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

19 March 2010

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

19 March 2010
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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Jean Victor Nkolo, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good morning.

Are you the guys from the University of New Mexico?  Oh, welcome.  Nice seeing you.  So I guess the rest of you will notice we have with us today a group of students from the University of New Mexico’s Department of Communications and Journalism.  Thanks for coming.

Also after this briefing we will have Jean Victor Nkolo, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, who will be here to brief you fairly soon.

**Secretary-General in Moscow

The Secretary-General met with the other principal members of the Quartet in Moscow today.  Following their meeting, he read out a joint statement on behalf of all the Quartet principals.

In that statement, the Quartet welcomed the readiness to launch proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and emphasized that the circumstances which made it possible to agree to launch those talks be respected.

The Quartet members underscored that the status of Jerusalem is a permanent status issue that must be resolved through negotiations between the parties, and they condemned the decision by the Israeli Government to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem.

The Quartet also expressed its deep concern at the continuing deterioration in Gaza, including the humanitarian and human rights situation, and stressed the urgency of a durable resolution to the Gaza crisis.  The full statement is in the Spokesperson’s Office.

The Secretary-General today also met with European Union High Representative Catherine Ashton to discuss Haiti, the Millennium Development Goals, climate change and a range of regional security matters.

**Secretary-General in Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory

The Secretary-General has now left Moscow and is on his way to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which he will visit over the weekend.  On Saturday and Sunday, the Secretary-General expects to meet with a range of senior officials, including Israel’s President and Prime Minister and the Palestinian Prime Minister.  He also intends to visit Gaza, to see first-hand the humanitarian conditions there.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning began a meeting to discuss the impact of illicit weapons on peace and security in Central Africa.

Addressing that meeting, the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, said that we have long known that the flow of illicit arms to Africa is largely made possible by the secrecy that surrounds it.

Central Africa, she warned, is awash with illicit weapons -- exacerbating inter-communal violence, increasing cross-border crime and threatening ongoing peace and national reconciliation processes.  She added that peace and security in Central Africa require, among other things, a strong commitment by States in the subregion, together with State suppliers of weapons, to expand their individual and collective efforts to eradicate weapons trafficking.

This afternoon, the Security Council will hold a meeting on Somalia.

** Haiti

Just a quick update on Haiti.  The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, more than two months after the earthquake, the emergency response phase of the relief efforts should continue for months to come -- given the scale and complexity of the crisis.

Concerning shelter, OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, says that over three quarters of the 1.2 million people in need of emergency shelter have now received shelter materials.  It adds that the relocation of people needs to be sped up, ahead of the rainy season.

Concerning security in the camps, OCHA says it is working with the UN Mission in the country, MINUSTAH, and the Haitian National Police to improve protection.  Some 150 patrols by UN Police and the Haitian National Police are conducted every day in camps.  A pilot project is under way in the Petionville Club camp where female officers from the UN Police and the Haitian National Police are working specifically on gender-based violence.  Meanwhile, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) is in the process of assembling and distributing 17,000 flashlights to women.  The Fund will also give 300 tents to set up “safe spaces for women” in camps.

Finally, just to note that Margareta Wahlström, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Disaster Risk Reduction, is in Haiti this week, where she will visit affected communities in Port-au-Prince, Fondwa and Jacmel and have meetings with high-level Government officials.

** Pakistan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that the latest round of food distribution was completed in Pakistan on 9 March.  It reached more than 2.7 million beneficiaries, with approximately 37,000 metric tons of food.

This will be the final round of free food distribution for many returnees in Swat and Buner.  During March, the World Food Programme (WFP) is introducing a variety of early recovery activities in areas where people previously displaced by conflict have been returning.  These focus on educational and health system support, and also on improving opportunities for livelihood and infrastructure rehabilitation.  Meanwhile, in host communities, sanitation and water are the two main priorities.

In Pakistan, OCHA says, the total number of internally displaced people is 1.24 million.  Just over 24,000 families are living in ten camps.  Almost 2 million previously displaced people have returned home.

** Madagascar

On Madagascar, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says that UN agencies and their partners are working to provide aid to populations affected by a tropical storm last week.  Tropical Storm Hubert made landfall on the east coast of Madagascar between 12 and 14 March, killing at least 40 people and injuring more than 230, according to reports.  It also left in its wake damaged roads, homes, schools and hospitals, and flooded towns and villages where residents could lose much of their recent harvests.

OCHA says another 28,300 people have been affected by the storm.  And UN agencies and local authorities are mobilizing shelter, food and other items, mosquito nets and medicine to help those in need of urgent assistance.

** Sudan

And one reminder:  here at Headquarters, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations has planned a background briefing by two senior officials on Sudan’s upcoming elections.  The background briefing will be held today from 2:15 pm until 3:30 p.m., on the 15th floor of the DC1 Building, in the Hédi Annabi Conference Room.

**The Week Ahead at the United Nations

We have available in the Spokesperson’s Office The Week Ahead.

Just to note a few things:  Sunday will be the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Tuesday and Wednesday, the General Assembly will hold a high-level dialogue on financing for development.  Also on Wednesday, the Security Council will hear a briefing and then hold consultations on the Middle East.

Thursday is the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  At 12 p.m., on Thursday, Alain Le Roy, and Susana Malcorra, the Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping and for Field Support, will hold their quarterly press conference.  And then at 1 p.m., DPI [the Department of Public Information] will hold a press conference to commemorate the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade.

And after I am done, Jean Victor is here to speak to you on the General Assembly’s work.  Before we get to him, are there any questions for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Sure. I want to ask on the Democratic Republic of Congo and MONUC [the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo].  I’ve been told that the Congolese Government has asked the UN that Alan Doss not continue as SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] and has provided five names, three French and two Americans.  I am wondering if you could confirm that, and whether you were able yesterday to find out what I asked yesterday, to find when Alan Doss’ contract expires.

Associate Spokesperson:  I don’t.  I think I’d asked you whether you could check with DPKO [Department of Peacekeeping Operations] on that.  They might have the details on that.  As far as that goes, I cannot confirm the report that you’ve just said.  At this stage, Alan Doss remains the SRSG in charge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  [He later added that Doss’ contract expires at the end of June].

Question:  Thanks, Farhan; just briefly, can we request a briefing from Ms. Wahlström when she gets back from Haiti?

Associate Spokesperson:  Sure.  We will do that once she’s back.

Question:  On Sudan, I don’t know if you had referred me to DPKO or you said you would check with UNAMID [the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur], whether in fact UNAMID was ever able to get to the Jebel Marra area where the fighting was?  And also, there was a report that the Sudanese Government asked UNAMID to remove the Nigerian battalion from that area, saying that they somehow have a conflict of interest for siding with rebels.  So there are two separate questions:  have they reached Jebel Marra, and did the Sudanese Government make that request?  And what is the UNs response?

Associate Spokesperson:  I’d asked after yesterday’s briefing about the Jebel Marra situation.  I don’t have an update on the Jebel Marra situation for you, but I have asked and we’re trying to get that.  As far as that goes, we’ll also make a request.  I do not know about any request for the movement of any of the battalions in Sudan, but we’ll check with our colleagues in UNAMID and DPKO about that.

Question:  So in relation to the Secretary-General’s meeting to be held with the European Union.  You mentioned that the Millennium Development Goals will be one of the areas to be discussed.  Would you like to share more on the content or the talking points to be discussed?

Associate Spokesperson:  Normally, for our readouts, we don’t provide precise details about the nature of the things, but we’ve let you know what the topics discussed are.  So, I can’t really give you more details about what’s specifically discussed with Catherine Ashton.  What I can say about the Millennium Development Goals is that, in his conversations with a variety of leaders in recent months, the Secretary-General has tried to draw attention to the need to implement the Millennium Development Goals on time, which is to say by 2015.  And in regard to that, he has also pointed out that he will be holding a high-level meeting this September, here in New York, and has been inviting leaders to attend at the highest levels so that we can move forward in implementing those goals.

Question:  Can you say if financing must be one of the major topics to be discussed?

Associate Spokesperson:  That certainly has been one of the topics that he has been dealing with when he brings up the Millennium Development Goals, yes.

Question:  But it is not beyond his previous request?  He said he’s not going to ask more than he had done before.

Associate Spokesperson:  I wouldn’t be able to divulge more precise details than what I’ve already given.

Question:  There’s quite a bit of controversy today about Srebrenica, specifically a retired United States General, John Sheehan, told the Senate Arms Services Committee that it was his belief that, because the Dutch UN Peacekeepers serving in Srebrenica were “a socialized battalion”, or included gays in the military, that this is somehow related to the slaughter of 7,000 Muslims.  I am wondering if the UN is aware of that, given that it was a UN Mission in Srebrenica, and has any response to this testimony.

Associate Spokesperson:  We’re aware of these comments.  Obviously, I wouldn’t respond to the individual comments made by General Sheehan.  I would, however, like to underscore two things:  number one, the United Nations has itself investigated what happened in Srebrenica, both through the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and also through panels that discussed what the UN could have done better.  And so we have already done our own work on this, which does not touch on the issue you have just named.  And second, of course, I would like to underscore once more the UNs respect for a wide range of people and our general principles of non-discrimination.

And with that, I wish you all a good weekend.  Jean Victor.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Good afternoon.

As you may be aware, Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki, the President of the General Assembly, returned yesterday night from his visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Philippines.  In line with resolution 64/198, the President of the General Assembly will convene a high-level interactive dialogue on World Water Day as part of the implementation of the International Decade for Action:  Water for Life.

This interactive debate will take place on Monday, 22 March.  On that occasion, a press conference will be held.  It shall take place here in this room at 12:30 p.m.  The following will participate in the press conference:  Dr. Treki; Oqil Ghaybulloyevich Oqilov, the Prime Minister of Tajikistan; and Jan Eliasson, who was the President of the sixtieth session of the General Assembly.

That’s what I have for you today.  Questions?

Question:  I think the financial meeting in relation to the Bretton Woods and other parties is still going on from yesterday, went into today.  And I believe this is a closed door conference and the… I mean the agenda for today’s debate on principle.  Would you like to brief us with something or anything they have reached by yesterday afternoon?  And would you like to throw some light on whether there will be any press conference held for that final result?

Spokesperson:  Thank you for that question.  I was discussing this with colleagues from DPI yesterday and we’ll probably have some press material on that, hopefully by today.  And there will be an important meeting next week, and we’ll try to satisfy as much as possible the expectations from the media.

Question:  Can you give us an update on Security Council reform and how the process is going along?  Are we near the completion of the report that will be used for the next round of negotiations, or any dates set, or any of that?

Spokesperson:  I recall that when Ambassador [Zahir] Tanin, the Ambassador of Afghanistan who is the Chair of the intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform, when he last briefed the media from this podium he had a date that was set from him to receive all the input from Member States and regional groups.  I think he has now received all these contributions.  I think that what he’s doing now is just bringing all that together and to move a step forward.  We will try to ask him again if and when he can apprise us of the status of this very important but delicate process.

Question:  This is about the Non-Aligned Movement.  There are comments from President Treki attributed, and some say that he attended, did he attend the meeting?  Did he send in a statement?  This is a recent NAM meeting held in Manila.  And separately, I wanted to know if, in this controversy now between the NAM and the Secretary-General where NAM has written to Mr. Ban saying that the Secretariat has no jurisdiction to act on human rights if not authorized by either the GA or the Security Council, if President Treki has any view, or has met with the NAM or any of its members about that issue?

Spokesperson:  I heard those comments.  First, about the correspondence between NAM and the Secretary-General:  I think you have to ask the Secretary-General’s spokespersons for a follow-up on that.  When it comes to President Treki, I think, maybe you were not in the room on that day, but we put out a statement following his remarks at the NAM meeting in Manila.  It is quite extensive.  I will share that with you again but if you have specific questions on NAM, obviously we are more than willing to answer.

Question:  And this may be a little bit beyond, I just wanted to, it has been said, but I’m wondering if you can confirm or say anything about that the successor to, as President of the GA, to Dr. Treki as selected by WEOG [Western European and other States group], and is Mr. Deiss of Switzerland.  Have you… are you aware of that?

Spokesperson:  Yes, it is a fact that Joseph Deiss from Switzerland is the candidate selected by WEOG, but then we have to wait for the formal election to take place.  I think everything is according to plan for the time being.  I don’t see any major problem or any issue there.

Question:  Has there been any communications between the PGA’s office of Dr. Treki and Mr. Deiss in terms of sort of transition, anything like that?

Spokesperson:  Well, as usual, from one President to another, from one session to another, there is the necessary process, information and coordination.  So what is happening between the sixty-fourth and the coming sixty-fifth sessions is no different from what has happened with previous sessions, although this year the need for coordination and collaboration and continuity is definitely more important, in line with the expectations of various stakeholders who have highlighted the need for further coordination and continuity when it comes to the work of the General Assembly.  So these things happen as a matter of fact.

Question:  No, no, all I wanted to know, and this will be the last, I just wanted to know what is in fact happening, not whether it is different from other years.  Like what, what is happening?  Have they, have the two, have they met?  Has there been some discussion of, like, you know, office space?  That’s what I wanted to know.  Like, where exactly has it stood?

Spokesperson:  There have been some contacts with regard, for instance, for the scheduling of a meeting that will therefore allow a formal election to take place, that kind of thing.  So it has happened, and there have been some contacts on particular matters, and this goes as per the procedures.  And as we come closer to the end of the sixty-fourth session, this is gaining pace.

No further questions?  I wish you a pleasant, sunny, and safe weekend.  Thank you.

* *** *

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