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

4 November 2009

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

4 November 2009
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

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

and the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President


The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, all.

I can see most everyone is following the General Assembly.  I would like to welcome the journalists from Germany joining us today.  They are part of a fellowship run by the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and the RIAS Berlin Commission.

**Secretary-General in Athens

In Athens, the Secretary-General today addressed the third meeting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development, and he called for policies on migration to be founded on evidence, not fuelled by prejudice.

He warned that the conditions in which many migrants move and live continue to be treacherous.  He spelled out three major challenges facing migrants worldwide.  First, on the economic front, the global recession has highlighted the vulnerability of migrants, particularly recent migrants.  Second, on climate change, he said that the effects of global warming will be far-reaching and could prompt further migration.  And third, he said that we must devote special attention to the most vulnerable migrants of all: victims of human trafficking, especially women and girls.  Human trafficking injures, traumatizes and kills, the Secretary-General said.

He also made remarks to the press after his speech at the Forum, where he stressed the need to deepen our common values of inclusion, social acceptance and understanding.

The Secretary-General met later with George Papandreou, who is the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Greece.  He told reporters afterwards that they discussed, among other things, climate change, migration and development, Cyprus, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, UN peacekeeping operations and reform, piracy and the Millennium Development Goals.  On Cyprus, the Secretary-General said he told the Prime Minister that he appreciates his commitment to help Cypriots achieve a settlement.  He added: “I believe the talks are making reasonably good progress, and this momentum must be kept up.”

The Secretary-General also attended a luncheon hosted by Greek President Karolos Papoulias.  Tomorrow, he is scheduled to address the Greek Parliament on the United Nations and renewed multilateralism in the twenty-first century.

** Greece and The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

During the Secretary-General’s press encounter today with the Greek Prime Minister, he noted that his Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Matthew Nimetz, is set to restart discussions on the name issue, as soon as both parties are ready.  The Secretary-General said he was encouraged that the Greek Prime Minister had told him that Greece is ready and will fully support Mr. Nimetz’s ongoing facilitation role.

In that regard, Mr. Nimetz reports that he is in touch with the parties and has proposed to them the holding of meetings -- either joint or separate -- in New York at a time to be determined. As soon as I have more, you will hear more.

**Secretary-General’s Statement on Occupied East Jerusalem

Yesterday, we issued the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on occupied East Jerusalem.

The Secretary-General is dismayed at continued Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem, including the demolition of Palestinian homes, the eviction of Palestinian families and the insertion of settlers into Palestinian neighbourhoods.  The eviction today of a Palestinian family in East Jerusalem is just the most recent incident.

These actions stoke tensions, cause suffering and further undermine trust.  He calls on Israel to cease such provocative actions.  He further reiterates his call on Israel to implement its Road Map commitments by freezing all settlement activity, including natural growth, dismantling outposts and reopening Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem.

** Sudan -- Disarmament

Significant progress is being made in the UN-backed disarmament drive in Southern Sudan, but much remains to be done still.  That assessment was made by the Special Representative of the Secretary General, Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, in remarks to members of the Round Table Partnership on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration.  Qazi said that several assembly sites for former combatants have been set up and many more are planned.  He added that other areas of Southern Sudan are being considered for an expansion of the disarmament effort.

Qazi, however, noted that an enduring funding shortfall at UNICEF was threatening to upset recent gains in the demobilization of child soldiers.  Our Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) says that 15,000 former combatants have been now disarmed and demobilized.  Overall, the programme is aiming to demobilize and reintegrate into civilian life some 180,000 members of the Sudanese forces and the South Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).

** Sudan –- Food Aid

The World Food Programme (WFP) is continuing air drops of food assistance into Southern Sudan in a fresh effort to feed thousands of people cut off by current rains in areas hit by conflict, high food prices and poor harvests because of drought.

The airdrops, which began last Thursday, will benefit 155,600 people in 3 of  Southern Sudan’s 10 states and will continue for two and a half months.  Many roads are in bad condition and cannot be used during the April to December rainy season.  Increased tribal fighting has also blocked road and river access to some areas.

These are the first airdrops by WFP into Southern Sudan since 2007.  Specially trained teams will be ready to collect the food from the drop zone and organize distributions.  There are more details in a WFP press release upstairs.

** Philippines

Over in the Philippines, the United Nations continues its efforts to assist recovery in the aftermath of Typhoon Mirinae and a series of storms that battered the archipelago.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has revised its estimates of emergency and early recovery needs, and is asking for an additional 44,000 metric tons of food to assist survivors of the typhoons through March 2010.

WFP plans to reach 1.5 million people affected, including assistance to 100,000 of the poorest farmers and their families who lost their entire rice harvest.

To reach the most vulnerable children between 20 months and six years, WFP is preparing to establish a supplementary feeding programme in coordination with the National Nutrition Council.

As of 2 November, the Philippines flash appeal 2009 is funded at 35 per cent, or $25 million, of the requested $74 million.  A flash appeal revision is ongoing.

** Viet Nam

On the impact of the weather, Tropical Storm Mirinae also affected parts of Viet Nam, bringing on heavy rains that ruined several provinces throughout the country, particularly Binh Dinh province in the Hattan River basin.  Initial reports from the UN country team suggest that 87 people have been killed, 74 people have been injured and 23 people gone missing after Tropical Storm Mirinae.  These are just preliminary figures, which will be updated.  The United Nations country team remains in close contact with the Government of Viet Nam concerning the humanitarian situation and response.

**Deputy Secretary-General in Lebanon

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro is in Addis Ababa, where she arrived earlier today from Beirut.  While in Lebanon yesterday, she met with President Michel Sleiman and with regional coordinators of UN programmes.  She also addressed the meeting of the Regional Coordination Mechanism.

In her remarks, she noted that the UN is setting up the Global Impact Vulnerability Alert System (GIVAS) to provide real-time data and analysis on how regional crises are affecting the poorest and most vulnerable.  She invited regional Governments to work with the UN towards an effective and efficient early warning system.

She also appealed to local and UN officials to remain engaged in the Middle East efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals, which can be compromised by poor responses to crises.

**Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism

The United Nations yesterday chaired the eighth meeting of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.  You’ll recall that the purpose of that mechanism is to bring together the Georgians, Abkhaz and Russians, as well as representatives from the UN and European Union, on a periodic basis, to discuss security matters.

Yesterday’s meeting took place in the town of Gali.  Among other things, the movement of the local population between the Gali and Zugdidi districts, including by public transport, was discussed.  Participants exchanged views and information on crossing procedures and requirements.  They agreed that civilians needing medical assistance should be given unhindered passage for treatment.

The next meeting, also to be held in Gali, will take place on 17 November.  We have more on that upstairs.

**Post-Conflict Employment

A new policy for sustainable employment in post-conflict situations is being launched today in Geneva.  The United Nations Policy for Post-Conflict Employment Creation, Income Generation and Reintegration aims to contribute to lasting peace in volatile post-conflict settings -- through gainful employment and steady incomes.

It follows a three-year consultation and drafting process, led by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).  The policy will be implemented in five initial countries emerging from conflict: Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Timor-Leste.  There is more on this upstairs.

**United Nations Development Programme

UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark today addressed the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), in Santiago, Chile.  She said that persistent gender inequality worldwide is hampering efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  She also stressed the need to address development and climate issues together.

Clark met yesterday with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet in Santiago, where the two discussed the upcoming climate talks in Copenhagen in December.  They also spoke about the progress that Chile and other Latin American countries are making towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. 


And for your planning purposes, tomorrow, in Conference Room 4, there will be a special screening of HOME, a documentary film by Yann Arthus-Bertrand, the filmmaker known for his “Earth From Above” books.

HOME, which shows spectacular aerial views from more than 50 countries, highlights the diversity of life on Earth and how humans are threatening the ecological balance of the planet.

The screening of the film begins at 6 p.m. and is organized by the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, the Department of Public Information, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the United Nations Environment Programme and the Permanent Mission of France to the United Nations.

This is all I have for you today.  Questions?  Jean Victor will not be coming to brief you.  You may have a briefing directly from the President of the General Assembly later today, but I can’t promise; this is something I heard earlier, but it might change depending on the debate.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  In Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah has called the decision to declare Hamid Karzai the winner an illegal decision.  Ban Ki-moon has been quoted as saying: “Let bygones be bygones.”  Is there…?  I mean, do you…?

Spokesperson:  You shouldn’t misinterpret what was said.  “Let bygones be bygones”, meaning that the election is behind us, let’s work towards an inclusive Government, and let’s work towards a Government that respects the will and the wishes of the Afghan people.  I think that’s what it means.  It does not mean that the UN is saying that this is…

Question:  I guess what I am saying, what is… a prominent member of Parliament said… Is the UN passing judgement that the IEC’s decision to declare, to cancel the second round, to declare Karzai the winner, is that illegal?

Spokesperson:  We are not passing judgement on that.  You can see upstairs from all our press releases, you can see the appeals made by [the Secretary-General] towards to Mr. Karzai, particularly on the issues of corruption and on being able to set up a Government that includes a wide spectrum of the Afghan society.

Question:  There was an event today in which Israel seized a ship going from Iran to Lebanon, they said it was going to Lebanon or Syria, with a lot of weapons.  Is there any assessment from the UN as to the legality of the move, whether it was in accordance with Security Council resolutions?

Spokesperson:  I don’t have anything from the UN on this.  It was something that was done on the high seas, and I don’t have any specifics on what happened.  I read, like you did, the reports in the press.

Question:  With Kabul, can you give us any update on the security procedures or issues in place?

Spokesperson:  I haven’t received any specifics yet.  I do know that they are trying not to advertise too much the security measures that are being taken in the aftermath of what happened.  But, as soon as I get an answer from Kabul, I’ll share it with you, certainly, and with everyone who wants to know.  Right now, there are some things they do not want to comment on, but I would like to note that the issue of security was brought up by the Secretary-General when he met with Mr. Karzai when he was in Afghanistan.  And it really is an important issue for us.  In terms of the concrete measures, I’ll get back to you on that.

Question:  Is there any thinking of asking the US for better protection, or any other involved parties, including private companies?

Spokesperson:  I am not at liberty to discuss what is being planned.  But I just got the following.  I don’t know if it answers your question.

The UN Mission in Afghanistan has been reviewing the security arrangements, notably in Kabul, but not limited to it, with a view to enhancing immediately the security of all UN premises and guesthouses.  Meetings with the Afghan authorities have been held, including by the Secretary-General, and we have requested more security forces to protect the UN.  All 93 guest houses in Kabul have been surveyed after the attack of 28 October, in order to consolidate the number of guest houses and reduce the risks.  Some staff have been already relocated to other safer guest houses.  UN staff have not been evacuated, but staff who came to support the elections are leaving or have left.  That’s what I have for you so far.

Question:  Do you have any specifics about how many guest houses of the 93 are still standing or are occupied?  Has there been an effort to consolidate staff?

Spokesperson:  Yes, there has been, definitely.  I don’t have the exact number of how many, but I know they reduced considerably the number of guest houses, which was announced earlier by the Secretary-General as one of the measures that were to be taken.

Question:  Going to think about or ask for better security, would that be from peacekeepers or from private security?

Spokesperson:  All the options are being considered right now in terms of the security of the staff.  I don’t have an answer, because we don’t have decisions yet.  There have been immediate measures taken, which I just described, which is just relocating some of our personnel to safer guest houses.  But beyond that, I don’t know what other options they are examining right now and what decision they will take.

Question:  The budget proposal that the Secretary-General laid out to the General Assembly, some people describe as a $50 million proposal.  What number are you all putting on it in terms of comparing it to the DSS [Department of Safety and Security] budget that was submitted?  How much is he asking for?

Spokesperson:  We already had those numbers out, Matthew.

Question:  So you don’t dispute… I see 50 reported, but what people don’t know is that…

Spokesperson:  It’s not quite 50.  You have the exact number upstairs.  I’ve given it to you.

Question:  The reason I ask is that I’ve spoken to a few members of ACABQ [Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions] who said that, in fact, there is as of yet, the DSS budget wasn’t submitted with the rest of the budget, so it’s hard to compare the numbers and they said, and this is what I’d like you to respond to, that there is a management report about DSS that was asked for in the sixty-second General Assembly that still hasn’t been turned in.  There is some desire to wait for that to even act on this proposal.  Are you aware of that?

Spokesperson:  I cannot get involved in the business of ACABQ.  ACABQ will, if they want to wait for that report, they will wait for that report.  When they will get that report, I don’t know.  I can’t answer that question.  I don’t know whether the report has been sent and is going through the regular channels.  I don’t know where that issue is. I can of course inquire for you where the report is at this point.  But, in terms of what ACABQ is saying, I cannot comment.

Question:  Are these changes being made, does the Secretary-General think he needs to wait for a Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) vote on this money?  Or is he able to implement changes even before?

Spokesperson:  There are some changes that can be implemented within existing resources, but of course, to have additional security measures, we definitely need more.  And it’s not just about Afghanistan or Pakistan, it’s about a number of venues where UN personnel work to assist the country, and there are several risk factors which are being analysed for each place.

Question:  Why, in England, speaking on the issue of climate change, the Secretary-General said this is a moral issue and he said that people of faith can play an important role in mobilizing the people and having the world leaders act more courageously?  Does the Secretary-General have any people of faith on the staff, and if not, why not?

Spokesperson:  He doesn’t need to have them on the staff, he consults with them.  And his climate change people consult with them.  And that’s why he went to that meeting at Windsor Castle, because he gives importance to being in touch with the faith-based organizations to advance the climate change agenda.  And I think this is the same thing for a number of NGOs, he feels they are crucial in bringing about some movement on the climate change issue.

Question: Regarding the speech the Secretary-General gave in London, they have this quote saying: “It may be realistic if we think Copenhagen may not be the final word on these matters” and appearing to say that he no longer expects a legally binding agreement to be reached in Copenhagen.

Spokesperson:  This has been said here in this room.

Question:  [Janos] Pasztor said he remained hopeful.

Spokesperson:  We all remain hopeful that there will be some decisions taken in Copenhagen.  It’s not that we are saying that Copenhagen is over; it’s not over.  On the contrary, there is a lot to be obtained from Copenhagen, and there’s a lot we are pushing for in Copenhagen.  In terms of getting to the legally binding agreement, maybe that’s the phrase you are talking about, it was already said here by Janos Pasztor that we didn’t think we could reach that legal agreement.  Yvo de Boer has said we will work on that legal agreement beyond Copenhagen.  However, what is needed is a political commitment, and Copenhagen is vital for this.

Question:  In Timor-Leste, a militia leader, Maternus Bere, who was indicted by a UN-supported court, has been taken out of Timor-Leste into Indonesia.  They are wondering what the UN is thinking of this and did the UN try to give the court’s indictment, tried to stop it and what they think it means for the UN’s commitment.

Spokesperson:  There was nothing the UN could do.  We learned of the transfer in the same way everybody else did.  We don’t have any additional information on that.  I have to get more information on it before I can give an opinion on it, or the Secretary-General’s opinion on it.

Question:  Is there any update on shutting down this building, the Secretariat Building?

Spokesperson:  You got an update as to when the journalists are moving. I can tell you our office will be moving on the 20th of November, so you will be one day without a briefing, and a number of you journalists are moving at the same time.  Some are moving later; this has been discussed directly with UNCA [United Nations Correspondents Association], so I am sure you can get more on this.  There is a scheduled meeting between you and the Capital Master Plan people on specifics of the move.

Question:  There will be no more 38th floor?

Spokesperson:  Well the 38th floor is not moving at the moment.  It will be moving early next year.  So far, the North Lawn Building is not ready to have the 38th floor moved into there.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you Michèle.  Good afternoon.  I actually did not plan to brief today, simply because of the ongoing proceedings at the GA, but I thought I should make myself available in case you have questions on the report of the Human Rights Council, the consideration that is going on, the debate is as you know, proceeding.  We have a total of 43 speakers so far on the list and we are now about a quarter of the way up to the tenth speaker.  Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You have 43 delegations, how many more do you expect to inscribe themselves in the next few hours?

Spokesperson:  I really do not know the answer to that question, but I will go back to the Hall and, as soon as I know if there are additional speakers on the list I have, I will let you know.

Question:  Originally, we were told there would be a 10 a.m. stakeout, there was no stakeout, are speakers going to be coming to the stakeout in the east foyer whenever they feel like coming and speaking to us, or all at the end of the session, or all at the end of the morning’s session?  Obviously you aren’t going to get 43 speakers before lunch.  At some point, he is going to call the meeting for a lunch break.  When do you expect they will be coming to that special stakeout section in the east foyer?

Spokesperson:  I can only speak for the President of the General Assembly, who is ready to speak to the press once the proceedings are over.  When the proceedings are going to be over, I really cannot tell.  Will that be this afternoon, can this go on and be continued tomorrow morning?  We don’t know that yet.  It could be that speakers in the afternoon will go through their statements pretty quickly.  I don’t know, so we have to play it by ear.  Regarding the stakeout, we just have to hope people come to the stakeout, but so far I was there this morning, and I met a group of journalists, but the President will come and brief you once these proceedings are over.

Question:  The President will probably not make the 4 o’clock scheduled briefing that was announced previously?

Spokesperson:  That schedule is still to be confirmed, and that schedule remains as we speak.  If the proceedings are concluded before that time, which is not impossible, it is still possible he will come at 4.  If they are not completed before then, we will reschedule, and there is another tentative time, which is tomorrow around 11.

Question:  The US is not on the original list.  Will they be speaking?  The American representative?

Spokesperson: Well, they may or they may not.  I do not see the US on this list now, but I will go back into the Hall and double check that.

Question:  On draft resolution L.11, as it is, Sudan, Syria, Algeria, there are some that people would be sponsors that are not listed.  Have there been additional sponsors added since this was printed?

Spokesperson:  It must be on the resolution itself.  That is what is official.  You have to go by what is on the document.

Question:  Are you going to put out another version of this?

Spokesperson:  If there is an amendment, for sure, if there is something new that goes into the records, for sure we will put it out.

Question:  There was talk of France and the UK having their own resolution.  You said this was the only one.  Are you aware some people said they had given it to the EU or various parties negotiating?  Is Dr. Treki aware of another draft floating by France and the UK?

Spokesperson:  I read a lot of press and media and listen to radio and TV, I hear a lot of things.  But you better check with the French and the other European countries you are referring to, to find out if that is indeed a fact.

Question:  I’m assuming you hear radio and TV and you hear Dr. Treki, is he aware of this?  Are their negotiations that he is aware of on a French-UK [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  The resolution I’ve heard about officially so far is the one that we communicated.

Question:  The uncertainty of the ending of the debate this afternoon, would it be more practical for the President to postpone the briefing until tomorrow at 11?

Spokesperson:  We have a tentative scheduling of the briefing tomorrow at 11 as a precaution, but I wouldn’t go as far that we should do that right now, because proceedings are ongoing and I do not know whether these proceedings will be stopped or will just continue through lunch.  What the President is committed to is briefing the press once the proceedings are over, so we have to keep that window open, the possibility of a briefing later this afternoon.

Thank you and good afternoon.

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