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

16 December 2009

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

16 December 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 Martin Nesirky, 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

Welcome to our new venue.  It feels a little bit more like Broadway than the noon briefing, but thank you for coming.

**Security Council Stakeout Today

There will be a Security Council stakeout today.  Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will brief reporters on the latest developments related to the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, and that’s going to be at the Security Council stakeout following consultations today.

**Press Conferences Tomorrow

And tomorrow there will be a press conference with Michael Ratner, the President of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, and he’s going to brief correspondents at 11 a.m. tomorrow on humanitarian matters in the Gaza Strip.  And this press conference is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Nicaragua to the United Nations.

**Secretary-General in Copenhagen

With three days remaining at the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the Secretary-General is confident that world leaders will be able to agree on a new deal to combat global warming.

As part of his efforts to help pave the way, he held meetings today with a wide number of leaders and representatives of groups of nations.  He’s met the Group of 77, the African Group, the Least Developed Countries group and the Alliance of Small Island States.  He also joined the President of the Conference of Parties on the podium of the High-level Segment of the Climate Change Conference.

Among the leaders he’s met on the sidelines of the Conference were British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri.

The Secretary-General later attended the launch of World Food Programme's “Safe Stoves” initiative.  And these stoves require less firewood, which means preserving trees and reducing emissions, as well as protecting women and girls who often have to travel great distances to collect firewood at the risk of attacks, robbery and rape.

Today’s pilot launch of these safe stoves is helping women in Uganda and Sudan.  The stoves will be rolled out next year to reach up to 6 million refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees across 36 countries.

**Copenhagen:  UNHCR

And still in Copenhagen, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, has been speaking today about the links between migration, displacement and climate change.

He said the traditional distinctions between refugees and migrants are becoming more and more blurred.  This is because of a combination of factors -- climate change, food insecurity, poverty, conflict -- and these are now more interlinked and they’re forcing people to flee.  And he also said that climate change has become the most important trigger of forced displacements because it can help trigger conflict, especially when there is competition for resources made scarce by climate change.  

**Security Council

As I mentioned, Alan Doss, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has been at the Security Council, and he told the Council that Congolese Government forces have retaken the town of Dongo in the province of Equateur.  And meanwhile, he said that Operation Kimia II in eastern Congo is to be completed at the end of this month.  That operation has largely completed its objectives, although Doss recognized its serious humanitarian consequences.

He said that the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR), which had been entrenched in the Kivus for more than a decade, remains a potent threat.  Under a Congolese directive that was approved today, Doss said, the UN Mission (MONUC) and the Congolese Armed Forces will concentrate on holding ground recovered from FDLR and preventing attacks on civilians in areas of vulnerability.

Doss outlined the challenges the UN Mission faces in protection of civilians, the integration of forces and the treatment of displaced persons and refugees.  And we have his remarks upstairs.  And once the Council’s consultations on this have finished, he will of course talk to you at the stakeout.

And earlier this morning, the Security Council adopted three resolutions, by unanimous votes.  The Security Council extended the mandate of the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights by six months, until the end of June 2010.

And, in two separate resolutions, the Council made decisions allowing for the two International Tribunals -- for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda -- to handle their remaining caseloads.  With both Tribunals, the Council expressed its intention by next June to extend the terms of all trial judges until the end of December 2012.


The United Nations, the Government of Nepal and the Unified Communist Party of Nepal-Maoists (UCPN-M) signed an Action Plan today for the discharge of Maoist army personnel disqualified in the United Nations-led verification process in 2007.

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, attended the event, and she said the minors who have spent the last three years in Maoist army cantonments with their lives on hold will finally be able to take the next step towards a more positive future.

The UN and the Government will assist the orderly rehabilitation of the disqualified once they have been officially discharged.  And the individuals will have access to a range of rehabilitation options developed by UN agencies.

And this Action Plan will be monitored by a UN-led team to ensure that those disqualified are given the choice to partake in programmes to assist their return to a civilian environment, and that they are not exposed to recruitment by groups who engage in violence or criminal activities.

**Questions from Yesterday

Some questions from yesterday:  I was asked yesterday about the delays in accessing the Bella Centre in Copenhagen, that’s obviously where the UN Conference on Climate Change is taking place.  The United Nations regrets the long delays today for people wishing to gain access or pick up accreditation, and is doing all it can to alleviate further delays.

And more than 45,000 people did indeed apply to attend the Conference.  And an overwhelming number of those who applied actually arrived on Monday.  This is what caused the congestion in the area outside the UN venue, which is under the control of the Danish police, and also long delays at the UN accreditation counters.

The access to the venue for NGOs will continue to be controlled by the quota system that I mentioned to allow balanced access by various NGO groups.  And the NGO representatives are given over half of the capacity of the Bella Centre, and that’s more than ever for a climate change conference.  As of tomorrow, only NGO organizations that have the secondary badges will be able to enter the Bella Centre.  And the Danish Government and the Danish NGO Network are organizing an alternative venue for NGOs who can’t get into the Bella Centre over the next two days.

And cameras:  I was asked yesterday about the cameras that are being relocated in the media swing space on the second floor of the library, where you’re now working after the move, and in particular I was asked about how the recorded data is used.  So, I just wanted to let you know that, in accordance with General Assembly rulings, there are very strict guidelines about the use of the data taken from cameras.  They are only used for legitimate security reasons; on rare occasions, the Office for Internal Oversight Services may request some of the data for its work.  And the information is stored for less than 30 days.

And I know that many of you have expressed your concerns about the cameras, and I would simply repeat that they’re being relocated in this media area, and one of them is being removed entirely, and as I said yesterday, they focused on the doors.  And also I can tell you that, if you are interested, there is an expert on security matters in the Capital Master Plan office who would be willing to talk informally with journalists through UNCA [the UN Correspondents Association].  This seems to be a good way to arrange it.

And while we’re talking about UNCA, I have a reminder from the UN Correspondents Association that today -- Wednesday -- is the last day to vote for officers and board members for 2010.   And paid-up members can pick up their ballot outside the UNCA Club on the second floor of the Secretariat.

And I recognize in the front row Jean Victor Nkolo, and he’ll brief you after this on the work of the General Assembly.

So, any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  On behalf of UNCA, I would like to welcome everyone; you and everyone in this venue.  We hope that this exciting and challenging time will be resolved, especially in Internet access, TV access and all the problems that [were] encountered [by] all journalists.  And welcome.

Spokesperson:  Thank you very much, thank you.  Yes, just to reiterate that I do fully understand, and we fully recognize that any move brings with it complications, and obviously we don’t want those complications to last any longer than is absolutely necessary.  I know that people are working very hard to connect you, if you’re not connected, and to put things right where they are not quite as you would like.  But I’d ask you to bear with all of us as this is part of a fairly large, mammoth logistical exercise.  And just talking about this venue, yes, this is also new and I think that this is where we’re going to be for quite some time.  So I think we’ll all grow to be able to work here in an efficient manner.  And I’ve been told that there is even a piano we can bring back on, if necessary.  [Laughter]  Okay, Matthew.

Question:  I want to ask you about two things that the Secretary-General said in Copenhagen; maybe you can clarify them.  One was, he said that the goal is to cap temperature rise at 2° C, and small island States and other participants, Member States of the United Nations, had set their goal at 1.5° C.  So, I guess they’re wondering where he came up with the 2° C number.  Maybe you can clarify if that really is what he thinks should happen?  And also he was quoted as saying that Kenya should lobby to make UNEP [the United Nations Environment Programme] in Nairobi the global environmental agency.  You, know, France has a separate proposal that created a new agency.  I’m wondering, does that indicate that he doesn’t support France’s proposal or what does it indicate?

Spokesperson:  Okay, on the first one, on the temperature rise, he’s made public comments on this, which we distributed this morning.  The bottom line is that he has said if it’s possible to get to 1.5° C, that’s great.  But if it’s not, then it’s important to have a deal that everybody can sign up to.  That’s what he’s said.  But I would refer you to his remarks so that you could read them in detail.  On the UNEP idea, I will need to follow up on that.

Question:  Just one follow-up on that, because in his press conference before he went on the trip, I think he was asked, somebody said, “What ideas are you taking to Copenhagen?”  And he said that’s not his role.  It’s up to the Member States to negotiate.  So, I’m just wondering, I think that’s why people have this question about coming out with a 2° C number.  It seems like more than leaving it up to Member States.  Do you see what I’m saying?  That seems to be inconsistent with what he said before he left.

Spokesperson:  I don’t see any inconsistency there.  He’s been consistent in saying that, yes, he has an honest broker role, but he also has firm convictions, strong convictions, about what is happening with climate change and his role in ensuring that everybody can come to the table and sign a deal.  I would refer you to the remarks he made this morning, which are fairly explicit about the numbers.

Question:  The readout in the meeting between the Secretary-General and Prime Minister [Saad] Hariri of Lebanon said that they discussed the Tribunal.  I was wondering whether you can give us some more details on that, besides the fact that they discussed the tribunal?  Also if there is any update about this issue?

Spokesperson:  I can’t give you any more details than there are in the readout.

Question:  But what about the Tribunal?  Is it expected to start…?

Spokesperson:  I have what I have.

Question:  Okay.  Second issue, again concerning the case of Aminatou Haidar.  I know that the Secretary-General is in Copenhagen, probably busy with the issues there.  Is Mr. Christopher Ross working on this subject?  Any update about that as well?

Spokesperson:  I know that the Secretary-General remains concerned about the health of Ms. Haidar.  We’ve said that repeatedly.  And you’ve also heard him say, and me say, that this can be seen also in a broader context.  And in that regard, obviously, there is an envoy who works on this broader context.  I don’t have any further details on exactly what he’s doing right now, but on what the Secretary-General is doing with his immediate team, if you like, is to remain engaged.  He’s fully aware of what’s going on.  Morocco, Spain have both met him recently.  We remain engaged to try to resolve this as quickly as possible.

Question:  The Secretary-General said, if I may follow up, that he has some proposals; can you give us some idea of what some of these proposals are?  And do they include asking Morocco to take Ms. Aminatou back to Western Sahara?

Spokesperson:  I don’t think it’s wise to talk about proposals that are being discussed diplomatically.

Correspondent:  Yes, in the usual complaint category, about the move, I think one problem is that no one is in charge.  CMP [Capital Master Plan] is charge of moving and in charge of getting space.  UN telephone is in its own world; does what it wants, I don’t really know who they report to.  TV people are in another world.  So that it all comes down to Isabelle [Broyer], who doesn’t control all these people.  And maybe somewhere, someone listening to this briefing must put someone in charge who has the authority to make decisions.  And that’s the real problem; it’s not the plan or what should be.  And it’s why everybody keeps popping up here with a different question.  It’s not something that Isabelle can solve just by yelling.

Spokesperson:  The Al Haig school of moving.

Correspondent:  Exactly, exactly.

Spokesperson:  Okay, what I have suggested on the cameras was that there is someone from the security side of the Capital Master Plan who would be prepared to speak informally to correspondents.  I think through UNCA, that’s the best way to arrange this.  And I think that we could do the same thing with other representatives from different parts of the operation.

Correspondent:  That’s the problem; you need to go down to 80 different parts of the operation…

Spokesperson:  This is a big organization, as I said.  It’s also a very large logistical exercise and everybody is working very hard to make sure that the move goes as smoothly as possible. Everyone recognizes, I recognize, that that hasn’t been the case for many people, and people are working hard to rectify that.  But I think if we can get together with UNCA, with the UN Correspondents Association, with representatives, we can try to fix it.

Correspondent:  On that note, I still don’t have a chair, no telephone, no waste-basket.  I don’t want to dwell on this, but I will not be able to work, so I am going to stay at home until it’s over. 

My question:  You indicated that there were 45,000 NGOs [non-governmental organizations] accredited to the Copenhagen Conference and that they’re trying to see if they can get access to the conference room.  This morning some major ones, including the Wildlife Fund and the Friends of the Earth, said that they were expulsed [sic] from the conference room.  Do you know the reasons for that?

Spokesperson:  First of all -- it’s 45,000 people in total; journalists, delegates and NGO representatives.  So that’s the overall figure.  As to the case that you’ve mentioned, I would ask you to be in contact with the UN folks on the ground in Copenhagen, because they will be able to answer that question.

Correspondent:  Martin, I’d just like to say that those of us sitting back here could not hear a single question.  [laughter]  We could not hear Sylviane, Khaled, Mr. Abbadi, Matthew… We couldn’t hear any of the questions.  So, there is something wrong with the acoustics, which is what I’m trying to get across.

Spokesperson:  Okay, can you hear me?  [laughter]

Correspondent:  We can hear you!

Spokesperson: Right.  This is the first session here.  We’re going to be bedding in for a little while, I suspect.  But I know people have been working hard to set this up, and so maybe there will be some initial teething problems, but I’m sure we’ll get there.

Question:  There is a report in the New York Times today that Nauru, a very poor country in the Pacific, is now recognizing the territory of Abkhazia.  Does the Secretary-General have any position on these breakaway territories, and has he clearly stated that he supports the territorial integrity of Member States such as Georgia?

Spokesperson:  I will need to come back to you on this to give you the right guidance. 

[He later added that it is up to Member States, and not the Secretary-General or Secretariat, to grant recognition to States.]

Question:  On the Copenhagen Conference, do you have any reaction to the way the Danish police handled the protests and the reported violence today?

Spokesperson:  This is clearly a matter for the Danish police.

Question:  You don’t think they used excessive force, like some other NGOs complained about?

Spokesperson:  The Danish police operates within the rules of the country, the laws of the country.

Correspondent:  And apart from the audio problems, the lights make up for it.  I mean, these are killer lights!

Spokesperson:  But you’re wearing killer sunglasses; I like them!

Correspondent:  Well, I was just lucky I had them on my head, so…  Well, seriously, if you can’t really see…

Spokesperson:  You should come down here.

Correspondent:  Okay, I’ll be right down. [Laughter]

Question:  First, on Alan Doss, I just wanted to get before, I’m sure, asking him, but it was announced some months ago, back in July, that there was going to be an investigation involving OIOS [Office of Internal Oversight Services], which you mentioned earlier in the briefing, of an e-mail that Mr. Doss sent to UNDP [United Nations Development Programme] asking that they show him leeway and hire his daughter in contravention of UN rules. What’s the status of the investigation and can you state why it would take the UN five months to investigate a five-line e-mail?

Spokesperson:  Matthew, I think you’ve answered your own question.  You have Alan Doss at the stakeout coming up very shortly.

Question:  He is not investigating himself; I’m asking, on behalf of the Secretariat, what is the reason for the delay in the investigation?

Spokesperson:  You ask Alan Doss at the stakeout, okay?  Thank you very much.  Any further questions?

Question:  I want to ask another thing about Basnet.  There is a Nepalese peacekeeper that was repatriated from MINURCAT [United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad] in Chad to Nepal.  Now, human rights groups and the International Commission of Jurists are saying that the army is in fact not turning him over to the courts for trial.  Meanwhile, the Government says they’re protesting to DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] for having sent him back.  From the UN’s perspective, if a peacekeeper is charged with murder -- torture and murder -- is it important for the troop contributing country to actually put him on trial, and is the UN going to follow up on this case?

Spokesperson:  We will certainly find out what the position is in this particular case.  As I think has been said here before, and not just by me, it’s the responsibility of the troop-sending country to look into any violations of law and particularly when those alleged violations took place or crimes took place in the country from which the officer or soldier has been dispatched.  So, it’s up to the Government of the country, but we can follow up to find out some more on that.

[He later added that Major Basnet has been repatriated and was accompanied during his repatriation by a serving officer of his contingent in MINURCAT in accordance with standard procedures.  He no longer serves with the United Nations and is now the responsibility of the Government of Nepal, which ultimately has responsibility for the good conduct, order and discipline of their forces serving on UN operations.]

Okay.  Please, Jean Victor.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Thank you, Martin, and good afternoon.

Throughout the day today the President of the General Assembly, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, is still in Washington, D.C., meeting with officials of the State Department. 

I would like to refer you to the items on the agenda of the General Assembly plenary today.  And in reference to a question that was asked yesterday, please note that the observer status in the General Assembly for the Council of Presidents of the General Assembly, the report of the Sixth Committee, that is an item that’s being taken up today at the plenary, among many other items.  You have the full list in today’s UN Journal

We will hope soon to have a readout for you with regard to the meetings that the President of the General Assembly is having in Washington, D.C.  As soon as I have that, I will share that with you.  Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Can you give us a little bit more detail about whom he is meeting, what are the topics he is discussing?

Spokesperson:  Yes, Khaled, I gave a long list of all the meetings yesterday.  I can share them with you right away after this.

Question:  [inaudible]

Spokesperson:  Yes, yes.

Question:  When [inaudible]?

Spokesperson:  Can you say that again?

Question:  When will the President come back to New York?

Spokesperson:  17 December.

Question:  Tomorrow?

Spokesperson:  Yes, tomorrow.  Yes, Matthew.

Question:  [inaudible] in the Budget, Fifth, Committee, things are always to the last minute, but it seems there’s a lot of things that they have not yet voted on.  From the President’s perspective, when are the reports of the Fifth, Budget, Committee, scheduled to be voted on by the plenary?

Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to ask that question to the Chair of that Committee, but I can assure you that the President remains continuously engaged, specifically with that Committee, tasked with very, very important budgetary matters, and I know this for sure.  But you’re right, this time of the year is a very busy time indeed, and we need to have all that dealt with in time and I can double check.  But this very specific Committee is indeed very busy as we speak.

Question:  And has he been involved in this scale of, you know, scale of assessments, scale of contributions by countries?  There seems to be a pretty big split developing between developing countries and at least two of the P-5 members of the Security Council.  Is that something, I mean does he think that this is going to be, you know, resolved before Christmas, or deferred?

Spokesperson:  The President is a facilitator, but this is a technical matter that is being dealt with by members of that specific Committee.  Yes. 

Question:  When is the President contemplating closing the sixty-fourth session?  Any idea about that?

Spokesperson:  Well, for this year, around 22-23 December.  Not very sure yet, but this is what we’re aiming at.  Not too much to go.  Thank you very much, and have a very good afternoon.

* *** *

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