Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

18 June 2009

Daily Press Briefing by the Offices of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

18 June 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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Enrique Yeves, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon all.

** Somalia

The African Union, the European Union, the Intergovernmental Agency on Development, the League of Arab States and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia issued a joint statement today in which they all strongly condemned the horrific suicide car bombing in Beledweyne, Somalia, which killed the National Security Minister, Omar Hashi Aden, along with community leaders and other innocent Somalis.

The deplorable attack, they said, once again demonstrates that the extremists will stop at nothing in their desperate attempt to seize power from the legitimate Government of Somalia by force.  These extremists, both Somalis and foreigners, failed in their recent coup d’état, but are continuing in their indiscriminate violence.

The joint statement urges the Government not to be deterred by the violent crimes of a small minority and to continue its efforts for peace and reconciliation through the Djibouti Process.  The full statement is upstairs.


This morning, the Secretary-General addressed the opening of the General Assembly’s interactive thematic dialogue on “Energy efficiency, energy conservation and new and renewable sources of energy”.  In his remarks, he said that a lot could be achieved by pursuing energy efficiency, such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions, cutting energy costs for businesses and households, and providing employment opportunities.

The Secretary-General noted that energy efficiency improvements exist in all sectors.  But, he added, there is a need for strong Government policies.  The Secretary-General said that the pursuit of energy efficiency and the expansion of renewable energy are not an indulgence for wealthy nations.  They are tools for promoting clean development, he added.  He stressed that they provide an opportunity to tackle many challenges at once: climate change, energy insecurity, poverty alleviation.  We have his remarks upstairs.

**Security Council

Staffan de Mistura, the outgoing head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI), today briefed the Security Council for the last time as the head of that Mission, which he said has “contributed to Iraq assuming a new standing among the world community as an increasingly stable and sovereign nation”.

He said that the UN Mission has helped to contribute to national reconciliation, keeping the door of dialogue open between Iraq’s Arabs and Kurds.  He said that this year is a defining period as Iraq looks to possible future electoral events, including national elections, with the United Nations continuing to provide support for capacity-building.  De Mistura told the Council: “The future looks moderately bright, and there is growing hope.”  He will speak to reporters at the stakeout after the meeting.  We assume it will be around 12:45 p.m., about that.

Also today, the members of the Council will hold their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General.

** Pakistan

On Pakistan, the UN humanitarian agencies have been increasing their support to the millions of internally displaced persons in north-western Pakistan, the vast majority of whom are still being accommodated by host communities.

Martin Mogwanja, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Pakistan, said: “The people who have sheltered their friends and family during this time of crisis have shown enormous generosity and helped to save countless lives.  However, the strain is beginning to show and these communities need all the support that the international community can provide.”

Over 47,000 metric tons of food has been distributed since the beginning of May.  Local and international organizations have also distributed thousands of shelter and non-food items in camps and helped alleviate crowding and discomfort amongst host communities.

The coming monsoon makes the needs of the displaced all the more urgent.  Mass population displacement, combined with the extreme weather conditions, greatly heightens the risk of communicable diseases.  Containment measures have been put in place to prevent an epidemic as a result of the hygiene and sanitation issues in the communities hosting displaced people.  We have more in a press release from the UN office in Islamabad.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Kai Eide, called today for peace to be at the top of the country’s post-election agenda.  He said that the “quiet sound of dialogue”, not the “brutal sound of weapons”, is ultimately the only way for peace to be achieved.  “If we want to unite this country for peace, no part can be excluded from that process,” said Eide, who was addressing the National Peace Jirga of Afghanistan, a gathering of about 1,000 leaders from various sectors of Afghan society.

**Alain Le Roy -- Africa Trip ( Nigeria)

The Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, is in Abuja, Nigeria, today as part of visit to West Africa.

He has met with officials from the Foreign Affairs and Defence Ministries, as well as Nigeria’s National Security Adviser, and at the moment he’s meeting the President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Dr. Mohamed ibn Chambas.

Mr. Le Roy was in Mali yesterday, where he attended the closing ceremony of a regional seminar on peacekeeping.  There, he encouraged West African francophone countries to increase their cooperation with the UN, particularly their contributions to UN peacekeeping.

** Darfur

On Darfur, the UN-African Union mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says it hopes to carry out more “quick impact projects” across the region.  The mission’s Deputy Joint Special Representative, Henry Anyidoho, said the projects will help local communities rehabilitate schools, improve hospitals and strengthen vital infrastructure.  They also offer the mission opportunities to engage directly with local communities in towns and villages across the region.

Anyidoho was speaking yesterday during a visit to the site of one such project in El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur.  That project, the El Geneina Hospital, is being supported by the mission with a $46,000 grant to purchase advanced equipment for its ophthalmology section, among other improvements.  Meanwhile, security across Darfur is reported as calm today.

** Sudan

On the rest of Sudan, the Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) is providing an update today of the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of both North and South Sudanese soldiers.  More than 5,000 soldiers from the Sudanese Armed Forces, Sudanese People’s Liberation Army and the onetime pro-Government Popular Defence Forces militias have now been disarmed and demobilized.

** Sierra Leone

On Sierra Leone, the trial of former Liberian President Charles Taylor will begin on 13 July, the Special Court for Sierra Leone has just announced.  The Court says that its Trial Chamber has ordered Taylor’s defence team to prepare to present his argument on that date.  This is a change from the previously ordered 29 June start date.  A preparatory hearing is planned for 6 July at the seat of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

**Human Rights Council

In Geneva, the Human Rights Council just concluded its eleventh regular session today.  The Council adopted 15 resolutions on issues including the human rights of migrants in detention centres, the acceleration of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, trafficking in persons, the right to education and the draft guiding principles on extreme poverty and human rights.

The Human Rights Council also decided to create the mandate of an independent expert on the situation of human rights in the Sudan for a period of one year.  This will replace the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan, which expires this month.  You can find out more on the Human Rights Council’s website.

**Secretary-General -- Sri Lanka

In his remarks at the Foreign Policy Association awards gala in New York yesterday, the Secretary-General expressed deep concerns over the humanitarian situation in Sri Lanka’s refugee camps, adding that he is deeply conscious of their concerns.

Stressing that his visit to Sri Lanka was fully in his best efforts to convey concerns and the message of the international community for the well-being of the displaced persons, the Secretary-General reiterated that he has made it clear to the Sri Lankan President that, though the fighting might be over, there is much more to do.  Adding that the displaced people must be allowed to return to their homes, the Secretary-General urged reconciliation and for the Government of Sri Lanka to hold out their hands to the minority population.  He also warned that more violence may erupt, if this issue is not addressed.

In his remarks, the Secretary-General also called for accountability on those who may have committed human rights abuses.  He added that this was agreed in the joint statement issued with the Government of Sri Lanka and he has also written to President [Mahinda] Rajapaksa to follow up on these matters.  The Secretary-General reiterated his commitment to continue his work for the people of Sri Lanka -- and for all people suffering from breaches of humanitarian law and human rights.

The Secretary-General received an award from the Foreign Policy Association in recognition of his efforts in tackling global humanitarian issues.

**Weather -- Mobile

A new initiative is set to radically improve Africa’s weather monitoring network in the face of the growing impact of climate change.  The initiative, called “Weather Info for All”, is a collaboration between the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Global Humanitarian Forum, Ericsson, the mobile telecommunications company Zain, and the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

It aims to respond to Africa’s severe gap in weather information by deploying up to 5,000 new automatic weather observation stations across Africa.  The 5,000 automatic weather stations will be installed at new and existing mobile network sites throughout the continent over the coming years.  There is more in a press release upstairs.

**United Nations Police -- Interpol Meeting

The UN Police Adviser, Commissioner Andrew Hughes, and the Secretary-General of INTERPOL, Ronald K. Noble, will this afternoon brief Permanent Representatives to the United Nations on plans for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and INTERPOL to formalize a partnership, which will see INTERPOL’s global police network support UN peacekeeping operations.

Today’s briefing serves as a curtain-raiser for a ministerial meeting to be held during INTERPOL’s seventy-eighth General Assembly in Singapore later this year -- and that meeting will explain the growing role of police in peacekeeping and peacebuilding, and seek the support of the ministers to provide the quantity and quality of officers needed, especially female officers.

The meeting takes places at the ECOSOC chamber at 5 p.m. today.  There are some handouts by the door, and if you have any interest in speaking with the UN Police Commissioner or the INTERPOL Secretary-General, please get in touch with Ari Gaitanis in the Department of Peacekeeping’s Public Affairs Section.

**World Food Programme -- Formula 1

The World Food Programme (WFP) and Formula 1 racing have teamed up to fight world hunger.  To raise awareness among Formula 1’s millions of fans worldwide that 66 million primary school-aged children around the world go hungry, Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock will drive cars sporting WFP’s “Fill the Cup” campaign logo for the 2009 racing season.  There is a press release on this upstairs.

**Events -- “Ruined” and “Sergio”

The Secretary-General will attend a performance of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize winning drama Ruined on Friday night, tomorrow, in New York City.  The event is co-hosted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, and Equality Now -- the non-governmental organization concerned with women’s rights.

The play “Ruined” is set in a small mining town in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where sexual violence is rampant.  So much more needs to be done by the international community to stop the violence and to bring the perpetrators to justice, according to the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay.  Hundreds of girls and women have been raped and tortured during the long-running civil war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Secretary-General is also attending here tonight a screening of the HBO documentary film, Sergio, based on the book by Samantha Power, Chasing the Flame.  It tells the story of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, killed during the bombing of the Canal Hotel in 2003.

A few minutes before, the Secretary-General will observe a moment of silence in front of the flag that was rescued from the Canal Hotel after the bombing, to remember the 22 people who died six years ago, and the many others, before and since, who have sacrificed their lives in the service of peace under the UN flag.  The event tonight is hosted by the International Peace Institute and HBO.

**Secretary-General’s Trip -- Birmingham

The Secretary-General over the weekend is set to travel to Birmingham, United Kingdom, at the invitation of Rotary International, to receive an award for his contribution and efforts on the eradication of polio.

During the one-day visit, the Secretary-General will deliver a keynote address at the annual Rotary International convention, to recognize the organization for its leadership role in polio eradication and for its work in support of the Millennium Development Goals, as well as climate change and global health.  His remarks will focus on the importance of partnership between the United Nations and civil society in dealing with global challenges.

Also during the visit, the Secretary-General will meet with the Global Compact Foundation network in the United Kingdom, as well as the Chancellor, Dominique Cadbury, of Birmingham University, among other prominent figures.  He will return to New York Monday morning.

**Press Conferences Today

Today at 12:45 p.m., the Permanent Representative of Belarus, Andrei Dapkiunas, and Tariq Banuri, Director of the Division for Sustainable Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will brief you on the General Assembly’s thematic dialogue on “Energy efficiency, energy conservation and new and renewable sources of energy”.  This will be, of course, after you’re briefed by Enrique on the General Assembly.

**Stakeout Tomorrow and Background Briefing

And just looking ahead, at 4 p.m. tomorrow, the Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, will speak to the press at the Security Council stakeout.  And on Monday, 22 June, at 3 p.m. here in 226, there will be a technical [off-camera, background] briefing on media arrangements for the upcoming high-level meeting on the “World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development”, to be held 24-26 June.

And this is all I have for you, thank you.  I’ll take just a few questions and then I will give the floor to Enrique.  Yes, Matthew.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure, Michèle.  In Sri Lanka, this Presidential Commission of Investigation that was set up to look into abuses prior to this year’s upsurge in fighting has been disbanded without imposing any accountability, including for Action Contre la Faim, NGO workers who were killed.  What’s been the UN’s, OCHA’s or Mr. Ban’s response to that?

Spokesperson:  Well, you know, you heard Mr. Ban’s response about accountability.  He said it on Monday during the stakeout; he said it again, was it Monday?  He said it here, I think, in his press conference, and you know, that statement stands, you know.  He is demanding and asking for accountability.  So that stands.  I don’t have a reaction to a specific event.  But I can stress what I stressed earlier and the remarks he made last time.

Question:  I guess I was also thinking about OCHA.  I mean OCHA, John Holmes, has said that the UN is waiting for the findings of this Commission.  Now the Commission is disbanded.  So this is why…

Spokesperson:  I’ll try to see whether we have further reaction to that.

Question:  Okay.  And I just want… I mean I heard his speech last night.  Would it be fair to say that putting Sri Lanka at the top of the speech was a reaction at the protest outside, and what did he think?  If you can…?

Spokesperson:  Well, yes.  Anyway, it was going to be in his speech, but he put it in front when he saw the demonstration and he was sensitive to the issues they were raising.

Question:  And he said in his speech, he said that, while he was there, he met with opposition figures and Tamil leaders.  There seems to be some dispute; I think at the airport, as we were leaving, some Tamil leaders were supposed to be led into the airport and weren’t.  Is there some way, maybe not from this podium, can we…?  What opposition leaders and Tamil leaders did he meet with while he was there?

Spokesperson:  I can try to find that out.

Correspondent:  Okay, I’d appreciate that.

Spokesperson:  Any other questions?  Yes, Katharine.

Question:  On Iran, we heard the Secretary-General comment on Monday, but since then, media reports have shown daily protests in the streets of Tehran.  Is Ban Ki-moon, does he have anything to add to what he said already earlier this week?  How concerned…?

Spokesperson:  No, we have nothing new to add.  As you know, he referred in his comment the other day to the fact that there was going to be an investigation on the actual electoral process, and he is of course waiting for that.

Question:  What’s the process to replace Mr. de Mistura?  Someone had said that Ad Melkert…  Someone had reported that Ad Melkert is getting the job.  But is there, can you confirm or deny that or what…?

Spokesperson:  I cannot confirm at this point, but I think the process is pretty near for an announcement.

Question:  Okay.  And also on Tuesday there was a general meeting of the Staff Union at which they passed a resolution which, you know, they say is a no-confidence in the Secretary-General regarding implementation of the Capital Master Plan and management of human resources on things like the G-to-P test and others.  Obviously, you’re aware of this, but what does the Secretary-General think of this no-confidence vote?  What’s his response to it?

Spokesperson:  As you know there was the resolution came out… it was not a resolution adopted, there was no quorum.  So it was not adopted by the group.  You know, the Secretary-General, I will reiterate what he has been saying, that he is committed to the welfare and the security of the staff.  The Staff Management Coordination Committee is currently meeting in Nairobi, as you probably know, through the 17th.  Well, actually, the meeting should be over by today.  And representatives from all staff unions are there -- associations, council -- except the New York Staff Union.  They’re the only ones who are not participating in the discussions.  And the discussions are about the things that were discussed right here in New York.  So that’s really what I can say.  As you know, the resolution discussed at the Staff Union’s general meeting was not, as I said, not adopted, they didn’t have the quorum to adopt it.  And that’s really all I can say.

Question:  They said they had 200 some people, there was only one abstention and that they claim they only need 300 to change an existing position.  The non-quorum, whose position is that, Department of Management or just…?

Spokesperson:  Well it was just… that said that a quorum was not there.  It was said at the meeting.  And any special matters on this, I mean, we can certainly discuss that if you have any specific questions.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Sure.

Question:  How did the Secretary-General choose the members of his special Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, and what does he hope to get out of this?

Spokesperson:  Well, he hopes to get out of it some initiatives and some forward-looking policies that will help, as he says, to seal the deal in Copenhagen.  This is part of that larger effort to get to Copenhagen, to get to an agreement there.

Question:  [inaudible] to take to Copenhagen?

Spokesperson:  Yes, yes.

Question:  And how did he choose them?

Spokesperson:  Well, actually you’re going to have someone who is going to come and talk to you about this.  Why don’t you wait to address the question to the people who are directly involved with it?  Okay.  Yes, Enrique, please.  Thank you all.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon to everybody.

**General Assembly Dialogue on Energy

President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann opened the day-long thematic dialogue of the General Assembly on “Energy efficiency, energy conservation and new and renewable sources of energy.  In his opening remarks, the President said: “How do we deal with inequitable energy patterns and safeguard the right to development at the same time?  The facts are stark.  Unless we undertake fundamental changes, world consumption of energy is expected to grow by around 40 per cent by the year 2030.  Experts argue that we need a technology revolution that will enable us to reconcile our development and growing energy needs with steps to mitigate climate change and the general carrying capacity of the earth.”

**World March

On another issue, the President met International World March Coordinator Rafael de la Rubia on 16 June at the Headquarters of the United Nations in New York to discuss the objectives of the World March.  The World March, for those of you who may not be familiar with the movement, is an initiative of World without Wars, an international organization that promotes non-violence and works to prevent war.

President d’Escoto said he considers favourably the objectives of the World March, noting that: “It offers a new paradigm for the twenty-first century that draws upon the prophetic work of world figures such as Leo Tolstoy, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, all advocates of creative non-violence.”  He was furthered heartened by the organizers’ commitment to the goal of “zero tolerance” for nuclear arms and shared the view that the entire international community should work towards their complete eradication.  He was informed that an international team of marchers is expected to cross six continents starting on 2 October 2009 -- the International Day of Non-Violence, as you all know --- in Wellington, New Zealand, and arrive on 2 January 2010 at Punta de Vacas in Argentina.

**Council of Presidents of the General Assembly

On another front, the Council of Presidents of the General Assembly of the United Nations, which, as you probably also are aware, is a group of former Presidents of the General Assembly, held its second special meeting in Seoul, Republic of Korea, on 15, 16 and 17 June 2009 at the invitation of Han Seung-soo, President of the fifty-sixth session of the General Assembly and current Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea.

Members of the Council, drawing on their experiences as Presidents of the General Assembly, exchanged their insights on how the United Nations, as the world body representing humanity’s highest collective aspirations, could strengthen its role in addressing new global challenges and threats.  The Council focused on the issues of climate change, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the global financial crisis.

At the meeting’s conclusion, the Council adopted the Seoul Statement in which, among other issues, they:  “Appreciated the efforts made by the current President of the United Nations General Assembly to effectively address the United Nations priority agenda, including the Millennium Development Goals, climate change and the financial crisis, and welcomed in this regard, the ‘United Nations Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development’, to be held in June 2009.”

**Conference on World Financial and Economic Crises

And talking about the summit let me provide you a very brief update on the global economic crisis summit.

While negotiations continue, right now we have now confirmed 121 delegations.  I do not have yet the list of Heads of State and Government attending, but I think I will be able to provide you such a list by tomorrow, and I will give you a more detailed overview of the summit, including the programme and parallel events, the schedule of press conferences and so on.  So tomorrow I’ll give you a much more detailed briefing on the Conference if that’s helpful for you.

And this is all I have for you unless you have any questions.  Matthew.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On the Heads of State who are going to attend, you have been quoted that there will be no Heads of State from the West.  Is that…?

Spokesperson:  That’s my understanding.  As I said, I have not seen the full list yet, but the level of participation is communicated to the Protocol Office, not to the Office of the President of the General Assembly.  And from there we get such information.  And it has been changing a lot in the last week or 10 days, or last couple of weeks.  That’s why I have been a little bit reluctant to provide such a list in a more detailed way.  But I think by tomorrow we will have a better picture of who is coming and who is not, etcetera.  Yes.

Question:  Yes, on that same subject, do you have any information who, if anyone, is going to represent the World Bank and the IMF?

Spokesperson:  The World Bank and the IMF, yes they’re going to be represented, both of them by their deputies.  And I don’t have the names with me.  As I said, I’ll expect to give you tomorrow full details.  President d’Escoto invited both heads of the IMF and World Bank and both sent very warm letters to the President saying that they couldn’t attend, but they were sending their second-in-command.

Question:  Also this grouping of former Presidents of the General Assembly, do you know how many, and like how many of them attended?  I hadn’t heard of that group before and I saw [Srgjan] Kerim only last night at the Ban Ki-moon award and protest.  Not at the protest.

Spokesperson:  To be honest, I am not sure how many of them they are.  But this is not new.  They have met several times, and actually President d’Escoto attended the meeting last year during the General Assembly with those former Presidents.  And he was invited to go to Seoul to this meeting, and President d’Escoto wanted to attend, but then when we changed the dates of the summit, it was impossible for him to attend.  So he sent a video message and I think the full list of participants is on the website.

Question:  On the website of…? This body has its own…?

Spokesperson:  No, no, on the website. I think they have released just today a press release.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  But I can check that for you.  I have seen a press release on that particular issue.  Okay, thank you very much, see you tomorrow.

* *** *

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