Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

21 May 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

21 May 2009
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.

Good afternoon.

**Guests Today

My guests today are going to be Under-Secretary-General for Management Angela Kane and Controller Jun Yamazaki, to brief you on the financial situation of the United Nations, and I understand that they will be coming down at 12:20 p.m.

**Secretary-General in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary-General, as you know, is in Washington, D.C., today, where he met with the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, earlier this morning.

He also met with Senator Judd Gregg and Representative Nita Lowey of the House and Senate Appropriations Sub-Committees.  And the topics discussed included climate change, peace and security, development, and he thanked the US Congress for their support and he looks forward to working with the United States.  This just in on a phone conversation, so I don’t have anything further on their meetings.

Later this afternoon, the Secretary-General is scheduled to deliver the commencement address at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., under the theme “Global Leadership in a Time of Crisis”.

He is expected to call for a special brand of global leadership and a new multilateralism to deal with the new and complex challenges facing the world today.

The Secretary-General will highlight the fact that, just as the world’s people have become more interdependent, so too have the issues, adding that no nation can deal with them alone.

He will call for bold action and powerful partnerships for enduring peace and prosperity.  He will add that the new multilateralism should focus on delivering global goods: freedom from hunger; health and education; and security from terror or the threat of Armageddon.

The Secretary-General is expected to urge the students who are graduating from School of Advanced International Studies to consider careers in public service, saying that there is no more noble calling and no greater good than a life of public service.  We have the Secretary-General’s full remarks upstairs that are embargoed for this afternoon.

And the Secretary-General leaves Washington, D.C., later in the day for Sri Lanka.

** Sri Lanka

[The Secretary-General’s Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar, travelled to the camps housing internally displaced persons in Vavuniya and then flew over what was formerly known as the conflict zone today, a day after his helicopter had to turn back midway due to bad weather.

Mr. Nambiar met with the President of Tamil United Liberation Front, a Tamil political party.  They discussed the situation with the internally displaced persons who remained in the conflict zone.  They also discussed civilian casualties and those who were injured and missing, the continuous shelling which resulted in abandoned hospitals and the allocation of more land to address overcrowding and suitable provisions, especially for children.

Mr. Nambiar also met with a group of Members of Parliament of the Tamil National Alliance.

He is also scheduled to hold a press conference in Colombo at 10 a.m. local time tomorrow.]

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), meanwhile, reports today that, according to the Government, all IDPs are out of both the conflict zone and through all transit points.

Access into Menik Farm camps remains restricted for aid vehicles, OCHA reports.

We are still extremely concerned about overcrowding in Menik Farm camps.

Freedom of movement is needed for people in the camps to allow those who have been identified as non-combatants to voluntarily relocate to stay with host families if they have that option.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq has strongly condemned bombings in Kirkuk and Baghdad yesterday and today.  The attacks killed dozens of Iraqi civilians and left many others injured.

Staffan de Mistura described these latest bombings as “reprehensible crimes that have indiscriminately targeted ordinary Iraqis”.

He has extended the sincere condolences of the United Nations to the bereaved families.  He also wishes the wounded victims a full and speedy recovery.  And you can pick up that statement upstairs.

** Cyprus

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Cyprus is now available.  In it, he says that, while the parties have made steady progress, an increase in the pace of the talks between the leaders is needed.  He adds that it is disappointing that, since the agreement on nearly two dozen confidence-building measures during the preparatory phase of the talks, the parties have made little progress in implementing them.

The Secretary-General says that, in the absence of a comprehensive settlement, the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) continues to play a vital and unique role on the island, including as a stabilizing factor on the ground.  In that regard, he recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of the mission for a further six months, until 15 December 2009.

Meanwhile, the two Cyprus leaders today met under UN auspices in Nicosia. The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, was present.  And there is more on this upstairs.

** Somalia

And on Somalia, UNICEF has strongly condemned the looting and destruction of humanitarian supplies and its facilities in the town of Jowhar by militiamen.  According to the agency, thousands of doses of vaccines have been destroyed, and food to prevent child malnutrition was stolen.

UNICEF adds that the loss and damage of crucial supplies for children and women, and the break in the supply chain will have an enormous impact on overall programmes, since Jowhar is the main hub for the provision of services and supplies to all of central and southern Somalia.  There is a press release upstairs.

** Côte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations mission there (UNOCI) is calling for a prompt resumption of voter registration activities in the country.  It encourages the Independent Electoral Commission, the Government and all Ivorian parties to respect the date that was announced for the holding of presidential elections in the country -- 29 November.

In this regard, the mission stresses the importance of a strong commitment to expedite the remaining tasks for organizing free, fair and transparent elections in the country -- as defined in the agreed upon timeline.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

I just have two items, and I’ll quickly read them, because our guest is here.

The interim report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo is out on the racks.

The report focuses on the security situation in North Kivu province, where the most serious fighting took place in late 2008, and particularly on the accelerated military integration of non-State armed groups into the national army (FARDC), in early 2009.

The Group of Experts highlights a number of concerns on the issue of military integration, notably the maintenance of parallel command structures operated by former senior officers of CNDP (Congrès national pour la défense du people), who have been integrated into the national army.  The interim report also underlines the need for a vetting mechanism to screen the human rights records of officers in the FARDC.


And the deaths of children under the age of 5 have dropped globally by nearly 30 per cent since 1990, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  But the agency’s first progress report on the health-related Millennium Development Goals doesn’t contain only good news.  For example, progress in reducing child mortality has not been sufficient in many African countries and low-income countries in general.

Also on the health front, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé has been using World Health Assembly week in Geneva to meet with more than 80 health ministers.  Among his messages has been a call to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015.  And there is more on this upstairs, as well.

**Cultural Diversity

Today is World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  And you can read more about that upstairs.

**Secretary-General -- Copenhagen

And finally, I just mentioned to you the Secretary-General will be heading to Sri Lanka over the weekend.  But on Sunday, the Secretary-General will be in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he will open the World Business Summit on Climate Change.

Jointly organized with the UN Global Compact, this three-day Summit is expected to send a strong message from the global business community to Governments to seal the deal on an ambitious new climate agreement in Copenhagen, in December.  And you can read more about this in information available upstairs in the Spokesperson’s Office.

We have our guests here, and it’s 12:20 p.m., so I think I will…

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Just one question on Nambiar, I just wanted to ask…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Sure.

Question:  The readout that you gave that he didn’t go there because of bad weather, to the north, to the camps into to the conflict zone, does this imply that the Government said that he could go to the conflict zone if the weather had been better?

Deputy Spokesperson:  In fact, this is not the only attempt that he has made.  I think I reported to you earlier that, since he’s been there, I think there have been a couple of occasions already that his planned trips have been… he’s been unable to go because of bad weather.  Apparently, currently it is the rainy season and it’s very difficult, it’s been raining a lot and it is the weather that’s been preventing these flights.  So, hopefully, you will all have good weather when you get there.  Yes, Masood.

Question:  Just one question, about this background, the briefing given yesterday by the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping, I just wanted to find out, did he speak, maybe I missed it because I was very late, did he speak about this religious operation over there where all these Catholic priests over there extort money from the people in Congo, we’re talking about Congo, in Congo?  The catholic priests extort money.  There was a big feature today on NBC on this, as to what is happening over there, how the population is under pressure by these priests.  Has the United Nations peacekeeping forces looked into this, because…?

Deputy Spokesperson:  No, Under-Secretary-General Le Roy, as far as I remember, I don’t remember him speaking about that particular aspect, but we can certainly follow up with the Peacekeeping Department and MONUC to find out if there is anything more on that.  Yes, Edie.

Question:  Marie, does the Secretary-General have any fresh plans to tackle the problem of sexual harassment and sexual harassment complaints?  This is in response to the Wall Street Journal [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  I think this is a good time for me to turn over to my guests, because Angela Kane is here today and you could address the question directly to her.  We have Angela Kane together with the Controller Jun Yamazaki, and since they’re here today already, I will turn over the floor to them.

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