3 October 2008


3 October 2008
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.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Security Council, as you know, is holding its first consultations of the month, and members agreed this morning to adopt a programme of work for October.  The new Council President, Ambassador Zhang of China, will talk to you in this room about the Council’s work over the coming month, as soon as the consultations are finished.  We were initially told that that could be about 12:30, but my understanding is the consultations are going a bit longer, so he’ll join you as soon as the consultations are finished.

The Council also heard a briefing by the Chair of the Sanctions Committee, dealing with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and they just heard a briefing on the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, from the head of that Mission, Alan Doss.  He talked to them about the disengagement process in the Kivus, in the eastern DRC.  And Mr. Doss will also speak to you in this room, following the briefing by the Security Council President.

** Somalia

Turning to Somalia, heavy fighting in the capital, Mogadishu, last week forced an estimated 15,000 people to flee their homes to safer districts within the city.  This is according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  Despite the challenging security situation, a World Food Programme-supported food kitchen project served 14 million meals, in Mogadishu this week. UNICEF and its partners have distributed non-food items to 8,000 newly displaced families.  In addition, UNICEF continues to support immunization and other programmes for children and pregnant women, as well as supplementary feeding and therapeutic centres.

Some 3.2 million people, or 43 per cent of Somalia’s population, are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.  Relief agencies are short of $230 million of the $646 million required to cover the needs of those affected.


And turning to Darfur, a total of 189 individual police advisers from 12 countries, including 17 female officers, have arrived in Darfur to join the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation, UNAMID.

UNAMID reports that these latest arrivals of police advisers, from Malaysia, Malawi, Jordan, Yemen, Pakistan, Uganda, Nepal, Bangladesh, Turkey, Senegal, El Salvador and South Africa, bring the total number of UNAMID police advisers to 1,877.  The mandated strength is 3,772.

UNAMID police advisers are involved in training community police volunteers in internally displaced camps; capacity-building for the Government of Sudan police and other parties to the Darfur conflict, to enable them to operate according to internationally-accepted standards of policing; monitoring investigations into gender-based violence cases; confidence-building patrols in the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps, and support to the delivery of humanitarian assistance to IDPs in Darfur.  That’s according to UNAMID.

** Sri Lanka – Food Convoy

And in Sri Lanka, the World Food Programme reports today that the first convoy of food and other essential supplies dispatched by the United Nations, about which we reported to you yesterday, has now reached 200,000 displaced people in the Tamil Tiger-controlled area.  A convoy, delivering enough food to feed the population for one week, will be dispatched each week travelling from Vavunya through the Omantai crossing point, to the conflict-affected areas.  The population has been cut off from humanitarian assistance for more than two weeks, after fighting escalated in the region.

The WFP truck convoys are also ferrying humanitarian supplies on behalf of other relief agencies, as the UN and other international humanitarian aid offices withdrew from the Vanni Region on 16 September, following a Government-issued directive requiring staff to be relocated outside the Tamil Tiger-controlled area.  And there’s a WFP press release on this upstairs.


And on Kosovo, the UN Interim Administration Mission (UNMIK), there today, reopened a courthouse in north Mitrovica that was the scene of violence earlier this year.  You’ll recall that the building had been forcibly occupied by Kosovo Serb demonstrators on 14 March.

Starting today, the courthouse will be staffed by UNMIK international staff, including two judges, two prosecutors, legal officers and administrative assistants.  In this initial phase of the reopening, the prosecutors and international judges will only handle urgent criminal cases.  They’ll apply UNMIK law and procedure.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Kosovo, Lamberto Zannier, called today’s reopening “a first step to ensure that the rule of law is provided to everyone in Kosovo”.  And there’s more on this upstairs, in a press release.


And the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), today, officially inaugurated an international centre to coordinate efforts to protect nuclear installations against the effects of earthquakes.

The International Seismic Safety Centre (ISSC), which has been established within the IAEA's Department of Nuclear Safety and Security and will be based in Vienna, will serve as a focal point on seismic safety for nuclear installations worldwide.  It will assist countries on the assessment of seismic hazards of nuclear facilities to mitigate the consequences of strong earthquakes.

**World Bank

The World Bank has, meanwhile, announced a funding increase for renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in developing countries.

Funding for these projects rose 87 per cent from the 2007 to 2008 fiscal year.  Commitments for the 2008 fiscal year reached nearly $2.7 billion, with 95 projects in 51 countries.  And there’s more information on this upstairs.


The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) says donor funding for contraceptives and condoms for HIV prevention is stagnating, despite rising global demand.  According to its latest analysis, contributions for these supplies totalled $223 million in 2007, or slightly less, than in 2001.  During that time, the world’s population has continued to grow, and more couples are using modern methods of contraception.  Without concerted efforts, millions will not be able to exercise their reproductive health choices, the analysis warns.  And there’s more in a press release from the Population Fund upstairs.

**UNIFEM and UNCDF Joint Programme

The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and The UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) have launched a joint programme to help women in Africa gain greater access to resources and services.

With the help of UNDP, the programme will be rolled out in local governments in Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Tanzania.  And there’s more information on that upstairs, as well.

**The Week Ahead

And, we have the week ahead for you.

On Monday, at 11:15, we’ll have Mark Richmond, UNESCO’s Director of the Division for the Coordination of UN Priorities in Education, who will introduce the main findings of the Mid-Decade Review Report of the UN’s Literacy Decade, and UNESCO’s new report on the Global Literacy Challenge.

And other things to flag for you:  on Monday, 6 October, the IAEA’s Board of Governors will meet in Vienna.  And the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Executive Committee will hold its annual meeting, also on Monday, in Geneva, and they will be hosting a ceremony presenting their annual Nansen Refugee Award to Christopher Clark and the UN Mine Action Coordination Center of South Lebanon.

Then, on Tuesday, 7 October, at 11 a.m., in this room, the Secretary-General will hold the first of his regularly-scheduled monthly press conferences.  That day, we will not have a noon briefing.

And then, also next week, on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, will meet with both sides in New York.  Then, on Thursday, 9October, also in response to your requests, the guests at the noon briefing will be Angela Kane, Under-Secretary-General of Management, who will brief on management reform.

And that’s what I have for you today.  As I mentioned, we will have the Security Council President here shortly, followed by Alan Doss, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the DRC.

But I’ll take a few questions.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Marie, in his speech, the President of Pakistan had also emphasized that the inquiry commission sought by Pakistan into the murder of Benazir Bhutto should be expedited.  Has the Secretary-General taken any decision on that as yet?

Deputy Spokesperson:  On Pakistan, what I can tell you on that is the Secretary-General, during the sidelines of the general debate, did meet with the President and they discussed recent developments in Pakistan, as well as the Pakistani Government’s request for a commission of inquiry into the circumstances of the assassination of Ms. Bhutto.  The Secretary-General offered his condolences, not only on the President’s personal loss, but also the loss of so many Pakistanis in recent terrorist bombings in Islamabad.  The Secretary-General encouraged Pakistan to persist in its dialogue both with India and Pakistan, and it was agreed that the United Nations would see what it could do to support the request for an independent fact-finding commission, and would explore further the precise modalities and brief of such a commission.  I don’t have anything beyond that as of now.

Question:  So no decision has been made?

Deputy Spokesperson:  This is where we are.

Question:  I also want to ask another thing, about the evacuation.  Have all the women and children been evacuated from Islamabad?  That was ordered yesterday by the United Nations.

Deputy Spokesperson:  I have nothing beyond what we said on this matter yesterday.

Question:  On Sudan, that you just said, some of the UNAMID advisers, the police advisers, you break down…  Do you have any breakdown as to how many are Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We can get that for you from DPKO.  If they’re listening, maybe they could send it down to us.  Thank you.  Yes?

Question:  Did the Secretary-General have any statement on the decision to retain Rwandan general, Karenzi, as a Deputy Commander in Darfur, despite a Spanish court indicting him on war crimes?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think you’re referring to a press report today, which we all read.  The matter is still being discussed, and, as you know, it is a joint appointment with the African Union.  Did you have something?

Question:  Yes, I did actually.  I wanted first to follow up on that.  I mean, it’s been reported that Ban Ki-moon communicated to Paul Kagame, the President of Rwanda, that he could have six months and that would be it.  Are you saying -- was that offer not made, or was that offer made before getting AU consent?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I said exactly what I said, that the matter is being discussed.  About the conversation, you said about the Secretary-General, yes he did meet with President Kagame, during the sidelines of the general debate, and I can confirm that the issue came up.  But as I said, the issue is still being discussed and, as a reminder, it is a joint appointment with the United Nations and the African Union and, for the record, his term does not expire until later this month.

Question:  There are these reports about the closing of camps for foreigners in South Africa, now that the xenophobic violence (inaudible).  One report says that people who received assistance from UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) were then being barred from camps.  And there are other reports of civil society groups asking the UN to investigate and do something about that.  Has the UN received any requests to sort of, take action in a timely way on the closing of these refugee, or, whether you call them refugee camps or not, camps for displaced foreigners within South Africa?

Deputy Spokesperson:  We’ll check with the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and UNICEF, since you mentioned UNICEF.

Question:  Is there any update on the helicopters that were supposed to be delivered –- at all?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, nothing since the last report, no.  Nothing to report.

Question:  So it still remains the same?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Exactly.  Efforts are obviously under way to try to secure them as quickly as possible.  But nothing, no firm offer, can be reported at this time.  So that’s what I have…

Question:  We were told, by a senior UN official, that currently the UN provides electoral assistance in some 50 countries -– that 55 countries asked for it and 50 are receiving it.  One, they didn’t say why the five that didn’t get it didn’t get it, and which countries those are?  Is there a way -– I’m not sure which unit handles that.  Maybe it’s DPA; I’ve no idea.

Deputy Spokesperson:  We have an Electoral Assistance Unit, and we can certainly ask them.  Okay?

Question:  What the five are and by what grounds they didn’t receive assistance.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later told the correspondent in terms of numbers of countries that request electoral assistance, the UN Electoral Assistance Division says that it has received eight such requests this year.  In all, counting requests made in previous years for which work is still ongoing, EAD currently is dealing with 3 active requests.  In addition, it is monitoring 15 other situations, including in cases where requests are pending.]

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, if there’s nothing else, I’m afraid you will have to wait.

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