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

22 December 2009

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

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

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

The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Martin Nesirky, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon everybody.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Millennium Development Goals

We have issued a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the planned General Assembly high-level plenary meeting on the Millennium Development Goals in September 2010.

In the statement, the Secretary-General welcomed the General Assembly’s new resolution on next year’s planned Millennium Development Goals Summit.  There has been progress towards the Goals and it has been mixed.  And there are new crises that have arisen that threaten the global effort to halve extreme poverty.  So, the Summit will be a crucially important opportunity to redouble our efforts to meet the Goals by the agreed deadline of 2015.

The Secretary-General intends to make 2010 the year of the Millennium Development Goals.  And he is urging all Member States and people everywhere to start preparing for the Summit now.  He also strongly urges Heads of State and Government to attend this Summit and he wants them to engage fully in ensuring a successful, practical, action-oriented outcome that delivers results for the billions of people struggling to meet their basic needs and to live in dignity and peace.  And you can read the full statement online or you can get copies from my office.

** Chad

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that the security situation in Eastern Chad is getting worse.  This follows an attack on a convoy of the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) over the weekend.  An officer of the security detachment escorting the convoy was wounded.  The detachment provides security in camps for refugees and internally displaced persons, as well as for the activities of humanitarian organizations.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that this shows that attacks are now being carried out even against humanitarian transport under security escort and this is a serious handicap for the distribution of humanitarian assistance by non-governmental organizations and the United Nations.  And we have more on that in the Geneva briefing notes.

**Follow-Up on Media Queries

Just a couple of follow up questions from yesterday.  There was a question about the Special Envoy for the implementation of resolution 1559, Terje Roed-Larsen.  According to his office, Mr. Roed-Larsen consults regularly with Lebanese and all other relevant Arab interlocutors in the region and all States relevant to the implementation of resolution 1559.  And at the moment, Syria has refused to be a part in these consultations.

On Western Sahara, there are no Security Council consultations on Western Sahara scheduled at present.  The Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy is continuing his consultations, with a view to organizing a next meeting early next year.

And just on the two extra parties of the 194 to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.  They are, as I told you yesterday, Cook Islands and Niue.

So, that’s it.  Relatively short.  But please, questions.  Any questions?  Okay, first question.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  You just indicated that the meeting on Sahara would be early next year.  Would this be the official meeting like Manhasset or the unofficial meeting like in Europe?  And is there a particular date contemplated?  Would it be the first of the month of January or the latter part of January?  Any indication as to the timing?

Spokesperson:  As far as we know, for now, the Personal Envoy is looking at trying to arrange a meeting early next year.  When that would be, I can’t be more precise.  As to the nature of the talks, this would be a second round of informal talks, rather like the ones that were held in August in Vienna.  Matthew, I think you had a question.

Question:  Yes.  There is an editorial in today’s the New York Times about the situation of these Uighur asylum seekers that Cambodia has now returned to China followed by a Chinese $1.2 billion loan to Cambodia, and basically… I mean, I wanted to get the UN’s response to it.  They say that it is alarming that the United Nations, despite making an effort, could not figure out a way to persuade Cambodia to do the right thing.  Can you describe any involvement by the Secretariat in trying to, on that matter, prior to the return of these 22 asylum seekers?

Spokesperson:  I can’t describe any involvement of the Secretariat for now.  What I can describe is the involvement of the relevant UN agency that does what its name says and deals with refugees.  UNHCR [Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] has been extremely active and actually quite vocal on this.  And so, I would refer you to them.  I will see whether there was any involvement from the Secretariat.  But, I think that in this particular case, where it is specifically to do with refugees, people who are claiming refugee status or asylum, this falls squarely into their remit.

Question:  [inaudible] it’s now said by both human rights activists in this article that China refuses to say where the people are being held or what will happen to them, up to and including the death penalty.  Is there some, I guess my question would be, does the Secretariat still see this as just a UNHCR matter, or since that approach obviously didn’t work, is the Secretariat… what’s to be done about this?

Spokesperson:  Well, as I said, it is something that UNHCR has been very vocal on.  The fact that these people were returned, I think UNHCR has spoken quite clearly about that, and I think that we would share that assessment.  What we do need to do is to follow up and find out whether any further steps can be taken. 

Question:  There is something about, I guess either less serious… Can you confirm, you know, whatever, it’s a small thing, but in your office today there was no Journal, and that’s always been available, saying Journal of UN, you know, meetings at the UN etcetera.  It’s no longer there.  And I have a seen a letter by Franz Baumann, who is ASG for Conference Services, saying that, henceforth, I guess beginning today, there would be no printing of such documents, everything is online.  Meanwhile, those who work in publishing said that the Christmas card of the Department is being printed by them rather than the day’s Journal.  Can you, I guess, confirm that the UN will no longer print that and explain sort of at what level, whether it’s Mr. Baumann’s decision or Mr. Shaban Shaban or you know, what the thinking is behind it?

Spokesperson:   I can’t confirm anything here and now.  I will take it away and see what we can find out.  What I would say is that increasingly, certainly, documents are available online and they have been for a long time and many people, yourself included as far as I can work out, refer to them extensively in that way.  But, let’s find out exactly what’s going on here.

Question:  The question actually is Member States have said, not that they don’t have computers, but just that since they are the ones who kind of you know, supposedly own the UN, why a decision like this, I mean, just if we can figure out how the decision was made and whether it’s a…

Spokesperson:  Well, the question you asked me was about the availability of the documents in the press area just outside my office.

Question:  [inaudible] to your office, yes.

Spokesperson:  Yes.  So, I can see you’re tying it to my office or my team.  Let’s see what the situation is.  There are plenty of other documents out there, so I don’t think the printing presses have stopped altogether.  Let’s see.  Yes.  Any other questions?  Please, yes.

Question:  The Secretary-General has been, as you know, working very hard in recent weeks and months, travelling a lot.  Is he contemplating taking some rest in the near future?  Will he be going away from the New York area?  Do you have any schedule for him?

Spokesperson:  The Secretary-General certainly has been working very hard, not the least in the last week, like many other people -- he is not alone in that, of course.  I’m not aware of any plans for him to take any long vacation at the moment.  There are public holidays coming up and I’m sure that he will be able to rest on those days.  Okay I’m being given something here.  [Spokesperson is handed a sheet of paper, from which he reads.]

On the documents, and it’s printed out, I don’t have it online, so… Following the Secretary-General’s commitment -- and I’m reading this as I, I’m seeing it as I read it, if you see what I mean -- following the Secretary-General’s commitment to making the Organization’s in-house practices and procedures environmentally friendly and sustainable, the distribution of printed copies of the certain documents will stop at the end of the year.  These include parliamentary documents, as well as Secretary-General Bulletins, Administrative Instructions, Information Circulars and the Journal of the United Nations.

These documents will, however, be available in electronic versions on the United Nations websites and on the Official Documents System.  Printed copies of the documents will continue to be available at the Documents Counter, which is being relocated to the North Lawn Conference Building.

So, that’s where we are, okay.  Anything else?  No?  Yes.

Question:  I just wanted to, it’s… I’m trying to think how to phrase this…

Spokesperson:  Carefully, I hope!

Question:  No, very carefully.  It’s come to my attention that the mission that was voted on, the Central African Republic mission, BONUCA, that these people that work there seem to believe that there is a pattern of hiring of the relatives of a senior UN official in DPA -- the head of Africa-II -- in the BONUCA mission.  Two things.  Number one, I’ve sought, you know, comment from the official involved and he’s not commented.  Mr. Menkerios has said it’s a management issue; they will deal with it in-house.  So, I wanted to know, number one, if the Secretary-General thinks that, one, would it be appropriate, if true, that a DPA official would have a number of his relatives hired in a DPA administrative… mission in the Central African Republic, and secondarily, shouldn’t… Does he believe that his officials should at least confirm or deny simple questions, you know, absent like, whatever, DNA tests, like are these relatives and why were they hired?

Spokesperson:  On the first point, the Secretary-General has been very clear from the very beginning about his stand on ethics.  And that applies to everybody throughout the Organization, whatever their position.  And he leads by example on that.  And, as to the second part, on confirming or denying -- that’s a very open sweeping statement, however carefully phrased, and I think that the best thing is for me to go away and check, and then get back to you.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Spokesperson:  Okay, thanks, in which case, I wish you a good afternoon.  Thank you.

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