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

1 December 2011

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

1 December 2011
Spokesperson's Noon Briefing
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York




The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Eduardo del Buey, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Welcome to the noon briefing.

**Announcement by Chef de Cabinet

Before we begin, we have Vijay Nambiar, the Chef de Cabinet of the Secretary-General who is going to read out a statement, and then I will pick up and do the rest of the briefing.

Chef de Cabinet Vijay Nambiar:  Well, yes, thank you, Eduardo.  It’s not a statement, it’s just an announcement, a brief announcement on behalf of the Secretary-General.

The Secretary-General is about to embark on his second term, which begins in January 2012.  He is keen to ensure the right mix of change and continuity in the senior leadership team for the second term.

The Secretary-General’s intention is to build a new team that is strong on substance and diverse in composition, complementing one another and working as a team.  In so doing, he will be guided by the following three overarching benchmarks:

The five-year rule will be applied across the board, as he did five years ago when he first took office.  While some senior advisers with less than five years of service may relinquish their positions for personal and other reasons, those at the five-year mark will be the focus of the change.  This is to demonstrate his firm commitment to mobility and to lead by example providing top-down push to the ongoing human-resources reform, including inter alia mobility schemes.

The Secretary-General intends to balance the need for bringing a fresh perspective in addressing the major challenges with the need for maintaining continuity of purpose and priorities.

He will continue to focus on empowering line departments as well as on leveraging organizational synergy by streamlining work process and minimizing institutional duplication.

With the above benchmarks in mind, the Secretary-General is currently undertaking a thorough review of his entire team and plans to roll out the changes in his senior team in a phased manner.

Against this backdrop, he will seek nominations for the first batch of eight Under-Secretary-General positions at the helm of the departments and offices that I shall list below.  This will supplement his own search and will follow up on his commitment to have an inclusive and objective selection process for the appointment of senior advisers.

Those currently holding these positions will leave during the first half of next year, or thereabout, depending on the expiration of their current contracts and other considerations, including the ongoing task of preparations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).  We are announcing these changes in advance in order to give ample time for us to seek nominations, and to ensure a smooth transition.  The USG positions are from the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management; Department of Public Information; Department of Political Affairs; Department of Economic and Social Affairs; Office for Disarmament Affairs; Office of the Special Adviser for Africa; Economic Commission for Africa; and the Economic Commission for Europe.

In addition, the selection process for five Assistant Secretary-General positions at the Funds and Programmes has also been initiated.  These are three positions in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) — the Assistant Administrator and Director, Bureau of Management; the Assistant Administrator and Regional Director, Regional Bureau for Arab States; and the Assistant Administrator and Regional Director, Regional Bureau for Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States.  In addition, two positions from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) — the Deputy Executive Director (Programmes) and the Deputy Executive Director (External Relations, UN Affairs and Management).

The Secretary-General expresses his deep appreciation to the senior advisers who have served in the above functions tirelessly to promote the best interests of the Organization.  He thanks them for their dedication and hard work and sincerely believes that they have contributed much to the reassertion of the importance and relevance of the Organization.  In the coming days, the Secretary-General will make additional announcements about other senior adviser positions where the above benchmarks will also apply.  That’s the end of the announcement.

I have been asked not to answer any questions.  The Secretary-General will provide further information as the time comes.  Thank you.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Thank you, good afternoon.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General visited Bongha, the home town of the late Roh Moo-hyun near Busan, today to pay respects at a memorial and to meet the widow of the former President of the Republic of Korea.  Ban Ki-moon served President Roh as Foreign Minister and earlier as diplomatic adviser.

Later in Seoul, the Secretary-General met former President Kim Young-sam at his residence.  The Secretary-General served separately as Chief of Protocol and National Security Adviser at the presidential Blue House under President Kim.  The Secretary-General is now on his way back to New York and will arrive this evening.

** Lebanon

The Secretary-General told Prime Minister Najib Mikati of Lebanon over the telephone today that he was very pleased the Lebanese Government had decided to transfer to the Special Tribunal for Lebanon the 49 per cent of the 2011 budget for which the country is responsible.

The Secretary-General expressed his gratitude for the Prime Minister’s personal efforts in this regard.  The Secretary-General said the decision was a very positive step that would allow the Special Tribunal to continue its work to uncover the truth about the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and others.

He said he appreciated Prime Minister Mikati's commitment to uphold Lebanon's international obligations and was confident the Government would continue to respect those obligations and cooperate with the Special Tribunal.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

According to a press release from the UN peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, MONUSCO, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Roger Meece, shares the concerns about the elections expressed by the observer missions, in particular with regard to the reported irregularities and the need to assess their impact on the electoral process.

Mr. Meece also deplores the violence that marred the elections in certain areas in the country and calls on all political leaders to urge their partisans to refrain from any violence or other acts that may disrupt the electoral process.  Copies of the full press release are available in the Spokesperson’s Office and on the MONUSCO website.

Also on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said today that she deplores the killings and other acts of violence committed by Congolese security forces and supporters of political parties in the context of the presidential and parliamentary elections in the country over the past few days.  Furthermore, Ms. Pillay stressed the obligation of the Government under Congolese and international laws to protect the fundamental rights of the people, including the right to life and security of the person.  Copies of the OHCHR press release are also available in the Spokesperson’s Office.

**Humanitarian Affairs

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos has concluded a mission to Saudi Arabia.  She welcomed the opportunity to work more closely with Saudi Arabia in regional and international humanitarian affairs.  In addition to contributing greatly to crises in Somalia, Pakistan and Haiti, Ms. Amos noted that the Kingdom also engages in other forms of humanitarian response, such as the International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.

** Cyprus

The leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities met today in Nicosia.  The Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Alexander Downer, told reporters afterwards that the talks were concentrated on governance and power-sharing.  The leaders’ next meeting will be on Monday.

** Yemen

According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), violent clashes between Government and opposition forces continue in key cities and other areas of Yemen, intensifying the humanitarian crisis.  This is putting civilians at risk and leading to the breakdown of essential public services.  Dozens of schools are still occupied by armed groups in Yemen, while more remain closed due to security concerns.


In his message marking World AIDS Day today, the Secretary-General says that heading into the fourth decade of AIDS, we are finally in a position to end the epidemic.  He said that the progress we have made so far is proof that we can realize our vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.  But to end AIDS, we need to deliver even greater results, the Secretary-General stressed.  With strong political will, reasonable financial resources and a firm human rights-based approach, we can achieve targets such as reducing the sexual transmission of HIV by half and eliminating new infections in children.

For his part, the head of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) says that never before in the history of AIDS have we reached a moment where we are able to stand up and say with conviction the end of AIDS is in sight.

**Press Conferences

Following today’s briefing, Nihal Saad, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, will brief.  She will be accompanied by Ambassador Zahir Tannin, Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations, who will brief on Security Council reform.

At 12:45 p.m., there will be a press conference on the upcoming tenth session of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Ambassador Christian Wenaweser, current President of the Assembly of States Parties to the ICC and Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, incoming President will address the press in this room.

At 2 p.m., there will be a briefing on the upcoming UN Framework Convention on Climate Change which will take place in Durban, South Africa from 28 November to 9 December.  Bob Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Strategic Planning, will be briefing.

Our guest at tomorrow’s noon briefing will be Catherine Bragg, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator.  She will brief on Yemen and the Philippines.

And there will be a press conference tomorrow at 12:30 p.m., Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation and President of the Security Council for the month of December will be briefing you in this room on the Council’s monthly Programme of Work.

A few questions, please, and we will move to Nihal.

**Questions and Answers

Question:  While Ms. Amos was in Saudi Arabia, did she raise the issue of human rights, especially that the recent report by Amnesty International speaks about thousands of detainees tortured, many of them for many years as a result of protesting or demanding their human rights?  Did she raise anything like that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t have a readout of her meetings in Saudi Arabia, but we will try and get one for you.

Question:  [inaudible] questions, but I… even though… I mean, Mr. Nambiar said that he would just read that out and not take questions.  I don’t… I am going to ask you this question, maybe you will get an answer.  Does this five-year acro… it’s called across the board policy, does it apply to the DSG and to Mr. Nambiar himself?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I do not have any answer to those questions.  I heard the same thing as you did, and when the time comes, the Secretary-General will say what he has to say.

Question:  If he is not going to take any questions, why do the read… why read it out here, why not just e-mail it out?  I don’t understand.

Deputy Spokesperson:  [inaudible]

Question:  Well, can you seek an answer to that question?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we’ll try and seek an answer to the question.

Question:  Okay.  I wanted to… On Sudan, I wanted to ask, I have seen a statement by Mr. Gambari that the rebels are sort… are to blame.  He has spoken against the union of Darfur rebels with those in South Kordofan and Blue Nile and said it is a bad thing to try to overthrow the Government.  What I wanted to know is, does he or Ms. Malcorra who is there yet have any comment on the Government confirming that it has sentenced to death members of the JEM rebel group and if not, why would he be surprised that a group that has been put to death by the government would seek to overthrow the Government that is putting it to death?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the thing is there is a peace process going on and that is one of the reasons why the Secretary-General said it is not helpful for these groups to get together and try and overthrow the Government.  Our intention is to get them involved in the peace process.  As far as the question on the executions you refer to, as you know we don’t have people in that part of the country who can do the investigation and we have no mandate to do it.

Question:  No, actually… no, thanks a lot.  I just wanted to say there were two separate sets of executions; one, nine of them are in Darfur, there are… of JEM rebels in Darfur, and the Government has confirmed that they have been sentenced to death in El Fasher by hanging.  And so that’s why I am finding it is several days since that was announced.  If there is a peace process, is hanging your opponents consistent with that?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, we will have to check into that and get back to you with an answer.

Question:  [inaudible] sent a letter to the Secretary-General informing them of the NATO deaths on Pakistani border’s force in which 25 soldiers, 24 soldiers were killed.  Although I know the Secretary… the letter did not ask the Secretary-General for any action, but does he have a reaction to this attack?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, all deaths are tragic, and I think that is something that we all agree on.  However, he has no specific comment on this issue because it is a military issue.  And as you know, UNAMA is there covering humanitarian assistance and civilian assistance.

Question:  The death toll in Syria has been raised to supposedly more than 4,000.  Can you confirm this and say cannot from Geneva?  And also, do you know what the basis of these new estimates are?

Deputy Spokesperson:  I’m sorry?

Question:  Do you know what the basis for these new estimates are?

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights does their assessments based on a variety of interviews they carry out and a variety of investigation.  And yes, their conclusion they said that over 4,000 people have been killed so far in Syria.  Navi Pillay said they may even be higher than that.  One more question?

Question:  Sure.  While he was in South Korea, Ban Ki-moon thanked the Government for sending peacekeepers to South Sudan.  But it seems like it hasn’t actually been approved there yet.  So I wanted to know, is that… does he know something that is not public that is this is definitely approved or was the thanks for the Government’s intention subject to congressional approval or something, I just wanted to know…

Deputy Spokesperson:  Well, I’ll have to check.

Correspondent:  If you could.  It seems [inaudible].

Deputy Spokesperson:  I don’t exactly know the timing of these things, but we will check and get back to you on this.

Correspondent:  Okay.

Deputy Spokesperson:  Okay, thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen.  We now have Nihal Saad, who will be briefing with our noon time guest.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President

Well, good afternoon to all.

I’ll just try to be as quick as I can, to give you a chance to ask Ambassador Zahir Tanin, and that he would have time to brief you.

**General Assembly Main Committees

So I would just like to wrap it up for the Main Committees’ work, as you know that most of the committees have concluded their work, namely the First, the Third, the Fourth and the Sixth committees.  On that occasion, the President of the General Assembly, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, had a working luncheon with the chairs of six committees and ACABQ to hear from them.

Regarding the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security), the President of the General Assembly sent a representative to Vienna last week to attend the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) forum on a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the Middle East.  And he will also send a representative to the UK this month to attend the Wilton Park conference on the Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Process.

Regarding the Second Committee (Economic and Financial), much of the focus was on the preparation for the Rio+20 Conference coming up early next year.  The President is particularly supportive and he intends to organize a retreat on Rio+20 on 17 and 18 December.  He had already sent a letter of invitation.

The conclusion of the work of the Second Committee, as you may all well know, has been delayed from 23 November to 2 December.  Out of 24 resolutions in the sustainable development cluster a total of 20 resolutions had been adopted, two are still pending.  In the macroeconomic cluster, 18 are still being negotiated and six have been adopted.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) has concluded its work and adopted 69 resolutions last week.

The Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) concluded its work.  Despite diversity of the issues the work was concluded in a timely fashion.

The Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), as you all know, is still working.  The President of the General Assembly places the utmost importance on the conclusion of the work of the Committee in a timely and disciplined manner.  President Al-Nasser acknowledges the efforts of Ambassador Tommo Monthe, the Chair of the Committee.  And as you know, the work of that Committee, the Fifth Committee usually drags on until Christmas each year.

The Sixth Committee (Legal) has also concluded its work.

** Syria

On other issues, the President of the General Assembly received the report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic and he circulated it immediately to all Member States.

**President’s Travel

On the President’s upcoming travels, the President will be leaving later today to Rome, Italy, where he is scheduled to hold official meetings with the Foreign Minister of Italy and also with the President of Italy.  He is also going to be delivering the opening remarks at the Global South-South Development Expo.  And it is a topic, an annual UNDP event, which is being hosted this year by the FAO at its Rome Headquarters, with the focus on finding solutions to the challenge of food and security in the global South.

From Rome he is going to be travelling to Geneva on Tuesday, the 6th.   And he will be delivering the keynote, he will be a keynote speaker rather, at the 100th council of the International Organization for Migration, the IOM.  And from there he will be going to Qatar, to Doha, Qatar, where he is expected to participate in the fourth UN Alliance of Civilization Forum in Doha from 11 to 13 December.

I will be able to give you more details on his travel and his activities probably tomorrow or on Monday as soon as I would have more information to give you.

I would like now to it over to Ambassador Zahir Tanin, the Chair of the Intergovernmental Negotiations on Security Council Reform.  As you know, the eighth round of these negotiations began on 28 November.  Ambassador Tanin would be the best person to brief you on these negotiations and to answer your questions.  Ambassdor Tanin, thank you for being here.

[Press conference by Ambassador Tanin is issued separately.]

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