30 November 2007


30 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.

**World AIDS Day

Today is the eve of World AIDS Day.  As part of the Secretary-General’s efforts to ensure the UN becomes a model workplace in responding to HIV and AIDS, he is convening an orientation session on HIV in the UN workplace for all Under-Secretaries-General and Assistant Secretaries-General based in the Secretariat, as well as the Executive Heads of New York-based agencies.

The session will be facilitated by one of the UN's coordinators on HIV in the UN workplace.  The Secretary-General hopes the session will provide him and his senior leaders with important lessons and messages, while helping them set an example as managers and colleagues.

Orientation sessions on HIV in the UN workplace have been offered to UN staff on a voluntary basis for several years, but are now becoming mandatory for all employees, both at Headquarters and in the field.  The sessions cover essential information about transmission, prevention, stigma and discrimination, care and treatment, as well as UN policies, initiatives and services.

This evening, the Secretary-General will speak at a World AIDS Day observance at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in Manhattan.  His remarks will focus on the need for leadership by Governments and individuals alike in working for universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support.  He will note that whatever our role in life, wherever we may live, in some way or another, we all live with HIV.  We are all affected by it.  We all need to take responsibility for the response.

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour has also issued a statement.  She says that achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010 is a truly ambitious goal.  But it is also a human right.

**Security Council

The Security Council held an open meeting this morning on the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.  Briefing Council members, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, said that, three days ago, the most significant breakthrough in the peace process in several years was achieved at the Annapolis Conference.

But although we have much reason to be hopeful, we must not close our eyes to the difficulties on the ground, he added.  Violence continues to plague both Palestinians and Israelis.  He also said the humanitarian situation, particularly in Gaza, continues to be a source of acute concern -– and one that the Secretary-General has raised strongly.

On Lebanon, Pascoe noted that extensive diplomatic efforts aiming to mediate between the parties are ongoing, aimed at bridging the political divide.

Concluding his remarks, Pascoe said that, for 60 years, the Israeli State has feared for its survival and the survival of its people.  Meanwhile, during that same period, the Palestinian people have wandered and suffered in search of a State.  It is time for the Palestinians to have a home of their own, he said.  It is also time for the Israelis to feel at peace in their home.  The time to act is now.  We have his full statement upstairs.

The Council then went into consultations on the Middle East.

And while on the topic of the Security Council, today is the last day of Indonesia’s Presidency.  Tomorrow Italy assumes that position.

** Lebanon

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has observed a significant number of Israeli overflights in the past few days.  UNIFIL has reported these violations to the UN Security Council through the Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

The Force Commander in Lebanon, General Claudio Graziano, also raised this matter with the Israeli army command, expressing his serious concern and asking them to cease these violations.


The Security Council delegation concluded its four-day visit to Timor-Leste, having met with a wide variety of Timorese actors across the country and having gained a first hand view of the challenges facing the country.

The delegation wrapped up its last day with a press conference, where the Head of Delegation, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, thanked the authorities, people and staff of the United Nations, stating that there will be continued international support for the UN on the ground in Timor-Leste.  The full transcript of the press conference is available upstairs.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, said the visit expresses the strong support that the international community has for the ongoing work in Timor-Leste, and that the country is still a priority for assistance.

I would like to add here that, as I announced yesterday, the Secretary-General is planning a visit to Timor-Leste.

** Myanmar

The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, today in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, gave a press conference, where he denounced the latest closure in Myanmar of a monastery used as hospice for HIV/AIDS patients.

Gambari said that “any action that runs counter to the spirit of national reconciliation in an all-inclusive manner, any action that will inflame passions, any actions that will undermine the dialogue between the Government and those who disagree with the policies of the Government should be avoided”.

He stressed that the United Nations has called repeatedly for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners.

Gambari has now arrived in Vientiane and will meet the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Laos tomorrow.  This will be the last stop of his three-nation consultations with regional leaders.

** Burundi

The peace consolidation process in Burundi has passed through a difficult period in the past six months, the Secretary-General says in his most recent report on the activities of the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB).

He says that the political crises and institutional paralysis, along with the blockage in the peace process, underscore the fragility of the situation and the continued need for vigilance.

The deterioration of the overall security situation and the continued human rights violations are of particular concern, he says.

The Secretary-General adds that he feels that the Office should play a more robust role in support of the peace process between the Government and FNL (Palipehutu-Forces Nationales de Liberation), in full coordination with regional and international partners and in accordance with its mandate.  The report is out on the UN Security Council website today.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, Young-jin Choi, and the UN Operation there have welcomed the signing of supplementary agreements to the Ougadougou Peace Agreement between the Government and rebel forces.  The latest agreements aim to end the political and military crisis and realize the holding of general elections before June 2008.

In a statement, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire has pledged to support the parties in implementing the provisions of the peace agreement.  ONUCI, as the UN mission in known, also said that Special Representative Choi was in Ouagadougou yesterday for consultations with the Facilitator of the Ivorian peace talks, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré.

** Sudan

Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, has arrived in South Darfur.  Today, he met with internally displaced persons in Ed Daein camp, which is home to some 50,000 people.

He noted the frustration of those who had been living there for, in some cases, more than three years.  He added that everyone he spoke to expressed the desire to go home, but only when it is safe to do so and the necessary services are in place.  Mr. Holmes also met with aid workers, who brought up continuing challenges concerning access and the safety of staff, including car hijackings, assault and harassment.

Tomorrow, Holmes travels to El Fasher in North Darfur.  We have more information on his trip upstairs.

** Bangladesh

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today sounded the alarm bell about an estimated 300,000 children under the age of five who are living throughout the Bangladesh cyclone disaster zone in makeshift camps with their families, surviving on meagre food and water, without proper shelter or access to basic amenities.

If these children were not fed micronutrients quickly and were not protected by vitamins and iron, and if diarrhoeal diseases spread, then the children would die, it warned.

Starting tomorrow, UNICEF announced it would start a massive distribution of high-energy biscuits and family kits to children under three years of age and to pregnant women.  The distribution will be carried out jointly with the World Food Programme and Save the Children and local non-governmental organizations.

** Haiti

UNICEF today condemned the kidnappings and assassinations carried out against children in recent weeks in Haiti.

It also called on the Haitian authorities to do everything to ensure the protection of children and to ensure that the culprits were brought to justice.  There is a UNICEF press release on this subject, in French, upstairs.


The World Health Organization (WHO) is helping to coordinate the response to a new Ebola outbreak in western Uganda.  The agency says it is “very concerned” since the Ebola strain in question is different from past ones and poses a new challenge.

WHO reports that there have been more than 50 suspected cases in this outbreak, including 16 deaths.  We have more information upstairs.

**International Criminal Court

Today is the start of the sixth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  This is the second time the Court is holding its Assembly of States Parties at UN Headquarters, the first one having taken place in 2002, soon after the Court became effective.  In his address to the delegates at the two-week long Assembly, ICC President Philippe Kirsch said that, with 105 States parties today, the Court is halfway to its eventual goal of universal ratification of the Rome Statute.

And a reminder now that the ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo will be having a press conference here in room 226 on December 5th.

**Press Conference on Monday

On Monday, in commemoration of the International Day of Disabled Persons, at 11.15 a.m., there will be a press conference by Chris Sullivan, Vice President of Merrill Lynch; Judy Young, Vice President of the National Business and Disability Council, on dispelling the myth that person’s with disabilities are unable to work.

**The Week Ahead

The “Week Ahead”, we have that upstairs for you.  You have, the thirteenth United Nations Climate Change Conference.  The Conference opens Monday in Bali, Indonesia, through 14 December with representatives of more than 180 countries, as well as observers from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations will begin negotiations on the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol.  As I said, yesterday, the Secretary-General plans to attend the Conference from the 12th to the 14th of December.

Also on Monday, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, UNWRA will hold an interactive briefing on the plight of Palestinian refugees in the Middle East.

Also Monday is the International Day of Disabled Persons, and several events are taking place at Headquarters.

Tuesday, following the noon briefing, there will be a press conference by the Permanent Representative of Italy to the UN, Marcello Spatafora, in his capacity as the President of the Security Council for December, on the Council’s programme of work for the month.

On Wednesday, the guest at noon is Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, who will brief on the outcome of the informal General Assembly review on implementing the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

At 1:15 p.m. that same day, Wednesday, in room 226, here, there will be a press conference by Luis Moreno Ocampo, as I mentioned earlier, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

This is all I have for you.  Thank you.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I have three questions, if you’ll permit me.  One is about Pakistan, the elections being held in January.  Is the UN planning to send any observer mission for the election as was done last time?  Number two, for the Bali meet, when the Secretary-General is going there, would Burma be on his agenda for this conference when he meets the regional leaders during the Bali meet?  And, thirdly, in the recent past, a lot of civilians have been killed in Afghanistan.  Is the UN, or UNAMA, taking up the issue with the NATO forces there?

Spokesperson:  About the last aspect of your question, civilian death, this aspect in Afghanistan, the attention has been brought on this by the Secretary-General himself.  As you remember, he did so during the special session that was held here on Afghanistan right before the General Assembly meeting.  It is a consistent appeal that he has that civilian lives be spared…

Question: [inaudible] the number of civilians being killed in Afghanistan due to [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  I’ll try to get additional numbers for you from our mission there.  I’ll try to get more information on that.  On Myanmar, of course Myanmar will be on the agenda.  Throughout the region, in his bilateral meetings with most Heads of State and Government, the Secretary-General will not talk only about climate change.  Myanmar will be an issue discussed.  About the Pakistan elections, whether the UN will send observers, I don’t know at this point, but I will try to find out.

Question:  Following the Annapolis Conference, the agreement to start talks between Israelis and the Palestinians, will there be a UN presence involved with that process, when they actually begin talks?

Spokesperson:  The UN involvement is, as you know, through the Quartet.  The Quartet did mention the Annapolis Conference in its last statement at the meeting held there…

Question:  What I’m saying, when the process starts, will there be a continued UN presence, or involvement…

Spokesperson:  I’m saying through the Quartet.  As you know, the UN was an observer at the Annapolis conference, and the Secretary-General participated as a member of the Quartet.  As you also know, there is going to be a donors’ conference in Paris, pretty soon, which will be on the 17th of December, for the Palestinian Territory, and the Secretary-General will also attend that.  This is as far as I can tell you in terms of UN involvement.

Question:  Just to follow-up to my colleague’s question about civilian deaths in Afghanistan, what his question was, that despite the Secretary-General’s appeals and pressure –- whatever you call it –- they have not subsided; they keep on growing.  So, is the Secretary-General going to do anything more than what he has done already?

Spokesperson:  This is what I’m saying:  constant appeals.  That’s all he can do.  We have no possibility to act on the ground and stop the civilian deaths.  We can only appeal to the parties.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  Sure.  On Somalia, the International Maritime Organization has passed a resolution calling, among other things, on the Secretary-General to convene countries to provide technical assistance to cut off this piracy problem on the coast.  So I’m wondering whether he’s received that resolution that’s directed to him… if he’s received it, what he’s going to do, and also separately, on that assessment team mission, where we stand in terms of what the Security Council said, of directing him to move forward with an assessment team for Somalia.

Spokesperson:  As far as I know, yesterday, in the noon briefing I mentioned the Maritime Organization’s position on piracy.  It is their mandate.  They have asked the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General, of course, will listen and there will be a follow-up to that.

Question:  In terms of this assessment team, since the Security Council met and sort of took issue with his recommendation that it was… basically redirected him to look into…

Spokesperson:  There will be an assessment team.  I will let you know when that is going to take place.  I don’t have a date yet.

Question:  On Kosovo I’m… well, first, I guess I see on the schedule today that the Secretary-General’s met with the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation.  Is it possible to know what… whether Kosovo was one of the topics of that meeting and what… and also, more generally, what, as this December 10th comes closer, what his thinking is in… Can the process still be solved?  Does he anticipate, somehow, extending the deadline?  What communications is he having about the impending Kosovo deadline?

Spokesperson:  He is waiting for the report that he’s to get on the 10th.  When that report comes, he will transmit it to the Security Council.  As you know, the Security Council is actively engaged in the matter, so the Secretary-General’s role, at this point is that.  He’s going to receive the report and transmit it to the Security Council.

Question:  So, like, let’s say his talks with Mr. Solana, earlier in the week, there have been some reports that…

Spokesperson:  It’s true.  Kosovo was, of course, a subject that was discussed.

Question:  And is… can you… you can’t say anything about, I guess, what is… because it seems pretty clear that the report is going to say the talks have broken down, so I guess I’m just wondering what…

Spokesperson:  I cannot anticipate what is going to happen.

Question:  What time do you expect that Luis Moreno Ocampo will be addressing the press here?

Spokesperson:  You’ll find that in our “Week Ahead”.  You can pick it up upstairs.  The specific venue is here, but the time, you should get that from the “Week Ahead”.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.  Good to see you.

**World AIDS Day

Let me start with World AIDS Day.  The President of the General Assembly has a message for World AIDS Day.  It reads as follows:

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has a direct impact on achieving the United Nations Development Goals.  It is a major cause of death globally.  Two and a half million people will be infected and over 2 million people will die of the disease in 2007, devastating families and entire communities.  The international response, in particular, our preventive measures, are clearly failing to keep pace with the rate of infection.  Many regions of the world are off track to meet the Millennium Development Goal agreed by world leaders in 2000 to halt or reverse its spread by 2015.

As we mark the twentieth World AIDS Day, we should recognize that, while there has been some success in reducing infection rates in some countries, the disease remains a major challenge for many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.  Eight countries in Africa now account for almost one third of all new HIV infections and AIDS deaths globally.  Every human life lost to AIDS is a tragedy when knowledge and resources have made it possible to prevent these deaths.

The General Assembly plays a leadership role by raising awareness of these issues.  The General Assembly will hold a comprehensive review in 2008 to assess the progress made to realize the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS and the Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS.  This meeting will provide leaders with an opportunity to take stock and accelerate the implementation of their international commitments to combat HIV/AIDS.  In particular, our efforts must focus on providing better access to treatment and cheaper drugs, as well as the continued focus on education and prevention measures.

A hard copy of the statement is available for you upstairs.

**General Assembly Plenary

The General Assembly is continuing, this morning, its plenary discussion on the agenda item “Question of Palestine”, which it began yesterday afternoon, and it is expected to conclude this topic this afternoon and immediately take up a related item called the “Situation in the Middle East.”

The President of the General Assembly, Srgjan Kerim, in his opening statement for the debate on the “Question of Palestine”, yesterday afternoon, reminded Member States of the call he made earlier in the week during the Assembly’s debate on revitalization, where he stressed that it was first and foremost by squarely tackling the priority areas of the day that the General Assembly could make itself stronger, more effective and more relevant to the lives of the global public.  In this respect, he stressed that the Assembly had the opportunity to bolster its authority and international standing by addressing the “Question of Palestine”, in the light of recent developments.

In his statement, the President appealed to both Israeli and Palestinian officials to redouble their efforts to immediately implement their respective obligations under the Road Map, and create the necessary conditions for long-term peace, based on mutual respect and recognition.

He noted that the General Assembly must continue to play a significant role to support this process.

He concluded by encouraging all parties to learn from the mistakes of the past and confront the causes of failure.  He said true reconciliation requires, not only an end to hostilities, but also a change of attitude.  Some people believe that to make peace is to forget -– however, the President said that he believes that to reconcile was a fair compromise between remembering and forgetting.

**Assembly Next Week

As regards the activities of the Assembly for next week:

On Monday, most likely, the debate on the “Situation in the Middle East”, which is supposed to start this afternoon, will spill over, so Monday, the Assembly will meet in plenary discussing that item.

On Tuesday, 4 December, the Assembly will meet in an informal plenary –- that’ll be open to the media as well -– on the implementation of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.

As you may remember, the Strategy was adopted by Member States in September 2006, with an agreement to review it in two years time -– so that would put the review for next September.  However, Member States decided to have an informal, midterm review to facilitate implementation, so that’s going to happen on the 4th of December, next Tuesday.  Whatever comes out of that informal meeting, we will try to summarize for you.  That’s what that press conference is all about that Michèle has mentioned, which is going to be on the 5th, with Bob Orr as the noon guest.  We will also try to have the chairs of that informal plenary (the Permanent Representative of Turkey and the Permanent Representative of Uruguay) come as well, so we may have a Member State angle there, as well.  That’s at roughly 12:30, so the Ocampo press conference that you have asked about is going to be afterwards.  I think Michèle mentioned at 1:15, so it’s a busy day, Tuesday.

Also, talking about the 5th and next week, I did mention that the Assembly is meeting in the afternoon on the 5th of December, in plenary, and it will take up the report of the First Committee -– in other words, take action on the 52 recommendations that the First Committee has in its report.

**Main Committees

As regards the work of the Main Committees, let me start with something that interests all of you, and that is the Capital Master Plan:

This morning, the Fifth Committee agreed on the text of the draft resolution on the Capital Master Plan at informal consultations.  The agreed text will now go for editing and translation, and the Committee is then tentatively scheduled to take action on the agreed draft in a formal meeting next Thursday.  So, most likely, next Thursday we’ll have a draft resolution adopted on the CMP.

In other action, the Fifth is continuing its work today.  It is looking at various aspects of the programme budget for 2008-2009, and also the administration of justice, all in informal settings.

The Second Committee, which is the only other Committee still in action, is meeting this afternoon, in an open session, and it is going to take action on a couple of drafts related to sustainable development.

Otherwise, both of these Committees will continue meeting next week.

That’s all I have, unless you have questions.  Matthew?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  No, there… just one… One thing is on the Second Committee.

Spokesperson:  Please.

Question:  They announced today that they were supposed to finish their work today, and somehow, they didn’t.  Was there…?

Spokesperson:  That’s correct.

Question:  I need some background to that.  What’s still outstanding for them?  Do you know?

Spokesperson:  There are a number of draft resolutions outstanding.  In fact, any one of you can get the full list of it.  If you go on the website of the Second Committee and you click on documents, then you will, as you scroll down, get to a part that says, “status of draft resolutions”, and you click on that, you will see what are the ones that are still being negotiated.  But you’re absolutely correct.  There was an optimistic view, at the beginning of the session, that the Second Committee may finish at the end of this week.  In fact, I have been parroting that, as well.  But now there’s an extension for at least one week.  Some of the issues that are on the agenda that have not been concluded, yet include a draft resolution on climate change, for example, also the one on financing for development; there’s also one on the triennial comprehensive policy review, which is something that comes up every three years, that needs considerable discussion among the Member States; it’s a serious resolution with considerable impact on the work of the UN and the various programmes and funds.  So those are the issues that are still being worked out within the framework of the Second Committee.

Question:  And then something on… It was said that the Third Committee has recommended the creation of a new post, or a position, Special Representative on Children and Violence…

Spokesperson:  On Violence against Children, that’s correct.  That is…

Question:  What happens on that now?  Does it go to the Fifth Committee for budgetary, or does it…

Spokesperson:  That is correct.  I wish I could recall the exact date when this was discussed, but when this issue was discussed in the framework of a draft text on the rights of the child -– I think that was the draft resolution -– when this resolution came up, within the draft resolution, there was a proposal to create this post that you have mentioned.  The Secretary of the Committee, I think, gave an oral comment on the budgetary implications.  So first, there is a need to have what is called a PBI (programme budget implications), which I mentioned to most of you when we talk about resolutions that have budgetary implications, so, in other words, a formal document coming from the Secretary-General’s budget office detailing what are the possible programme budget implications, if at all, of that particular resolution, of creating that post.

That is supposed to come out.  When it comes out, it goes to ACABQ; ACABQ will look at it; then the whole thing goes to the Fifth Committee; and then, once the Fifth Committee takes action, then the plenary can take action on this particular resolution.  I’ve mentioned to you yesterday that, although the idea is for the Committees to give to the plenary with their reports with all the various recommendations that they have for action, and the plenary is supposed to take action in full on those reports, such as what I mentioned for the 5th of December, in the afternoon, as regards the First Committee, I did also say that, when it comes to draft resolutions approved by the various Committees that have budgetary implications, those will not be taken up by the plenary until there is a ruling by the Fifth Committee.  Okay?  Please.

Question:  I believe you said last week the Third Committee had completed its work?  Is that correct?

Spokesperson:  The Third Committee -- I think it was this week, actually, that it completed its work.

Question:  Yes, that’s right.  Which day was it?

Spokesperson:  The day before yesterday.

Question:  Because I just found this upstairs; it’s dated November 28 from Tajikistan, and I was wondering whether this issue had been raised before them:  women setting themselves on fire to get out of horrific marriages.  And I was wondering… in other words, if the Third Committee wrapped up its work before November 28th, this issue might not have been discussed before it.  I just want to know whether they have actually discussed this issue in the Third Committee.  Would you know that?

Spokesperson:  I don’t know whether this particular issue was discussed, but as far as I know, amongst the various, different issues discussed within the Committee, issues relating to the status of women were covered.  Whether this particular issue, I don’t think so.

Question:  Because this just came up, and I spoke with somebody I know who’s done a lot of work with UNFPA, and he said this was new to him.  So, where would it fall in… if the Third Committee completed its work, then how would something like this be addressed.

Spokesperson:  Probably where this would come up would be, either within the framework of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, or also, here, you may have it when the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women meets in the beginning of the year -- they usually meet at the very beginning of each year.  They have a number of sessions, so it would be within that context that this could come up.  I think it’s in January. 

Thank you very much.  Have a great weekend.

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