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

20 September 2010

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

20 September 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 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

Good afternoon, everybody.


My guests today are Sahle-Work Zewde, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of the UN Peacebuilding Office in the Central African Republic (BONUCA), along with Ambassador Jan Grauls of Belgium and Mrs. Mary Barton-Dock, who is Country Director of the World Bank Group responsible for Cameroon, Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.

And they are here to discuss how to address the Central African Republic’s peacebuilding needs.  And this is also the theme of a high-level event scheduled for 5:15 p.m. today in Conference Room 8.  The Secretary-General will be addressing that meeting, and we have embargoed copies of his prepared remarks for that event in my office.

At the conclusion of this part of this briefing, I will be able to provide you with a few other details on some other items and take questions.  And Jean Victor Nkolo, perhaps not surprisingly, would also like to brief today.

So, first of all, I would like to hand the floor to the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for some opening remarks. I understand we have about maybe 20–25 minutes for this part of the briefing.  Please, do go ahead.

[Press Conference on Central African Republic issued separately.]

**Press Conference

I just have a couple of more announcements, and points for you, and can take a few questions.  And then we will need to move on to the next press conference, which is taking place right here with Dr. Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, who is the Head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, otherwise known as NEPAD.  And he is going to brief you on NEPAD's role in promoting Africa's progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

**Millennium Development Goals

And on that subject, the Secretary-General told more than 140 Heads of State and Government this morning that there is an urgent need to achieve the Goals that world leaders had agreed to 10 years ago in time for the target date of 2015.

He said that the eight Millennium Development Goals were a breakthrough, and they have already yielded real results.  We have more development success stories than ever before.  The transformative impact of the Goals is undeniable, he said.  But we must protect these advances, many of which are still fragile.

And on Wednesday, the Secretary-General will launch a global strategy for women’s and children’s health, which he described as our best chance for a multiplier effect across the Goals.  And we have his remarks in my Office.

** Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s parliamentary elections took place on Saturday.  And in a statement we issued that day, the Secretary-General commended Afghanistan’s women and men for their courage and determination in exercising their democratic right to vote.  And the Secretary-General noted that the election took place amid significant security challenges, and condemned the reported acts of violence.  Copies of his statement are available online.

And as you will also have seen, Staffan de Mistura, the head of the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told the media it is too early to say whether these elections have been a success.  De Mistura emphasized the remarkable achievement of the Afghan Independent Election Commission to even hold these elections in such challenging conditions.  However, he said, it is now essential that the Commission completes its review of all the electoral materials, ballots and other materials to ensure that irregularities are detected and properly dealt with.

** Pakistan

And also, over the weekend, yesterday in fact, the Secretary-General convened a ministerial-level meeting on aid for Pakistan, telling the participants that the Pakistan floods are one of the biggest, most complex natural disasters that the United Nations has faced.

The flooding, he said, has affected an estimated 20 million people and 20 per cent of Pakistan's land.  Eight to 12 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance.

The Secretary-General urged support for the new appeal issued last Friday for Pakistan, which extends the emergency relief to six months and includes the crucial element of early recovery for the next 12 months.  And that appeal, as you will recall, is for more than $2 billion.

** Guinea

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, Said Djinnit, has been in Conakry since yesterday with a joint UN-ECOWAS-African Union delegation.  Djinnit and the regional officials are there to press for the peaceful holding of the second round of presidential elections.  They met with Guinea’s two Vice-Presidents and representatives of the International Contact Group on Guinea.  Earlier today, the delegation met with members of the Electoral Commission and the two candidates for the presidency.  Djinnit and the ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] and African Union officials urged the candidates and the Government to ensure that all conditions are met for a peaceful, free and fair election.

Djinnit will be chairing a follow-up meeting [of the Nigeria-Cameroon Mixed Commission] in Abuja on 23 September, and [there will be] another meeting of the International Contact Group on Guinea here in New York on 25 September.

**Press Conferences This Week

As you are well aware, we have a number of high-level press conferences this week.  There will be an updated list available every day in my office.  And we will also be sending out revisions as they happen through the media alert.

As I have mentioned, Jean Victor Nkolo will also brief you after me.  And finally, I would just like to let you know that we’re going live with UN Spokesperson Twitter account, and we hope this will be useful.  Let us know what you think.  And you can find us on Twitter under UN Spokesperson.

So, questions please, by Twitter or in person.  Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question:  Yes, Martin, there is a new dimension to the conflict in Kashmir.  The Indian Army has moved into most of the towns in the valley and they have imposed a 24-hour curfew.  And the death toll is also increasing.  Is there any comment?

Spokesperson:  Not today.  As I have mentioned to you, the Secretary-General is aware of what’s going on and is monitoring it.  And if I have anything further, then I will surely let you know.  But I don’t have anything at the moment.

Question:  But the situation, as you know, has really deteriorated and the international press is writing about it.  Even in certain circumstances far smaller than [this] and less significant, the Secretary-General has noted and responded to it.  Why is it that he is not responding to India’s…?

Spokesperson:  Well, I would urge you to ask him when there is the next possibility to do so.  There was a chance yesterday.  Okay, further questions. 

Question:  Sure, I want to ask about Sudan and then Sri Lanka.  On Sudan, I guess I wanted to know, I’ve heard over the weekend some concerns raised by the South Sudanese that the Secretary-General of the elections commission, for the commission on the referendum, was a former UN official in the Western Sahara mission that was supposed to hold a referendum that is yet to happen.  Are you aware of that, and can you confirm that a former UN official was now the Secretary-General of the referendum commission in Sudan?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out.  I am not aware of that; let me find out.  Sri Lanka.

Question:  Okay, yeah.  And I wanted to ask this on Friday, but I guess there was no noon briefing.  So I will ask you now.  Thursday was the first meeting between the Secretary-General and his Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka.  You’d said there would be some readout; it came out around 10:30 at night, leading me to wonder, can you, I guess, confirm or possibly deny, what explains the delay?  Was this statement on the meeting with the Panel in any way shown or vetted through either the Sri Lanka Mission here or the Sri Lankan Government in Colombo?

Spokesperson:  No, Matthew, that’s preposterous.  The delay was simply a technical one, being able to use UN webmail to be able to post it.  My colleagues were not able to post it and send it out as they had hoped to do.  There was no other reason for the delay.

Question:  And has the work… the work of that Panel has now begun?  Are the individuals in New York with the staff?

Spokesperson:  I told you that already; I did tell you, Matthew, that at the time of the meeting with the Secretary-General the clock would start.  That means the clock has started.

Question:  What’s the size of the staff; since that seems to have led to have several months’ delay, the staffing up of the Panel?  How many people?

Spokesperson:  Let me find out exactly the numbers.  But as I think we have mentioned before, this is a small support team.  But let me find out, okay?

Question:  The United Nations is engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction work in Afghanistan.  How does an incident like the one widely reported today…

Spokesperson:  Say again; I didn’t hear that.

Question:  I said the United Nations is engaged in humanitarian and reconstruction in Afghanistan.  How does an incident like the one reported, widely reported today, in which American soldiers killed Afghan civilians for sport — how does it impact on the United Nations’ work?

Spokesperson:  Well, I think we are aware of the media reports, but I don’t have any comment on them at the moment.  Okay?  Yes, Matthew, last question because I think we need to move on to Jean Victor.

Question:  Okay.  One is just factual, and if you don’t have anything then, something else.  One, in Haiti, can you confirm that a MINUSTAH [United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti] peacekeeper has been shot in Port-au-Prince?  Are you aware of that?  A Yemeni peacekeeper?

Spokesperson:  I am not aware of it, let me find out.

Question:  Okay.  And also, I just want to ask about Myanmar, which is, there was a meeting I think on 1 March this year?

Spokesperson:  That’s two questions, Matthew.

Correspondent:  Sure, well the first one didn’t have an answer.

Spokesperson:  Well, if we did it by whether there were answers or not, we could be here a long time sometimes.

Question:  Okay, this will be the last one, I promise.  March 4 there was a meeting between the Secretary-General, Jodie Williams and several other individuals…

Spokesperson:  You have asked about this before, and…

Question:  I did, and I was troubled to find that it was listed as a meeting simply with the Nobel Women’s Peace Initiative, when in fact it was a meeting as described by the participants, who I spoke to late last week, of a sort of a self-styled international tribunal on crimes against women in Burma, urging the Secretary-General to support a panel, an international investigation of Than Shwe and others for war crimes.  What was his reaction at the meeting to that call, and why wasn’t it described as what it was, in fact?

Spokesperson:  Well, let me first of all say that you have asked about this before and we’re trying to find out a little bit more about it.  But I don’t have anything right now.  Okay?  And that doesn’t mean you get another question.  All right, Jean Victor, please.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Bon après-midi.  Good afternoon.

If you don’t mind, I would like to start with the bilaterals that the President of the General Assembly held yesterday afternoon before I give you the latest news on the meetings he held this morning.

Yesterday, President Deiss met with Tarja Halonen, the President of the Republic of Finland.  We distributed a readout of that meeting.  I would just like to highlight the fact that both underlined the importance of women and gender issues for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and that President Deiss and President Halonen also underlined the importance of global governance as a topical issue.

Yesterday, President Deiss also met with the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Metodiev Borisov.  You also have a readout of that one.  I just want to underline that both President Deiss and Prime Minister Borisov reiterated their support for the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly.  We also disseminated a note on the separate meetings President Deiss held with heads of several United Nations institutions.  That includes UNIDO.  President Deiss met with the Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Kandeh Yumkella.  I would just like to highlight the fact that Dr. Yumkella informed the President of his intention to seek close cooperation with the High-Level Panel on Global Sustainability.  As you know, Dr. Yumkella is also Chairman of UN Energy, a system-wide coordination body comprising 20 agencies. 

President Deiss also met with Yury Fedotov, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  President Deiss was briefed by the Executive Director on the work of UNODC, which is mandated to assist Member States in the struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism.

UN-Habitat, the President met with Joan Clos, who was recently elected by the General Assembly as the Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, for a four-year term that begins on 18 October.  They underlined the important objective to reduce poverty.  President Deiss and Mr. Clos also discussed the need to further promote socially and environmentally sustainable towns and cities.  Finally yesterday, President Deiss met with the Director-General of UNESCO, Madame Irina Bokova.  President Deiss was briefed on UNESCO’s overreaching objectives, which include attaining quality of education for all and life-long learning and mobilizing science knowledge and policy for sustainable development.

Today, as the Summit on the Millennium Development Goals opened, President Deiss met with Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohamed al-Khalifa, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain.  They discussed important issues on the agenda of the sixty-fifth session of the United Nations General Assembly.  Later on, President Deiss met with Madame Micheline Calmy-Rey, the Swiss Federal Councillor, who is in charge of the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs.

He also met with Jiechi Yang, Minister for Foreign Affairs of China.  On that note, I would just like to specify that the President accepted an invitation to visit China.  President Deiss and the Chinese Foreign Minister discussed important subjects on the agenda of the General Assembly, including the Millennium Development Goals, as well as United Nations reform, including reform of the United Nations Security Council and the revitalization of the General Assembly.

President Deiss also had a brief encounter with the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.  President Deiss welcomed Mr. Sarkozy’s statement at the General Assembly earlier today on the importance of global governance and also welcomed Mr. Sarkozy’s statement regarding France’s commitment to development aid.

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

**Questions and Answers

Question:  I think since President Deiss’ press conference he held last week, I believe this is the first time that you’re here.  So, I just wanted to ask very briefly, a couple of factual clarifications.  He seemed to say in the press conference, “I receive nothing from the Swiss Government”.  And then a couple of minutes later, he said he receives an apartment, an airfare.  I have asked the Swiss, they seem to have allocated 240 Swiss francs for his housing and for his travel.  Is there something you want to clear off the…?

Spokesperson:  You mean 240,000?

Question:  Say again?  Yeah, thousand, excuse me.  I guess I want to know, did he misspeak when he said he receives nothing from Switzerland, or was there something about the question that wasn’t clear?  And, okay, that’s the first part.

Spokesperson:  The President was very clear when he answered your questions.  Just for the record, the President of the General Assembly does not receive money from the Swiss Government.  The Swiss Government, just like other Member States, has been very generous in helping the work of the General Assembly.  As you know, the General Assembly has very limited resources, and this whole question is part and parcel of the discussion on the reform of the General Assembly.  As you know, the President had a meeting this morning.  This meeting took place, just like meetings of former Presidents, in GA-200.  That’s the code for the Office of the President of the General Assembly behind the GA podium.  And this Office was donated by Switzerland.  So, Switzerland has been assisting the work of the United Nations General Assembly in many ways.  And I think that with the limited resources that the President of the General Assembly has, and that his Office can afford, I think the question that you are raising is a very good one.  But I think it has to be put within the wider framework of the resources and the revitalization, the reinforcement of the work of the General Assembly.  The resources are so limited that one has to wonder, how will a President of the General Assembly do?  In fact you yourself have been raising this question almost every year, I recall.

Question:  No, I mean, and I appreciate the big picture.  I just want to know on the small picture, I mean, I have gone over the webcast.  He said “I received nothing from Switzerland”.  So my question is, does Switzerland pay the rent for the apartment directly?  And if so, how much is it?  I mean, I just, in New York, obviously that is receiving something when somebody pays your rent.  And I am not disputing that other Presidents of the General Assembly have gotten it.  I am only focused on what he said sitting where you are [inaudible].

Spokesperson:  Well, what he said was very clear.  The President of the General Assembly does not receive any direct funds to him as PGA, as President of the General Assembly.  What the Swiss Government is doing, just like what other Member States have done in so many different ways, is to support the work of the General Assembly.  In this case, if it is an apartment where the President of the General Assembly will reside, that, I think, is not something on which one may question the President of the General Assembly.  I think he was very clear and he will always be clearer than myself.

Question:  I mean, I am not questioning his… whether he should receive it or not.  I am just requesting whether he does receive it.  You see what I mean?  I mean, that seems fair, because he also mentioned outside business interests without disclosing what they were.  But I think when somebody is sitting up on that podium, it’s fair, journalistically or otherwise, to ask like who, how they’re getting paid.  Maybe they should be getting paid, you know, it’s just to understand whether there may be a conflict of interest or not.

Spokesperson:  So, to put this question to rest, because we have an important guest, I would like to say that the President of the General Assembly is not a staff member like me or others.  In other words, he is not obligated to disclose his… but he has done so.  The President has, when his name was known as a candidate for this position, disclosed his own business with the United Nations.  

Question:  To whom did he disclose?

Spokesperson:  Well, that is a follow-up that we can take up later after this meeting, if you don’t mind.

Correspondent:  Oh, right.

Spokesperson:  But I think what is clear is that the President has been very open, very transparent and that, so far, he has been leading an office and staffing in ways that are very transparent and very open.

Question:  You mentioned briefly that the General Assembly President welcomed the French President’s stance or announcement on strengthening global governance.  Can you expand and ensure a little more about that in terms of concrete ideas or directions of the global governance?  Where did they… I mean, where does the President welcome the other President’s words.  Where is the call?

Spokesperson:  Well, when you will see the readout that we will distribute today on the other meetings, you will see that the President is in agreement and welcomes all the statements by other leaders.  I will actually like to send you back to the statement, the opening statement of President Deiss, where he clearly underlines the theme of his own vision for this session, which is global governance.  And you will see that many world leaders, many leaders of Member States, welcome and support the theme, and this is the discussion that the President has been having.  It happens to be that the President had an encounter today with President Sarkozy, and he expressed appreciation for one leader of a Member State coming close to his own vision.  And this also happened with others.  With Bahrain.  Bahrain was also very appreciative of the same view.  But this will come out today when we provide some more detailed readout on these encounters.

Question:  You don’t have anything specific the French President is proposing for, to get the global governance special right now?

Spokesperson:  You may want to go back to the specific statement of the French President which I think is available, and which will be the purpose of a summary by the DPI Meetings Coverage Section on that.  Thank you.

No further questions?  I would very much like to conclude it, because we have an important guest.  Thank you very much.

* *** *

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