Middle East Quartet.  The other Quartet partners are the European Union, as you know, Russia and the United States.  Then, tomorrow, the Secretary-General will travel to Annapolis, Maryland, to attend the Middle East conference being held there.

Speaking to the General Assembly last week, the Secretary-General expressed his hope that the meeting will provide the impetus for final status negotiations.  In the meantime, he remains especially concerned by the prevailing humanitarian situation in Gaza.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Bolivia

We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the latest developments in Bolivia.

The Secretary-General is closely following political developments regarding the Constituent Assembly in the city of Sucre, Bolivia.  In that regard, he wishes to express concern about violent confrontations that occurred in recent days.

In order to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights in Bolivia, the Secretary-General urges all political and social actors to remain calm, to abstain from using violence and to seek a consensus on the pressing issues affecting the Bolivian people.

** Sudan

Over the weekend, 135 troops from a Chinese engineering company arrived in Nyala, South Darfur, as part of an advance team of 315 Chinese engineers due to complete deployment in December.  They are part of the UN’s support package to the African Union mission in Darfur and will pave the way for the deployment of the joint UN-AU Hybrid peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID, by undertaking engineering work critical to the establishment of the force.

In a separate development, a Bangladeshi-formed police unit also arrived in Nyala late last week.

Both units were visited by the AU/UN Joint Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, yesterday.

Meanwhile, UN and AU Chief Mediators for Darfur, Tayé-Brook Zerihoun and Sam Ibok, are heading to Juba tomorrow to continue discussions with the Darfur Peace Agreement non-signatory movements present there and with the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) Task Force for the Darfur peace process.  They are also scheduled to visit Darfur during the first week of December to hold consultations with the leadership of the Justice and Equality Movement.

** Sudan - Tomorrow

Here at UN Headquarters tomorrow, the UN Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, is scheduled to brief the Security Council in the afternoon on the Darfur political process.

And the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, will update the Security Council tomorrow regarding UNAMID’s deployment.  We have asked them both to speak to you at the Security Council stakeout tomorrow.

**Under-Secretary-General John Holmes/Africa Trip

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today begins a nine-day mission to Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya.

His first stop is Ethiopia, where he plans to visit the Ogaden region.  He will then continue on to Sudan.  After a stop in Khartoum, he is scheduled to go to Nyala and El-Fasher in Darfur, where he will meet people who have been affected by the conflict there.

He will wrap up his visit in Kenya, with meetings with aid agencies and diplomats working on Somalia.  We have more information upstairs.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, is in Viet Nam, where earlier today he met with the country’s Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, and delivered a letter from the Secretary-General, seeking support for his good offices effort in the Myanmar process.  On Saturday, Gambari also met with the country’s Foreign Minister.

Gambari will travel on to Cambodia and Laos before returning to New York at the end of this week.

** Pakistan

Turning now to Pakistan, the Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koïchiro Matsuura, today said he was concerned by continued repression of the press in Pakistan.  He once again urged President Pervez Musharraf to lift restrictions on the media in that country.  His call came after hearing of the arrest of 180 journalists during demonstrations against censorship.

Matsuura said that preventing media professionals from carrying out their duties would not lead to internal peace and development.  He added that the fight against terrorism must contribute to the defence of democracy, not to its erosion.

We have his full statement upstairs.

**Timor-Leste – Weapons Recovery

In Timor-Leste, U.N. police officers and their Timorese counterparts, assisted by the International Security Forces, have completed a successful weapons recovery operation in the capital, Dili’s, problematic district of Bairro Pite.

The four-day “Operation Weapons Sweep” concluded on Saturday.  It successfully recovered an assortment of weapons, including bows, arrows, machetes, sling shots, knives, spears and homemade guns.

Community officials also participated in the operation by assisting police in searching homes, with the written authorization of their owners.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, said the collective move to confiscate weapons sends a strong message to those involved in the violence that it will not be tolerated by the community.

**Former Yugoslavia

The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has confirmed its decision granting Rasim Delić conditional temporary provisional release.  Delić is thus authorized to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a period of one month, starting on December 11th.

This comes at the request of the accused, who surrendered voluntarily and has cooperated with the Tribunal in his trial for command responsibility for crimes committed by his troops when he was Commander of the Main Staff of the Army of Bosnia-Herzegovina.  Tribunal Prosecutor Carla del Ponte did not object to the request, leaving the Trial Chamber to grant it.  Delic’s trial, which began in July, is expected to end in early 2008.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

This past weekend, Ross Mountain, the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator, was in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to review security and humanitarian conditions there.  Mr. Mountain met with local authorities, UN peacekeepers and UN agencies’ representatives.  He also visited camps for the internally displaced, which house some 45,000 civilians who fled a military stand-off between Government troops and rebels.  Mr. Mountain appealed to rebels to disarm and join the brassage process.

And speaking last week about violence in North Kivu, UN Force Commander General Babacar Gaye noted that not enough dissident soldiers had joined the Congolese Army through brassage.  He added that the next step may require UN peacekeepers to use force to disarm illegal armed groups, including the one led by rogue General Laurent Nkunda.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

At 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Esteban Conejos, Jr., Under-Secretary for Migrant Worker Affairs of the Philippines; Ambassador Régine de Clercq of Belgium; and Hania Zlotnik, Director of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs’ Population Division, on the achievements of the first meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development in Belgium and the expectations for its next meeting in the Philippines.

Our guest at noon will be Claes Johansson of UNDP, who will brief you on the latest Human Development Report on "Fighting Climate Change:  Human Solidarity in a Divided World”.  The report is being launched tomorrow in Brasilia, Brazil, as well as in more than 100 countries.

Later tomorrow at 3 p.m., there will be a press conference by Ambassador Nasser Bin Abdul Aziz Al-Nasser of Qatar on the Qatari draft resolution presented before the Third Committee of the General Assembly on World Autism Awareness Day, under the agenda item “Promotion and Protection of the Rights of the Child”.  I’m sure you’ll get more on that from Janos in a few minutes.

This is all I have for you.  Any questions before I let Janos brief you?  Yes, Khaled.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Michèle, I just wanted to check about Mr. Brammertz’s report and information when he’s going to hand it to the Secretary-General?

Spokesperson:  No, I don’t have any information at this point.  It hasn’t been handed over to the Security Council yet.

Question:  But he’s around the building?

Spokesperson:  No, he’s not in the building right now.  Yes, Mr. Abbadi.

Question:  Michèle, what role does the UN see itself playing in the Middle East conference, peace conference process, in Annapolis tomorrow?  Is the Secretary-General intending to deliver an official statement?  Is he carrying any special message to the conference?

Spokesperson:  He is going to deliver a statement tomorrow.  However, the Secretary-General sees his role mostly as an observer and also, as you know, he has been in touch with most of the people who will be there, at that meeting, in the last few weeks, by phone, and I’m sure that diplomatic activity will keep on going.

Question:  Over the weekend there were some reports that talk about a new round of negotiations to be held between Morocco and the Polisario Front on the Western Sahara issue.  While the spokesperson of the Polisario Front denied any set date for this round of negotiations, can you confirm if there is a set date yet, for …

Spokesperson:  No, I’m not aware of any date at this point.  I will let you know as soon as we get something.

Question:  The Chinese engineers, in Darfur, are they working just for the UN military forces or U.N. peacekeepers, or are they doing work for people as in a humanitarian, engineering way?

Spokesperson:  They’re working for the mission, for the time being, the heavy support package.  Then they will join, of course, the UNAMID, once it is fully launched.  It’s part of that effort.

Question:  Can I follow up on Sudan, please?  I’m sorry, it’s just I’m not quite sure.  I mean, does the Secretary-General has a reaction to statements by President Bashir that he’s not going to accept non-African troops, particularly naming countries like Thailand, Sweden, you know, that they’ve made some offers for the hybrid force?

Spokesperson:  We don’t have any reaction at this point, but please do ask those questions to both Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Guéhenno and you have a possibility to talk to them tomorrow afternoon after they brief the Council.

Question:  On Wednesday there were a number of the… a number of reporters asked to have a briefing about this… the Lockheed Martin contract for the UNAMID deployment?  Is the Guéhenno stakeout going to be that, or…

Spokesperson:  We are still asking for one a fuller one.  But we don’t have an answer yet.  As you know, Mr. Guéhenno was travelling.  He just got back.

Question:  No, sure.  But there’s also… there’s been a….  There was a call right over the weekend by Sri Lanka to have UN workers, with UNICEF and maybe with other agencies, leave the country.  I don’t know if the UN system has had a response to that.

Spokesperson:  No.  Not that I know of.

Question:  For taking part in demonstrations against the killing of humanitarian workers?

Spokesperson:  Not that I know of.  We haven’t been officially informed of that.  Yes.

Question:  Michèle, I’d like to know, the Nigerian Senate did… made the resolution last week rejecting the decision of the former President to cede Bakassi to Cameroon because of outcome of Greentree Accord.  Now what is the position of the United Nations Secretariat, considering the fact that the United Nations Secretariat brokered the Accord and also participated in the implementation of the Accord, which the Nigerian Senate is now calling something unconstitutional because the National Assembly did not ratify it?  Where does the United Nations stand on this matter?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have any immediate reaction for you, but the UN Office for West Africa (UNOWA), which holds primary responsibility for the Bakassi issue, is currently in consultations with both Governments, and in early December, as you probably know, the parties are scheduled to meet with UN interlocutors, so we should know more by then.

Question:  Michèle, I wonder if the briefer tomorrow would bring some copies of the Human Development Report, because I was looking for one copy this morning and I could not locate one.

Spokesperson:  Okay, I’ll ask for that.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you Michèle.  Good afternoon.  Good to see you all in large numbers after a massive turkey fest.  That’s good.

**General Assembly Plenary

Let’s start with the Assembly.  The Assembly is taking up a number of different items today, meeting in plenary. One of the main topics is the “revitalization of the General Assembly”.  This is an item, as some of you may remember, that has been on the agenda of the Assembly for the past 16 years.  The previous Assembly session, that is, the 61st session, adopted a resolution sometime in the middle of August; so towards the end of its work -- resolution 61/292.  That requested the establishment of an ad hoc working group on this topic to evaluate and assess the status of implementation of relevant resolutions, to identify ways to further enhance the role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency of the Assembly, and to submit a report thereon to the Assembly.  This was amongst others on the topic of the Assembly today.

In his statement, the President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, announced that the Working Group will begin its work shortly, and that the Permanent Representative of Poland and the Permanent Representative of Paraguay have agreed to co-chair this ad hoc Working Group.

The President, in his statement, noted that in order to promote more effective multilateralism, to find global solutions to global problems, it was important to bolster the authority and international standing of this Assembly.

He also reiterated his call for the General Assembly to be:

-- more of a dialogue, not a monologue;

-- more focused on substantive results;

-- more engaging and insightful; and,

-- exemplify this through greater cooperation and mutual respect.

He specifically called for Member States to continue to work together enthusiastically and in cooperation as was done on Mandate Review, so that progress can be made on other issues such as climate change, the Millennium Development Goals, Security Council reform and management reform.

He noted that, to give all Member States the opportunity to demonstrate the Assembly’s renewed leadership on priority issues, he would convene debates on counter-terrorism in December -- that will be on the 4th of December, next week, by the way -- on climate change in February 2008, and on management reform in April.

The President also stressed the need for appropriately funding and staffing the Office of the Assembly President.

As regards the focus of the ad hoc Working Group -- the President proposed that it could focus on ensuring that existing resolutions are carefully implemented, as well as consider other practical steps to improve the Assembly’s working methods, such as finalizing a repository of best practices for the Assembly and its subsidiary bodies, and periodically updating the Rules of Procedure to include recent decisions taken by this Assembly.

His full statement is available for you upstairs and it is also on the website.

There were three other actions on the Assembly’s work programme today.  One is that the Assembly is expected to adopt a draft resolution which is A/62/L.15, for those of you who are into numbers, on designating the 20th of February -- as of the 63rd session of the Assembly -- as World Day of Social Justice.

The Assembly is also expected to act on a draft resolution, that is L.16, on the “Role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts”.

Then there is supposed to be action taken on the Report of the International Criminal Court, that’s L.13.

**Main Committees

As regards the Main Committees, today only the Fourth, that’s the Special Political and Decolonization Committee, is in open session -- and it is expected to conclude its work, actually today, by taking action on the remainder of the draft texts that it has before it -- including the one on peaceful uses of outer space and also on the work of United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), as most of you are following that issue, is meeting in informal consultations -- continuing its consideration of various aspects of the proposed programme budget for 2008-2009.  Also, it is continuing the discussion on the budget for the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).  Tomorrow afternoon, the Fifth Committee will continue the UNAMID budget discussion, and during the course of this week there are a couple of other meetings scheduled for this.

Please also note that the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) and the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) are going to meet later on this week and they will finish, or are expected to finish, their work for the session this week.

That means that next week, Monday, it is only the Fifth Committee that will remain in action.

One additional news -- as the President announced this morning to the plenary -- that the Assembly, on the 5th of December, in the afternoon, will take up the report of the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).  So next week, the Assembly will take action on the various recommendations arising from the First Committee -- and we are talking about 52 draft texts:  49 draft resolutions and 3 draft decisions.

That’s all I have.  Questions?  Please.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Thank you.  A little bit more details on the Qatari resolution on autism, just, the… resolution…

SG Spokesperson:  Autism?

Question:  …the resolution that Michèle mentioned.

SG Spokesperson:  You are going to have a press briefing on it, so…

Question:  There is a draft resolution on that?

GA Spokesperson:  I think there was a draft resolution adopted on World Autism Day.  That was quite some time ago and it was… I think it was in the…

Question:  Is there a new one?

GA Spokesperson:  No, no, I think that’s the one.

SG Spokesperson:  You are going to just have a briefing on it.

GA Spokesperson:  This was something, I think, we talked about some time ago.  It was… three weeks ago, something like that (it was on 1 November).  It was definitely some time ago that this was adopted, this text.  Yes, please.

Question:  Sorry for my ignorance.  You mentioned something about the draft resolution on social justice and choosing 20th of February as the International Day for Social Justice?

GA Spokesperson:  That’s correct.  Yes.

Question:  Would you give us an idea about what social justice and why this day in particular was chosen by the General Assembly?

GA Spokesperson:  I think you would have to ask the sponsors and look at the draft text. I’ll be very honest with you, I don’t know every detail of every draft proposal.  This was proposed by Kyrgyzstan, as far as I know.  It has 80 co-sponsors, so you would have to ask Kyrgyzstan, but I’ll follow up with you on that.  I have a copy of the draft.  It is a very short resolution referring to various different aspects of the work that the Organization has done in the field of social development and social justice.  The sponsors decided to designate this particular day for this.  As you know, the Organization has a vast array of international days like the World Autism Awareness Day -- just mentioned -- and it is usually coming from recommendations from one particular Member State or from several Member States with a number of co-sponsors.  So this is how it is.  I think they would be the ones who would give you more details.  But I’ll talk to you afterwards and we’ll follow up on the details.  Matthew.

Question:  In this debate this morning about revitalizing the General Assembly, it seemed like a lot of the speakers were saying they should change, you know, the format should be changed to make it more… to make the GA more of a debate:  keep times limited.  The United States representative said the Hall was almost empty, and he hoped that didn’t reflect a lack of interest.  Do you anticipate the President of the General Assembly, while he’s still in office, actually, you know, acting on this and trying to… many of the speakers said we’ve been saying the same thing for 16 years.  So what’s he going to… I understand that he has to listen to them, but is this something where he actually anticipates making a proposal to change the way the GA operates or is viewed?

GA Spokesperson:  I don’t know whether he will make any concrete proposals, but what is for sure, and this is something that he has said from the very beginning when he took office, is that he takes this very, very seriously.  He does not think that revitalization of the Assembly should be about debates, about discussions and procedures and rules.  It should be about actually accomplishing concrete results on various different issues.  When he mentioned five priority subjects that he has for this session – which, as you know, are:  climate change; countering terrorism; financing for development; management reform; and progress on the Millennium Development Goals -- he mentioned that the revitalization of the General Assembly should be measured on actual, substantive, concrete results achieved on those five areas.  It should not be about new procedures, new rules, regulations, or toying with that.  That is why he wants the dialogue, instead of the monologue and a number of other things he has been saying.  So in this case -- and I know that you and others have been asking about the role of the President -- when we talk about the role of the President, we usually say that the President’s role is to lead, to facilitate, to coordinate.  I think this will be one of the areas where this President is definitely going to be more in the leadership role and will try to push Member States as much as possible in achieving concrete results. So this is where I think he will try to make a difference.

Question:  I’m just asking very specifically, you said in the Fifth Committee they’re now… they’re going to continue with this deliberation on the UNAMID budget?

GA Spokesperson:  That’s correct.

Question:  There were, on Wednesday, or last week, there were a number of requests by Member States in the Fifth Committee…

GA Spokesperson:  That’s correct.

Question:  …for information and response.  I think it’s a hundred and some questions, is the way the Department of Peacekeeping Operations counted it.  Are we going to know… some Member States asked that the responses be public, be in a formal setting.  How will we… has a decision been made on that and when will we know that the responses have been given…?

GA Spokesperson:  Matthew, you asked that on Wednesday and I did mention to you at that time that, as we have said, with the Assembly, with the various different committees, that as far as the rules and procedures are concerned, basically the Committees are the masters of their own procedures.  So it’s up to Member States to decide whether they want to switch from an informal consultation into an open debate.  Now I also mentioned, at that time, that the Fifth Committee is a unique Committee in the sense that -- and these were the words I used -- tends to like to want to take decisions on a consensual basis.  So that’s what you would be looking for.  If there’s a consensus amongst the members of the Fifth Committee to have an open debate, then I see no reason why not.  But so far, the way the Fifth Committee operates is you have an open discussion, introduction of a particular item, and then the Committee switches into informal consultations on that same topic.  It’s a back and forth with the M ember States and the Secretariat.  Then once all the issues have been satisfied and the members of the Committee have all the information they need, on that particular subject, in this case let’s say the UNAMID budget, then they go, with the help of the coordinator for that particular item, and start working on a draft resolution.  And that’s where the coordinator’s role comes in, etc.  And that’s why you have continuously more consultations.

Question:  No. I absolutely remember your answer and I’m sorry to…

GA Spokesperson:  No, no…

Question:  The question is when will we know?  It’s up to them to make sure… to decide if it’s going to become formal or informal…

GA Spokesperson:  That’s right.  That’s right.

Question:  But how much… do they give notice before they do that or does an informal session just become formal? This is why, I guess, what I’m asking, is how to cover this.  It also ends up that the questions are public but the answers are…

GA Spokesperson:  I think if they do decide, we would know in time.

Question:  Okay.

GA Spokesperson:  Yes.

Question:  Let us plan for December.  You said that the 5th is the date of action for the First Committee?

GA Spokesperson:  That is correct, yes.  In the afternoon.  It’s a Wednesday, I think, 5 December, next week.

Question:  What happens later, usually?  The Second Committee and the Third Committee also will bring their…

GA Spokesperson:  That is correct.  If you remember…

Question:  …resolutions…

GA Spokesperson:  …the very first…

Question:  …by week?

GA Spokesperson:  Yeah, that’s right.  The very first committee that finished was the First Committee, so it had ample time, let’s put it this way, to have its work put in a report format and that report is submitted to the Assembly with all the recommendations it has on various, different texts for action.  Then we know that the Sixth Committee (Legal) finished, I think, probably not last week, but the week before that, so we’re awaiting action from the Sixth Committee.  The Fourth Committee finishes today and then we have the Second and the Third.  Then the reports are written up.  So as we go into December, you will gradually see the Assembly plenary considering the reports of the various Main Committees.  Now, obviously, based on the workload, what I can sort of predict safely is that the Third Committee will probably be something that comes up more in the middle of December, so more towards the latter part of the work, and then, of course, the Fifth Committee is something that is supposed to finish very, very late.  As I said, it’s still in action as of next week.  Lots of things happening there, so that will probably be one of the last things that the plenary will consider.

Question:  So it can go to January, these decisions, action things.

GA Spokesperson:  No, no, not as far as… for the Fifth Committee there is such a thing as a resumed session.  That’s the only one, I think, that meets later on.  But otherwise, the Assembly’s supposed to finish its work on all of these in the course of this year.

SG Spokesperson:  People, most likely you won’t get much sleep around the 22nd or 21st.

GA Spokesperson:  Exactly.  Yes, please.

Question:  Yes.  Does the General Assembly plan to cover the issue of cyber-security and do you consider it priority, or is it…?

GA Spokesperson:  I know you asked this from the President and I briefed you extensively on all the material I had and collected from the First Committee, where this issue came up, so I don’t have anything more to add on that, I’m sorry.

Question:  It’s not of great significance, at this time.  Would you say that’s true?

GA Spokesperson:  There are two issues here.  One that arises from the First Committee, which we talked about and that’s the resolution that has been there for a couple of years on security related to information technology.  Then, let me highlight something else.  There is also next week, Tuesday, there’s going to be an informal plenary session in the Assembly which is on implementing the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.  If you look at the strategy, which has close to 50 action points, one of them does deal with Internet.  So if you want a connection between Internet, security, terrorism, cyber-terrorism, there is a linkage there.  Whether it will be taken up in a forceful manner, that’s a different thing.  This is a politically and technically difficult issue, but it is on the agenda of the United Nations in various, different areas.

If that’s it, then thank you very much.

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