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Posted by: batmanchester Jan 5 2007, 05:36 PM
DARFUR SPECIAL ENVOY CONCLUDES NEW YORK CONSULTATIONS,


DEPARTS FOR ETHIOPIA, SUDAN FOR FURTHER TALKS


The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, concluded initial consultations at United Nations Headquarters in New York today. In addition to meeting with the Secretary-General and United Nations officials, he also joined the Secretary-General for in-depth discussions with the African Union Special Envoy for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim, and carried out separate consultations with the permanent members of the Security Council, representatives of other Member States, including the Sudan, and a group of non-governmental organizations who are carrying out humanitarian work in Darfur.



Mr. Eliasson will proceed this evening to African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa for two days of meetings with the Chairperson of the African Union, other senior African Union officials and senior members of the Ethiopian Government, before travelling to the Sudan for meetings with the Government of National Unity and all other relevant parties, to discuss steps required to arrive at a durable solution to the situation in Darfur on the basis of the Darfur Peace Agreement.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10830.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 6 2007, 12:31 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



Good afternoon, all.



**Deputy Secretary-General - Appointment



First, I have a statement by the Secretary-General on the appointment of Deputy Secretary-General.



“I have decided to appoint Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, as Deputy Secretary-General. Minister Migiro served previously as Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children of the United Republic of Tanzania for five years. In her academic career, she rose to the rank of a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Dar-es-Salaam.



“She is a highly respected leader who has championed the cause of developing countries over the years. Through her distinguished service in diverse areas, she has displayed outstanding management skills with wide experience and expertise in socio-economic affairs and development issues.



“I have deep confidence in and respect for her, and intend to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues, under a clear line of authority to ensure that the Secretariat will function in a more effective and efficient manner.”



We have her CV available upstairs.



**Deputy Secretary-General



The Secretary-General spoke this morning, for your information, to Dr. Migiro and with President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete. She is presently… Dr. Migiro is presently in Lesotho, where she is chairing a conference. She will try to be in New York in the next few days.



**Formation of New Team



Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on the formation of the new team:



“In continuing the process he began a few days ago regarding the formation of his new team of senior Secretariat officials, the Secretary-General, yesterday, requested all Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General, except those whose appointments are subject to action/consultation by or with the appropriate intergovernmental bodies, to voluntarily offer their resignation from the appointments they are holding. This would allow the Secretary-General the flexibility he needs in forming his new team. He will review the offers of resignation and may decide to retain the experience of some senior officials to assist him in the discharge of his responsibilities.”



For your information, about 60 USGs and ASGs under the Secretary-General’s direct authority have received that letter. All those officials who turn in their resignations will continue to serve in their current positions until the Secretary-General has completed his review and has taken a decision on each specific case.



**Financial Disclosure Forms



Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:



“The Secretary-General voluntarily submitted his financial disclosure statement to the Ethics Office on his first day in office. His statement will be reviewed, like those of all staff members required to file such statements, by the external financial firm -- Pricewaterhouse Coopers. Upon completion of the review, the Secretary-General has also decided to publicly disclose the statement.”



** Fiji



Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, on Fiji:



“The Secretary-General has noted the recent changes in Fiji, by which President Iloilo has been restored and the leader of the military takeover, Commodore Bainimarama, has become Prime Minister. The Secretary-General reiterates the previous call of the United Nations for the immediate reinstatement of the legitimate authority in Fiji and its return to constitutional rule and full democracy.”



** Sudan



On the Sudan, as part of the Secretary-General’s focus on efforts to seek a peaceful solution in Darfur, he is meeting now with his Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and Salim Ahmed Salim, the African Union’s Mediator on Darfur. Jan Eliasson will brief you at the Secretariat lobby stakeout immediately after that meeting. That is expected to be at around 12:45 p.m.



**Chad/Central African Republic



On Chad and the Central African Republic, available today is the report of the Secretary-General on the multidisciplinary technical assessment mission to Chad and the Central African Republic. As you would recall, the technical mission team has a mandate from the Security Council to study the potential threat to regional peace and security posed by the situation in Darfur and its possible impact on the protection of refugees on the Chad-Sudan border. Among the mission’s preliminary findings, the Secretary-General notes, is the confirmation of a clear threat to regional peace and security due to cross-border activities by rebel groups and a persisting humanitarian crisis affecting more than 2.3 million people.



And the Security Council has scheduled consultations on 10 January to consider the recommendations of the report.

**Sudan-Chad



The UN refugee agency said Friday that the deteriorating security situation in eastern Chad had resulted in the displacement of up to 20,000 Chadians over the past two weeks and was posing a direct threat to refugee camps housing thousands of Sudanese from neighbouring Darfur. At least 100,000 Chadians are now displaced within their own country, which already hosts some 230,000 Darfur refugees, most of them in 12 UNHCR camps spread across the east of Chad.



**Security Council



On the Security Council, the Security Council will meet for the first time with Ban Ki-moon in his capacity as the new Secretary-General, in a formal meeting next Monday morning. The meeting, on threats to international peace and security, offers Council members an opportunity to hear from the Secretary-General about his plans during his time in office.



This afternoon, at 4, the Security Council has scheduled consultations so that it can discuss arrangements for next Monday’s meeting, as well as consider the text of a possible presidential statement that it could adopt on that day.



** Somalia



On Somalia, the Secretary-General's Personal Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, took part in the meeting in Nairobi today of the International Contact Group for Somalia, which issued a communiqué calling the current moment “a historic opportunity” for Somalia. The Contact Group, which includes the United Nations as a member, also welcomed a commitment made by President Abdullahi Yusuf to inclusive governance and to preventing a resurgence of “warlordism” in the country. It stressed the importance of launching without delay an inclusive process of political dialogue and reconciliation, while emphasizing the urgent need for the deployment of a stabilization force based on Security Council resolution 1725.



**Correction



I have one correction for you. Yesterday I told you that Under-Secretary-General for Management, Alicia Bárcena, had met with the Staff Council. What I meant to say was that she had met informally with the President of the Staff Union. And that was on Wednesday evening.



**Secretary-General’s Press Conference



For your planning purposes, the Secretary-General is planning his first press conference on Wednesday, January 10th. We will come back to you with the place and time as soon as they are finalized.



And we have upstairs the Week Ahead at the United Nations.



That’s all from me. Any questions?



**Questions and Answers



Question: The Secretary-General, when he spoke to staff, said that his criteria for appointments would include “meritocracy”, with due regard to geographical distribution and gender balance. Now, I understand that Ms. Migiro is an African and there needs to be Africans in the senior ranks at the UN, and that she is a woman, and there needs to be women in the senior ranks at the UN, but I don’t quite understand what her qualifications are as a manager. Can you point to her achievements, or any concrete achievements on her record, as a manager, so we can describe why she should be the person to run the UN?



Spokesperson: Well, we have her CV upstairs and we have quite a few details there about why she is qualified. And, in fact, the Secretary-General underlined to me that he has worked with her and he underlined the fact that she was named not because she is an African and because she is a woman, but essentially, because of her qualifications.



Question: The way you described her record, she seems to be an academic, who spent five years as the Community Development Minister. It does not seem that she has ever -– beyond the Community Development Ministry in Tanzania –- had to manage a large organization.



Spokesperson: Well, she was the Chairman, until about a few weeks ago, of a regional conference for the Great Lakes Region in Africa, and I think, she has shown definitely that she has the ability to manage.



Question: Just as a follow-up to James’ question: are you saying that the Secretary-General thinks that [inaudible] that since the other two criteria that you mentioned, that you ruled out somehow?



Spokesperson: I did not.



Question: But you mentioned that they are, on the secondary point –- from the secondary point of view -- that there is no better person to run -– to be first to take care of the management here at the UN?



Spokesperson: This is the way the Secretary-General feels, and he has studied a number of candidacies, and he has gone through a long process, as you know, before making a decision, and I think, his decision is based on her abilities to do the job.



Question: You said that he worked with her, and I may have missed it at the top -– where did he work with her, how often have they met? And you stated at the top, the Secretary-General is saying he will delegate much of the administrative work of the Secretariat –- does this mean he does not see himself now as what the US said they want –- a CEO? That she is running the shop and he is going to be free to be a diplomat and travel the world?



Spokesperson: No, this is not what he said. But he said that there will be clear lines of responsibility. That is what he is saying.



Question: But he is also making it public that he will delegate much of the administrative work in the Secretariat…



Spokesperson: Yes, indeed. That is because he feels that …



Question: So he does not see himself as the CEO then…



Spokesperson: Well, he is definitely going to have an overview of the whole thing.

Question: What about how often have they worked together where?



Spokesperson: He did mention to me today that he had worked with her. I don’t… They have met several times at international conferences and they have worked together when he was Foreign Minister and she was Foreign Minister. I will ask for you how often they met and, you know, additional information, if you need them.



Question: On the working together -– she has only been Foreign Minister since January 2006, so this would mean that they only met as Foreign Ministers in the last year. Did they meet when Mr. Ban went to Tanzania to lobby for support for his own candidacy for the Secretary-Generalship?



Spokesperson: I do not know. I assume he did.



Question: I guess, still the question is: it would be one thing if the UN had some clear blue skies the last 5, 10, 20 years, but the Organization faces massive problems, staff morale being down, Capital Master Plan –- the building being renovated, questions about corruption in procurement… It’s a huge job. Why is someone who has spent years as Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children’s Affairs remotely the best candidate for this?



Spokesperson: Well, I think you should probably give her a chance to show it. And, you know, you have … you know, it was the Secretary-General’s opinion that she is a highly qualified person and among the people he was choosing from, she is the best qualified.



Question: I just wondered if you could specify more clearly -- when he intends to delegate much of the management and administrative work of the Secretariat, as well as socio-economic affairs and development issues –- could you flush out what that actually means?



Spokesperson: Well, I am waiting first for the Secretary-General to meet with Dr. Migiro, before I can give you a clear line on that. In the next few days -- she is right now in Lesotho, so I don’t know how soon she will be able to come here.



Question: Is that when she will be taking up her duties?



Spokesperson: If she can make it this early, yes. Not immediately next week, at the beginning of the week –- definitely not. But within the next ten days, she probably will try to come to New York within that time. But we have absolutely no date set yet, because –- you know -- she gave her agreement today and we don’t have a clear line on when she can make it, when she can leave what she is doing right now, to make it to New York.



Question: What role did the head of the Group of 77 play in lobbying for this job?



Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think that role was very important, because they were only recently informed.



Question: About the financial statement, if I can. What will be on it -– will there be –- obviously, all of his holdings, his contributions to charities? Religious organizations? Will that be stated?



Spokesperson: He is planning to state everything, to be transparent.



Question: A lot of public officials put their holdings in a trust, a blind trust, so there is no conflict of interest. Is that something the Secretary-General is considering doing?



Spokesperson: I don’t have the details right now. I do know that he wants to make his statement public. That’s all I can say.



Question: How would you feel about making Kofi Annan’s statement public, in the interest of transparency for the Organization?



Spokesperson: How can we put someone else’s statement out?



Question: Well, he is the boss, he controls the documents, he could do that, couldn’t he?



[Laughter]



Spokesperson: This was a voluntary choice on his part.



Question: Actually, I feel that this choice for Deputy Secretary-General and the choice for management may be good choices, because they point in the direction of sustainable development. Now, my question is a follow-up to the questions of yesterday. And I found materials that, in this room on 20 December, Professor Jeffrey Sachs presented to us. Among the things he said to us at the time -- there are important treaties, real treaties of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. By and large, those treaties are not being fulfilled right now; they are not being implemented. Then he also said: “So I think this is a huge challenge the incoming UN SG will have to face. This challenge is very serious in a very serious way.” The commitments are already there, they need to be fulfilled. If they are not, the world will suffer large consequences as a result. Now, Professor Jeffrey Sachs is a gentleman who is Adviser to the Secretary-General who was able to take the MDGs and to make them into something that can become a reality. My question is, if the Secretary-General is ready to look into this material from Jeffrey Sachs…



Spokesperson: Well, he has met with Jeffrey Sachs and definitely, they are talking.



Question: Now, he has met with Jeffrey Sachs on MDGs. Now, this is about global warming and sustainable development -– has he discussed those subjects with Jeffrey Sachs?



Spokesperson: I don’t have the information right now. I will try to get it for you, what was exactly the subject of his discussion with Jeffrey Sachs.



Question: We were expecting a statement by the Secretary-General on the situation in the Palestinian Territory yesterday. Is there any reason why it has not come out?



Spokesperson: Actually, I can say that, recently, there have been some positive developments, such as the long-awaited Olmert-Abbas meeting, the Israeli decision to release some Palestinian VAT funds, and the meeting today in Sharm el-Sheikh, hosted by President Mubarak. We will hope that all parties will act with restraint to encourage the small steps back towards dialogue and away from violence such as the Israeli military incursion into Ramallah yesterday. This is what I have.



Question: I was looking on the Web for a picture of the Tanzanian Foreign Minister and noticed you had interviewed her recently. Is that when the Secretary-General met her, two weeks ago?



Spokesperson: No, actually, which picture are you referring to?



Question: You had interviewed her for UN Radio.



Spokesperson: Oh no, that’s because she was… I am sorry, she was interviewed by me. It was at the Great Lakes Conference in Nairobi. It was in her capacity as Chairman of the Great Lakes Region Conference. That’s why. It was not because we had any inkling then that she would be named Deputy Secretary-General.



Question: Did the Secretary-General interview her in person since he was appointed Secretary-General, for this job, or he just appointed her on the basis of what he already knew about her?



Spokesperson: He appointed her on the basis of what he knew about her.



Question: Have they met?



Spokesperson: Well, they met before.



Question: I know, but they have not met since Mr. Ban became Secretary-General?



Spokesperson: No, no.



Question: Is the Secretary-General going to encourage or require the people that he is appointing at the level of DSG and USG to also disclose their financial disclosures?



Spokesperson: Well, those who want to can do it. However, I would underline the fact that the General Assembly specifically decided that financial statements should remain confidential, and they may only be used for the limited purpose of –- you know, in case the Secretary-General requires financial disclosure in the interests of the Organization. So, if they voluntarily want to do it, I guess, they could do it. However, they are not in any way forced to do it. The Secretary-General said he wanted to give an example. He has disclosed his statement and he will make it available, so he is just encouraging people to be as transparent as possible. However, as you know, there are restrictions within the house itself on disclosures.



Question: Just one thing: the President of Serbia has now called on the UN system not to release its status proposals for Kosovo after 21 January, but to wait until a new Government is in place in Serbia. Is there any response from the Secretary-General to that?



Spokesperson: Well, nothing has changed from Ahtisaari’s last statement in November. It is still his intention to present his Kosovo status proposal to the parties without delay after the parliamentary elections in Serbia. I don’t know when the Security Council will take up Kosovo. Actually, it is not currently on the Council’s programme of work.



Question: Just a point of clarification on the formation of the new team. He asked all the Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General to voluntarily offer their resignation. Does that mean if they don’t want to offer their resignation, they can stay in the job?



Spokesperson: No. That’s one way to approach it. This is a new way of approaching it.



Question: So they have to voluntarily offer their resignation.



Spokesperson: A number of them have already submitted their resignations.



Question: I made a question two days ago about the United Nations cooperation with Israel on nuclear issues. I am still waiting for a response on that. Do you have it?



Spokesperson: We have put your question through, and we are still…



Question: Why is it taking so long? Two days!



Spokesperson: You are right, you are right.



Question: It was even published in the Israeli press.



Spokesperson: I will check on that.



Question: Another thing: Mr. Walid Jumblatt made a call very openly, publicly, the Lebanese Druze leader, calling for the assassination of President Bashar al-Assad. Does the United Nations continue to make contacts with your envoy in Beirut, dies he continue to make contact with Jumblatt after his calls for assassination of Bashar al-Assad?



Spokesperson: I am not aware of this and I’ll find out.



Question: Picking up on that same train James and I are on -- and I know we can ask him that on Wednesday -– but you would think with the importance of the Organization, that the person who would be running things, that Ban Ki-moon would meet with this person face to face before selecting the person for the job. Because they could not have met that much, since she has only been the Foreign Minister for a year, on the other side of the ocean, two oceans. How is that possible?



Spokesperson: I can tell you what he has told me, that he has a deep respect for Dr. Midiro. He has been in contact with her for a long time, and he knows her. The fact that they have not met since the decision was taken to appoint her, I don’t think that’s…



Question: Before. Before the decision was taken…



Spokesperson: Before the decision… as I said, they have met several times. I don’t know how many times, and I can check for you on how many times they met, but he feels that he knows her and he has the deepest respect for her.



Question: Was he sounding her out while he was campaigning? Do we know?



Spokesperson: I don’t want to interrupt this, but I was just informed that Mr. Eliasson is on his way to the stakeout at the Secretariat entrance, so those of you who …



Question: So when was that decision made to appoint her -– was it before he came here?



Spokesperson: No, no. It was done within the last ten days.



Question: After 1 January he decided this



Spokesperson: Well, no, no –- it was … the decision was taken after 1 January.



Question: Did he have a phone interview?



Spokesperson: Yes, he did. He did speak to her on the phone.



Question: Recently?



Spokesperson: Yes.



Question: Michèle, you pointed to her work with the Great Lakes Conference. Forgive my ignorance, but is the Great Lakes Conference –- does it have any staff, does it have any bureaucracy, and is it known as a very well managed organization?



Spokesperson: Well, it was a regional conference. I don’t know about the number of staff, but she was dealing with a number of countries in the region.



Question: Was that a management post, or was that a diplomatic post? It sounds to me that managing a regional conference –- that it’s a diplomatic post.



Spokesperson: Yes, indeed, but she had management experience within her own ministry.



Correspondent: I see.



Question: I won’t be around to ask him this question, but again, he had three months at least, he knew he would be in the job -– so why wouldn’t you have a Deputy Secretary-General appointed, so you’d start fresh 1 January, hit the ground running?



Spokesperson: Because he said he wanted to consult… to have additional consultations, which he did this week.



Question: Why is he announcing her today, when she is in Lesotho? Why didn’t he wait several days for her to come from Lesotho, so she could actually be here, make her own explanations to these difficult questions we are asking you?



Spokesperson: Well, they are not that difficult. I think, she has…



Question: But you have trouble, Michèle, explaining what management experience she has. She might have a better way of answering…



Spokesperson: Well, she will be here, definitely, to answer your questions, whenever she comes here.



Question: So why was the appointment made today, when she is apparently going to be in New York in several days, and we could have asked her all these questions ourselves…



Spokesperson: I must say, most of you have been insisting that that appointment be disclosed as soon as possible. So, I mean, he is pleasing you by doing so, isn’t he?



Question: Any news on Ms. Bárcena appearing here?



Spokesperson: Yes, yes, she is willing to come, and she will be coming, probably next week. We’ll try to find a suitable date for her, because, as you know, she has just started her new job. She is very willing to come and talk to you.



Question: How long was the shortlist? Were they all Africans on the list?



Spokesperson: No. There were several countries on the list and they were not all women.



Question: Do these resignation letters apply to Special Representatives of the Secretary-General, as well?



Spokesperson: No, they do not.



Question: What is going to be done with them? Do they just go on?



Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, yes. For the time being, what is being aimed at is restructuring the Secretariat, and decisions are going to be made first on the Secretariat.



Question: I noticed on his schedule that he met with Kemal Derviş today at 10:00. Do you have any readout on that meeting? What was the purpose of the meeting?



Spokesperson: Not yet.



Question: Was he planning to keep Kemal Derviş in his post?



Spokesperson: I don’t know.



Question: A follow-up on the Middle East, please. Is the Secretary-General worried about this latest incursion?



Spokesperson: He is very concerned.



Question: What is he calling on the Israelis to do?



Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, he expressed his concern. That’s, you know, what he could do at this point, since we are expecting further discussions on the situation in the Middle East.



Question: We haven’t heard anything about the humanitarian situation in Somalia after the Ethiopian invasion -- uninvited invasion? What is the Secretary-General’s follow up on that? Are we expecting any reports on the humanitarian situation there?



Spokesperson: We should have one shortly. In fact, we could ask the people over there what they can send us. We just have the political situation today.



Question: We do not yet have any condemnation of this attack. I mean, Ethiopia is taking liberties; they are invading a country, and this is the country that is supposed to be protected, or security and safety of the country should be safeguarded by the United Nations. We don’t hear any criticism of that -– why?



Spokesperson: Well, you know, the Secretary-General is discussing these issues with the African Union, and we…



Question: People are dying here. We need a clear statement on that.



Spokesperson: Well, his statement will certainly be forthcoming.



Question: And still, you have no idea how many people have perished as a result of that attack?



Spokesperson: No.



Question: I think, you might have partially answered Matthew’s question on this, but are you saying that the one dollar year salaried Special Envoy group -- will they still keep their jobs?



Spokesperson: For the time being, yes.



Question: And then…



Spokesperson: This is a process that will take some time. Right now, we are dealing with the USGs and ASGs, who are most of them here in the building, right here in the Secretariat. And it’s a process that will take some time. As you know, there are more than a hundred USGs and ASGs, and it will take some time.



Question: But why wouldn’t they fall under the same category as the USGs?



Spokesperson: Because you have missions in the field that have to continue functioning, and you have a number of things that have to continue to function in the field. It’s one step at a time.



Thank you very much.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070105.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 8 2007, 02:49 PM
SECRETARY-GENERAL STRONGLY URGES GOVERNMENT TO STAY EXECUTION


OF DEATH SENTENCES IMPOSED BY IRAQI HIGH TRIBUNAL




The following statement was issued on 6 January by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General strongly urged the Government of Iraq to grant a stay of execution to those whose death sentences may be carried out in the near future.



His Chef de Cabinet, in a letter to the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the United Nations, today reiterated the Secretary-General’s endorsement of the call made on 3 January 2007 by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, for restraint by the Government of Iraq in the execution of death sentences imposed by the Iraqi High Tribunal.



The letter also refers to the Secretary-General’s view that all members of the international community should pay due regard to all aspects of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10831.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 9 2007, 02:18 PM
The Security Council met this morning to consider the situation concerning the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



Opening Remarks



Security Council President for January, VITALY CHURKIN ( Russian Federation), said that a new page had been turned in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of the changes had been made possible thanks to the international community, the European Union and various regional organizations. The United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had made an important contribution to the success of the operations, with the joint efforts of the European Union under a mandate of the Security Council. All of those actors had assisted the Government in ensuring safety and security and law and order in the country. Today’s meeting would hear three briefings.



Statement by European Union



On behalf of the European Union and candidate countries, Turkey and Croatia, THOMAS MATUSSEK ( Germany) reported on implementation of the mandate of “EUFOR RD Congo”. A year ago, in late December 2005, the United Nations had requested the European Union to provide additional security in the Democratic Republic of the Congo while the country went through the election process. The Union, after close consultation with the country’s Government, had agreed to support MONUC and assist in ensuring security in the interest of a successful transition. In April 2006, the Security Council had adopted resolution 1671 (2006), which had authorized the European force. In July, EUFOR RD Congo had been launched as an autonomous European Union-led operation within the framework of the European Security and Defence Policy, with a total of 21 member States. As envisaged in resolution 1671, EUFOR RD Congo had been concluded after four months, at the end of November.



He said that operation “Artemis” in Bunia in the summer of 2003 had proved to be another milestone of cooperation between the Union and the United Nations in the field of peacekeeping in Africa. The two, both at the level of headquarters and country missions, had worked together intensively before and during the operation to provide stability, defuse tensions and deter potential spoilers during critical stages of the election process. The lessons drawn from that experience would be important for their future partnership in the field of crisis management, which was growing ever more intensive. That increasing cooperation must be accompanied by appropriate mechanisms of dialogue and exchange, issues that should be explored in the coming months.



The Union warmly welcomed the success of the first democratic elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in more than 40 years and congratulated the Congolese people on that major step, he said. It called on all political players to engage constructively in the post-transition process. Future cooperation should be based on the new authorities’ strong commitment to good governance and to strengthening the rule of law. Appropriate flexible mechanisms should be developed with the new Congolese Government to ensure effective coordination of support and political dialogue. He thanked the people, the Government and the political actors for their confidence in the European force. He was also grateful to the Government of Gabon, which had allowed the force to use that country as an important base of operation. Hopefully, the successful elections would be the first step towards a brighter future for the Congolese people and the entire Great Lakes region.



Briefings



JAVIER SOLANA, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy and Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union, said that the United Nations request of almost a year ago for military support had come at a crucial time, namely the transition period in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as it entered its final phase. It had been essential at that point to create the necessary conditions and security environment to ensure a successful outcome. The European Union had worked very hard for several years to facilitate a democratic transition, for which elections were key to a final success. “We could not fail, and we answered positively to the UN request to put soldiers on the ground,” he said. Specifically, Europe had deployed a military force with operational headquarters provided by Germany, with a European Union presence based in Kinshasa and force elements in Gabon ready to be deployed as necessary.



He said that the deterrent effect of EUFOR had been a significant factor in limiting the number of incidents. Reinforcement by additional force elements from over the “horizon component” in Gabon had been undertaken on several occasions. In addition, a number of deployment operations to the geographically agreed points of application had been undertaken. That had also increased the geographic spread of the force’s deterrent effect. The incident with the greatest destabilizing potential had occurred on 21 August, with an attack on Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba’s residence. EUFOR intervention, in close cooperation with MONUC, had been decisive in containing the potential spread of violence at a particularly sensitive moment in the election process. In addition, EUFOR had confirmed its position of neutrality in the eyes of the Congolese population and had reinforced its credibility.



The mission had been a success, both in the way it had been conducted and in its contribution to the overall positive conclusion of the country’s transition, he said. Although a proper “lessons learned” review was under way, some key elements for its success could already be identified. Those included the definition of a clear mandate, both in scope and time frame, highly professional troops, a very high degree of interaction with MONUC and an active communication policy, both towards the Congolese population and to key actors in the electoral process. In a wider context, transparency and information sharing with African partners, with the African Union and with other African regional organizations invited to deploy liaison officers, had also facilitated the process.



Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, JEAN-MARIE GUÉHENNO, reiterated his deep appreciation to the European Union for the assistance provided by EUFOR to MONUC and to the 21 member States and Turkey contributing to the operation. EUFOR had carried out its activities in support of the Congolese people, to ensure a secure environment for the elections held in July and October 2006, in accordance with Council resolution 1671 of 25 April 2006. EUFOR’s presence had been of great value during the critical period of the elections, at which time MONUC and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), together with international partners, had worked with the Government and the Independent Electoral Commission in organizing and conducting the complex endeavour; the largest electoral exercise the United Nations had ever supported.



He said EUFOR had complemented MONUC’s massive effort by adding its extra capacity and flexibility and by helping to address security challenges and any potential escalation of tension. That cooperation had been particularly effective following the violent incidents in Kinshasa in August. EUFOR’s presence had also been an important element in the overall deterrent provided by the United Nations military and police forces on the ground, which, in turn, supported the Congolese National Police. Over 40,000 of them had been trained by MONUC to help create a secure environment for the electoral process.



While acknowledging the European Union’s overall effort, he noted with appreciation the generous assistance of the German Government, which had provided the operational headquarters of EUFOR in Potsdam. He also noted the sizable number of troops deployed by the Governments of Germany and France. The outstanding collaboration between EUFOR and MONUC and between the United Nations Secretariat and the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union served as an example for future collaboration efforts. That collaboration included operational military aspects, as well as the logistical support provided by MONUC to EUFOR in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



The deployment of EUFOR was a further demonstration of the Union’s strong support to the international community’s collective efforts in Africa, particularly in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said. The joint implementation of Council resolution 1671 had produced many positive lessons, including the importance of early coordination at the technical level and of mutual understanding of each organization’s concepts and procedures. The Secretariat was keen to fully exploit the potential of strategic and operational partnerships with various multilateral organizations, including in the pressing area of security sector reform. In that regard, he welcomed the continued support of the European Union Security Reform Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the European Union Police Mission, which continued to provide valuable services in the areas of security sector reform and police planning and training.



He said it was difficult to overemphasize the significance of the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to which the United Nations and the European Union, together with many other Member States, had contributed. Only a few years ago, few observers had believed that the Democratic Republic of the Congo would be able to rise to the challenge of ending the conflict and holding its first democratic elections since 1960. “The credit for these elections goes to the Congolese people, who conducted themselves throughout with patience, courage, great dignity and determination. Their desire for change has been the main driving force of the electoral process.” Credit was also due to the Independent Electoral Commission, which had operated in a war-torn country with little or no infrastructure, poor communications and limited transportation. Despite criticism, pressure and occasional threats from different quarters, the Independent Electoral Commission had carried out in full its historic mission. All international partners should take great pride in having supported the Congolese people and its institutions in successfully passing that milestone.



“MONUC has been the largest and most expensive United Nations peacekeeping operation in the world, with thousands of troops and over 100 aircraft, he said. Five peace accords involving African countries, more than 35 Security Council resolutions, African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) involvement, $500 million in international electoral funding and strong support from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had all contributed to the success of the peace process. The European Union had played a crucial role at several critical electoral junctures over the last several years, also deploying operation Artemis in response to a crisis in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2003.



The events of the last few months had produced a new positive dynamic in the country, he added. On 30 December, President Joseph Kabila had appointed Antoine Gizenga, former presidential candidate in the first round of the elections, as Prime Minister. He was currently consulting on the formation of a Government, which was expected to be completed by this month. At the end of December, the National Assembly had elected Vital Kamerhe as President of the National Assembly, along with six other members of the National Assembly bureau. All seven were members of president Kabila’s Alliance for the Presidential Majority, the AMP.



In the meantime, in North Kivu, fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the renegade forces of Laurent Nkunda had subsided over the last few days, and discussions -- with United Nations assistance -- were being held between representatives of both sides. While the situation was still volatile, Rwanda’s Government had reported that it was facilitating discussions between representatives of FARDC and the Nkunda group in Kigali. On 4 January, an agreement had been reached in principle to form mixed FARDC brigades by merging the Nkunda forces with other soldiers presently deployed in North Kivu. MONUC continued to encourage the Government to find a peaceful and comprehensive solution to address the causes of the still simmering conflict in the eastern part of the country and, in that connection, had facilitated the establishment of working groups to implement the agreements reached, with a view to resolving the underlying issues.



In Ituri, a new ceasefire between FARDC and the National Integrationist Front, the FNI, led by Peter Karim, had been agreed upon on 2 January after fighting had broken out near the town of Fataki at the end of December. The situation remained very tense, with the United Nations conducting robust operations in support of Government troops.



He said MONUC stood ready to support the newly elected Government as it began to address the many challenges facing the country, including completing the transitional agenda and implementing the provisions of the new Constitution, particularly in regard to strengthening national unity, fostering the democratic process and embarking on a comprehensive governance reform agenda. The Government would continue to be assisted in rebuilding a State free from corruption that ensured the rule of law and good governance, protected human rights and civil liberties, encouraged participation and pluralism, conducted a major security sector reform and was committed to reducing poverty. The continued engagement of the international community was also required to help the Democratic Republic of the Congo complete a comprehensive electoral process, with local elections due in the second half of the year.



He added that the country’s achievements would be at risk if the international community, or the Congolese people, repeated some of their past mistakes. Early disengagement following elections elsewhere had resulted in the resumption of conflict a few years later, requiring a new, costlier international intervention.



“The [ Democratic Republic of the Congo] is the natural, yet still developing, pole of stability in the troubled region of Central Africa,” he concluded. The resolution of the crisis in the country would benefit Africa more than solving any other of the continent’s current conflicts. Moreover, if Africa’s worst conflict could be overcome, then other conflicts could be, too. The United Nations partnership with the European Union and other stakeholders would serve that strategic goal. He was also grateful of the Council’s support for a settlement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had been demonstrated, among other measures, by the Council’s numerous visits to the country.



IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said the successful holding of elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo towards the end of 2006 was now a matter of historical record. Although elections were never an end by themselves, they were, when credible, a critical part of any democratic process. Holding successful and credible elections was a testimony to what could be achieved when there was collective effort. Charged by the General Assembly with coordinating and supporting all United Nations electoral activity, the Department of Political Affairs, through its Electoral Assistance Division, had been involved with the electoral process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2003, when it had conducted the initial needs assessment, which had preceded the establishment of the MONUC Electoral Division.



The role of the United Nations electoral team, which included the UNDP-supported APEC (Project d’appui au processus electoral en RDC), had been to support the Independent Electoral Commission of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, at the Independent Electoral Commission headquarters, as well as in field offices nationwide. On 18 and 19 December 2005, the Independent Electoral Commission, with MONUC’s support, had organized the constitutional referendum, in which the Congolese had voted overwhelmingly to adopt the Constitution that had been promulgated on 18 February 2006. The voter registration exercise conducted between June and December 2005 had resulted in lists containing the names of 25.5 million eligible voters.



The first round of presidential and the national assembly elections had been held on 30 July 2006, he said. The Department of Political Affairs had also conducted several field missions to the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2006 to assist the MONUC Electoral Division with the operational planning for the 30 July and 29 October elections. In his capacity as United Nations Focal Point for Electoral Assistance Activities, he had visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in early October, meeting with major stakeholders to encourage an environment of calm, tolerance and national reconciliation during and after the electoral process. In light of the disturbances following the first round of results, he had stressed the need for positive and constructive campaigning and had urged the acceptance of the results by all parties and avoidance of a “winner-takes-all attitude” by the successful candidates.



The presidential run-off and the provincial assembly elections had been subsequently held on 29 October, he said. The conduct of the elections by the Independent Electoral Commission, including the transparency of the count and tabulation process, had been generally praised by international observers, the press and several world leaders. Observers had noted that the elections had reflected the lessons learnt from the first round of elections, including more efficient collection of results from 50,000 polling stations in 12,000 locations and improved training of 250,000 polling workers, in spite of the massive logistical challenges.



The elections had resulted in the establishment of the first democratically elected national institutions in over four decades, “and of this we can be justly proud”, he said. Much still remained to be done, however. The 2002 Global and All Inclusive Agreement called for free and transparent elections to be held “at all levels”, including local elections. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was now in a post-transitional period, but that was by no means a post-electoral period. Indirect elections for senators, governors and vice-governors by the provincial assemblies were expected to take place by the end of the month.



Local elections for municipal and rural councils were expected to be conducted in the latter half of 2007, he said. Several legislative prerequisites were required for that to take place. The organic law establishing the post-transition National Independent Electoral Commission (NIEC) -- mandated under the Constitution to organize and conduct elections in the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- needed to be passed. Similarly, the law on decentralization that would define the new provinces, as well as the local constituencies for administrative and electoral purposes, must be adopted. Following the passing of the legislative instruments, the Electoral Assistance Division would continue to assist the MONUC Electoral Division to provide capacity-building and support to the new election commission. That effort could take anywhere from 13 to 18 months, depending on the modalities chosen. The actual elections would not be expected to begin before September 2007.



The establishment of local structures and institutions that had been freely chosen by their constituents was essential for the legitimate extension of State authority, improved governance and the building of durable peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He encouraged the Council and other partners to continue to provide the generous assistance rendered during the 2006 electoral process. The logistical challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo remained, and continued support to the electoral process would be critical in that regard.



OLIVIER LACROIX ( France) said France was pleased at having participated in the force at the end of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s transition. At the end of 2003, France had assumed a leading role in the operation, and the deployment in 2006 of a new European Union-led force had been a major development for the Union in securing its defence policy. He was pleased that it was taking place on the African continent. The success of the country’s transitional process was crucial for Africa as a whole. Beyond the transition period, it would be important for the international community to continue its support, and the European Union and the United Nations would have a role to play in that new period.



He said that the deployment of the EUFOR RD Congo operation had also been a demonstration of cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, cooperation that should deepen, especially in the area of conflict prevention and peacekeeping. He also welcomed the sense of responsibility of the Congolese people that had made the successful elections possible in a generally peaceful climate. That, in turn, had made it possible for the Congolese to take their future into their own hands. Continuing that path would be key to the nation’s successful future.



JOHAN VERBEKE ( Belgium) said that the briefing by Mr. Solana had once again reaffirmed that the Security Council had correctly paid attention to the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Like previous speakers, he welcomed EUFOR RD Congo, in which Belgium had taken an active part in connection with information capacity. The mission in support of MONUC had made a great contribution in the country, especially in terms of its deterrent effect and for the proper conduct of the electoral process. The force’s intervention in the August events in Kinshasa had showed its ability and impartiality. There had also been excellent cooperation between the Union and the United Nations, and the lessons learned in that regard would prove useful to future collaborations.



He said that the commitment of the European Union in the country should continue in the post-transition period, through a strengthened commitment to security sector reform. At the European Union Council’s meeting on 15 December, members had confirmed the need to continue a coordinating role in that regard, in close cooperation with the United Nations and in support of the Congolese authorities. Belgium duly appreciated the crucial role played by MONUC, and the Security Council should soon deal with the question of the Mission’s revision and extension. He still remained concerned about the eastern part of the country, especially the fighting in East Kivu. Efforts should intensity towards lasting stabilization of that fragile part of the country, built on a political approach.



JAMAL NASSER AL-BADER ( Qatar) said that, as everyone agreed, the Council would remain closely involved in the situation, even though the elections had already been crowned with success. He earnestly hoped that the new President would be able to complete formation of the new Government and be able to fully discharge his responsibilities. Hopefully, Council members could agree before mid-February on the reconfiguration of MONUC. He, meanwhile, greatly appreciated the role played by the European Union forces in assisting MONUC during the elections. That had helped to stabilize the enormous country. Nevertheless, turmoil continued to beset the nation, especially in the east. Hopefully, that situation would be stabilized by the time the European Union forces withdrew and, hopefully, the new Government would be able to work together with all parties.



In terms of reintegration, he said he welcomed the talks among the three factions in Ituri on the path to disarmament and reconstruction. That would make possible the reintegration of more than 8,000 combatants. He greatly appreciated MONUC’s efforts in those negotiations and hoped that agreements concluded with the militias thus far could be consolidated. He was still terribly concerned about the humanitarian situation. Help was needed for tens of thousands of people displaced from villages throughout the country. Hopefully, the assistance of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and donor countries would continue. Relieving the humanitarian crisis would also help boost national development and prosperity.



LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN ( Ghana) said the successful conduct of the elections reflected the people’s desire for peace and development. The consolidation of peace for socio-economic development required enormous efforts to strengthen the country’s democratic institutions. He welcomed the nomination of the Prime Minister and hoped that he would engage in a process of wide consultations in order to enable him to form a Government of national unity. He also welcomed the nomination of Vital Kamerhe as President of the National Assembly.



He expressed concern, however, about the security situation in the eastern part of the country where FARDC and FNI were engaged in conflict. The conflict there had led to, among other things, a large number of internally displaced persons and frequent human rights violations. Widespread impunity was also a source of great concern. He urged both parties to rise above personal interest and allow peace and stability to return to the region.



While commending the United Nations, the European Union and other partners, he said he also complimented the countries of the Great Lakes region for signing a pact that would pave the way for stability in the region. Its implementation would require financial support and follow-up. He reiterated the crucial role of the country’s security and judiciary segments and urged efforts to reform those areas, which would require the assistance of partners.



BASILE IKOUEBE ( Congo) said he was grateful for the valuable support given to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and pleased with the smooth functioning of the elections in the country. Credit was due not only to the Congolese people, but also to the entire international community. Africa itself had played an active role in the process, including South Africa’s important role in organizing the country’s political dialogue. Africa’s involvement could also be seen through the continent’s presence within the International Committee in Support of the Transition in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He appreciated the European Union’s commitment to continue its efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as later developments would depend on the international community’s continued vigilance.



While the elections had been an important stage, they were just a stage, and most of the challenges facing the country, including security sector reform, remained ahead, he said. It was necessary to look at the entire process in the framework of the conclusions of the second summit of the Great Lakes Region Conference in Nairobi. It was also important to take into account the regional dimension that the question of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would evoke in the days ahead. He thanked all partners for the great interest they had shown in the development of the country’s electoral process, inviting them to continue their efforts.



LIU ZHENMIN ( China) congratulated the country for holding its elections and expressed appreciation to EUFOR for completing its mandate. Although its mandate had expired, he hoped the European Union would continue to support the democratic process in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and help the new Government in carrying out security sector reform. At present, the Democratic Republic of the Congo was in the active process of forming a new Government. The international community should give the country the attention it needed. China supported the need for MONUC to continue to play an important role in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to maintain the very fragile peace there, and it would continue to assist the country.



EMYR JONES PARRY ( United Kingdom) said he had heard today a very good example of cooperation between the European Union and the United Nations, and he welcomed the progress made in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now, it was crucial to build on that and maintain strong support for the new Congolese authorities in what would be a crucial stage in reconciliation and peace consolidation. That was not unqualified support, however, and the Under-Secretary-General had set out what was expected of the Congolese authorities. The Council looked forward to the Secretary-General’s recommendations as to how the United Nations should carry forward its support of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the next phase, in terms of following up its mandate there, which expired on 15 February. The principal role should be to maintain stability, allow the new institutions to take root and redirect resources to priorities, namely tackling the armed groups in the eastern part of the country, which were undermining the chances for lasting peace.



He said that the operation had demonstration the “real world” contribution of European Union policy to tackle international issues in support of and in partnership with the United Nations. As far as the United Kingdom was concerned, a major objective of European security and defence policy was to project a foreign policy and, as appropriate, a military dimension in support of operations out there that conformed to the Union’s own policy. As it was developing, the Union hoped to be able to deploy forces rapidly and efficiently, as it had done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in “stark contrast” to what it tended not to do in United Nations peacekeeping. Whereas the European Union member States were less active in United Nations peacekeeping, they hoped to be able to build the capacity to rapidly deploy when necessary, thereby contributing strongly to international efforts when needed. The European Union’s battleground concept took that forward and was aimed at deployment within 15 days. The world needed that, but it had rarely been available.



He asked Mr. Solana to comment on whether any lessons could be learned from the European Union on how the United Nations could work with other organizations, including in the setting up of an African Union-United Nations force in Darfur. He also asked whether the Union could be more active in helping to tackle the many different and difficult situations being confronted in Africa.



Like previous speakers, JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) commended the decisive contribution made by MONUC and the significant security, diplomatic and economic presence of the European Union. There was little doubt about the strategic clout of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the African continent. It was important now to plan the next stage and to support the country’s authorities towards the election of provincial and deputy governors. It was up to the international community, development agencies and other countries to shape the future of international cooperation, in order to help the nascent Government in building peace and continue the transition towards an integrated society, leading to development. He was also pleased at the supporting role played by South Africa, and was optimistic that internal security, the rule of law and respect for human rights would be the focus of constant attention of the new Government. Peru would follow the processes of dialogue and peacemaking.



DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa) said that the Congolese people deserved credit for the progress made in their country, and he paid tribute to them for having achieved what they had so far. He looked forward to the new Government taking shape, and he would take its lead in terms of the way forward. He hoped for continued support of the European Union, because the Congo still had a difficult road to travel. As had been said today, there were still critical elections ahead. South Africa pledged its continued assistance to the Congolese. Mr. Guéhenno had cautioned in his briefing about too early disengagement from the country, which he seconded.



ATOKI ILEKA ( Democratic Republic of the Congo) noted that EUFOR RD Congo had been the European Union’s second military intervention in his country. The 2003 Artemis operation had managed to stabilize the security situation in Bunia and made it possible to implement the Global and All Inclusive Agreement. EUFOR, a military force authorized by the Council under its resolution 1671, had been set up by the Union to support MONUC in assisting in the country’s electoral process.



EUFOR’s record was largely a positive one, he said. The elections had taken place and the Congolese people had expressed themselves in freedom, voting in massive numbers. The transitional period had been completed with the inauguration of President Kabila, the first Congolese President elected by direct universal suffrage. The Prime Minister had also been appointed, the National Assembly was being set up and the existing provincial assemblies were ready to get down to work. The elections for governors and senators would take place by the end of the month. The structure of the third republic was slowly being set up. With the success of that endeavour, the United Nations and the European Union had made possible the establishment of a truly democratic space in his country. Several European States were also helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo at the bilateral level in close collaboration with the Union and the United Nations.



It was necessary to point out, however, that the human, material and financial mobilization by the United Nations and the European Union in the Democratic Republic of the Congo ran the risk of being wiped out as long as there were dictatorial States in the Great Lakes region. For its part, his country would play its role as a central and pivotal State in international strategies aimed at stabilizing the region. With the establishment of new institutions, the Congolese people were counting on the international community’s continued support and the future Congolese Government would begin a discussion with the United Nations on that partnership. The international community was invited to continue to provide assistance, including in such areas as security sector reform, the continuation of disarmament programmes, good governance and development, in order for the people to fully benefit from the peace dividends.



He said he was encouraged by the Union’s renewed commitment in that respect. The international community should also continue to help the country in tackling the challenges facing the country, including the illegal exploitation of natural resources and illicit arms trafficking in the region. He paid tribute to the EUFOR personnel for their professionalism. EUFOR’s military officials had returned home at the scheduled time with the confidence of having completed their mission. The Democratic Republic of the Congo today was beginning a new phase with the establishment of democratically elected institutions. Challenges remained, however, and the international community’s continued support was crucial. The international community had not only the opportunity but also the duty not to commit errors of the past, namely a hasty withdrawal. Building on the momentum achieved, the international community should consider the future of his country -- the spearhead of the African renaissance, where peace, justice and stability would prevail.



Briefly responding to questions and comments, Mr. SOLANA said it was true that the vocation of the European Union was to act in accordance with others. Of course, sometimes it had to act alone. It had acted in concert with the African Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the United Nations.



To another question, he said that the battleground force was well prepared for rapid and efficient operations, which could open the way for others to follow. He felt that good lessons could be drawn from the way the European Union force had been structured and organized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and more would be learned in the future, which could serve other parts of Africa, particularly Darfur.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8936.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 10 2007, 03:21 PM
Security Council

5617th Meeting (PM)



SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS UNITED NATIONS OPERATION, SUPPORTING FRENCH FORCES


IN CÔTE D’IVOIRE UNTIL 30 JUNE, UNANIMOUSLY ADOPTING RESOLUTION 1739 (2007)


Seriously concerned about the persistent crisis and deteriorating situation in Côte d’Ivoire, including the large-scale civilian suffering and displacement, the Security Council today extended until 30 June the mandates of the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces which support it, and expressed its intention to review their mandates by that date, including their length and troop levels, in light of progress achieved towards peace.



Unanimously adopting resolution 1739 (2007) under Chapter VII, the Council, having taken note of the latest report of the Secretary-General on the situation, in which he said that some of the Ivorian parties were pursuing actions that could lead to widespread violence, decided to adjust certain terms of UNOCI’s mandate from the date of adoption of today’s text. (For background, see Press Release SC/8903 of 15 December 2006.)



Under the terms of the resolution, UNOCI would monitor the cessation of hostilities and movements of armed groups. In particular, it would observe and monitor the implementation of the joint declaration of the end of the war of 6 April 2005 and the comprehensive ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003, to prevent, within its capabilities and areas of deployment, any hostile action and investigate violations of the ceasefire.



Among its other tasks, UNOCI would liaise with the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire and the Forces Nouvelles, in order to promote the re-establishment of trust among all the Ivorian forces, and assist the Government in monitoring the borders, with particular attention to the situation of Liberian refugees and any cross-border movement of combatants. It would also assist the Government in regrouping all the Ivorian forces involved and assist in ensuring the security of their disarmament, cantonment and demobilization sites.



UNOCI would also coordinate closely with the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in the implementation of a voluntary repatriation and resettlement programme for foreign ex-combatants, paying special attention to the specific needs of women and children. It would secure, neutralize or destroy any weapons, ammunition or any other military materiel surrendered by the former combatants.



Its tasks would also involve, among other things, security sector reform; protection of United Nations personnel and institutions; provision of security for members of the Ivorian Government; monitoring of the arms embargo; support for humanitarian assistance; support for the redeployment of State administration; support for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections; assistance in the field of human rights; public information; and law and order.



The meeting began at 12:56 p.m. and adjourned at 1 p.m.



Resolution



The full text of resolution 1739 (2007) reads as follows:



“The Security Council,



“Recalling its previous resolutions and the statements of its President relating to the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, in particular its resolution 1721 (2006) on the transition period leading to the holding of free, open, fair and transparent elections in Côte d’Ivoire by 31 October 2007,



“Recalling also its resolution 1712 (2006) relating to the situation in Liberia,



“Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and unity of Côte d’Ivoire, and recalling the importance of the principles of good-neighbourliness, non-interference and regional cooperation,



“Having taken note of the report of the Secretary-General dated 4 December 2006 (S/2006/939),



“Reaffirming its support to the United Nations Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI) and the French forces which support it,



“Expressing its serious concern at the persistence of the crisis and the deterioration of the situation in Côte d’Ivoire, including its grave humanitarian consequences causing large-scale civilian suffering and displacement,



“Determining that the situation in Côte d’Ivoire continues to pose a threat to international peace and security in the region,



“Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,



“1. Decides that the mandates of UNOCI and of the French forces which support it, determined respectively in paragraphs 2 and 8 below, shall be extended until 30 June 2007, and expresses its intention to review by this date their mandates, including their length, and UNOCI’s level of troops, in the light of the progress achieved in the implementation of the peace process as referred to in resolution 1721 (2006);



“2. Decides that UNOCI shall have the following mandate from the date of adoption of this resolution:



a) Monitoring of the cessation of hostilities and movements of armed groups



- To observe and monitor the implementation of the joint declaration of the end of the war of 6 April 2005 and of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement of 3 May 2003, to prevent, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, any hostile action, and to investigate violations of the ceasefire,



- To liaise with the National Armed Forces of Côte d’Ivoire (FANCI) and the military elements of the Forces Nouvelles in order to promote, in coordination with the French forces, the re-establishment of trust among all the Ivorian forces involved,

- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in monitoring the borders, with particular attention to the situation of Liberian refugees and to any cross-border movement of combatants,



cool.gif Disarmament, demobilization, reintegration, repatriation and resettlement



- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in undertaking the regrouping of all the Ivorian forces involved and to assist in ensuring the security of their disarmament, cantonment and demobilization sites,



- To support the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, within UNOCI’s current capacities, in the implementation of the national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants, including through logistical support, in particular for the preparation of cantonment sites, paying special attention to the specific needs of women and children,



- To coordinate closely with the United Nations mission in Liberia (UNMIL) in the implementation of a voluntary repatriation and resettlement programme for foreign ex-combatants, paying special attention to the specific needs of women and children, in support of the efforts of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and in cooperation with the Governments concerned, relevant international financial institutions, international development organizations and donor nations,



- To ensure that the national programme for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants and that the voluntary repatriation and resettlement programme for foreign ex-combatants take into account the need for a coordinated regional approach,



- To secure, neutralize or destroy any weapons, ammunition or any other military materiel surrendered by the former combatants,



c) Disarmament and dismantling of militias



- To assist the Prime Minister in formulating and implementing the programme for the immediate disarmament and dismantling of militias consistent with paragraph 12 of resolution 1721 (2006), and to monitor its implementation,



- To secure, neutralize or destroy all weapons, ammunition and other military materiel surrendered by militias,



d) Operations of identification of the population and registration of voters



- To contribute, in close liaison with the working group mentioned in paragraph 17 of resolution 1721 (2006), to the security of the operations of identification of the population and registration of voters, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment,



e) Reform of the security sector



- To assist, in close liaison with the working group mentioned in paragraph 15 of resolution 1721 (2006), in formulating a plan on the restructuring of the Defence and Security Forces and in preparing possible seminars on security sector reform to be organized by the African Union and ECOWAS,



f) Protection of United Nations personnel, institutions and civilians



- To protect United Nations personnel, installations and equipment, ensure the security and freedom of movement of United Nations personnel and, without prejudice to the responsibility of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire, to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment,



- To support, in coordination with the Prime Minister, the provision of security for members of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire,



g) Monitoring of the arms embargo



- To monitor the implementation of the measures imposed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 (2004), in cooperation with the Group of Experts established under resolution 1584 (2005) and, as appropriate, with UNMIL and Governments concerned, including by inspecting, as they deem it necessary and without notice, the cargo of aircraft and of any transport vehicle using the ports, airports, airfields, military bases and border crossings of Côte d’Ivoire,



- To collect, as appropriate, arms and any related materiel brought into Côte d’Ivoire in violation of the measures imposed by paragraph 7 of resolution 1572 (2004), and to dispose of such arms and related materiel as appropriate,



h) Support for humanitarian assistance



- To facilitate the free flow of people, goods and humanitarian assistance, inter alia, by helping to establish the necessary security conditions and taking into account the special needs of vulnerable groups, especially women, children and elderly people,



i) Support for the redeployment of State administration



- To facilitate, with the assistance of the African Union, ECOWAS and other international partners, the re-establishment by the Government of Côte d’Ivoire of the authority of the State throughout Côte d’Ivoire and of the institutions and public services essential for the social and economic recovery of the country,



j) Support for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections



- To provide all necessary technical assistance to the Prime Minister, his Government, the Independent Electoral Commission and other relevant agencies or institutes, with the support of the African Union, ECOWAS and other international partners, for the organization of open, free, fair and transparent elections, presidential and legislative, by 31 October 2007 at the latest, as referred to in resolution 1721 (2006),



- To provide technical information, advice and assistance as appropriate to the High Representative for the Elections,



- To contribute, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, to the security of the areas where voting is to take place,



- To provide as necessary, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment, in close cooperation with the United Nations Programme for Development, logistical support for the Independent Electoral Commission, in particular for the transportation of electoral material,



k) Assistance in the field of human rights



- To contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, with special attention to violence committed against children and women, to monitor and help investigate human rights violations with a view to ending impunity, and to keep the Security Council Committee established pursuant to paragraph 14 of resolution 1572 (2004) (the Committee) regularly informed of developments in this regard,



l) Public information



- To promote the peace process as referred to in resolution 1721 (2006) throughout the territory of Côte d’Ivoire, through the Mission’s public information capacity, in particular its radio broadcasting capability through ONUCI FM,



- To monitor the Ivorian mass media, in particular with regard to any incidents of incitement by the media to hatred, intolerance and violence, and to keep the Committee regularly informed of the situation in this regard,



m) Law and order



- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in conjunction with the African Union, ECOWAS and other international organizations in restoring a civilian policing presence throughout Côte d’Ivoire, and to advise the Government of Côte d’Ivoire on the restructuring of the internal security services,



- To assist the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in conjunction with the African Union, ECOWAS and other international organizations in re-establishing the authority of the judiciary and the rule of law throughout Côte d’Ivoire,



- To support the Government of Côte d’Ivoire in ensuring the neutrality and impartiality of public media by providing, as necessary, security of the premises of the Radio Télévision Ivoirienne (RTI);



“3. Decides to extend the provisions of paragraph 3 of resolution 1609 (2005) and of paragraph 2 of resolution 1682 (2006) for the period specified in paragraph 1 above;



“4. Reaffirms its intention to authorize the Secretary-General to redeploy on a temporary basis troops between UNMIL and UNOCIas may be needed, in consultation with the Governments concerned and relevant troop-contributing countries, in accordance with the provisions of resolution 1609 (2005);



“5. Authorizes UNOCI to use all necessary means to carry out its mandate, within its capabilities and its areas of deployment;



“6. Requests UNOCI to carry out its mandate in close liaison with UNMIL, including especially in the prevention of movements of arms and combatants across shared borders and the implementation of disarmament and demobilization programmes;



“7. Urges UNOCI to take into accountthe rights of women and of gender considerations as set out in Security Council resolution 1325 as a cross-cutting issue, including through consultation with local and international women's group, and requests the Secretary-General, where appropriate, to include in his reporting to the Security Council progress on gender mainstreaming throughout UNOCI and all other aspects relating to the situation of women and girls, especially in relation to the need to protect them from gender-based violence;



“8. Authorizes from the date of adoption of this resolution the French forces to use all necessary means in order to support UNOCI in accordance with the agreement reached between UNOCI and the French authorities, and in particular to:



a) Contribute to the general security of the area of activity of the impartial forces,



cool.gif Intervene at the request of UNOCI in support of its elements whose security may be threatened,



c) In consultation with UNOCI, intervene against belligerent actions, if the security conditions so require, outside UNOCI’s areas of deployment,



d) Help to protect civilians, in the deployment areas of their units,



e) Contribute to monitoring the arms embargo established by resolution 1572 (2004),



f) Contribute to the drawing up ofa plan on the restructuring of the Defence and Security Forces and to the preparation of possible seminars on security sector reform to be organized by the African Union and ECOWAS;



“9. Calls upon all parties to cooperate fully in the deployment and operations of UNOCI and of the French forces which support it, in particular by guaranteeing their safety, security and freedom of movement with unhindered and immediate access, as well as associated personnel, throughout the territory of Côte d’Ivoire, to enable them to carry out fully their mandates;



“10. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8937.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 24 2007, 02:24 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



Good afternoon, all.



**Secretary-General’s Trip



As you already know, the Secretary-General leaves later today on a seven-nation trip to Europe and Africa.



To recap, he has meetings lined up with European Union, European Parliament and European Commission officials in Brussels as well as senior representatives of NATO and the Belgian government, as well as the King.



Then in Paris, he participates in the International Conference on Support for reconstruction and development of Lebanon, hosted by President Jacques Chirac.



During his visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), he will meet with President Joseph Kabila and other senior government officials, address the National Assembly, and meet with peacekeepers and staff of the UN’s largest mission. A trip to Kisangani is scheduled, as is a brief visit across the river to Brazzaville to meet with President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.



From DRC, he travels to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit where he will address the opening session and hold a series of bilateral meetings. He ends his Africa visit with a stop in Nairobi, where he will meet with the Kenyan President and the staff of UN headquarters on the continent.



From Kenya, the Secretary-General travels to the Netherlands, where he will visit the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in The Hague. He will meet with Queen Beatrix as well as the Dutch Prime Minister and senior officials.



From The Hague, he flies to Washington, D.C. for a meeting of the Middle East Quartet. That’s it for the trip.



**Statement on Lebanon



Now a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:



“The Secretary-General is following closely current developments in Lebanon. He is greatly concerned that the political dispute in Lebanon has resulted in confrontation in the streets, reportedly leading to injuries and loss of life.



“On the eve of his departure to the Paris III conference on Lebanon, the Secretary-General reiterates the support of the United Nations for the stability, sovereignty, security and independence of Lebanon. It is essential that all parties within Lebanon work through the democratic process and return to dialogue as a means of addressing their political differences.”



** Lebanon Update



Some other information on Lebanon, the Office of Geir Pedersen, the Secretary-General’s Personal Representative for Lebanon, reports that the Beirut airport has been cut off during the recent demonstrations and for the moment is effectively closed. Many roads -- within and around Beirut and in other parts of Lebanon -- have been cut off by blockades, including those involving burning tires and old cars. The office also is monitoring reports of clashes between different factions, mostly north of Beirut.



I’ve been asked in recent days, meanwhile, about the Israeli overflights of Lebanon. In accordance with its standard procedures, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon protests each overflight to the Israeli authorities as a violation of the Blue Line. There were seven such flights recorded yesterday.



Sill on Lebanon, serious environmental challenges are confronting Lebanon as a result of the recent conflict there, according to a report launched today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).



For example, many bombed and burnt-out factories and industrial complexes are contaminated with a variety of toxic substances, such as ash and leaked chemicals. Urgent action is needed to remove and safely dispose of such substances amid concerns that they are threatening water supplies and public health.



**Security Council



The Security Council began its work today by holding consultations on peacebuilding, with a briefing by the head of the UN Peacebuilding Support Office, Carolyn McAskie. The Council intends to hold a public meeting to discuss peace-building issues further on 31 January.



Once consultations end, the Security Council expects to hold a formal meeting to vote on a draft resolution concerning the establishment, for 12 months, of a UN political mission in Nepal. Council members discussed the draft text of the Nepal resolution in consultations yesterday afternoon.



The members of the Security Council will also hold their first monthly luncheon with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today.



** Iraq



Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned in the strongest terms the two bombings at the Bab al-Shargi district in Baghdad on Monday. He said that the bombings, which caused the death and injury of more than 200 innocent civilians, were shocking.



These deplorable outrages again underscore the urgent need for all Iraqis to reject violence and together choose the path of peace and reconciliation, Qazi said. We have his full statement upstairs.



**Kosovo



Many of you have been asking about Kosovo, and about when Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s status proposal will be presented.



We’ve just been told that, as a first step, Ahtisaari will share his proposal this Friday with the Kosovo Contact Group in Vienna. You’ll recall that the Contact Group includes representatives from the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Russia.



** Iran



The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that it is discussing with Iran its request for withdrawing the designation of certain safeguards inspectors.



It should be noted however, that there are a sufficient number of inspectors designated for Iran, and the IAEA is able to perform its inspection activities in accordance with Iran's Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement. It issued a statement on this yesterday.



**UN Refugee Agency



UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, reports that, early this morning, 17 Palestinian men living in Baghdad were taken away by men dressed in Iraqi security force uniforms and driving security vehicles. UNHCR is very concerned and is seeking further information.



Meanwhile, in western Algeria today, UNHCR and the World Food Programme (WFP) started a 12-day mission to Sahrawi refugee camps to assess the dire food and nutrition situation there, in view of a recent disruption in the food pipeline. You can read more on these items in UNHCR’s briefing Notes, which we have upstairs.



**Climate Change



The first of four installments of a major scientific assessment on climate change will be released next Friday, 2 February, in Paris, by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.



The first part of the report, which is based on the contributions of more than 2,500 scientists from 130 countries, will look at the current science behind climate change, provide data on observed changes, and offer predictions for the future. The report is the fourth such assessment by the Panel and its first in six years. More information is available in a media advisory available in my office.



**Bird Flu



The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today expressed concern about new flare-ups of bird flu in China, Egypt, Indonesia, Japan, Nigeria, the Republic of Korea, Thailand and Viet Nam. But it stressed that the number of outbreaks in the first weeks of 2007 had been significantly lower than the epidemic waves of last year. We have a press release on that also in my Office.



**International Court of Justice



The International Court of Justice today gave its decision on the request for provisional measures submitted by Uruguay against Argentina in the case concerning the pulp mills on the River Uruguay.



In their ruling, a majority of ICJ judges found that the circumstances, as they now present themselves to the Court, do not require the exercise of its power.



** Sierra Leone Court



The Special Court for Sierra Leone has scheduled a status conference in its case against former Liberian President Charles Taylor for January 26th on the premises of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

And to update you on the preparations for the start of the Taylor trial, Stephen Rapp, the Court’s newly-appointed Chief Prosecutor, will be our guest at the noon briefing on January 30.



**UNDP



David Morrison from UNDP took your questions outside of the room yesterday but some of our correspondents did not have an opportunity to hear his statements on UNTV. He will be available again a little later in the week, here on the podium, to take your questions if you have them.



**Announcement



And in response to your request for further details on the Secretary-General’s initiative to review the activities of UN funds and programmes, we have arranged for a senior UN official to brief you on Friday.



That’s all I have for you.



**Questions and Answers



Question: I assume now that the Secretary-General will not meet with Mr. Ahtisaari as was previously announced?



Spokesperson: Yes, he will.



Question: Where? When?



Spokesperson: He will meet him in Paris.



Question: So, Mr. Ahtisaari will first fly to Paris and then go to Vienna?



Spokesperson: Yes.



Question: Number two. I also assume that the Secretary-General will meet with Ms. Carla Del Ponte, the Chief Prosecutor of the ICTY. In that light, what is his position on her request not to close the Tribunal’s doors before the so-called “big fish” –- namely Karadzic and Mladic – stand trial in The Hague? What is his position on the [completion] strategy?



Spokesperson: Well, at this point, as you know, the Tribunal has until 2008. We are not there yet, so we don’t know who will come in front of the Tribunal. We’ll have more on that certainly…you’ll have more information about it soon. About your first question, concerning Mr. Ahtisaari, he plans to travel on February 2nd to Belgrade and Pristina to officially present his proposal to both sides. He will then wait for feedback from both parties before sending the proposal on to the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General will then transmit the report to the Security Council, and then it will be up to the Council to decide when it wants to consider Kosovo. So that, more or less, is the road map.



Question: Does that mean that some type of open ended conference in Vienna will be running during that time – starting this Friday and continuing until sometime after February 2nd – waiting for the results from Pristina and Belgrade?



Spokesperson: No, there won’t be a conference. But Mr. Ahtisaari will be getting the feedback and feeding it through…



Question: Will that be in Vienna?



Spokesperson: I don’t know where yet. I don’t know where he will go from there.



Question: During his meeting with Lebanese leader [Fouad] Sinora, will Ban Ki-moon discuss a tribunal or a new expanded mandate for UNIFIL? What kind of discussions will be on the table?



Spokesperson: We expect all these issues to be discussed in bilaterals, but as you know, the conference itself, which will be presided over by President Jacques Chirac, is on the reconstruction of Lebanon, with a specific project on the table for the donors. But I’m sure all those issues will be evoked in the different meetings that the Secretary-General will have during the bilaterals at that conference.



Question: Will Ban Ki-moon raise with Mr. Sinora the question of why most of the aid that has been pumped into Lebanon has not reached the people most affected by the recent conflict? Up to now, billions of dollars have been pumped into the country but none of it has reached the people in the villages and towns of the south, where most of the aggression took place.



Spokesperson: He will be raising as many issues as he can on Lebanon.



Question: You brought up the UNHCR trip to western Algeria to look at the break in the food pipeline. Are they going to issue a statement or report at some point?



Spokesperson: Most probably, yes.



Question: Is it going to be issued here, or..?



Spokesperson: Well, as soon as we get it, we’ll tell you about it.



Question: Is the Secretary-General still hoping to meet with the Sudanese President on the sideline of the AU Summit? Does he expect significant progress on the peacekeeping mission in Darfur on this trip – or perhaps even a breakthrough?



Spokesperson: Yes, he is going to meet with President Al-Bashir. He has already spoken to him on the phone. So they will be meeting in a bilateral meeting at the AU Summit. I cannot say what progress will be announced, but the Secretary-General is hoping to see the whole Darfur issue move forward.



Question: On Lebanon, in previous statements, the Secretary-General had been keen to mention his support for the Lebanese Government. In this statement, the Government is not mentioned. Can you elaborate on that? Was this for any particular reason?



Spokesperson: Well, Prime Minister Sinora’s Government is the democratically elected Government of the country, and the Secretary-General supports the democratic process in Lebanon. We think it is important that on Lebanon, we have all agreed, several times, that all Lebanese communities need to be represented and feel represented in the Government. We continue to call on all parties to return to the table of national dialogue and work toward national reconciliation. That would be the statement.



Question: Does the Secretary-General see a direct link between the timing of the pre-planned donor meeting and the demonstrations, strikes and unrest right now in Lebanon?



Spokesperson: Well, all I can tell you is that the Secretary-General is going to the meeting, and we hope that the people who are now in Lebanon will be able to make it to the meeting.



Question: You mean…



Spokesperson: Prime Minister Sinora and Geir Pedersen are both in Beirut right now and cannot get out at this point.



Question: Does he expect to also meet with members of the opposition who don’t recognize the legitimacy of the Sinora Government?



Spokesperson: This is what Geir Pedersen, who is the Special Representative, is doing. And Mr. Pedersen will meet with the Secretary-General, and he will be at the reconstruction conference, so I’m sure he will be relaying to Secretary-General Ban, the results of his contacts.



Question: But does he see a direct link between the timing of those two events?



Spokesperson: He has expressed no opinion on this.



Question: A follow-up on Darfur: the Secretary-General has said that it’s one of his top priorities. What will he specifically be taking to President Al-Bashir?



Spokesperson: Well, as you know, there is a UN-AU plan – clearly expressed in phases – for Darfur. This is still on the table and being discussed. And I think what we’re going to see is how fast the different phases can be implemented.



Question: Secondly, Sudan is a candidate for the Presidency of the AU, and some are suggesting that that should be opposed with the conflict going on. Is that something that the Secretary-General would take a position on?



Spokesperson: No. That is something the AU members will take a decision on.



Question: Michèle, do you have a day-by-day itinerary for the Secretary-General’s trip? In particular, what are the exact dates of the Lebanon reconstruction conference in Paris?



Spokesperson: The reconstruction conference is on Thursday in Paris. The Secretary-General will first go to Brussels to meet different officials there…



Question: Yes, but do you have it in writing, or in the form of a bulletin that we can have?



Spokesperson: We’ll try to get you more details.



Question: The Doha Round of World Trade discussions have been at an impasse for a long time now over the issue of agricultural subsidies, and there are indications that they may resume. Is the Secretary-General encouraging their speedy resumption?



Spokesperson: Oh, definitely. He has talked about the Doha Round and he has spoken in favour of the resumption of those talks, yes, he has.



Question: The Lebanese Government now does not represent 50 per cent of the population. How can the donor countries -- with the United Nations encouraging them -– entrust this Government with additional loans, when, at the end of the day, the debts would be incurred by the Lebanese people, who, based on past experience, will not benefit? They have just accumulated more than $45 billion in debt – over 220 per cent of GDP -– and still they are giving them more loans. Is it for the United Nations to support meetings such as the Paris III conference?



Spokesperson: Well, the United Nations is dealing with an elected Government.



Comment: But you said yourself that it does not represent a large portion of Lebanese society.



Spokesperson: Did I say that?



Comment: That was what was extracted…



Spokesperson: I don’t think I said that.



Question: You said that all sects had to “feel represented”.



Spokesperson: Yes, I said that.



Question: So obviously, these people who are in the streets, more than 50 per cent of the Lebanese people, don’t feel they are represented there. So why would the United Nations support such a Government, which has a long history of corruption, evidently from the debt it has incurred? Do you support corrupt Governments?



Spokesperson: We are dealing with the Government that is there. If the Lebanese people want to change Governments, that’s an internal matter for the Lebanese themselves.



Question: Can we go back to Darfur? Are there any new ideas? It’s clear that the Sudanese are definitely hesitating on anything other than a little bit of logistic help. And so far, the Secretary-General/ [Jan] Eliasson plan looks like the “ Darfur light”. Is there any plan at the African Union to put pressure on Sudan’s Arab neighbours, who have been very, very silent on this peacekeeping issue?



Spokesperson: I have to say that the Secretary-General is having very wide-ranging contacts on this, Evelyn. A number of bilaterals will take place during the AU Summit and he is hoping for progress on Darfur. Now, how much progress will we have? Well, we don’t know at this point. I think you will find out as soon as we get some conclusion…he has already stated to make contacts, as I said. He spoke with President Al-Bashir. He also spoke with [African Union Commission] Chairman Konare today, and there will be a number of contacts initiated around the AU meeting and we should have more on this pretty soon.



Question: So it’s not just the Darfur light plan, but also the peace negotiations?



Spokesperson: Yes.



Question: I don’t know if anything was formally decided while I was away. On the monthly lunch today, why is there no television stakeout? There used to be. Is it that the Secretary-General doesn’t want to talk today?



Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General has a number of press briefings scheduled for the next few days, practically on an everyday basis. He is on a very tight schedule today and that’s what it is…



Question: Well, I know there’ll be briefings when he’s on the road, but…



Spokesperson: Yes. But he will certainly give a briefing when he comes back…



Question: So, it is going to be policy that he will not be doing luncheon stakeouts?



Spokesperson: No, no. It’s not policy, Richard. This is just today, which happens to be very busy for the Secretary-General.



Comment: Well, there are a lot of issues that are going on in the UN and the large-and-getting-larger UN press corps has not seen him for a while and it would not be a bad day for him to stop and talk about those issues…



Spokesperson: Yes, well, we talked a lot about those issues while you were away, and I’m sure the Secretary-General will keep on talking about them. Even if I am not here, you will have someone who will relay to you all the information we get on the road.



Question: Well, there’s a big difference between the Secretary-General and these other people. We’re talking about today. The other thing is that he had talked about the fact that he had selected a Deputy Secretary-General -– while she was interviewing him, he was interviewing her without her knowing it. I am curious: in choosing you as his Spokeswoman, when you were at UN Radio, how many times, if ever, did you interview him over the years?



Spokesperson: (laughter) No. I met with his team.



Question: But you never interviewed him?



Spokesperson: As a journalist? Yes.



Question: You did?



Spokesperson: Yes.



Question: Several times?



Spokesperson: Once.



Question: On Darfur, you were talking before about the country donations – or lack thereof – to the second phase of the Darfur package. Is there anything new on that? Are there any new contributions?



Spokesperson: No. We don’t have anything new on this.



Question: Is it basically that there is no contribution whatsoever outside the Bangladeshi contingent?



Spokesperson: No, we don’t have anything new at this point. We’ll let you know as more comes in. I just wanted to let you know that the Security Council has adjourned and the resolution on Nepal has passed. And the President of the Security Council will be at the Security Council stakeout following this briefing.



Question: In terms of new appointments or reappointments under Ban Ki-moon, has anything been done about the post of Special Envoy on UN Reform, held by Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga under Secretary-General Kofi Annan?



Spokesperson: No. There have been no appointments announced for the different SRSG [Special Representative of the Secretary-General] posts, or the USG [Under-Secretary-General], ASG [Assistant Secretary-General] posts. As you know the restructuring project is now in front of different members of the General Assembly. As long as this has not passed, there won’t be any further appointments, I don’t think. We might have some, but at this point. I don’t think we’ll have any major appointments right now.



Question: How many journalists are accompanying the Secretary-General on his trip, and how was it paid for? By the UN or through their agencies?



Spokesperson: Their agencies pay for the trip. The only thing the UN is paying for is their transportation from Paris through Africa and back to Amsterdam. And there are 22 journalists going with the Secretary-General.



Question: And the UN pays for that?



Spokesperson: No, the UN does not pay for that.



Question: Well, the UN pays for their travel from Paris through…



Spokesperson: It’s a UN plane. They pay for their hotels and all other incidentals.



Any other questions? Thank you very much.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070123.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 25 2007, 03:54 PM
Security Council

5624th Meeting* (AM)



world community cannot afford another year like 2006 in middle east,


Says Under-Secretary-General, briefing Security Council




Ibrahim Gambari Says Recent Months Marked by Instability, Suffering,

Combined with Renewed International Urgency to Find Political Way Forward



Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, briefed the Security Council this morning, saying, “None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East.”



The period since the former Secretary-General’s final report to the Council in early December, he continued, had been marked by heightened levels of instability and suffering, combined with a renewed sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead. Underscoring the “clear priority” of a resumed political process between Israel and the Palestinians, he said solutions were urgently needed also to the political impasses among the Palestinians and in Lebanon. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had encouraged leaders in both contexts to overcome their difficulties and move forward in the best interests of their people.



For many Lebanese, ugly spectres of the past had again begun to emerge, he said, stressing the shared responsibility of all sides to resolve their political differences peacefully through the democratic process in order to spare their populations further anxiety, insecurity and turmoil. The Secretary-General was attending today’s “Paris III” Conference, where he would reiterate strong support for Lebanon and urge redoubled efforts by all sides to return to dialogue and break the paralysing political impasse.



Noting that the demonstrations starting in Beirut on 1 December had been largely peaceful until 23 January, he said events two days ago had shown how easily political tensions could spill over into violence. There was great concern regarding those risks and their effect on Lebanon’s stability and security. The United Nations remained in contact with all parties encouraging an early return to dialogue and supported continuing efforts, including those of the League of Arab States, to bring the leaders to compromise and consensus.



General stability had returned to southern Lebanon due to the deployment of the enhanced United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which continued to enjoy a high level of cooperation, he said. The Lebanese Army was playing a crucial role in the south, in Beirut and elsewhere in the country, which underscored the importance of timely support for the army, as promised by the international community.



While UNIFIL also continued to maintain good relations with the Israel Defense Forces, that country’s violations of Lebanese airspace continued, he said. Civilians continued to be killed and injured by the cluster munitions dropped on Lebanon during last year’s conflict. The United Nations was continuing to identify and remove unexploded ordnance in the south, and at least 840 individual cluster strike locations had been identified to date, each containing up to hundreds of individual bomblets or sub-munitions.



Turning to Israeli-Palestinian developments, he said both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had been working hard to ease tensions and move towards resuming political dialogue. The ceasefire in Gaza, agreed to at the end of November, remained in place, although militants had fired more than 104 rockets into southern Israel in the past two months, according to Israeli officials. To its credit, the Israeli Government had shown considerable restraint in the face of those attacks.



However, the ceasefire had not been extended to the West Bank and operations to arrest or kill wanted Palestinians continued regularly, he said. During the reporting period, 28 Palestinians had been killed and more than 130 injured in Israeli military operations, while 10 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian militants. Egypt continued to lead efforts for the release of the Israeli corporal captured last summer and of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, but they had yet to yield results.



Nevertheless, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had met on 23 December and agreed to revive the joint committees established in the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings, he said. The Prime Minister had also undertaken to transfer to the President’s office $100 million of the more than half a billion dollars withheld by Israel; to intensify the upgrading of crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel; and to ease checkpoint procedures in the West Bank while removing a number of roadblocks. However, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had reported only a modest easing in the operation of a few West Bank checkpoints and the anticipated removal of roadblocks had yet to be observed.



Furthermore, the Government of Israel had approved the repopulation of a settlement deep in the Jordan Valley, in violation of the Road Map, he said. While that decision had been put on hold after international protests, settlement activity continued, and the number of West Bank settlers, excluding those in East Jerusalem, had increased by nearly 6 per cent since 2005. Moreover, the Government’s pledges to remove outposts remained unfulfilled, and the construction of the barrier on the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued, despite the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice.



He said the evolving Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was complicated by the internal political situation in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory, where factional tensions had risen to acute levels in mid-December and early January, and Israel. A total of 43 people had been killed in Palestinian-on-Palestinian conflict during the reporting period, nearly double the number killed by Israeli military operations. In Israel, political scandals and other developments underscored the coalition Government’s difficulties in forging and implementing a clear agenda. The Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff had resigned and an official inquiry into the conduct of last summer’s conflict with Hizbollah continued.



Reporting on regional and international engagement in the region, he noted that the United States Secretary of State had recently announced her commitment to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the importance of a revitalized Quartet. The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy had visited the region last week and the Secretary-General would attend a meeting of the Quartet Principals ( United Nations, United States, European Union and the Russian Federation) on 2 February in Washington, D.C. In addition, the Government of Syria had called publicly for resumed negotiations with Israel, while, on 16 January, the Israeli press had published understandings for a peace agreement between the two countries, arrived at through a private initiative. However, both Governments had strongly denied any official connection.



Prospects for a wider regional dialogue must be cautiously monitored and the door should remain open to discussions that might lead towards a wider, regional and comprehensive peace, he stressed. The Secretary-General had discussed with many interlocutors both the existing opportunities to make genuine strides towards peace and the very real obstacles that must be overcome. He considered next week’s Quartet meeting as an important opportunity to chart a way towards revitalizing the peace process and implementing all relevant Security Council resolutions.



The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:30 a.m.



Briefing Summary



Briefing the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, IBRAHIM GAMBARI, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said that, since former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s briefing in December 2006, there had been a period of heightened levels of instability and suffering, combined with a renewed sense of international urgency to find a political way ahead. In addition to senior-level contacts at the international level and the proposed meeting of the Quartet for 2 February in Washington, D.C., as well as a possible tripartite meeting of President Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, he was also encouraged by reports that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni would be meeting President Abbas in Davos. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council had also been engaged in the search for a renewed and credible dialogue towards a resolution of that intractable conflict.



He said that both President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had been working hard to try to ease tensions and move towards a resumption of political dialogue. The ceasefire agreed at the end of November in Gaza remained in place, although, according to Israeli officials, militants had fired more than 104 rockets into southern Israel during the past two months. In the face of those attacks, the Israeli Government, to its credit, had shown considerable restraint. Despite its flaws, the ceasefire had significantly reduced violence, and he encouraged the parties to build on it. However, it had not extended to the West Bank, where operations to arrest or kill wanted Palestinians continued on a regular basis in West Bank population centres. During the reporting period, 28 Palestinians were killed and more than 130 had been injured in Israeli military operations, while 10 Israelis had been injured by Palestinian militants.



Efforts led by Egypt were continuing on an arrangement to secure the release of the Israeli corporal captured last summer and of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, but those had yet to yield results, he noted. Nevertheless, President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert had met on 23 December 2006 in Jerusalem, where they had agreed to revive the joint committees established in the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings and to resume the work of the quadripartite security committee between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the United States. Prime Minister Olmert had also undertaken to transfer to the Office of President Abbas $100 million of the more than a half billion dollars of Palestinian clearance revenues being withheld by Israel; to intensify efforts to upgrade the crossings between the Gaza Strip and Israel; and to ease procedures at a number of checkpoints in the West Bank and remove several roadblocks.



He said that implementation of those understandings had proceeded slowly. Israel, in the past few days, had transferred the $100 million. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs had reported a modest easing of the operation of a few West Bank checkpoints, but the anticipated removal of roadblocks had yet to be observed. Access and movement should be improved. During the first 16 days of 2007, the average exports out of Karni stood at approximately 46 trucks a day. That represented an improving trend, but still reflected only 11 per cent of the target of 400 per day. He encouraged further progress in the regard. In the same period, Rafah had been opened primarily for pilgrims for only 32 per cent of the scheduled opening hours. Finally, there had been no discernable improvement in movement for Palestinians in the West Bank. According to OCHA, the number of barriers currently on the ground -- 527 -- represented a 25 per cent increase over the course of 2006.



The Government of Israel had approved the repopulation of a settlement deep in the Jordan Valley by 30 families evacuated from Gaza in 2005; such a relocation was in violation of the Road Map, he said. The decision was to put that on hold after international protests, but settlement activity continued, and the number of West Bank settlers, excluding in East Jerusalem, had increased by nearly 6 per cent since 2005. Moreover, the Government’s pledges to remove outposts remained unfulfilled, and the construction of the barrier on the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued, despite the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice. The evolving Israeli-Palestinian dialogue was complicated by the internal political situation in both the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel.



In the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said, the pendulum had swung between worsening civil conflict and renewed efforts to forge national unity. Factional tension had risen to acute levels in mid-December and again in early January. Deplorable incidents had included: the killing of three children as they were being taken to school; a shootout between gunmen at the Rafah terminal as Prime Minister Haniyeh returned from a regional tour; and a siege on the home of an official in Gaza, killing the official and several others. In total, 43 had been killed in Palestinian-on-Palestinian internal conflict during the reporting period -- nearly double the number killed by Israeli military operations.



He said that internal violence had been accompanied by heightened and negative political rhetoric and threats, and strengthening of factional forces. President Abbas had announced that the Hamas-affiliated Executive Special Force, under the Ministry of Interior, was illegal unless immediately integrated into existing security services. Tensions had also flared in late December, and the President had called for early presidential and parliamentary elections unless agreement was reached on a National Unity Government. Nevertheless, each time factional fighting had threatened to spin out of control, President Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh had reached understandings to de-escalate tensions.



Efforts to form a Palestinian National Unity Government had resumed, involving dialogue in Gaza, as well as in Damascus, he continued. It appeared the main issues of disagreement were over control of the interior ministry and the strength of the language concerning the commitment to Arab and international resolutions. While refusing to countenance recognition of Israel, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashal recently told news outlets that Israel’s existence was a reality and that, with the formation of a Palestinian State on the 4 June 1967 borders, “‘there will remain a State called Israel, this is a matter of fact’”.



He said that President Abbas had recently met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and subsequently met Khaled Mashal. A joint statement issued after that meeting had stated that progress had been made towards a National Unity Government; the leaders had called for an end to internal fighting. The statement had also rejected the concept of an interim Palestinian State with provisional borders. President Abbas had subsequently reaffirmed that early elections remained on the table if a National Unity Government was not formed.



On the Israeli side, he said that several political scandals and other developments had underscored the difficulties the Coalition Government was facing in forging and implementing a clear agenda. The Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, Dan Halutz, resigned, and an official inquiry into the conduct of last summer’s war with Hizbollah continued. The campaign for Labour Party Chairman, the junior coalition partner, was under way in preparation for primaries in May. Several senior ministers had discussed publicly their views and plans on how to carry forward a political process. That had highlighted both a growing Israeli interest in addressing the conflict through negotiations and internal divisions over how to do so.



He reported that regional and international leaders had intensified their engagement in the Israeli-Palestinian arena. There had been consultations among several countries in the region, and the Syrian Government had publicly called in recent months for a resumption of talks with Israel. On 16 January, the Israeli press published understandings for a peace agreement between Israel and Syria, which had been arrived at through a private initiative. However, both Governments had strongly denied any official connection with that initiative.



It was exactly one year today since Palestinian legislative elections had brought the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to power, leading to a reassessment of donor programmes and the cessation of financial transfers by Israel. However, international aid to the Palestinians had actually increased, except that it was mostly bypassing the Palestinian Government. Total assistance to Palestinians last year -- not including funds channelled to the Palestinian Authority Government or Hamas by regional donors -- had been some $1.2 billion, which represented a nearly 10 per cent increase over 2005. Humanitarian assistance alone had doubled since 2004, taking mainly the form of food aid and cash-for-work programmes. However, real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita had declined by at least 8 per cent in the past year, and poverty levels had increased by 30 per cent. Public institutions built up by the international community had been severely weakened by a lack of operational funds, energy shortages and military damage.



The worsening situation on the ground had underscored the limits of what international assistance could accomplish, he said. Without greater freedom of access and movement, and without a political process that was carrying the parties towards a two-State solution, the most aid could do was contain, for a limited time, the spread of grievances and instability. The experience of the past year showed that that type of investment brought rapidly diminishing returns.



Turning to Lebanon, he said that the Secretary-General was today attending the “Paris III” Conference, where he would be reiterating the United Nations strong support for Lebanon and urging redoubled efforts by all sides to return to dialogue and break the paralysing political impasse. The demonstrations that had started in Beirut on 1 December 2006 had been largely peaceful until last Tuesday, 23 January. Following a call from the opposition for a general strike, thousands of Lebanese from opposing political factions had faced each other, often violently, on the streets. Few regions of the country had been spared by the unrest that had led to at least three dead and more than 100 injured -- some very seriously. Major roads throughout the country had been effectively blocked by burning tyres and earth barriers. A tense calm had returned to Beirut yesterday, following the decision by the opposition to suspend the strike, but tensions remained high. However, the opposition had stated that further escalation would occur unless the Government acceded to its demands.



He said that general stability had returned to southern Lebanon due to the deployment of the enhanced United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and the Lebanese Armed Forces, which continued to have a high level of cooperation. Civilians continued to be killed and injured, however, by the cluster munitions dropped on Lebanon during last year’s conflict. In December 2006, incidents led to the death of three people and the injury of 21 others, including five children and two Belgian peacekeepers. The United Nations was continuing its programme to identify and remove unexploded ordnance in southern Lebanon. As of today, at least 840 individual cluster strike locations had been identified, each strike location containing up to hundreds of individual bomblets or sub-munitions.



The Secretary-General had designated Major General Claudio Graziano of Italy as UNIFIL Force Commander to succeed Major General Alain Pellegrini, he noted. The handover ceremony was scheduled for 2 February.



“None of us can afford another year like the last one in Lebanon and the Middle East,” he stressed. Therefore, a resumed political process between Israel and the Palestinians was a clear priority. The Secretary-General encouraged the two leaders to build on their progress to date by implementing agreements and by starting to address the fundamental issues of the conflict. Solutions were urgently needed to the political impasses, both among the Palestinians and in Lebanon. The Secretary-General encouraged leaders in both contexts to overcome their differences and find a way to move forward, which served the best interests of their people. Lebanon, as its people knew all too well, could ill afford any further deterioration. For many Lebanese, ugly spectres of the past had begun to emerge. All sides had a shared responsibility to resolve their political differences through the democratic process and in a peaceful manner, in order to spare their populations further anxiety, insecurity and turmoil.



He said that prospects for a wider regional dialogue must also be cautiously monitored, and the door should remain open to discussions that might lead to a wider, regional and comprehensive peace. The Secretary-General had discussed with many interlocutors both the opportunities that now existed to make genuine strides towards peace and the very real obstacles. He considered next week’s Quartet meeting an important opportunity to chart a way forward to re-energizing the peace process and implementing all relevant Security Council resolutions.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8943.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 26 2007, 04:07 PM
Secretary-General welcomes adoption of General Assembly resolution,


Says Denial of historical facts, such as holocaust, unacceptable




The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General welcomes the adoption by the General Assembly today of a resolution unequivocally condemning any denial of the Holocaust. This reflects the prevailing view of the international community. The Secretary-General reiterates his conviction that the denial of historical facts such as the Holocaust is unacceptable. He expresses his strong desire to see this fundamental principle respected both in rhetoric and in practice.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10855.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 26 2007, 04:09 PM
Secretary-General condemns killing of Indian peacekeeper in sudan,


Demands swift investigation




The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General condemns the killing earlier today of an UNMIS Indian peacekeeper, who was shot dead by unidentified attackers when the demining team he was escorting came under fire near Magwe in Southern Sudan. Two other UNMIS Indian peacekeepers were injured in the incident.



The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the Government of India and to the family of the deceased soldier and wishes a speedy recovery to the injured. He demands a swift investigation into this incident and calls on all Sudanese parties to fully cooperate with the United Nations.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10856.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 29 2007, 05:23 PM
SECRETARY-GENERAL DESCRIBES ‘USEFUL AND CONSTRUCTIVE’ DISCUSSION WITH SUDAN’S


PRESIDENT, STRESSES URGENCY OF RE-ENERGIZED POLITICAL PROCESS IN DARFUR


The following statement by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was issued today by his Spokesperson:



I met with President Omer Al-Bashir of the Sudan for about one and half hours to discuss in a useful and constructive manner political and security developments in the Sudan and in particular in Darfur.



We agreed to accelerate joint African Union-United Nations efforts for the political process and the preparation for a peacekeeping mission, based on the Abuja and Addis Ababa agreements. He reiterated his Government’s commitment to implement these agreements.



I reiterated the UN’s strong commitment to the political process in the Sudan, emphasizing the centrality of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and the importance of its timely and effective implementation.



I expressed my deep concerns over the continuing violence and deteriorating human rights situation in Darfur, which afflicts millions of people. I urged President Al-Bashir, as I urge all parties, to cease hostilities, as an essential foundation for a successful peace process and humanitarian access. President Al-Bashir agreed to facilitate such access and expressed willingness to cooperate with international efforts towards that end.



I stressed the urgency of a re-energized political process in Darfur. In that context, I informed President Al-Bashir that I had agreed with Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare on a joint mission of my Special Envoy Jan Eliasson and African Union Envoy Salim A. Salim to Khartoum and Darfur in early February to support peacemaking efforts. President Al-Bashir welcomed this mission.



I recalled my letter of 24 January, presenting the heavy support package for peacekeeping agreed with the African Union. I look forward to a prompt and positive answer to this joint proposal. This will pave the way for the early deployment of a hybrid mission.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10858.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Jan 30 2007, 06:42 PM
Security Council

5626th Meeting* (AM)



Security Council extends Ethiopia and Eritrea mission until 31 July 2007,


Unanimously adopting resolution 1741 (2007)




Demands: Ethiopia Accept Boundary Decision; Eritrea Withdraw Troops

From Temporary Security Zone, Lift Restrictions on United Nations Movement



The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) for six months, until 31 July 2007.



It took that action by its unanimous adoption of resolution 1741 (2007), by which it also approved the reconfiguration of UNMEE’s military component, from the current 2,300 to 1,700 military personnel, including 230 military observers. The Council decided also to maintain the Mission’s current mandate and maximum authorized force levels and stressed the need to preserve sufficient military capacity for UNMEE to implement its mandate.



The Council reiterated its demand that Ethiopia accept fully and without delay the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, and take immediate concrete steps to enable, without preconditions, the complete demarcation of the border between the two countries. It demanded also that Eritrea immediately withdraw its troops and equipment from the Temporary Security Zone, and reiterated its demand that it reverse, without further delay or preconditions, all restrictions on UNMEE’s movement and operations, including those of the Secretary-General’s acting Special Representative, and provide the Mission with the access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties.



Reiterating its call that the parties show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other, the Council called upon them to cooperate fully with the Boundary Commission, stressing their primary responsibility for implementing the Algiers Agreements. It called again upon them to implement without further delay or preconditions the Boundary Commission’s decision and to take concrete steps to complete the demarcation process.



The Council demanded that the parties provide UNMEE with the necessary access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties, including its mandated task to assist the Boundary Commission in the expeditious and orderly implementation of the Delimitation Decision, in accordance with resolutions 1430 (2002) and 1466 (2003), and demanded the immediate lifting of any restrictions.



Calling upon the Secretary-General and the international community to help Eritrea and Ethiopia normalize their relations, to promote stability between them, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region, the Council called also upon Member States to provide contributions to the Trust Fund established pursuant to resolution 1177 (1998) in order to support the demarcation process.



This morning’s meeting began at10:10 a.m. and ended at 10:15 a.m.



Resolution



The full text of resolution 1741 (2007) reads as follows:



“The Security Council,



“Reaffirming all its previous resolutions and statements pertaining to the situation between Ethiopia and Eritrea (hereinafter referred to as “the parties”) and the requirements contained therein, including in particular resolutions 1320 (2000), 1430 (2002), 1466 (2003), 1640 (2005), 1681 (2006) and 1710 (2006),



“Stressing its unwavering commitment to the peace process, and to the full and expeditious implementation of the Algiers Agreements, and the importance of prompt implementation of the decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (S/2002/423) as a basis for peaceful and cooperative relations between the parties,



“Reaffirming the integrity of the Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) as provided for in the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities of 18 June 2000 (S/2000/601) and recalling the objectives of its establishment and the commitment of the parties to respect the TSZ,



“Commending the efforts made by the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and its military and civilian personnel to accomplish its duties, despite the difficult circumstances,



“Stressing further that the full demarcation of the border between the two parties is vital to lasting peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea as well as in the region, recalling that both parties have agreed to accept the delimitation and demarcation determinations of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) as final and binding, commending the efforts of the EEBC to resume demarcation, and expressing its regret that the EEBC, for reasons beyond its control as explained in the Annexes of the report of the Secretary-General of 22 January 2007 (S/2007/33), has so far been unable to complete demarcation of the boundary as planned,



“Expressing its full support for the work of the EEBC and acknowledging the Statement of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) of 27 November 2006,



“Having considered the Special report of the Secretary-General of 15 December 2006 (S/2006/992) and the options on the future of UNMEE contained therein, and taking note of the report of the Secretary-General of 22 January 2007 (S/2007/33),



“Recalling paragraph 7 of resolution 1710 (2006),



“1. Decides to extend the mandate of UNMEE for a period of six months, until 31 July 2007;



“2. Approves the reconfiguration of UNMEE’s military component, from the current 2,300 to 1,700 military personnel, including 230 military observers, in accordance with option I, as described in paragraphs 24 and 25 of the Special report of the Secretary-General (S/2006/992), decides to maintain the current mandate and maximum authorized force levels, as stipulated in resolution 1320 (2000) and further adjusted in resolutions 1430 (2002) and 1681 (2006), and stresses the need to preserve sufficient military capacity for UNMEE to implement its mandate;



“3. Reiterates its demand expressed in paragraph 5 of resolution 1640 (2005) that Ethiopia accept fully and without delay the final and binding decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission and take immediately concrete steps to enable, without preconditions, the Commission to demarcate the border completely and promptly;



“4. Demands that Eritrea immediately withdraw its troops and equipment from the Temporary Security Zone;



“5. Reiterates its demand expressed in paragraph 1 of resolution 1640 (2005) that Eritrea reverse, without further delay or preconditions, all restrictions on UNMEE’s movement and operations, noting that these include the movement and operations of the acting SRSG, and provide UNMEE with the access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties;



“6. Reiterates its call expressed in paragraph 2 of resolution 1640 (2005) that the parties show maximum restraint and refrain from any threat or use of force against each other;



“7. Regrets the lack of progress on demarcation, calls upon both parties to cooperate fully with the EEBC, stresses that the parties have primary responsibility for the implementation of the Algiers Agreements, and calls again upon the parties to implement completely and without further delay or preconditions the decision of the EEBC and to take concrete steps to resume and complete the demarcation process;



“8. Demands that the parties provide UNMEE with the necessary access, assistance, support and protection required for the performance of its duties, including its mandated task to assist the EEBC in the expeditious and orderly implementation of the Delimitation Decision, in accordance with resolutions 1430 (2002) and 1466 (2003) and demands that any restrictions be lifted immediately;



“9. Calls upon the Secretary-General and the international community to engage with Eritrea and Ethiopia to help them to normalize their relations, to promote stability between the parties, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace in the region;



“10. Expresses its willingness to reconsider any changes to UNMEE in light of subsequent progress toward demarcation, and its readiness to take further decisions to ensure that UNMEE will be able to facilitate demarcation as progress becomes possible;



“11. Calls on Member States to provide contributions to the Trust Fund, established pursuant to resolution 1177 (1998) and referred to in article 4 (17) of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed by the Governments of Ethiopia and Eritrea on 12 December 2000, in order to support the demarcation process;



“12. Expresses its deep appreciation for the contribution and dedication of the troop-contributing countries to the work of UNMEE;



“13. Requests the Secretary-General to include in his next progress report due by the end of April 2007, details of the progress made towards the implementation of this resolution and the implementation of the EEBC decision;



“14. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.”



Background



Before the Council was the report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea (document S/2007/33) dated 22 January 2007, in which he recommends a further six-month extension of UNMEE, noting that the “ongoing and dangerous” stalemate in the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace process remains a source of “deep concern”. The impasse has the potential to not only lead to renewed hostilities between the two nations, but to destabilize the wider region, especially given the recent developments in neighbouring Somalia.



He observes that neither side has indicated any willingness to break the stalemate, with Ethiopia continuing to refuse to implement the binding decisions of the Boundary Commission, and Eritrea maintaining its troop presence in the Temporary Security Zone along the border and its restrictions on UNMEE’s operations. Ethiopia’s refusal to implement, fully and without preconditions, the Boundary Commission’s demarcation of the border contradicts the terms of the Algiers Agreement signed by both parties following their two-year border war in the late 1990s. In addition, at least 2,000 Eritrean troops are positioned inside the Temporary Security Zone with tanks, rocket launchers and guns, while the Eritrean Government maintains a ban on United Nations helicopter flights.



While strongly urging the Eritrean Government to withdraw its troops and military equipment from the Temporary Security Zone, the Secretary-General warns that both parties need to do much more than settle their border issue if they are to establish sustainable peace and reconciliation. While the establishment of an internationally recognized border is essential, it is not sufficient to create sustainable peace and reconciliation between the two countries. “The two Governments need to take the political decision to put the conflict behind them, for the sake of their own people, and move forward in a number of other areas that would help them to normalize relations.”



Also before the Council was the special report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea (document S/2006/992) dated 15 December 2006, in which he notes that it has been more than six years since the establishment of UNMEE by resolution 1320 (2000) and more than five years since the Temporary Security Zone was set up in April 2001. On 13 April 2002, the Boundary Commission rendered its delimitation decision, mandating it to proceed to the expeditious and full demarcation of the border.



Noting that the commitment to the peace process demonstrated by the parties at the time gave hope for a definitive resolution of their border dispute within a relatively short time, the special report says the parties’ cooperation with the Commission was not only assumed, but essential to the implementation of the delimitation decision. However, that cooperation has progressively waned since 2003.



The report notes that, in that year Ethiopia, in response to the Commission’s decision, emphasized “the necessity of conducting the demarcation in a manner that takes into account the human and physical geography through the study of facts on the ground”. With respect to Eritrea, cooperation began to deteriorate as harsh, humiliating impediments were placed on the work of UNMEE and its staff, which also affected the Boundary Commission’s work on the ground.



Despite the engagement and efforts of the international community, the parties have demonstrated no political will for compromise, the special report states. Ethiopia’s refusal to implement the Boundary Commission’s award fully, and without precondition, is contrary to widely accepted principles of international law. At the same time, in the absence of dialogue between the parties, and their failure to cooperate with the Commission, Eritrea’s refusal to avail itself of the recent diplomatic initiatives and the massive incursion of its troops into the Temporary Security Zone, tension on the ground has remained very high. That country’s imposition of deliberately humiliating restrictions on UNMEE’s operations have called into question the Mission’s continued relevance and exacerbated the tension in the border area.



At the same time, the report says, the combined effect of the crippling Eritrean restriction represents a serious challenge to several core principles of United Nations peacekeeping, particularly the safety of its personnel and the need for freedom of movement, the exclusively international character of the personnel working under the Organization’s flag and the Secretary-General’s prerogative to appoint the required staff. UNMEE has had to operate under unacceptable conditions for far too long and to continue to do so could have potentially serious implications for the wider concept of peacekeeping.



In the very precarious circumstances, UNMEE can regrettably ensure only a very limited observation of the security arrangements in the Temporary Security Zone and other commitments under the Algiers Agreement, according to the report. The Mission can observe only 40 per cent of the Zone and is no longer in a position to monitor the Eritrean forces in their redeployed positions. At the same time, despite the deliberately negative attitude towards the United Nations operation and individual peacekeepers, their presence and determination remain a political, operational and psychological obstacle to any precipitous action from either army.



This factor remains an impediment for those who would want the situation to escalate even further, with possible consequences for both countries and overall security in the region, the report notes, adding that the Secretary-General welcomes the Boundary Commission’s decision of 27 November to give the parties an additional 12 months to reflect on their respective positions and try to reach the necessary agreement on the emplacement of the border pillars. If there is no progress in the coming months towards the carrying out of the Commission’s recommendation, the Council could then consider converting the United Nations operation into an observer or liaison mission.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8944.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 1 2007, 06:58 PM
ACTIVITIES OF SECRETARY-GENERAL IN KENYA, 30-31 JANUARY


Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, accompanied by his wife Ban Soon-taek, arrived in Nairobi, Kenya from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Tuesday afternoon, 30 January. They immediately visited Kibera, one of the largest slums in Africa.



He was escorted by UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka, through a section of the crowded Kibera slum named Soweto East -- after the well-known township in South Africa -- and witnessed first-hand extreme urban poverty in Africa.



He told the inhabitants that he felt “very much humbled” by what he saw.



The Secretary-General said he would work towards improving living conditions, education, water and sanitation and housing, adding, “All these are challenges that we must overcome.”



“This is not the only place, I know. There are many other billions of people suffering from lack of affordable housing -- all the facilities which make our life decent,” he said. Referring to the Millennium Development Goals, he said that “we must work together and generate political will to have a smooth implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, and I will work very closely, and harder than before”.



On Wednesday morning, the Secretary-General met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki at the Statehouse. They discussed the partnership between the United Nations and Kenya, the Sudan, the Great Lakes region and the situation faced by Somali refugees.



After that, he went to the United Nations headquarters in Nairobi and addressed a closed meeting of the Staff Management Consultative Committee, which brings together representatives of about 38,000 staff from all duty stations. He also spoke to a packed Town Hall meeting with hundreds of United Nations staff in Nairobi.



The Secretary-General left Nairobi that night for The Hague, the last leg of his trip to Europe and Africa.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgt2532.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 2 2007, 03:12 PM
SECRETARY-GENERAL WELCOMES FINDINGS OF WORKING GROUP ON CLIMATE CHANGE


The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General welcomes the important findings of the Working Group 1 contribution of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released today in Paris. The report highlights the scientific consensus regarding the quickening and threatening pace of human-induced climate change. The global response therefore needs to move much more rapidly as well, and with more determination. The Secretary-General congratulates the panel of independent climate scientists and experts, who have deepened our understanding of the changes that are affecting the global environment and the human causes at their root.



Today’s study, and the follow-up reports of the IPCC during 2007, will be critical guides for the United Nations response to anthropogenic climate change, and undoubtedly will assist many other stakeholders in taking actions at the global, national and local levels.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10866.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 5 2007, 05:11 PM
Note to Correspondents



CONFERENCE AT UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS ON 9 FEBRUARY TO ASSESS


HOW INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IMPROVES OUR LIVES




The way information technology can improve the lives of all generations will be the theme of an international conference to be held at the United Nations (Conference Room 3) on Friday, 9 February.



The meeting, on “Age of Connectivity: Cities, Magnets of Hope”, will showcase how virtual communities and social networking can enhance the quality of life in cities. It will explore the way information and communication technology can boost economic development and permit lifelong learning and employment in our “age of longevity”. Participants include experts on urban planning and development, information and communication technology, finance, government, business and health.



The morning keynote speaker, Liston D. Bochette, Secretary-General of the World Olympians Association and five-time Olympic athlete, will examine how information and communication technology tools can address the complexities of city environments. Motto Kusakabe of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will speak about the Open City Portal -- the online tool on information about the services provided by a city or municipality. Peter Mathias, Managing Director of the United-Kingdom-based organization Bridge Research and Development, will examine online self-evaluation as a human development tool. Wojciech Zablocki, professor of architecture, President of Poland’s National Olympians Association and three-time Olympic medallist, will address the impact of the Olympic Games on urban planning.



The afternoon keynote speaker, Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa al Jaber, will examine how connectivity can promote human capacity building. Mr. Al Jaber is UNESCO Special Envoy for Education, Human Rights, Tolerance and Cultures, as well as founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Saudi-based conglomerate MBI International. Ralph Schonenback, Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss global sourcing Trestle Group, will illustrate the pilot project “Empower Women Entrepreneurs in Developing Countries”, carried out by the Trestle Foundation in cooperation with Microsoft.



Other participants include Andrew Young, former Mayor of Atlanta and co-Chairman of the 1996 Olympic Games; Solomon Boit, Permanent Secretary of Kenya’s Ministry of Local Government; Economic and Social Council President Dalius Cekuolis (Lithuania); Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT); and Dianne Davis, Founding President of the International Council for Caring Communities.



The co-Chairs of the meeting are Professor Dennis Anderson, School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Pace University, and Ramu Damodaran, Outreach Division, Department of Public Information.



The event, held during the annual session of the Commission on Social Development, is part of a series of congresses addressing the “Age of Longevity” held in cities around the globe. It is organized by the International Council for Caring Communities with participants from the World Olympians Association, UN-HABITAT, the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Department of Public Information, non-governmental organizations and the private sector.



For further information, please visit www.un.org/events/agingcf.htm, or contact Edoardo Bellando at the Department of Public Information, tel. (212) 963 8275, e-mail bellando@un.org.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/note6064.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 7 2007, 02:48 PM
Background



The Commission for Social Development met this morning to begin its forty-fifth regular session, which is expected to take up the issues of employment, ageing, disability and youth among its issues of discussion, under the main theme of “Promoting full employment and decent work for all” (for background information, see Press Release SOC/4722 of 1 February).



Statements



Commission Chairman MEHDI DANESH-YAZDI ( Iran), in his opening statement, said that social development was not merely a desirable option -- it was a necessity. Social development was considered critical to ensure that people, not economic interests, remained the central focus of overall development efforts. Concern continued to emerge, however, about the costs to society when integral links between poverty eradication, promotion of full employment and fostering of social integration were ignored. Failed efforts to advance those inclusive goals led to inequality of opportunity and made one generation after another fall into poverty.



The commitments made at Copenhagen in 1995 -- reaffirmed at the 10-year review in 2005 -- had charted a course to reverse continued marginalization of major parts of the world’s population. Yet still today, young people without privilege and wealth struggled to get a foothold in the labour market, he stated, and older persons enjoyed less and less security for a lifetime of work. In some countries, 80 per cent of persons with disabilities were without work, and indigenous peoples and migrants continued to face discriminatory treatment in the labour market.



He said that, on a broader level, in today’s increasingly interdependent world, many societies, instead of reaping the benefits of progress, were experiencing alarming increases in the discrepancies between the rich and the poor. That was reflected in the number of the unemployed, which globally stood at around 195 million and climbing. Another aspect was the share of capital in total income, which was on the rise, while wages and worker benefits were on the decline. The gap between rich and poor was also reflected in the “casualization” of the workforce, the abundance of labour supply and even greater mobility of capital. Clearly, those were not isolated trends, and it was important not only to review them, but also to address their root causes.



The priority theme for this and next year’s session of the Commission, “Promoting full employment and decent work for all”, had received a boost from the World Summit Outcome, he said. The Commission’s work had been also enhanced by the Ministerial Declaration adopted by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), which acknowledged that opportunities for men and women to obtain productive work in conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity were essential to eradiate poverty and improve social and economic well-being. During the session, the Commission would also commemorate the adoption five years ago of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing. He also wanted to give special recognition to the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the Assembly.



“Let us continue, together with our partners in civil society and the wider United Nations system, to strengthen the basic pillars of Copenhagen and the principle of shared social and economic prosperity,” he said. “Let us strive to address the alarming realities of powerlessness that shape the lives of ordinary people by ensuring that they are at the centre of development efforts.”



Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, JOSÉ ANTONIO OCAMPO, said that the 2005 World Summit had put full and productive employment and decent work for all at the forefront of the United Nations development agenda. Last July, the high-level segment of the Economic and Social Council had also focused on that critical objective and had produced an action-oriented Ministerial Declaration. And, of course, a decade ago, the World Summit for Social Development at Copenhagen had made a major conceptual contribution in stressing the central role of employment in achieving both poverty eradication and social integration. It was thus fitting that the Commission for Social Development, an integral part of the ECOSOC family, would devote its first two-year “implementation cycle” to promoting full employment and decent work for all.



Global performance in promoting employment continued to be disappointing, he continued. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the number of people unemployed worldwide had increased from 140 million to 195 million over the last decade. The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects 2007, launched last month, showed that strong economic growth in 2006 had not led to substantial reductions in unemployment rates. Employment growth had been disappointing in developing countries, even in light of their strong economic performance over the past three years. Unemployment not only remained persistent, but was growing in many, if not most, developing countries. While present in the agricultural sector, where most people worked in the poorest countries, underemployment had also been growing rapidly in the urban sector, in both low- and middle-income countries. For millions of workers, that meant that new jobs, mainly in the informal sector, lay far below any adequate measure of productive work. A total of 1.4 billion people still did not earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the $2-a-day poverty line.



Women and youth continued to suffer higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, he said. Older workers, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and migrants also faced increasing insecurity in the workplace and shrinking opportunities for decent work. The world saw increasing income inequalities, including those between skilled and unskilled workers, as well as regional and urban-rural gaps. There was slow progress in closing the gender gap in employment, wages and working conditions. Labour market changes and adjustments due to intense global competition were taking place worldwide. With the diminishing bargaining power of labour, the declining role of organized labour alongside growing informality, and still weak or weakening social protection systems, the labour market environment had become increasingly insecure. Half the world’s population still did not have access to social protection.



First and foremost, it was necessary to make the full and productive employment and decent work for all a central objective of international policies and national development strategies, he said. It was also important to create an enabling environment at the international and national levels. At the international level, globalization had increased the interdependence among countries, leaving countries limited policy space to increase employment on their own through more expansionary macroeconomic policies. Better coordination of macroeconomic policy among countries was, therefore, needed. In developing countries that had managed to become part of global production systems, through off-shoring and outsourcing, it was important to arrest any “race to the bottom” in labour standards. At the same time, participation in those systems was, for many countries, an important way to attract investment and employment and to increase technological capacities.



At the national level, policies that supported investment, growth and entrepreneurship were also essential, he said. Measures to remove any policy discrimination against the agricultural sector were needed, as well as programmes to enable small agricultural producers to take advantage of opportunities provided by growth. Measures to promote the small-enterprise sector, including cooperatives, were likely to raise employment growth and improve distribution of income. Active labour market policies were needed, including re-training for displaced workers, job search assistance and other measures to facilitate labour mobility. Such programmes could be enhanced by strengthening social dialogue on economic reform and on measures to improve the functioning of labour markets, while preserving essential protection for workers.



Improved social security systems were key elements of a comprehensive approach to eradicating poverty and improving equity. It was also necessary to address the differential impact of such schemes on the family and particularly on women. Given that the majority of the poor in developing countries relied on the informal economy for their employment and survival, policies on formalization should weigh the advantages and disadvantages, as well as the degree of intervention. Finally, the social orientation of employment and poverty reduction strategies should be strengthened to target marginalized and vulnerable groups. The challenges to promoting full employment and decent work for all were daunting, but not insurmountable, and he was confident that the Commission’s deliberations would contribute to the efforts to reach that key development goal.



Turning to the review of relevant United Nations plans and programmes of action, he said that the fifth anniversary of the Second World Assembly on Ageing, which had taken place in Madrid in 2002, coincided with the beginning of the first cycle of the review and appraisal of the Madrid International Plan of Action. That appraisal was expected to reveal, through a “bottom-up” participatory exercise, as well as other methods, the first-hand results of national efforts to address the challenges and opportunities of ageing. That first cycle, in 2007-2008, would also help to determine priorities and concrete measures for its further implementation.



The report of the Secretary-General on the follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth addressed the progress achieved and the constraints that young people faced in relation to their participation in the world economy, as well as the progress achieved by the Youth Employment Network and an update on the status of national action plans for youth employment. The report, with its focus on “Youth in the global economy”, bore directly on the session’s priority theme. He also highlighted the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by the General Assembly last December -- the first major human rights treaty of the twenty-first century.



Introducing the Commission’s agenda item on follow-up to the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly, JOHAN SCHÖLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said three reports had been submitted for the item, including one on the priority theme, “Promoting full employment and decent work for all” (document E/CN.5/2007/2), which focused on key developments and trends in employment and decent work over the past decade and their impact on poverty eradication and social integration.



Highlighting some important facets of the report, he noted that, despite growing economic trends, overall unemployment had increased during the past 10 years, with notable jumps in sub-Saharan Africa and Asian countries still experiencing consequences of that region’s 1997 financial crisis. The relative size of various economic sectors had also shifted during the 1990s. While the industrial sector remained about the same, agriculture had declined and the service sector had grown. He added that another important trend revealed in the report was the movement of people and jobs, both internally and between borders. In all, employment had become less secure -- there was more informal employment, self-employment and short-term contractual employment, and a competitive global marketplace had left even the formal employment workplaces with fewer benefits.



On links to poverty eradication, he said the report found that some of the major economic trends were actually creating roadblocks for poverty reduction initiatives. There was mounting evidence that economic growth was less effective at reducing poverty when inequality was on the rise. Also, trade liberalization, in the absence of other policies, did not necessarily lead to higher growth, and might in fact decrease welfare in the short term. He added that, even though Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) had become key national poverty reduction road maps in many countries, few of those strategies addressed employment and social protection policies directly.



On links to social integration, he said, among other things, that the report had found that, in many respects, the world was less integrated today than it was in 1995. Older persons, youth, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities suffered disproportionately from negative trends in employment such as flexible labour markets, short-term contractual agreements and overall employment insecurity. And despite the attention given to women’s employment status, women’s earnings were substantially lower than men’s, and men and women remained largely segregated in the workplace.



He went on to highlight some of the important features of the other reports before the Commission, including, among others, on the major developments in the area of ageing in the nearly five years since the Second World Assembly on Ageing. That report (document E/CN.5/2007/7) noted the tremendous challenges facing the world’s rapidly ageing populations and observed that the active participation of older persons in society was impossible without protecting their rights and fighting against age-based discrimination and making concerted efforts to empower them.



Regarding “follow-up to the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond,” he said the relevant report (document A/62/62-E/2007/7) covered not only employment but also highlighted pertinent issues such as globalization, education, poverty and hunger -- all critical determinants of the availability of work and sustained livelihoods for youth. He noted that, in response to the Assembly’s call two years ago, the Secretariat, in collaboration with relevant United Nations programmes and agencies, had established a broad set of indicators for measuring progress towards implementation of the Programme of Action for Youth. That had been a first step on the long road to establish data on a set of quantifiable core indicators that could enable stakeholders to measure youth development over time and compare progress within and between countries.



Reporting on yesterday’s Civil Society Forum, “Employment Working for All: Partners in Innovation”, Sister BURKE, Chairperson of the NGO Committee on Social Development, said that the Forum’s participants had decided to use much of the coming intersessional period between this year’s and next year’s meetings to identify effective practices in the priority area of full and productive employment and decent work that could be presented as recommendations for policy consideration during the Commission’s forty-sixth session.



She went on to emphasize civil society’s deep concern about the increasing pattern of jobless growth and poverty. “This is a situation in every part of the globe which cries out to be addressed,” she declared, adding that, without decent work, people lived in great poverty without the ability to provide for the basic needs of those they loved -- their families and children. They also experienced a greater impoverishment -- the dehumanizing experience of being without dignity or a sense of worth. Sighting recent figures from the ILO, she said that some 195 million men and women were unsuccessfully looking for work in 2006, and some 1.4 billion -- half the global workforce -- worked without earning enough to lift themselves above the $2-a-day poverty line.



“It is due time to integrate full and productive employment and decent work throughout the international agenda,” she said, telling the Commission that grass-roots organizations working daily with the jobless poor wanted to join the United Nations efforts to alleviate poverty by promoting decent work. With that in mind, she said that a comprehensive development strategy for poverty reduction should encompass employment and income-generating policies; social dialogue and the participation of people living in poverty, unemployed or living on subsistence wages; protection from the risks associated with the loss of income; and efforts to ensure the right to organize and bargain collectively for decent wages and working conditions.



She introduced the NGO Committee’s current Survey of Effective Practices in Employment and Decent Work, which underlined the long-term nature of effective efforts for people to reintegrate into their respective societies and labour markets in different regions and among varied populations within regions. Expressing disappointment that the Commission’s previous session had not ended with a negotiated outcome text, she said that the community of non-governmental organizations wanted to see the Commission’s forty-sixth session produce a strong, negotiated outcome backing the key themes from Copenhagen, particularly addressing employment and decent work as a means of alleviating poverty and promoting social integration.



Keynote Address



LES KETTLEDAS, Deputy Director-General in the Department of labour of South Africa, said that the world was facing various decent-work “deficits”, characterized by high and exploding numbers of unemployment and underemployment, poor quality and unproductive jobs, unsafe work and insecure income, rights that were denied, and gender inequality. Economic growth was failing to translate into new and better jobs that would lead to a reduction in poverty.



He said the 2004 Extraordinary Summit of the African Union in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, had observed that employment played a critical role in the full realization of individuals and societies. Whilst employment could further social integration, it could also lead to exclusion by limiting access to jobs. Income too low to satisfy basic human and social needs created marginalization and submission, creating individuals who became “rich in poverty”. Many people in South Africa fell in that category. The ILO report “Working out of Poverty” had observed that poverty was a vicious circle of poor health, reduced working capacity, low productivity and shortened life expectancy. Poverty was a trap, and for society it was a curse.



The South African economy had been going through structural change, with a decline in the gross domestic product (GDP) share of agriculture and mining and increase in services, with parallel developments in employment. Since 2004, growth had exceeded 4 per cent per year, and the economy had been creating employment. However, employment growth was not keeping pace with the growth in the labour force. Other problems included the casual and short-term nature of most jobs created, low wages and poor working conditions. There was also migration from neighbouring countries, some of them economic refugees with the necessary skills. Like other countries in the developing world, South Africa had implemented various measures to alleviate poverty, promote full and productive employment and realize decent work, guided by the Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty and unemployment by 2015.



As a member of the ILO, South Africa had strongly advocated the decent work agenda, he continued. Decent work went hand in hand with productivity growth -- the engine of economic growth -- that enabled working men and women to earn enough to lift themselves out of poverty. The decent work agenda was guided by important strategic objectives, which included the rights to work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. Attainment of those objectives would result in a more balanced and sustainable growth for the countries involved and betterment of the lives of the people.



South Africa’s labour legislation since 1994 had encompassed all the objectives outlined in that agenda, he said. Following a review of the country’s labour laws, amendments to the Labour Relations and the Basic Conditions of Employment Acts had been introduced, making the laws more sensitive to job creation and addressing unintended consequences of the earlier legislation. From 1999 to 2004, the Government had vastly improved the position of workers in the country, trying to balance security in the workplace with flexibility, to ensure that the overall performance of the economy in terms of job creation and investment was not negatively affected.



Sectoral determinations had been introduced to improve the position of vulnerable workers, covering workers in the private security sector, domestic workers, farm workers and workers in the wholesale and retail sectors. A national programme of action was also being developed to address the challenges of child labour. Good practices and technical assistance guidelines had been promulgated for the employment of people with disabilities and for the management of key aspects of HIV/AIDS in the workplace. The country had not only introduced new legislation and institutions to protect workers’ rights and seek to empower them with skills, but also continued to promote social dialogue and create true consensus with all social partners. In October 1998, a Presidential Jobs Summit Agreement had been launched to address the socio-economic challenges facing the country. The constituencies in the National Economic Development and Labour Council had resolved to act in concert to create jobs, stable and fair industrial relations, respect for worker rights, and sustainable development.



In June 2003, the Growth and Development Summit Agreement had been launched, seeking to address the investment challenge, create more jobs and decent work for all, advance equity, develop skills, create opportunities, extend services, and promote local action. He added that the Government had also launched the National Skills Development Strategy in an attempt to radically transform education and training. Many young men and women had been trained, and some of them had been placed through the programme.



While the situation had improved, those initiatives had not made a drastic impact on poverty and unemployment, he continued. To address that situation, the Government had launched an Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative, whose main objective was to halve poverty and unemployment by 2014. The project had identified the main constraints -- some of them also identified in the Secretary-General’s report -- including the shortage of skilled labour, lack of information and communication technology infrastructure, barriers to entry and limited investments. To provide further impetus to the skills development strategy, a Joint Initiative for Priority Skills Acquisition had been launched, seeking to identify urgent skills needs and quick and effective solutions.



Realization of full employment and decent work would require a closer relationship between social and economic policies, he said. That would require “a rethink of the macroeconomic stabilization targets, so that we create fiscal space to finance development, foster investment and employment growth.” Macroeconomic policies must take into consideration not only financial targets, but also their social impact. For Governments and countries, it meant rethinking and refocusing their macroeconomic policies to ensure that they recognized employment creation as one of their core objectives and set targets for job creation. That did not call for a new commitment from States. During the Geneva special session of the Assembly, a commitment had been made “to ensure that macroeconomic policies reflect and fully integrate, inter alia, employment growth and poverty reduction goals”. The session also recognized that countries would need to “reassess, as appropriate, their macroeconomic policies with the aim of greater employment generations and reduction in poverty levels, while striving for and maintaining low inflation rates”.



“We have not done well since these commitments -- the challenges still remain daunting,” he said, adding that a recommitment was needed. The labour market policy framework should, in support of the macroeconomic framework, be able to facilitate the matching of supply of and demand for labour, in the face of the changing market trends and work restructuring. He could not overemphasize the importance of full employment and decent work for all and was encouraged that the issues of employment and decent work were now being taken seriously by such institutions as the United Nations and ILO. There were many other multilateral institutions, however, that still needed some convincing, and it was necessary to explore how to bring them on board.



Commenting on the keynote address, the representative of Germany (on behalf of the European Union) emphasized the importance of the information presented by Mr. Kettledas for future discussions on social development issues within the European Union, both at the regional and national levels.

Also stressing the relevance of questions raised, the representative of the Dominican Republic highlighted agricultural reforms and transfer of knowledge among the problems that needed to be addressed to generate opportunities for decent work.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/soc4723.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 8 2007, 03:49 PM
The Commission for Social Development met this morning to begin its general debate on the priority theme of its forty-fifth session: promoting full employment and decent work for all. In the afternoon, it was scheduled to hold a panel discussion on labour mobility, youth and families.



Statements



MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that there had been no greater challenge to humanity, nor greater threat to world peace, than the failure to realize the United Nations Charter’s vision of promoting better standards of life and larger freedoms. The close nexus between security and development, in the increasingly interconnected world, clearly demonstrated that prosperity could not be sustained, while poverty afflicted many. That presented an urgent imperative: tackle poverty and address development by focusing on employment-generating strategies on a priority basis. The Secretary-General’s report before the Commission presented a grim picture on the realization of commitments to eradicate poverty, and suggested that achievement of full employment and decent work remained a global concern. The concept of decent work -- the provision of a sufficient level of income, security, personal dignity and good working conditions -- had yet to become a reality for more than a billion people and one third of the global work force.



Globalization and interdependence were opening new opportunities, but, at the same time, serious challenges remained, including serious financial crises, insecurity, poverty, exclusion and inequality within and among societies, he continued. Unless the benefits of social and economic development were extended to all countries in an equitable manner, a growing number of people in all countries and even entire regions would remain marginalized from the global economy. There was increasing recognition in the Group of 77 that promotion of good governance, sound economic policies, solid democratic institutions and improved infrastructure were the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation. Investing in human capital, with emphasis on effective delivery of basic social services, and bringing the poor, vulnerable and backward segments of society into the mainstream of development, were crucial to achieving the ambitious goal of poverty eradiation.



The struggle to promote full employment and decent work for all transcended national frontiers, he said. It rested upon the promotion of an enabling overall macroeconomic environment based on the implementation of an integrated and coherent set of policies at both the national and international levels. It was imperative that macroeconomic policies must endeavour to incorporate employment creation as an integral component. It was also essential to eliminate the asymmetries in globalization and its uneven costs and benefits. That required adoption of specific measures to incorporate the informal sector in social protection programmes, and establishment of incentive structures that would promote employment creation through directing investment to productive and labour-intensive sectors, with a special view to promoting small- and medium-sized enterprises.



In evolving macroeconomic policies, he said the international community must allow more space for policy autonomy in developing countries, so that policies and institutional arrangements were adopted that were best suited to the level of development and specific circumstances of the countries concerned. International organizations and donor countries must also shift more decisively away from external conditionality to national ownership of policies. Negotiations in the multilateral frameworks should particularly address the issues of agricultural trade, market access, reduction of trade barriers and fluctuations in commodity prices and terms of trade for agricultural commodities. Also important were increases in official development assistance (ODA) and debt cancellation, as well as fair rules for trade and capital flows, which needed to be complemented by fair rules for the cross-border movement of people. There was a growing recognition that labour-migration strategies should become more effective and responsible to the exigencies of the situations in countries of origin and destination. Cooperation between countries of origin and destination on key labour migration decisions should be enhanced, and some degree of harmonization of labour policies should be introduced.



He also said that the Group of 77 welcomed the continued focus on various social groups, including family, youth, elderly and persons with disabilities. He also welcomed the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Population ageing required concerted, well-focused and forward-looking policies at all levels. There was an urgent need to enhance the efforts to integrate older persons into the mainstream of development policies and overcome barriers to hiring and retaining older workers. The Group of 77 was equally concerned about the global job crisis that had hit young people the hardest. It supported the supplementary five themes to the World Programme of Action for Youth. When discussing youth, the relevant issues where the impact of globalization; the use of information technology; the increase of HIV/AIDS; armed conflicts; and intergenerational relations.



HERMANN KUES, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth of Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that all the member States of the Union sought to improve living and working conditions in there respective countries, and in the Union as a whole. The European Lisbon Strategy aimed to create more and better jobs and to promote social inclusion. The overall Union work programme was currently focused on, among other things, promoting fair wages, protection against health risks at work, workers rights and family-friendly working arrangements.



He said a global decent work agenda had made great headway and had been strongly supported at the European level. For example, he said, the recent European Consensus, a joint statement by the European Union Council of Ministers, the European Parliament and the European Commission, on a new Union development policy, primarily aimed at poverty eradication, which included a commitment to advance policy coherence for development, including decent work. At the same time, he stressed that the Union was aware that the list of challenges in that area was long, and an inappropriate or delayed response could set off damaging downward economic, social and political spirals.



To that end, he next highlighted several thematic reflections on future challenges that the Commission should consider for strengthening the social development perspective in its discussions about decent work. Among others, he said there was a need to address decent work and poverty eradication, particularly since, over the past decade, it had been clearly proved that economic growth did not automatically create jobs. Indeed, the world was not creating enough decent jobs to keep pace with the estimated 40 million person yearly increase in the global workforce. Worse, there were now about 1.4 billion “working poor” on the planet.



With that in mind, he said the international community needed to find better instruments to support to create full employment and decent work. He also called for more focus on decent work and youth unemployment, stressing that the German European Union presidency had put the European Youth Pact on the agenda of the next two meetings of the European Youth Ministers later this year, and had asked the young representatives to consider a common priority framework for the next decade.



On gender equality and the impact of female migration on the European -- and the world’s -- labour force, he said that, while reliable social, health and educational services were enabling a better and more balanced worklife for working men, as well as women, there was still an international tendency to reduce budgets for such services. The European Union had declared 2007 the “European Year of Opportunities for All”, which was based on the 2000 Equality Laws that made it illegal to discriminate on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, or because of sexual orientation, religious belief, disability or age.



ÖZHAN ÜZÜMCÜOÐLU (Turkey) supported the position of the European Union and said that the Secretary-General’s report on the priority theme of the session clearly indicated that, although more than a decade had elapsed since the Copenhagen Summit, full employment and decent work for all still remained a global challenge. The achievement of that goal rested upon the promotion of an enabling macroeconomic environment, based upon the implementation of an integrated and coherent set of policies, both at the national and international levels. Thus, full employment and decent work should be a central goal in national economic and social policy-making. They should also be considered as global objectives, to be pursued through a more balanced and coordinated strategy.



Turning to his national situation, he said that Turkey was beginning to implement its ninth development plan, covering the period of 2007-2013. Following a crisis in 2001, the Turkish economy had grown at an average rate of 7.5 per cent in 2002-2005. Yet, the impact of economic growth on employment still remained limited. Beyond doubt, employment should be considered together with the notion of decent conditions of work. Thus, the country’s ninth development plan focused on increasing employment and improving the conditions in the labour market; increasing the sensitivity of education to labour demands; developing active labour policies; improving income distribution, social inclusion and the fight against poverty; and increasing the effectiveness of the social security system. Turkey was now aiming to create the skilled human resources required by a competitive economy and the information society, reduce unemployment and create a more efficient labour market.



Equal opportunities would be created for women, young people, long-term unemployed and persons with disabilities, he added. In particular, women’s access to childcare and other services would be facilitated. Programmes would be developed to provide youth with experience in the labour market. The country also intended to strengthen interaction between the education system and labour markets, revise vocational training programmes and introduce a more flexible system of vocational and technical education. The Government sought to ensure that vulnerable groups, particularly the disabled, elderly, women, children and migrants, participated in economic, social and political life. The social security system would cover the entire population and meet changing needs of society, with financial sustainability and an effective audit mechanism.



S.V. KALASHNIKOV, Director of the Department for Social Development of the Russian Federation, said the Copenhagen Plan of Action and the outcome of the relevant special session of the General Assembly had remained important signposts for his Government, particularly the call included within those important initiatives to ensure people-centred development and full employment for all. He said that, after walking a difficult path, the Russian Federation, under President Vladimir Putin, had actively begun to implement measures and initiatives towards the resolution of the most urgent social problems.



There were also programmes in place to improve education and health care, as well as towards the training of youth, so that they could become more competitive in the ever-changing work environment of today. He said much effort had gone into creating new jobs in line with economic growth, particularly in such areas as agriculture. He stressed that the Russian Federation, like many countries, was struggling to find ways to reverse the situation of youth unemployment.



Currently, statistics showed that the Russian Federation hosted nearly 1 million out-of-work youngsters, he said. The Government had responded with campaigns to create more and better jobs for youth and increase counselling and other social endeavours to ease the burdens for first-time workers or youth that had recently entered the job market or labour force. Overall, he said that the Russian Federation would continue to focus its relevant policies on social development, decent work and full employment.



YASUSHI TAKASE (Japan) said that, while globalization and the information technology boom had created new job opportunities, improved productivity and promoted economic growth, many people, especially vulnerable groups such as women and youth, “had not received the blessings of this new world” and, to some extent, had been left behind. With that in mind, he said it was essential that the benefits of globalization and the information revolution be shared broadly by all. Therefore, ensuring productive employment was not only significant as a means to provide income, but also had a direct bearing on vulnerability and dignity.



He said that full employment should be achieved through high-level sustainable development. That meant more than avoiding unemployment: it meant ensuring decent work for all -- productive employment under conditions of freedom, equity, security and human dignity. Turning to the situation of youth, he said that youth employment in Japan had been improving of late, largely because of the broad economic recovery in the country, as well as because families were having fewer children. But youth unemployment remained high and there were large numbers of children that were falling into a category that Japan had labelled “NEET” -- Not in Education, Employment or Training.



Young people could not find jobs and that instability was disrupting their lives at the very time when they should be developing vocational skills, he continued. As a result, it had become difficult for many Japanese youth to plan their careers, he said, adding that older workers in the country had recently been experiencing similar problems. But the young were naturally creative and flexible, and Japan had been drawing on those traits to find solutions that could establish the foundations for a system that provided more fulfilling work and helped revitalize the economy. Japan had launched an “Action Plan for Young People’s Independence and Challenge” in 2003, which included innovative plans and programmes, such as “one-stop” job placement service centres called “job cafes”.



He said that local governments, in cooperation with local schools, educational institutions and public agencies were trying to help young people seeking jobs by providing them with opportunities to gain workplace experience and by offering placement services. Turning to overall employment, he said that Japan, which was struggling to overcome some of its own domestic problems, had been engaging in international cooperation, directed especially at women and vulnerable groups. For example, Japan provided support for basic, higher and technical vocational education and training and it accepted foreign students at its higher educational institutions.



BARLYBAY SADYKOV ( Kazakhstan) noted that the International Labour Organization (ILO) had pointed out that, despite a robust economic growth in the previous year, global unemployment remained at the highest level. Youth unemployment had reached unacceptably high levels around the world, and women were “big losers” in the labour market. His delegation shared the view of the Secretary-General that the goal of full employment and decent work for all rested upon the promotion of an enabling overall macroeconomic environment based upon the implementation of an integrated and coherent set of policies at the national and international levels. Welcoming proposed indicators for assessing implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and beyond, Kazakhstan found it necessary to study in greater detail youth migration phenomena at both national and international levels. Those indicators should reflect youth migration flows, its effect on countries of origin and destination, legal and illegal youth migration, remittances, challenges faces by youth, decent employment and disaggregated data.



Kazakhstan had been consistently implementing the decisions taken at Copenhagen, Madrid and other international conferences, he continued. The 2005 second national report on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals indicated that the country had already achieved or was on the way to achieving several of those goals. The task of improving the living standards of the population was a priority of the Government, which was increasing social spending in the areas of health, education and employment. One of the aspects of the country’s social policy was to ensure sustainable employment of the population through a complex of measures to stimulate employment, improve legislation and provide assistance to the unemployed. The level of unemployment in Kazakhstan had stood at 7.8 per cent in 2006, compared to 12.8 in 2000. A national programme of decent work for the years 2007-2009 had recently been launched.



Poverty alleviation remained one of the most acute challenges, however, and it was extremely important to put in focus social equity in economic policies and ensure the quality of growth, as well as the distribution of its benefits. Through its national poverty eradication programme, Kazakhstan had been able to halve the proportion of people with income below the subsistence minimum in the last five years. He added that the Government paid particular attention to the development of the private sector and microfinancing.



Among other measures, he described the development of small enterprises by women through improved access to resources, technology and training; measures to improve access to financing; the national youth programme and the efforts to improve the quality of education. The draft Labour Code was currently under discussion in the Parliament. As an ageing society, Kazakhstan also paid attention to address that trend, and a pension system reform was under way. In order to ensure fruitful and effective implementation of the Madrid Plan of Action on Ageing, relevant United Nations institutions should establish close collaboration with Member States by providing them with required technical and advisory support in their efforts to develop national plans of action on ageing.



MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ (Egypt), expressing his delegation’s support for the statement by the Group of 77, said unemployment prevented qualified and able people, no matter their education level, from supporting themselves with dignity and led to other challenges, such as increasing poverty, spreading violence, extremism and crime. It was impossible to deal with unemployment without looking into such other global challenges as poverty, debt, illness, low education standards, lack of skills and low productivity, all of which ran in an endless cycle.



Noting that the Secretary-General’s report showed the reality of the challenge facing the international community, he said the African continent had been among the first to try and deal with labour and unemployment issues. The 2004 African Union Summit in Ouagadougou had come up with a declaration, a plan of action and a mechanism to follow-up on implementation, monitoring and assessment of unemployment. Yet, despite the region’s efforts, the international community still had a pivotal role to play in boosting African capabilities and efforts to create more job opportunities, overcome poverty and implement the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.



To accomplish that, he said, assistance must be extended through active policy planning for the labour market, including the provision of access to relevant information, the upgrading of qualifications and experiences and the closing of the gap between supply and demand. All that required national and international financial resources, as well as assistance to small projects and enterprises, which were considered to be among the primary sources of job creation. Serious partnerships were needed among Governments, the private sector and labour organizations.



He said his own country had exerted enormous efforts to combat unemployment through comprehensive policies based on raising the quality of education to international standards and organizing training programmes in such vital fields as technology. Egypt had also accomplished a great deal in gender equality, supporting small enterprises, promoting partnerships and improving working conditions. Great steps had also been achieved in health, social care and the establishment of a comprehensive database on the labour market.



ADRIANA GONZALEZ-FURLONG, Director of the National Institute for Older People of Mexico, said that the rampant poverty and exclusion affecting many parts of the world today was a challenge for all States, particularly in light of the commitments made in Copenhagen to eradicate those problems. Decent employment was essential to achieving that goal, she said, calling on the international community to redouble its efforts in that regard, particularly in light of recent statistics that had shown that there were currently 195 million people looking for work worldwide, most of them youth, since, unfortunately, 93 per cent of all the jobs available to them in developing countries were in the informal sector. Further, women still lacked the same decent work opportunities as men, and broad segments of populations that were able to work lacked the proper training for jobs available to them.



For its part, Mexico was trying to tackle the youth unemployment issue through a comprehensive strategy aimed at people under 18 years old. It monitored the situations of those young people in areas such as family, housing, environment, education, health and poverty levels. The programme provided funds to enhance social and productive welfare, which could, in turn, help improve the situations of people living in extreme poverty or in remote areas. She said that, overall, Mexico considered it vitally important to set out and provide access to transparent, reliable and useful information when it elaborated job policies. One of the country’s most important accomplishments had been the creation of a national database of employment statistics, which was updated every three months.



She went on to acknowledge that Mexico still needed to make more progress in the area of full employment, and that it was still necessary to promote the use of statistical data in that field. At the same time, the country’s decade-old human development plan “Oportunidades” had proven to be a powerful tool in the fight against child labour, given its focus on two priority objectives: alleviation of extreme poverty and capacity development in the country’s poorest homes. On ageing, she said that the fast approaching fifth anniversary of Madrid provided an opportunity for possible regional or international reviews to assess the situation of that often marginalized group. For its part, Mexico had, among other things, implemented a programme to support the elderly that suffered from poverty or lived in hard-to-reach areas.



ENRIQUE DEIBE ( Argentina), aligning himself with the Group of 77, said good governance, sound economic policies, solid democratic institutions and improved infrastructure were the basis for sustained economic growth, poverty eradication and employment creation. Over the past four years, his Government had focused on human development, based on a human rights approach. Consequently, his Government had distanced itself from the orthodox economy and had placed quality employment at the core of its development strategy. It had reoriented its social and employment policies, establishing such programmes as the “Family Programme for Social Inclusion” and the “Training and Employment Insurance”.



He said another pillar of its strategy was a policy geared towards the recuperation of the purchasing power of salaries. The Government had increased the value of the minimum wage, which had been stalled for a decade, by 300 per cent, and that of the minimum pension by 253 per cent. Average salaries had increased by 82 per cent in three years through the revitalization of collective bargaining. Thus, the generalized reduction of unemployment had been 10.2 per cent in the third trimester of 2006 and had affected all sectors of the population. The fundamental axis of economic growth in Argentina was decent work, which translated into concrete policies geared towards jobs with dignified working conditions and fair pay. In that spirit, Argentina had hosted the Summit of the Americas on “Creating jobs to face poverty and strengthen democratic governance”, in November 2005.



He described his Government’s efforts to address specific social groups, including through the National Advisory Committee for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities, the Programme for the Inclusion of Youth, and the national funds for training in trades and the continuing professional training programme. He added that his country was also proud to have a public and universal health system, accessible to any person, regardless of citizenship status. He extended an invitation to participate in the International Conference on Health for Development with its theme “Rights, facts and realities: strengthening primary health care and health systems to achieve the Millennium Goals”, which would take place in Buenos Aires from 13 to 18 August 2007.



TERTTU SAVOLAINEN, State Secretary of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health of Finland, associated herself with the position of the European Union and said that, since Copenhagen, attention had been focusing on poverty reduction. While the goal was right, the agenda had been too narrow, so far. Finland emphasized that the concept of decent work was a key element that broadened the agenda of social development and poverty reduction in a very realistic and constructive way. Sustainable development would result only from a coherent policy mix of economic, employment, education and social policies. Target-oriented, comprehensive social and decent work policies were needed for economic growth to benefit all. Governments had a key role to play in designing and implementing such policies. In a globalized world, the decent work agenda –- employment, rights, social protection and social dialogue -– should be incorporated in national development strategies. That had been also a conclusion of the round table of experts that had gathered in Finland last November to deliberate on the role of social policies for development.



Better employment and higher productivity went hand in hand in the global economy, she continued. Decent work was not only socially, but also economically, beneficial. It was necessary to carry out equitable and employment-oriented macroeconomic policies that could facilitate sustainable economic growth. Investment in basic education and lifelong learning was a critical factor in facilitating access to decent work for all. All countries must invest in active labour market policies that would enable people to transfer from declining and informal sectors to better and more productive jobs.



There seemed to be ample evidence of the positive impact of equity policies, social protection and essential social services on poverty reduction and on the accumulation of human and social capital, she added. Furthermore, such policies prevented exclusion in the labour market and facilitated employability. During its history, Finland had also experienced the importance of full employment, education, health and social protection for all in nation-building. In order to make that possible in developing countries, as well, the international community must support capacity-building and the voices of those ministries and institutions that were directly responsible for designing and implementing comprehensive social and employment policies. Also needed were multi-stakeholder partnerships and joint efforts by Governments, citizens, trade unions, ecologically and socially responsible business organizations, donors and intergovernmental organizations. The Economic and Social Council had a central role in setting and monitoring the social development goals and standards.



RODRIGO MALMIERCA DÍAZ (Cuba), supporting the Group of 77 and China, said that, despite the economic growth in some countries, world unemployment in 2006 had reached an alarming 192.5 million people, 44 per cent of whom were youths. There were 852 million hungry people in the world, 842 million illiterates, 766 million without health services and 120 million without drinking water. All that was the result of an unjust international order by which the rich countries failed to fulfil the commitments they had made at major United Nations conferences and summits.



The Secretary-General’s report recognized that, in some countries, trade liberalization had had a negative impact on full employment and that globalization had increased the vulnerability of workers. In Cuba, the strengthening of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States notwithstanding, nobody had left of their own volition. Social expenditure continued to grow, which demonstrated an all-round development strategy that, since the triumph of the revolution, had harmonized economic growth with social strategies. In 2006, Cuba had achieved 1.9 per cent unemployment, the lowest rate ever, with 12.5 per cent economic growth. In Cuba, more than 4 million workers were employed, of whom 45 per cent were women earning the same salaries as men for doing the same work.



The entire population enjoyed universal social protection and, in 2005, salaries, pensions and retirement schemes had been raised to the benefit of more than 5 million citizens, he said. More than 200 social programmes had prioritized the training and employment of nurses, art instructors, computer teachers, social workers and primary and secondary school teachers, among other professionals. The employment programme for the physically or mentally challenged had gained remarkable momentum. Every year more than 83,600 working mothers enjoyed 60 per cent of their salaries during their 18-month maternity leave, while mothers with severely challenged children continued to receive their salaries even when not working. Furthermore, Cuba provided supportive assistance to fellow developing countries, including through the training of human resources in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.



SERGEI A. RACHKOV ( Belarus) said his country had carried out more than 10 years of “social-focused” economic policy, with the promotion of higher and decent employment being a key element. The policies had resulted in achievement of the lowest unemployment rate in Eastern Europe, measuring at 1.2 per cent. Still, more emphasis was needed to meet the challenge of providing stronger social protection for women, youth, persons with disabilities and older people. To that end, an international conference on trafficking in women and girls would take place in March at United Nations Headquarters, since promoting higher employment among that demographic was seen to be linked to the prevention of human trafficking. All Member States were invited to attend.



Even so, he said, the unemployment rate among women had fallen from 68.9 to 65.8 per cent since the Commission’s last session, while unemployment among youth had fallen from 48.8 to 41.7 per cent. The country had a professional education scheme to ensure that the unemployed obtained skills specifically requested by employers, accessible to 30 per cent of all unemployed people. To better integrate people with disabilities into the workforce, compensation was offered to employers to purchase equipment to be used by people with disabilities. Public employment services also paid for training, accommodation and transportation for people with disabilities undergoing advanced professional education. Finally, “agratowns” were being constructed in Belarus, housing well-trained specialists in rural areas lacking labour resources.



GHANEM ABU RABE’ and NIDAL AL-ABADI, Members of Parliament of Jordan, presented a joint statement, emphasizing the important role of public servants and their commitment to the good of their countries. Regrettably, however, some public servants abused their positions, and corruption in the executive branches of many countries was still high. There was a strong relationship between corruption and poverty. Security of the public servant was, thus, of great importance, and States should work together to bring about a secure legal and legislative environment for investment.



They also highlighted a number of social, economic and political challenges, including the negative impact of globalization on some countries’ development and employment situation. Under current conditions, the public sector could not provide more jobs, and economic reforms were needed to promote the economy. Economic growth in many countries was modest, and there was an unjust distribution of wealth, with 93 per cent of the world population possessing only 7 per cent of global wealth. Current economic international relations exacerbated poverty.



Poor countries believed that World Trade Organization regulations should become more conducive to economies in development, in order to improve performance at the global level, they said. It was necessary to make those regulations appropriate for economic and social changes in the world and encourage investment, while also promoting partnerships between the private and public sectors. Parliaments were called upon to establish good social protection systems to develop the capabilities of people. It was also important to strengthen freedom and give people the right to representation. It was necessary to address the issues of compulsory work and discrimination in the labour market, strengthen oversight, increase transparency and combat corruption. The international community and super-Powers should also bring about the changes that were needed to make the human being the centre of social and economic policies.



LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that Governments should make full use of their comparative advantages to develop their economies in a focused manner and create more employment opportunities. It was necessary to increase investment in human resources and provide better education and training to workers in order to improve their skills. Also needed were improvements in the service system for the labour market and a favourable environment for employment and entrepreneurship. A social security system tailored to a country’s specific situation was the guarantee for the promotion of full employment and decent work. While developing the economy, Governments must not neglect the principle of social justice and fairness. They should ensure that vulnerable social groups got their share of the benefits of development. While providing decent work was the common goal of the international community, it was necessary to respect diversity due to national conditions and levels of development of various countries. Also, although Governments bore the primary responsibility of safeguarding the rights and interests of workers, transnational corporations must also shoulder their social responsibilities.



Employment of the rural population was an indispensable component of efforts to promote full employment and decent work, he continued. About half of the world’s population lived in rural areas, and Governments should increase their contribution to rural and agricultural development. Efforts should also be made to create more employment opportunities during the urbanization process, to accommodate the surplus labour in rural areas. Governments should also provide taxation and policy support to small and medium enterprises, which constitute the most dynamic and innovative part of economic development. Developed countries should take a more positive approach to helping the developing countries in their efforts to eradicate poverty and generate employment. He called on those countries to abandon trade protectionism, which was “unwise and unfair”. In particular, he called for the dismantling of the trade barriers against labour intensive products from developing countries. The developed countries should also adopt positive policies on transfer of technologies, especially those related to clean production, low emission and high energy efficiency.



Regarding China’s national experience, he said that, as a developing country with the largest population in the world, it faced a more complex problem of employment than any other country. The Government was implementing active employment policies to promote economic development, create opportunities, adjust economic structures and develop small enterprises. Employment services and vocational training were provided to laid-off and unemployed workers. The Government was also coordinating employment in urban and rural areas, seeking to establish a system of equal employment. Despite those efforts, however, owing to its large population, the country was going to be confronted with the problem of labour oversupply for an extended period of time. China was also burdened with the heavy task of economic transition and structural adjustment. In the field of employment, it needed to address the challenges of additional labour in towns and cities, surplus labour in rural areas and re-employment of laid-off and unemployed workers. The road towards the realization of full employment and decent work for all in China would be long and arduous, but the country was willing to join the efforts of the international community in striving for the realization of those goals.



Mr. HOUIALAMI ( Morocco) said that encouraging full employment and providing decent work touched on a complex issue: the intersection of financial and social sectors of society. Therefore, there was a need to focus on people living in dignity while at the same time boosting job opportunities and economies. Social protection should be a focus, particularly for least developed countries, as well as vocational and other training so that populations were ready to avail themselves of new job opportunities when they arose.



For its part, Morocco had elaborated a national labour law that had proved a useful tool in improving the livelihoods of its people and had integrated job creation into overall development plans. Among other things, Morocco had opened health coverage to all sectors of the population, and now allocated more than 50 per cent of its budget to social sectors. The Government had also begun to work closely with civil society and labour unions to craft relevant policies and programmes. His country had realized that the key to providing decent work and full employment for all was cooperation, dialogue -- particularly with civil society actors -- and acute attention to social inclusion and integration.



CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the creation of a balance between economic development and social justice that protected workers and promoted their rights must be a constant policy goal at national and international levels. The 1998 International Labour Organization (ILO) Declaration was still the cornerstone for creating such a balance. Many workers would benefit from a fair outcome in the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round. A farsighted breakthrough could still be made, in particular regarding agricultural trade rules. The consequences of such a shift for Northern economies would have to be mitigated by the deployment of that region’s much greater resources to assist those affected.



He said equal pay for equal work seemed obvious, but women were still too often undervalued. Working parents, both women and men, should be assisted, if necessary by law, to bring their irreplaceable contribution to the upbringing of their children. Another category that deserved the Commission’s special attention was that of the very poor, present in every country without exception. No Government should tolerate extreme poverty. Access to decent, safe and fulfilling work for the extreme poor was fundamental to the achievement of social development. Given the dramatic shift in the population pyramid, Governments would also do well to find ways to encourage older people to remain in the job market. Migrants too deserved equal pay and equal protection under law. Work itself should be decent. Work was dignified by the people who did it, but it must also be dignified in itself.



RICHARD T. MILLER ( United States) said that the foundation of development was built with jobs, good jobs, as the most valuable bricks. Increasing the productivity of individuals through improving their employment prospects was the very essence of development. The United States supported the promotion of decent work, defined by ILO Director-General Juan Somavia as the convergence of ILO’s four strategic objectives: promotion of rights at work, employment, social protection and social dialogue. There was a critical need for job creation and decent work around the world. ILO’s Decent Work Country Programme provided a valuable contribution to broader development frameworks. His country believed that the role of Governments was to create and maintain conditions for economic growth.



In every part of the world, in countries at all levels of development, it was the private sector, not the Government, that created jobs that were truly sustainable and productive, he stressed. A vibrant and healthy private sector was a key element of a free and open society. Of course, job creation, whether public or private, must go hand in hand with respect for fundamental principles and rights at work, including freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour, abolition of child labour and the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation. The United States Millennium Challenge Corporation had outlined three criteria -- the rule of law, investment in health and in education and economic freedom -- as key factors in the expansion of employment. Transparent economies, free of burdensome regulation were the real engines for new jobs.



Job creation was also very important to solving the demographic challenges faced by societies with ageing populations, he continued. By 2030, almost 20 per cent of all Americans would be 65 or older. As the “baby-boom” generation aged, the number of people 85 and older was also expected to increase. The country’s policies were aimed at helping senior citizens and persons with disabilities. As had been made clear during the recently concluded negotiations for the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the United States was firmly committed to the equal and full integration of persons with disabilities of all ages within communities and the workplace, and to ensuring that all men and women had an opportunity to enjoy human rights and freedoms without discrimination.



Regarding international migration, he said that, in the face of that reality, it was important to keep in mind that migration alone could never solve the challenge of creating employment for millions of new workers emerging in the world. Each country was responsible for fostering the conditions that favoured growth within its borders. Policies that encouraged job creation, transparency, accountability and rule of law were the best ways to ensure that the benefits of a globalized economy would be shared by all. In the efforts to ensure that today’s youth had the opportunity to become healthy, productive adults, he recognized the important role of the family. Every country needed to promote healthy families and ensure that youth were able to obtain the education and training they needed to be successful contributors to their communities.



MAKMUR SUNUSI ( Indonesia) said it was a concern that global economic growth had been strong in 2006, but that unemployment had remained at a historic high. With three quarters of the world’s poor living in rural and agricultural regions, mostly in developing countries, productivity and incomes in rural farm and non-farm sectors needed to be urgently raised. That should go hand in hand with measures aimed at improving market access, phasing out all forms of export subsidies and increasing foreign direct investment. Regarding the vital role of small and medium enterprises, promotion of access to resources, including microfinance and microcredit, particularly among poor women, was essential.



Addressing the situation in his country, he said job creation, especially decent work for all, was the main focus of a national plan to reduce the unemployment rates from its high of 9.5 per cent in 2003 to a low of 5.1 per cent in 2008. Close attention had been paid to the need for poverty alleviation, social inclusion and gender mainstreaming, through capacity-building of regional and local government and through raising awareness through the media. Young people faced high levels of unemployment and were mostly concentrated in the informal sector. His Government was making resources available to promote small and medium enterprises, as they were venues for the entrepreneurial talents of women and youth. After all, following the 1997-1998 financial crisis, such enterprises had created an effective cushion for countless families.



TUVAKO MANONGI (United Republic of Tanzania) said that his delegation continued to closely follow the troubling increase in unemployment worldwide, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. The United Republic of Tanzania believed that concerted efforts were, therefore, necessary to ensure full employment and decent work for all, and that national and international polices to that end were urgently considered and adopted. His own Government had recognized employment’s central role in promoting national prosperity, poverty eradication and social inclusion, as well as in enhancing peace, stability and social harmony.



Creating decent jobs and self-employment was, thus, fundamental to the realization of the right to work, as well as a means for sustained economic growth and the attainment of international goals and commitments, including the Millennium Development Goals. His Government had set for itself the goal of creating 1 million decent jobs by 2010, he said, noting that provisions to facilitate that had been provided for in the country’s current budget. As a part of its strategy, the Government had also committed itself to providing a conducive environment for promoting full employment and decent work by incorporating employment issues in its national poverty reduction strategy.



He acknowledged that, despite all the Government’s efforts, the United Republic of Tanzania’s employment rate remained high. The country also faced underemployment compounded by the fact that some job opportunities in the informal and agricultural sectors were not productive. Women and youth were particularly impacted by that trend, as well as by lack of marketable skills and training and lagging support to transition from school to employment.



The Government also faced other challenges, including low levels of economic growth, an underdeveloped agricultural sector –- particularly troubling since that sector employed nearly 80 per cent of the country’s work force -- rapid population growth and a low technology/skills base. With all that in mind, he emphasized the importance of international cooperation in realizing the goals of productive employment and decent work. While the Government recognized its primary responsibility for creating a conducive environment for employment opportunities, it also recognized the important role the international community had to play by providing resources to developing countries and assisting national initiatives. Transfer of appropriate technologies, including information and communication technology was also vital, he added.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/soc4724.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 9 2007, 03:21 PM
The Commission for Sustainable Development continued its forty-fifth session today, holding a panel discussion on good practices for promoting full employment in the morning. It was expected to continue its general debate in the afternoon.



Panel Discussion



Opening the dialogue, the moderator of the panel discussion, JOSE MANUEL SALAZAR, Executive Director of the International Labour Organization’s Employment Sector, said that there was a wide consensus in the Commission on the need to promote full employment and decent work for all. The challenge now related to operationalizing the economic and social policies to achieve that goal. In terms of policymaking, existing good practices demonstrated the need to consider employment and decent work issues in an integrated manner, with the involvement of all key ministries and departments, as well as industries and the private sector. Policy integration and coherence posed major challenges in that regard. Employment should also be taken into consideration in the development strategies. For its part, the ILO had been working with social partners towards inclusion of decent work in countries’ Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers.



On the macroeconomic level, the employment content of growth had diminished, he continued. The increase in unemployment and adverse impact of globalization on job creation should be addressed through specific strategies to improve job growth. Effective employment strategies should lead to the adoption of sectoral approaches, interventions and incentives across labour-intensive and high-productivity sectors. As a recent World Economic and Social Survey stressed, the ability to sustain economic and productivity growth was associated with the capacity to diversify, attract new activities, strengthen linkages within the countries and capacity to create domestic technological capabilities. Trade policies and the investment climate were to be treated wisely. The quality of countries’ export portfolios was of great importance.



The main challenge for Governments was to create a favourable environment for industries to create jobs, he said. Good practices in the workplace, including good labour relations, needed to be promoted. International labour guidelines provided a good basis in that regard. Nokia in Finland was a good example, where success was achieved not only due to good engineering, but also through the creation of good working conditions. It was also important to target particular groups, including women, persons with disabilities, youth, indigenous people and other vulnerable segments of the population; assess progress; and avoid fragmentation. Some of the most successful youth employment programmes provided training and job-placement services, in some cases combined with fiscal incentives to companies to hire young workers. Some countries were channelling their efforts towards industries that could provide youth employment, for example companies involved in technology and tourism.



Education made people employable, and skills training and lifelong learning were at the centre of all high-productivity sectors, he said. Investment in human capital and training systems in response to new competence requirements should be promoted.



Panellist Bishop ZEPHANIA KAMEETA, Evangelical Lutheran Church , Namibia, who had been a leader in the establishment of a basic income grant in the country, said that there would be no need for anyone to be here if indeed there was a good practice model for promoting employment and decent work “for all”. Still, even though the international community was struggling to find the answer to that important question, today’s discussion provided a perfect opportunity for everyone to share their experiences, proposals -- and failures. Further, it was clear that stakeholders “were on the road” towards a good practice model.



For Namibia, “good/best practice” was not the story of the poor young dishwasher who worked hard and became a millionaire. And while the country had its share of such stories of individual achievement, it was important to emphasize the “for all” phrase tacked on to the end of the title of today’s panel discussion. That was what made the difference. It meant asking for and demanding what politicians called a “turn-around strategy.” It also meant taking a hard look at current socio-economic and employment indicators on the ground. With that in mind, he said that decent employment was a matter of survival for the people of Namibia.



According to the latest Social Development report, Namibia held the sad distinction of being the most “unequal” society in the world, he said. Despite Namibia’s classification as a “lower-middle-income” country, about two thirds of the people lived below the poverty line, so having a job was a matter of “being or not being” since there were scarcely any safety nets and virtually no possibilities of making a decent living outside the formal sector. Worse, he said, was that, despite calls from across the political spectrum for large-scale job creation initiatives, no relief was in sight. According to the most recent available labour statistics, 36.7 per cent of the population was unemployed.



The figures were even more dramatic and distressing for younger people and women, he said, noting that the unemployment rate among teenagers and young adults 15 to 19 years old was 64.6 per cent, and among 20- to 25-year-olds, at 57.4 per cent. In fact, for most young Namibians, there was basically no chance for employment. For most of the poor and unemployed, the daily quest to just survive took up time and energy collecting water and firewood. Some other survival activities -- commercial sex work, criminal activity, foraging for food in dumps -- posed serious dangers and risked future productivity.



If the international community was searching for employment solutions “for all,” or at least for a large portion of the poverty-stricken masses, it would be necessary to remedy structural injustices, which perpetuated the ever-increasing unemployment and poverty rates. After highlighting the Namibian Government’s efforts to turn things around, including through the creation of public/private partnerships and the creation of Economic Processing Zones to attract foreign investment, he said civil society was now backing a Basic Income Grant for Namibia. The scheme, which had been first proposed by the national tax commission, included a monthly cash grant of no less than $14 United States paid to every citizen up to pension age, at which point he or she would then be eligible for existing universal State assistance.



He said that the Income Grant was more than an income support programme: it provided security that reinforced human dignity and empowerment, and had the capacity to become the most significant poverty-reduction programme in the country, while supporting economic growth, household development and job creation at the same time. He said that, among other things, the Income Grant provided necessary funds to help people enter the job market and was a tool to help rectify market distortions towards the realization of decent work.



SONIA ROCHA, Senior Researcher at the Institute for Studies on Labour and Society in Brazil, spoke about that country’s “Bolsa-Familia”, or Family Stipend, which had been created in 2003. The programme had two basic goals: in the short run, it sought to reduce poverty immediately through small, but regular cash transfers to poor families. Since the transfer was conditioned on vaccination and school attendance by children, it was expected that the programme would reduce poverty in the long run, as well. Today, it was the largest cash transfer programme targeting the poor in the world, with monthly benefits paid to some 11 million in December last year. The programme considered the woman in the family as the reference person. The stipend was credited to a bank account and withdrawn with a magnetic card.



The Family Stipend was the heir of federal transfer programmes that had been in place in Brazil since the 1990s, including the Scholarship Programme and the Food Stipend Programme, she continued. Compared with its predecessors, it had lowered the selection criterion from $82 to under $48 in family per capita monthly income. The value of the benefit now ranged from $20 to $45 per family per month. All families that met the income criterion -- and not just families with children -- were eligible to receive the benefits. The advantages of having a single integrated cash transfer programme allowed the Government to avoid overlapping of beneficiaries in different programmes, reduce costs, and create a basis for an articulated and multidimensional social assistance system for the poor.



Despite the achievements, there was still much room for improving the targeting of families, she said. There were still almost 5 million families that qualified for the programme according to the income criterion, but were not receiving the transfer. Selection and listing of families by local authorities was done hastily and with very limited means, which led to problems in the data basis for follow-up and evaluation. There was also much overlapping.



Panellist SYLVIA BEALS, Policy Development Manager of HelpAge International, a global network working with and for disadvantaged older women and men to make sustainable change, said the Decent Work Agenda was critical to older people, particularly as the number of people over 60 was set to explode in the next 20 years. And since as much as 80 per cent of the workforce was in the developing world -– dominated by work in the informal sector -- that meant that huge numbers of elderly people would soon be working in “poor quality” or insecure jobs.



So the Decent Work Agenda should take a very clear line on support for the elderly, just as it did with women and youth, all of whom made up the bulk of the informal economy, had low incomes and lacked social protection. She went on to say that the social protection/ social transfer pillar of the Decent Work Agenda also deserved more attention because such focus could reduce poverty gaps for many of the world’s elderly people by supporting post-employment or retirement services or benefits, as well as support for the staggering numbers of elderly people that would be caring for sick and dying relatives in countries that had been ravaged by the AIDS pandemic.



She said that social security was a universal right and implementing transfers was a clear indication of political intent to address vulnerability and support the poorest. Social transfers also delivered rapid impacts, or “quick wins” for poverty reduction. She stressed that investment in social security was a political process, not an unaffordable dream. Indeed, political will existed, but real action was needed to ensure that social protection/social security was included and resourced via national development programmes with the support of development partners, Governments and civil society.



SANTOSH MEHROTRA, Adviser, Rural Development, Planning Commission of India, focused on India’s National Rural Employment Guarantee programme, which had been enacted in September 2005. India was one of the fast-developing countries in Asia, with one of the largest populations in the world and a large surplus labour force in rural areas. The previous Government’s “India Shining” campaign had failed to win votes in May 2004 elections, and the current Government had come to power on a rural/agricultural development vote. The work employment programmes that had been put in place prior to the current one had been characterized by low coverage and bureaucracy-dominated planning. Over 50 per cent of their beneficiaries had not belonged to the neediest group, and only 16 to 29 days of employment were provided per household.



Under the new programme, for 2006-2007, some 200 poorest districts of India’s 619 districts had been identified for the implementation of the first phase of the project, and in 2007-2008, another 132 backward districts would be added, he continued. During the initial stages, pre-existing programmes would continue in the rest of the country. The Rural Employment Guarantee was expected to provide a social safety net for the vulnerable groups; eliminate distress migration through local employment; generate employment in the most deprived areas; provide opportunity to combine growth with equity; and enhance livelihood security in rural areas by work that developed the infrastructure base of the areas involved. The programme would provide work for 100 days in a financial year to one member of a household, who would volunteer to do unskilled manual work. Employment was to be provided within 15 days of application for work, and if that was not done a daily unemployment allowance would be paid. At least one third of the beneficiaries had to be women. Drinking water, emergency health care, crèches and a child “minder” were to be provided at work sites.



In connection with the programme, the tasks at the central level included the need to formulate the guidelines and funding arrangements for the programme and to ensure efficient delivery and monitoring of the scheme. At the district level, authorities would need to estimate demand for work; initiate participatory planning, giving a principal role to the village assemblies; and ensure professional support for planning. The central Government would bear the entire wage cost of unskilled manual workers, 75 per cent of the material costs and wages of skilled or semi-skilled workers, expenses of the National Employment Guarantee Council and administrative expenses. The state governments would bear 25 per cent of the material costs and wages of skilled and semi-skilled workers, as well as unemployment allowances and administrative expenses at the state level. The work to be undertaken under the programme included water conservation and harvesting, irrigation, land development, flood control and construction of roads.



When delegations and civil society representatives took the floor, one speaker stressed that some employers, particularly small business owners, often discriminated against elderly and disabled people. Was there any way the international community, particularly civil society, could put pressure on the private sector to make room for so-called vulnerable groups? Disabled and elderly people certainly had much to offer, he added.

Another speaker said that, while there was no such thing as a “one size fits all” job creation strategy, there was a need for a consistent international approach. She asked if any of the panellists had considered such an approach to improve conditions and social security in the informal sector.



On income transfers to the poor, one speaker said that such schemes should not be permanent. They must be complimentary to job creation initiatives, and alleviate some of the constraints poor people faced as they searched for jobs or when they entered the labour force for the first time. Such measures must be slowly removed over time. He asked what strategies were being considered to end such income support programmes and move towards the creation of more and better jobs. Similarly, another speaker asked if the panellist saw such transfer schemes as permanent or as temporary ways to jump-start employment creation services.



A civil society representative expressed concern that youth did not have the same access to full and decent employment and were often left out of decision-making on job creation measures. A delegate from the Caribbean region asked if the income transfer programmes that had been mentioned actually led to “decent” work or just “made up a job”. Another wondered what regional impediments were the biggest obstacles to the South solving its own job creation problems.



Several speakers expressed concern about the term “decent work”. Some felt it should be applied to businesses and companies, who often treated workers as mere placeholders or “numbers”, not to people seeking employment. Others were more comfortable with the more people-centred term “respectable employment”, which they felt took into account social concerns.



Responding to comments from the floor, Mr. KAMEETA highlighted the importance of skill improvement, which went hand in hand with job creation. Although the critics of basic income grants said that they taught people to be lazy, he believed they were an important tool in breaking the scandalous circle of poverty. Scepticism did not discourage the proponents of such measures, who intended to continue their efforts to combat poverty.



Ms. ROCHA said that the Family Stipend programme did not intend to eliminate poverty, but sought to alleviate the situation, improving the income level in the country. Once enrolled in the programme, the families could stay as long necessary. The Government intended to also increase incomes through economic development and job creation measures. As for monitoring, with 11 million families participating in the current programme, it was more difficult to monitor than the School Scholarship and Food Stipend programmes, which had been implemented through schools, health clinics and nursing stations. To address the problem, the Government was introducing family questionnaires, among other things.



Ms. BEALS said that, to overcome negative stereotypes, it was important to have a clear view of the contributions that disadvantaged groups, including disabled people, brought to society. All people had a right to be included. Partnerships among the disadvantaged groups -- for example; elderly and people with disabilities -- could be an effective tool in ensuring decent work for all. To better reach people, it was necessary to prioritize various groups in social security provisions at the state level.



Regarding the affordability of old-age pensions, she said that the cost of social protection was not impractical, and Governments needed to have political will to promote it. It was important to ensure that the poor did not fall below a certain standard. A recent meeting in Bangkok had looked at old-age provisions in terms of population ageing in Asia. The existence of pension schemes in such countries as Nepal and India showed that important shifts were taking place there, which, she hoped, international partners would support.



Mr. MEHROTRA said that, if one adult member of rural families was given 100 days of employment on a guaranteed basis every year, many families would be lifted above the poverty line in India. While some questions about the implementation of the programme remained, it was clear that it was important to include local communities in the planning of the programme, letting them identify the main priorities. The programme was intended to be “employment of last resort” -- it was not a solution to all employment issues.



He said that some 93 per cent of workers in India were involved in the informal sector, and it was the Government’s duty to provide protection to those people. The Parliament was currently looking at the possibility of providing social insurance for the informal sector, including pensions and maternity and disability benefits. Industrialized countries had some responsibilities in that respect, as well. Many companies from developed countries were now cutting costs through transfer of work and contracts to developing countries, and there should be some expectation of their Governments that their companies would take upon themselves some degree of social protection for workers.



Regarding development of skills, he said that for some years, the World Bank had insisted that general secondary education was better than vocational training. The trouble was that vast numbers of generally educated young people could not find jobs. For that reason, it was important to “vocationalize” the secondary school education. It was also necessary to upgrade skills of those people who only had primary education, or were illiterate. Local resource centres at village level could be important in that regard.



Wrapping up the dialogue, the moderator mentioned skills development, organization of workers in the informal economy, social protection and legal empowerment among the issues discussed today. All those could become components of an integrated strategy for employment creation. Environmental and labour standards needed to be applied. Socially responsible investments by companies should be encouraged.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/soc4725.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 12 2007, 05:10 PM
Background



The Commission for Social Development met today to continue its forty-fifth session, with delegations expected to conclude their general debate on the agenda item “promoting full employment and decent work for all”. It was also expected to hold an expert panel discussion entitled “Ageing”, and, in the afternoon, hear the presentation of the World Youth Report 2007.



Statements



N. AHMED AL-YASSIN ( Iraq) said it was critical that the plans and programmes promoted by the United Nations and its functional commissions be fully implemented, particularly in the area of employment. The Organization should encourage and assist national Governments to that end, particularly in ensuring employment for women and youth.



While the Government of Iraq had worked hard to ensure full employment, the dire security situation and foreign intervention were severely hampering those efforts, he said. Men and women were fleeing the country in large numbers, leaving the labour force, as well as the local knowledge base, severely depleted. As for the wider objectives of the Decent Work Agenda, Iraq called on all Governments to implement its economic and social pillars, which were key elements of the effort to generate more and better jobs while promoting sustainable development.



SAUL WEISLEDER (Costa Rica), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said the ever-increasing global economy with new production patterns presented new challenges to the international community. Although there was growing agreement that employment and decent work were a priority, it was still necessary to translate that understanding into practice. Even though there had been progress, it was unequal and traditional recipes were not working. “We cannot have a frenetic race to attract investment and neither should we ignore the realities of the markets and liberalization.”



Noting that his country’s priorities included combating poverty, he said it had doubled pensions for non-contributing persons so as to give a full and dignified life to older people. Among Costa Rica’s other initiatives were free, almost universal health coverage and improvements in education. It was important for the creation of quality jobs to diversify markets and fight barriers to free trade, efforts which required certain exceptions, especially in the markets of developed countries. To achieve full employment and decent work, developing countries must improve their integration into the world economy. “Intelligent integration” must be built on respective strengths and adequate allocation of resources.



The next step was an in-depth reform of the public education system to create opportunities for all Costa Ricans, he said. It was important to find concrete solutions for the achievement of full employment and decent work for all, in particular defining the role of national and foreign investment. Poor countries could not be excluded from cooperation for development. The Costa Rican Government sought to focus on education, health and housing rather than on soldiers.



In conclusion, he addressed the Secretary-General’s report before the Commission, the Spanish text of which referred to “the disabled” rather than “persons with disabilities”, as well as “physical, intellectual and mental handicaps”. That was an inexcusable mistake, which must be corrected as those terms were alien to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.



ANA RADU ( Republic of Moldova) recalled that the 1995 World Summit on Social Development at Copenhagen had presented the international community with an opportunity to promote human-centred development in the wider effort to ensure coordinated social and economic advancements for sustainable development. It was important to ensure greater and better collaboration between international organizations and those with “social mandates” in order to meet Copenhagen’s aims for social protection and full and decent employment for all. The Government of the Republic of Moldova had worked hard to translate plans and programmes in the social sphere into concrete social policies in areas such as child welfare, social security and labour reforms.



However, the country still faced serious challenges in effecting the full implementation of the Copenhagen Programme of Action, she said. Even as the Republic of Moldova’s economy became more stable, many people migrated to other areas to find work. Indeed, its dependence on remittances was the second highest in the world and some 80 per cent of Moldovan citizens living outside the country sent funds home. The country continued to seek the help of the international community to address the issue of labour migration, particularly in the area of best practices. In the meantime, the Government would continue to work towards the implementation of the Copenhagen goals.



ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said that organization’s interest in the current debate stemmed from the fact that, in April, it would hold a discussion on job creation and employment security in the era of globalization. Because of their experience with distressed constituents who were either unemployed or feared losing their jobs, parliamentarians saw employment creation as a key political issue that brought the tension between the haves and the have-nots to the fore. It forced tough parliamentary debates and was often used as an electoral litmus test.



She said that, all too often, employment and decent work did not occupy centre stage in national economic and social policymaking, and most countries lacked a mechanism to assess the impact of policy decision on employment and decent work. With a view to the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s upcoming debate, two members -– Elizabeth Salquero Carrillo ( Bolivia) and Osamah Abu Ghararah ( Saudi Arabia) -– had prepared a report that found, in essence, that today’s complex societies lacked a single solution to the problem and that an intricate web of social and economic policies must work in unison. Education and training, reconstitution of safety nets and more effective labour market policies, in addition to legislation, were therefore essential ingredients of any national employment creation plan.



Though still a preliminary text, the draft IPU Assembly resolution contained a number of concrete points, she said. For example, it recommended that priority in public and foreign investment in developing countries be given to the more labour-intensive infrastructure projects in poor areas. The draft also stressed the need to ensure adequate financing of self-employment, as well as medium, small and micro enterprises in informal sectors. Beyond that, the draft resolution drew attention to the role that social dialogue must play.



TOSHIHIKO MURATA, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that, in implementing the goal of promoting full employment and decent work for all, it was important to shift the emphasis towards rural areas, where the majority of the world’s poor lived, and rural employment. Priority should be given to the rural landless and near-landless, such marginalized groups as women, youth, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and herders. The importance of rural employment could not be under-emphasized, given that agricultural workers amounted to 450 million people, or 40 per cent of the world’s labour force. Successful poverty reduction required paying considerably more attention to both small farmers and workers as distinct groups.



He said agriculture was one of the sectors in which the highest number of workers faced health and safety risks, in which the highest number of child labourers and women were employed, and in which employment was based on informal arrangements and labour laws were not enforced. A primary policy objective should be to build the capacity of rural workers to produce good, safe, quality food in a sustainable way; support education and training, knowledge and skills; and promote technologies that provided fairer conditions of employment. Policies should support the identification, assessment, up-scaling and replication of good practices that promoted decent work, including in rural, farm and off-farm employment.



Partnerships should be established among United Nations specialized agencies, workers’ unions and civil society organizations, he said, adding that strengthening workers’ organizations was a key to enabling their participation in policy dialogue so as to represent their interests and identify ways to respond to new challenges and opportunities. It must be recognized that waged agricultural workers and their trade unions already played an important role, and could play an even greater one in the future. Given the peculiar way in which production was organized in rural areas and its impact on labour, it was also essential to identify alternative means to strengthen workers’ organizations in order to broaden their membership base to include casual, contract and informal workers while reinforcing their action as development institutions at the community level. Only through the empowerment of the poorest, enabling them to participate in the policy dialogue, could the goal of full employment and decent work for all truly contribute to equity.



BERTRAND DE LOOZ KARAGEORGIADES, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, said his delegation had closely studied the report of the Secretary-General, which noted that economic growth did not effectively lead to a reduction in poverty or increased employment. Worse, unemployed people often became marginalized or were labelled pariahs in their communities. But the Sovereign Military Order of Malta had always been at the service of the poor and needy, and was working hard in many social areas, including the medical field.



While the Sovereign Military Order could not claim to be experts in international labour, it believed in and understood the real importance of decent work and full employment to social integration and human dignity, he said. Its mission was a humanitarian one that was neutral, impartial and a-political. Because of that, it could immediately gear up and provide speedy assistance and other services that could serve as a bridge between emergency and humanitarian efforts. Above all, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta stressed assistance to each individual, each sick or poor person, in order to help them find their dignity.



Mr. GREENE, International Chamber of Commerce and International Organization of Employers, said employment growth required regulatory frameworks that supported innovation and promoted competition. The main components of the broad policy framework required to create wealth and productive employment and tackle persistent poverty included entrepreneurship, sound macroeconomic policies, open trade and investment policies, investment in education, continuous skill development, policies to create an inclusive labour market, sustainable social security systems, quality infrastructure and good public governance. Governments had already committed themselves to such a framework in the 2005 World Summit Outcome and the recent Economic and Social Council Ministerial Declaration.



The business community welcomed the importance attached to public-private partnerships noted in those documents, he said. Partnerships with the private sector could take a number of forms, including linkages between multinational enterprises and local companies, which could help the development of local economies and lead to new business opportunities and job creation. Representative business organizations also had a crucial role to play and it was important to create an enabling environment for enterprises to create and develop productive employment across all groups of society. As global representative organizations of large and small businesses around the world, the International Chamber of Commerce and the International Organization of Employers were working with intergovernmental organizations to mobilize business collectively around those policy challenges.



BARBARA BAUDOT, Coordinator, TRIGLAV Circle, said her organization sought to promote an approach to international relations and public policy that was grounded in the moral and spiritual values expressed in ethical norms and behaviour. A founding objective of the Circle was to realize the core messages of Copenhagen, largely towards ensuring people-centred development as well as an integrated political, economic, ethical and spiritual vision for social development. The Decent Work Agenda responded to humankind’s inherent need to be occupied and to achieve something. “Decent work” also fulfilled a social yearning in most people to be a productive part of society.



She went on to say that, while it was clearly against the prevailing current thinking, progress in labour and work-related areas required revisiting the role of technology in the evolution of societies. The international community must strive for more frugal lifestyles that employed the innate gifts of every human being as opposed to the increasing concentration of financial and economic power that benefited only a few while dehumanizing the planet by promoting a division of labour that favoured machines and exhausted natural resources.



Panel Discussion on Ageing



JOHAN SCHOLVINCK, Director, Division for Social Policy and Development, Moderator of the panel discussion, emphasized the timeliness of the discussion five years after the Madrid Conference on Ageing. The panel would be devoted to outlining and debating major achievements and obstacles in implementing the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing, with the aim of contributing to the debate on issues related to the review and appraisal of the Plan.



In that connection, he recalled that the Commission, in its resolution 44/1 on modalities for the first review and appraisal of the Madrid Plan, had decided to start the first global cycle of review and appraisal in 2007 during the current session and to conclude it in 2008 for its forty-sixth session. Member States had been requested to identify specific areas for in-depth participatory inquiries, using a bottom-up approach, so that each country could establish for itself the activities it intended to review. The Secretary-General’s report on major developments in the area of ageing since the Second World Assembly would be made available to delegates at the Commission’s forthcoming session.



SHEILABAI BAPPOO, Minister for Social Security, National Solidarity and Senior Citizens Welfare and Reform Institutions of Mauritius, focused on the issue of older persons and development, saying that the number of pensioners aged 60 and above would double between 2000 and 2050. Ageing would have an impact on Government and civil society, health and institutional care, employment and labour markets, social protection systems and economic growth.



Turning to her country’s national experience, the policy of the Government of Mauritius towards the elderly bore the headline “Dignity, Respect and Ageing with a Smile” and focused on productive, participatory and meaningful ageing, as well as ageing with dignity and self-fulfilment. The country had a network of 54 social welfare centres, 125 community centres and nine day-care centres for the elderly. Consultations for policy decision were conducted with the Senior Citizen Council and some 610 senior citizens’ organizations.



There were a wide variety of training, education and recreational programmes for the elderly and persons with disabilities, she said. The Government also focused on issues relating to the ageing labour force, in particular, through the development of small and medium enterprises, the creation of an Empowerment Fund and the raising of the retirement age from 60 to 65 years of age. Social protection was available to all older people and a non-contributory universal pension plan covered all those aged 60 and above. Additional pensions were paid to people aged 90 and above.



Intergenerational solidarity was also a matter of attention and efforts were being made to transmit values, culture and traditions from one generation to the next, she continued. Home visits to those who were bedridden as well as residents of charitable institutions had been organized and preventive care for the elderly had been incorporated into the country’s health system. All senior citizens were entitled to free transportation, and wheelchairs, hearing aids, dentures and spectacles were provided free of charge.



FREDERICK FENCK, geriatrics specialist, and Director, International Institute on Ageing, Malta, said Madrid had highlighted the need to ensure an integrated approach to strategies for ageing in the framework of overall sustainable development. Today, two thirds of all older persons –- some 375 million people worldwide -– lived in developing countries. Indeed, ageing and urbanization were the two major demographic trends in developing and transitional countries.



He also noted that developing countries were undergoing a rapid epidemiological transition from infectious diseases to chronic ones, while African countries also bore the double burden of large numbers of people suffering from infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS as well as chronic ones. All those demographic changes were occurring against the backdrop of a global information and communication technology explosion.



Recalling that Economic and Social Council resolution 1987/41 recommended the establishment of the International Institute on Ageing, he said that, on 9 October 1987, the United Nations had signed an official agreement with the Government of Malta to establish the International Institute on Ageing as an autonomous body under the Organization’s auspices. Inaugurated on 15 April 1988 by then Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, the Institute’s main objective, under its United Nations mandate, was to facilitate the education and training of personnel from developing countries in the various fields of ageing. It focused on training and capacity-building, networking, publication and convening international meetings.



He went on to highlight the serious problems facing older people in developing countries, stressing the specific need for poverty reduction strategies to outline ways to deal with ageing. Public health education and the promotion of healthy lifestyles were also important in rapidly ageing developing countries, but such efforts were often hampered because those very countries suffered from the greatest shortages of health-care workers, nurses and from overall “brain drain” in other health- and medical-related fields as African nationals sought employment and livelihoods in the West. Some of the Institute’s activities, undertaken with such partners as the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), helped the mainstreaming of ageing into gender issues and humanitarian responses.



The foremost challenges for the international community lay in supporting older persons as they sought to integrate themselves into society, he said. All stakeholders must promote that social integration process in a manner that avoided inert-generational stress and “ageism” sparked by fears of dwindling health-care funds and services. Everyone must also work to ensure that older persons were not seen as passive and helpless, but rather as valuable resources that could benefit society as a whole. In order to reach that noble goal, it was critically important to implement all relevant international agreements and development initiatives on behalf of the world’s elderly.



MARTHA B. PELAEZ, international expert in ageing and health, said older people all over the world needed enough money to live on as well as health and freedom to continue doing what they valued in an environment free of discrimination. Active ageing was the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance the quality of life as people aged. However, health and social systems were having trouble keeping up with changing demographics. A concerted effort was needed to ensure health maintenance and chronic disease management, prevent disabilities and introduce community-based long-term care programmes. The changing demographic situation required health-care systems to switch from acute care to care of multiple chronic conditions with possible consequences in functional capacity.



Long-term care options were needed for persons with physical, mental and cognitive disabilities from all socio-economic levels, she said, adding that it would be a mistake to believe that ageing populations related mostly to developed countries. While some 52 per cent of older people lived in the North today, that situation would change by 2050, when some 180 million older people would be living in developing countries. The main challenges for geriatric health services included health-care coverage, lack of trained providers and lack of information about ageing and health access for the elderly. Other problems included medication mismanagement, overlooked health problems, lack of prevention services and functional decline.



It was therefore necessary to implement educational programmes in geriatrics and gerontology for physicians, nurses and other health and social care providers, she said. It was also important to develop national and regional initiatives to implement practice-improvement programmes. It was also necessary to recognize the role and value of family caregivers, build regular assessments of their needs into primary health-care practice, develop experience, review legislation regarding family caregivers and build the capacity for homecare services. Programmes should be designed to meet the needs of the “older family”. Health security for older adults related to effective prevention, early detection and chronic care management with protocols adjusted to their needs. National targets should be established to improve health security for older people. It was also necessary to elaborate indicators for monitoring success.



MARY ANN TSAO, President and CEO of the Singapore-based Tsao Foundation, spoke about creating and ensuring enabling and supportive environments, saying the Foundation was a regionally-oriented non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the aged and other ageing-related issues. As older persons were now living longer but with more disabilities, they required more support and assistance, even as the capacity of nuclear families to care for them decreased. With that in mind, Governments and community-level actors were becoming increasingly aware that families could no longer be the sole supporters of their elderly relatives in terms of health care, financial and psycho-social support.



To help address that trend, she said, stakeholders were looking at a number of innovative options, including the provision of social pensions, engaging seniors’ groups with Government organizations on alternatives, and expanded home care and caregiver support for disabled older people. On social pensions, an elderly man had recounted during a recent trip to China how there was nothing more empowering than “having money in my pocket”. To that end, the Foundation saw such schemes as “win-win” initiatives that helped reduce older people’s poverty and raised their status, material security and access to services.



Research had shown that older persons regularly contributed portions of their pensions to their families, which helped improve household living conditions, she said. In developing countries, where such schemes were in place, pensions also eased the financial burden of older persons caring for relatives living with HIV/AIDS. It had become clear that even small pensions made a huge difference in the lives of older persons. Regarding efforts to engage seniors’ groups with Governments, such groups of older people were usually social or faith-based. But recent initiatives by non-governmental organizations supported the formation of associations structured around specific issues and linked with local governments. Such associations had been highly effective in raising awareness among older people about entitlements and pension services, and encouraging them to participate in policy dialogue and other decision-making areas. On care-giving, particularly for frail or disabled elderly people, such services as help with grocery shopping, housekeeping or yard work were critical for the dignity and overall survival of older persons.



After the Moderator opened an interactive dialogue on ageing, speakers reaffirmed their commitment to the Madrid Plan of Action and shared their national and regional experiences in its implementation. They also pointed out that ageing created both challenges and opportunities, which must be recognized, studied and addressed. A link between ageing and national development policies was emphasized, with one speaker pointing out that one aspect of ageing manifested itself in the erosion of traditional family care systems, while new political frameworks at the State level had not yet been fully developed.



Speakers also highlighted the situation of older people working in the informal sector who required coverage by pension and social security systems, with some noting that Governments encountered financial difficulties in that regard and others raising questions about the role of international cooperation in tackling the difficulties relating to older people’s needs. One speaker also pointed out that there should be a more explicit link between the Madrid Plan of Action and the International Labour Organization (ILO) Decent Work Agenda.



Ms. BAPPOO, responding to questions, said retired and elderly people in Mauritius could participate in income-generating initiatives within the larger development framework through, among others, an Empowerment Fund that targeted retired persons wishing to start up small- or medium-sized enterprises.



Mr. FENCK said that, rather than asking what could be done for older persons, it was more important to stress empowering them to participate in development. They had unique gifts to share, from volunteering and counselling –- in elder care centres or working with youth groups -– to more regularized employment. Governments could make it easier for older persons to go on working as one way to ensure they were invested in the development of their local communities and national societies.



Ms. PELAEZ said there was a direct link between “the amount of money in your pocket and your health”. There were very good examples of social pension schemes in Brazil and throughout South America that were improving the dignity of older people -- often by increasing their savings -- the empowerment of women and wider development.



Ms. TSAO said social pension schemes were really an investment in social development because they helped lift families out of poverty. The small dollar amounts that older persons received reaped huge benefits, by, among other things, opening up possibilities to increase savings and encouraging older persons to contribute to the efforts of younger members of their immediate families to find work.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/soc4726.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 13 2007, 03:54 PM
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS IN STRONGEST TERMS CONTINUING VIOLENCE IN IRAQ


The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General condemns in the strongest terms the continuing violence in Iraq, which was accentuated yesterday by the death of more than 100 people throughout the country, including in the coordinated bombing of a crowded market in Baghdad. These brutal crimes came on the anniversary of the heinous bombing of the Holy Shrine in Samarra, which was also aimed at escalating sectarian violence.



The Secretary-General calls on the Iraqi authorities and the Iraqi people to resist attempts to foment sectarian violence.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10879.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 13 2007, 03:58 PM
Background



The Security Council met today for an open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. The Council was last briefed on the situation on 25 January by Ibrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs (see Press Release SC/8943). For an overview of last year’s debates on the issue, see the Security Council Round-up 2006 (Press Release SC/8940 of 12 January 2007).



Briefing by Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process



ALVARO DE SOTO, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, when the Quartet had met in Washington, D.C., it had underscored the critical need to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Last week, a very important step forward had been taken in the cause of stability and unity among Palestinians, with the agreement reached in Mecca to form a national unity Government. Next week, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert are scheduled to hold a trilateral meeting with United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the first Israel-Palestinian discussions in six years.



He said a newly active Quartet, a more closely involved Arab world, a Palestinian national unity Government, and the beginning of political dialogue between the parties had, when taken together, the potential to help restore calm and re-energize efforts to achieve a two-State solution. However, as violence and tension during the last few weeks had attested, many immediate and longer-term dangers and challenges to stability and peace would have to be overcome.



On the Mecca agreement, he said the process of forming a new Palestinian Government, as such, had yet to begin, although some names of ministers had been agreed upon, including for foreign affairs and finance. The agreement incorporates the text of the commissioning letter President Abbas would send to Ismail Hannieh to initiate the process of Government formation, which would call upon him “to respect … the agreements signed by the Palestine Liberation Organization” and also to “respect international legitimacy resolutions”. The letter also includes a Government commitment to work to achieve Palestinian national goals “as ratified by the resolutions of the Palestine National Council and the Basic Law articles and the National Conciliation Document and the Arab Summits resolutions”. Those references showed the potential of the agreement.



He said the Quartet will meet in Berlin on 21 February to give full consideration to developments, two days after the trilateral meeting convened by United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The goal of the meeting, as stated by Secretary Rice, was “to have discussions about the broad issues on the horizon so that we can work on the Road Map and try to accelerate the Road Map and move toward the establishment of a Palestinian State.” Quartet partners were determined to follow up on that and any subsequent trilateral meetings, as well as on the continued efforts being pursued bilaterally between Israel and the Palestinians.



Warning about challenges, Mr. de Soto said the first challenge was to curb violence. This year alone, 137 Palestinians had been killed by fellow Palestinians in internal clashes. Rocket-propelled grenades, heavy machine guns and other heavy weapons had been used by both sides. That violence had taken a terrible toll in civilian lives, living standards, social fabric and psychological well-being. It was equally important to calm Israeli-Palestinian violence. In Eilat, a Palestinian suicide bomber had killed three Israelis and at least 36 rockets had been fired from Gaza since 25 January. Israel had shown commendable restraint in Gaza, but the number of Israel Defense Forces (IDF) search and detention campaigns in the West Bank had jumped by 58 per cent since the start of 2007. This year, 19 Palestinians, including 5 children, had been killed by the IDF.



He was also deeply concerned at continuing tensions over Israeli construction work on a new walkway to restore a broken bridge leading to the Mughrabi Gate of the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount, and accompanying archaeological digging. Israel had stated that its work was purely for safety and access reasons, but there had been a strong reaction in the Arab and Muslim world. Clashes had broken out between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at the site and in other places in Jerusalem.



A second set of challenges, he continued, was to preserve and build the capacity of the institutions of Palestinian governance, as well as the development of the Palestinian economy. The economy could not be developed without major steps from both parties to implement all aspects of the Agreement on Movement and Access. Implementation, however, had remained very patchy. Exports through the Karni crossing had seen a fourfold increase since 1 January, as compared to November 2006, but was still only 11 per cent of the target. Ninety per cent of Gaza residents relied to some extent on food aid. Closures in the West Bank now stood at 529 -- an increase of 25 per cent over last year. Without greater movement and access, trade would continue to drop and reliance on aid would continue to increase.



He said Palestinian institutions, including schools, hospitals and ministries, had been badly harmed over the last 12 months. An extended strike over non-payment of salaries had taken its toll. The Authority’s financial management system had been degraded and the security sector remained oversized, factionalized, unevenly trained and under split command. Any new Government would face a budget deficit of about 30 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Israel would need to consistently hand over the clearance revenues that it collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. During the past year, the programme of the Government had hampered the ability of donors to help to address the issues. Interventions had largely been through parallel mechanisms, which had gradually undermined the very institutions intended to serve as the foundation of a Palestinian State. To facilitate recovery, a resumption of direct support and a more holistic approach were needed.



A third set of challenges, he said, related to the continued lack of any positive Israeli action to remove settlement outposts, and the continued settlement activity and barrier construction on occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank. It was vital that action be taken to ensure that final status issues were not further prejudiced by the creation of facts on the ground.



He noted that at least three people had been killed and many others wounded today in a double bus bombing near the mainly Christian town of Bikfaya, north-east of Beirut. The bombings occurred at a time of acute political tension in Lebanon, with domestic political parties at an impasse.



He said that the general calm that had been prevailing in southern Lebanon since the cessation of hostilities last August was disrupted temporarily on 7 February. The Israel Defense Forces had signalled to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) that it intended to cross the Israeli technical fence to clear a number of mines that it claimed to have identified north of the fence on Israeli territory. UNIFIL urged the IDF to suspend its action and to resolve the matter through UNIFIL’s liaison channels and through an urgent tripartite meeting, so as to avoid an increase in tension along the Blue Line.



Despite those appeals, the Israel Defense Forces proceeded with the operation later that night. The Lebanese Army fired on the IDF after it made an opening in the technical fence, but while it was still on the Israeli side of the Blue Line. The IDF responded with at least one missile. No casualties were reported. Subsequently, an IDF bulldozer and excavator carried out earthworks to clear the area of mines and violated the Blue Line in the process. Two days earlier, and at the same location, the IDF had shot at and destroyed four improvised explosive devices on the Lebanese side of the Blue Line. The firing by the Lebanese Army constituted a violation of resolution 1701 (2006) and a breach of the cessation of hostilities agreement. The IDF also violated resolution 1701 by crossing the Blue Line, and the exchange of fire posed a threat to the lives of UNIFIL troops patrolling in the area.



He said that such incidents illustrated the continued volatility of the situation in southern Lebanon and the need for all sides to fully respect the resolution and continue to act with restraint at all times. In that regard, addressing concerns through the tripartite mechanism chaired by UNIFIL was of paramount importance.



He said that, on 6 February, the United Nations had signed the Agreement with the Lebanese Republic on the establishment of a Special Tribunal for Lebanon. The United Nations remained hopeful that the Lebanese institutions would be able to perform their tasks and responsibilities on the way towards the establishment of the Tribunal.



He said that the goal must now be to foster a dynamic in which positive developments were mutually reinforcing. The Mecca agreement signalled a rejection by Palestinians of internal violence and marked a renewed commitment by the Arab world to supporting Palestinian unity and moderation. Hopefully, that would lead to a Government that donors could support. Only if the security forces worked cohesively, rather than facing off in the streets, could the terrible violence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory be tackled and security reform be durable. Further delay in supporting Palestinian institutions and reviving economic life could have devastating consequences. While negotiations with Israel remained the province of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and in the hands of President Abbas, the institutions of the Palestinian Authority also had responsibilities to ensure that Palestinian obligations were met under existing agreements.



He said that action by Israel to address the long-standing issue of prisoners, and by the Palestinian side to secure release of the Israeli soldier held hostage in Gaza, would be crucial to achieving lasting progress. Excessive expectations should not be placed on next week’s trilateral meeting, but hopefully it would be the beginning of a genuine dialogue. The goal was clear -- to end the occupation that began in 1967 and achieve an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian State, living side by side in peace with Israel. The overall goal of a comprehensive peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbours must also not be neglected. It was important to act with the right mixture of firmness and flexibility with all parties to ensure that they moved decisively down that path.



Statements



NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER (Qatar), associating himself with the statement of the Arab Group, said the Palestinian territories had seen a different kind of escalation when Israeli authorities had violated the sanctity of the Al Aqsa compound, allowing for demolitions and excavations. Those excavations were part of a pattern of actions by Israel to change the legal status of occupied Jerusalem and its historic and religious landmarks. Those actions were illegal and invalid.



He said the dialogue between Hamas and Fatah in Mecca had positive results. The step towards a Government of national unity was basic for the resumption of the peace process. He hoped that the establishment of the Government would be positively used by Palestinians and the Israeli Government. The ability of the Palestinian Authority to provide security and basic services would serve the interests of all stakeholders, and all stakeholders should, therefore, support the agreement. He called on the Israeli Government to lift the siege imposed on the Palestinian people.



Ever since adoption of resolution 1701 (2006), the borderline between Lebanon and Israel had been calm, if not for the recent events when an Israeli bulldozer violated the border line claiming it was clearing explosives. In a volatile situation such as that, the two parties should hold themselves to the provisions of the cessation of hostilities. He, therefore, called on the Council to seriously deal with the Israeli violations of Lebanese borders and airspace. He hoped that the upcoming Quartet meeting in Berlin would provide an incentive to revive the peace process in the Middle East. The Council must undertake an active and robust role to arrive at a just and permanent settlement of the Palestinian question.



DUMISANI S. KUMALO ( South Africa), like previous speakers, welcomed the decision by Fatah and Hamas to form a Government of national unity in Palestine. The significance of the Mecca accord lay in its provision of clear evidence that the Palestinians were both capable and willing to settle their internal differences. The Palestinian leaders had also demonstrated their aim to forge a united and peaceful front to address the urgent task of ending the illegal occupation of their country, which remained the key to peace and development throughout the region. Furthermore, both Fatah and Hamas had made significant concessions that he hoped were sufficient to break the international siege on the Palestinian people. The opportunity presented by the accord, therefore, should not be squandered, and direct talks on final status issues should commence without delay. Hopefully, a new dialogue would be followed up by the establishment of confidence-building measures, such as the extension of the ceasefire to the West Bank and the release of prisoners on both sides.



He urged the international community to ease its financial blockade against the Palestinian Authority. He particularly urged Israel to release all Palestinian tax revenues, which belonged to the Palestinian people and were neither development assistance nor generosity. Those funds were urgently required to alleviate socio-economic hardships, including the deteriorating Palestinian institutions. The vision of a two-State solution and the principle of land for peace must underpin any permanent settlement of the Middle East conflict. Hopefully, the upcoming trilateral meeting, followed by the Quartet’s meeting, would reinvigorate the peace process. Regarding the situation on the ground, he reiterated that Israel should refrain from taking unilateral action, which would predetermine final status negotiations, such as the building of settlements and the separation wall. The building of new settlements in the West Bank was contrary to international law. He was particularly concerned about the excavation work being carried out by Israel beneath the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound and the demolition of the historic road connecting Al-Maghariba with the compound. The compound was revered by millions of Muslims throughout the world and any damage to it would likely have serious repercussions.



The Middle East situation, particularly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, had been on the Council’s agenda since the United Nations’ creation, he said. However, there had been a consistent failure by the parties and the international community to seriously address the challenges facing the region. A regional solution must address the plight of the millions of Palestinians. Also, the international community, particularly Israel, could no longer “pretend” that those living in appalling conditions in refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere did not exist. Peace in the region also hinged on ending the occupation of the Shebaa Farms and the Syrian Golan Heights. As President Thabo Mbeki recently wrote, “… the question can no longer be avoided -- is it not time that the United Nations, genuinely representing all nations, assumes its rightful position and lead a global process to address all the interconnected challenges facing the peoples of the Middle East and West Asia?”



LESLIE KOJO CHRISTIAN (Ghana) said that, before the unfortunate confrontation between the IDF and the Lebanese Armed Forces on 7 February, it had been expected that the cessation of hostilities would hold, ensuring the stabilization of the security and military situation along the Blue Line. He commended UNIFIL for its quick response to the crisis and hoped the two armies would continue to exercise maximum restraint. Israel and Lebanon did not need to be reminded of the need to commit themselves further to implementing a permanent ceasefire on the full acceptance of the Taif Accords and resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1680 (2006) and intensifying efforts to revive the stalled Middle East peace process. Hopefully, the Quartet’s efforts to launch meaningful negotiations would lead initially to the consolidation of the ceasefire within an international framework, with a definition of its parameters and rules and its extension to the West Bank.



He welcomed the Mecca accord with cautious optimism and hoped there would be an immediate end to factional violence and the stabilization of the political and security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It was expedient for the Palestinian Government of national unity to commit itself to the Quartet principles of non-violence, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. Because the stifling of international aid and the financial boycott imposed by Israel had led to severe disruptions to Palestinian basic services and impacted negatively an already fragile economy, he again appealed to all concerned to release such withheld funds. He also condemned Israel’s demolition of the historic road connecting Al-Maghariba with the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, in addition to two rooms adjacent to the Al Buraq Wall. He further expressed concern over construction work initiated by Israel in the old city of Jerusalem.

He said that there could be no military solution to the Palestinian question and the vision of an independent, viable and sovereign Palestinian State living side by side with Israel in peace and security would be achieved only through compromises and negotiations in good faith.



VITALY I. CHURKIN ( Russian Federation) said, over recent weeks, significant events had taken place, such as the talks in Mecca that had led to agreements on the creation of a Palestinian national unity Government. He hoped the future Government, set up in line with the demands of the Quartet, would become an important factor in relaunching peace talks. Implementation of the agreement should be accompanied by the removing of roadblocks in the Palestinian territories. There had been a pained response in the Arab world to the construction work near the Al-Aqsa mosque. Defining the status of Jerusalem was an issue that must be resolved in direct Palestinian Israeli negotiations on final status issues. Parties should not, through unilateral steps, try to predetermine the final status. Stopping the work on the Temple Mount had been a step in the right direction.



He said the Quartet had recently met in Washington, D.C., and would meet in Berlin. During that meeting, the need to define a framework for the settlement of Palestine, without losing sight of the Lebanon and Syria track, would be discussed. Such a comprehensive approach might best be accomplished through an international conference. Unrest continued in Lebanon. He called on the Lebanese parties to seek political compromises and to refrain from violence. He was concerned at today’s explosions in the country.



REZLAN ISHAR JENIE (Indonesia), associating himself with the upcoming statements on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the intractability of the conflict in the Middle East was a matter of deep concern. He reaffirmed Indonesia’s support for a peaceful solution that would fulfil the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination and Statehood, to independently conduct its foreign relations, to live in peace, and for every Palestinian refugee to return home.



He welcomed the Mecca declaration. There was an urgent need for the Palestinians to establish a unity Government. That would require not only moral support, but material assistance from the international community. Peace could not be obtained by diplomacy alone, but required the parties concerned to cease the use of force and develop collaboration. He deeply deplored the excavation in the Holy Al-Aqsa Mosque and urged Israel to stop such activities, which threatened to increase tensions and complicate efforts to revive the peace process.



Regarding the situation in Lebanon, he noted with great concern the continuing Israeli air violations and recent crossing by the Israeli military of the Blue Line, which were a blatant violation of resolution 1701 (2006). As for the security situation, sustainable peace depended not only on deployment of an international peace mission, but on the presence of political unity and national cohesion. All parties in Lebanon must have a strong commitment to national reconciliation and the creation of a united and stable Lebanon.



He said that peace would only come to the region when the Israeli Government was willing to comply with Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, the Madrid terms of reference and the principle of land for peace, and when all Arab neighbours accepted Israel’s right to live in peace.

MARCELLO SPATAFORA ( Italy) said he was deeply concerned about the news coming from Lebanon. He condemned in the strongest possible terms today’s attacks in Bikfaya, as well as any resort to violence, and he expressed his heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the victims. He, meanwhile, welcomed the agreement reached in Mecca by the Palestinians as an important step towards the start of reconciliation between the various Palestinian political forces. He particularly appreciated the role played by the Saudi King, who, with patience and cleverness, created the necessary conditions. It was necessary now to carefully assess the new Government’s programme, which should reflect the Quartet principles as an essential condition for normalizing relations with the international community. He now awaited the terms of the agreement to set a Palestinian national unity Government, and he stood ready, together with other European Union member States, to work with a legitimate Palestinian Government.



While keeping to the results-based sequential approach of the Road Map, he underlined the urgent need to elaborate new strategies, which offered the parties a clear negotiating prospect. It was crucial that Israel, at the present delicate moment, refrain from any action that could be misunderstood by the Palestinians, particularly regarding Jerusalem’s status. Equally important was a cessation of all forms of provocation by the Palestinians. It was time for negotiations to start on the basis of effective mutual confidence-building measures, including full implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access, particularly in Rafah, whose opening should be routine rather than exception, as well as the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheikh agreements, the release of prisoners and the complete transfer of customs revenues to the Palestinian Presidency. Above all, the truce currently in force in Gaza should be rapidly extended to the West Bank. Once direct talks had begun, a creative effort should be made to involve all regional actors.



He expressed deep concern over the recent incident between the Israeli and Lebanese armies, and he commended UNIFIL’s prompt and effective intervention, which prevented a deterioration of the situation. He was concerned by the discovery of a weapons cache, promptly seized by the Lebanese authorities. Hopefully, any attempts to rearm irregular militias would be stopped. Full implementation of resolution 1701 (2006), particularly the freeing of the two Israeli soldiers, was fundamental. He called on the Lebanese forces to renounce violence and to immediately resume the dialogue. He urged all the Lebanese political forces to seek a compromise on the way forward, something that, as the tragic events of the day showed, could no longer be put off.



JUSTIN BIABAROH-IBORO ( Congo) said that he regretted the continued suffering of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, who were deprived of access to basic social services. Sanctions imposed by Israel since April 2006, which resulted in the suspension of direct financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority, and Israel’s retention of its customs duties had worsened an already precarious humanitarian situation and undoubtedly contributed to the escalation of the fratricidal war among the Palestinians.



He expressed concern about the violence following the construction undertaken by Israel at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, but did welcome recent initiatives to relaunch the peace process, as well as the Mecca agreement. That effort should be encouraged, particularly by lifting the financial blockade on the Palestinian Authority.



Regarding Lebanon, he expressed concern about the violence that could lead to a civil war there and he condemned today’s bomb attack near Beirut. War between Israel and Hizbollah had accelerated the country’s political, financial and economic crisis. He called upon the Lebanese to continue dialogue to find solutions to the various challenges. He deplored the unilateral steps that had caused conflict between Israeli and Lebanese forces on the Blue Line on 7 February. Both parties had the obligation to respect the Blue Line, and must refrain from any act of provocation. To create a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, all players concerned, including regional actors such as Syria, Iran and others, must be included. They could help stabilize situation and ensure a lasting end to hostilities.



JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said the ceasefire in Gaza agreed on between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas, as well as the 23 December meeting between the two leaders, had generated hope. He hoped those initial steps might be consolidated and lead to a new phase in the peace process. As the Quartet had pointed out, the parties must fully implement the measures on which they had agreed and abstain from any action counter to the Road Map. He welcomed the Mecca agreement. In order to be effective, the new Palestinian Government must align itself with the three basic requirements of the Quartet. The Trilateral Meeting on 19 February should firm up the political momentum. It was essential to adopt measures that would create a favourable environment for a process designed to create a Palestinian State living side by side in peace next to Israel.



Addressing the situation in Lebanon, he said resolution 1701 (2006) must remain the context for the Lebanese Government gaining sovereign control of its territory. Border activities could heighten tensions. He condemned the terrorist attack in Lebanon this morning. He urged the countries in the region to maintain a constructive attitude that promoted dialogue in Lebanon. The conflict in the Middle East could only be resolved through political negotiations, and the Quartet remained the most relevant mechanism in that regard. The Road Map was the inescapable reference point on which peace must be based.



RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said that he wished to pay tribute to the leadership of Saudi Arabia, which had led to the Mecca Agreement. Implementation of that agreement would create the conditions for a better future for the Palestinian people. Hopefully, the new Government would be accompanied by decision-making in the political realm that would lead to the lifting of financial restrictions that affected the Palestinian people.



He said that the formation of a Palestinian Government of national unity was meaningful, but for progress to be achieved, all political forces in Palestine must commit to dialogue, reject violence and accept earlier agreements. He expressed concern about Israel’s work on the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Even if such work was fully within the scope of law, it was not necessarily wise. The present moment should be taken advantage of to promote peace; for that reason, he urged suspension of the construction work.



He further deplored terror attacks by non-State actors on civil targets within Israel. The Palestinian Authority would not be credible until it could prevent such acts. Actions by Israeli forces in violation of international law were not acceptable. He appealed to leaders not to lose sight of the opportunity to move towards a lasting peace. The basic principles of the peace agreement were known to all -- two democratic States living side by side in security. The international community must waste no opportunity to favourably influence that process.



Regarding Lebanon, he deplored recent acts of violence, as well as events along the border with Israel. He appealed to all political and social actors to resolve such conflicts through dialogue.



ALEJANDRO D. WOLFF ( United States) said there had been a number of significant developments. Secretary of State Rice had held meetings with President Abbas and Prime Minister Olmert during her January trip to the region. Washington had hosted a Quartet meeting on 2 February, after which the United States, European Union, Russian Federation and the United Nations had issued a statement that reaffirmed the Quartet principles and support for efforts aimed at realizing the two-State vision. The Quartet would meet again in Berlin on 21 February to assess the situation. Prior to that meeting, Secretary Rice would travel to Jerusalem, the Palestinian territories and Amman, where she would meet with Prime Minister Olmert, President Abbas and King Abdullah.



He said the United States strongly supported the bilateral dialogue between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas. The upcoming discussions would focus on advancing the shared goal of a two-State solution to the conflict, in accordance with the sequence of the Road Map. His country would continue to assess the outcome of the meetings in Mecca. While those developments were encouraging, the situation in the region remained delicate, as seen in the strong reaction to the construction of the ramp at the Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif. He urged all parties to exercise great care when deciding whether and how to engage in any activity near sensitive religious sites. It was a delicate issue that required moderation and a clear understanding of the facts. There was no justification for the use of violence by protestors.



He said the 7 February incident along the Blue Line had underscored the need for the parties to exercise restraint, to cooperate with UNIFIL and to avoid actions that could further exacerbate tensions, in particular by the initiation of the use of force. It remained critically important that all those involved in the terrorist attacks in Lebanon since October 2004, including the assassination of former Prime Minister Hariri and most recently Minister Pierre Gemayel, were held accountable. He supported the efforts of the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission and looked forward to the timely establishment of a tribunal of international character. Concerned about reports of continued shipments of arms to Hizbollah and other armed groups, he said the Council must be united in insisting that Syria and Iran abide by their obligations under Council resolutions to respect Lebanese sovereignty and end their support for the armed militias.



LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that there had been positive signs of late in Middle East peace efforts, including the Mecca agreement. He sincerely hoped all Palestinians, regardless of factions, could join together to effectively implement that agreement, to establish a unity Government and resume peace talks with Israel. Nonetheless, there were some worrisome trends in the region. Israel’s construction at the Al-Aqsa Mosque had given rise to strong reaction among Arab countries. What happened there six years ago triggered large-scale violence and conflict, leading to a serious setback to the peace process. He hoped that all sides could learn the relevant lessons and respect religious and holy sites of both sides.

Regarding Lebanon, he called for calm on both sides, as well as a commitment to implementing resolution 1701. He hoped that those responsible for the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri could be found and brought to justice. He strongly condemned today’s bombing in Beirut and expressed the hope that Lebanese people could unite and seek peaceful means to resolve internal differences.



He said that the Middle East situation had affected the peace and development of the entire world. Relevant resolutions, the principle of land for peace, the Road Map and the peace initiatives of various Arab countries remained the basis for settlement. An independent Palestine living side by side with Israel was the only approach to settling the Palestinian question. He hoped that the Quartet could find a way to implement the Road Map as soon as possible.



JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said the Conference of Support for Lebanon held in Paris had been a major success, with pledges of $7.5 billion. However, tragedy had once again hit Lebanon. The two bomb attacks on buses in Beirut was a reminder of the cost the Lebanese people were paying in affirming their sovereignty. France had condemned the cowardly attack on the eve of the commemoration of the attack on Hariri two years ago. It was more than ever essential that the Lebanese people come together in dialogue, he said, and called on all parties to preserve unity in the country. Regarding the south of Lebanon, he recalled the importance of full respect of the Blue Line and the need to reach a ceasefire soon.



As for Israel and Palestine, a number of events had generated hope, he said, and hoped that the peace process could once again be on track. Welcoming the Mecca agreement, he said the formation of a national unity Government would provide an opportunity for Palestine to overcome internal disagreements. The agreement represented a step in the right direction. The rapid creation of such a Government should be encouraged by the international community. He also welcomed the relaunch of dialogue between the parties. The 23 December meeting, and the visit made to the region by Ms. Rice and Javier Solana, had created political momentum. He hoped that the upcoming Summit meeting on 19 February and the Berlin meeting of the Quartet on 21 February would enhance the momentum. An international conference would be helpful in the peace process. There were many obstacles to overcome, but he counted upon the political will of the parties to meet the challenges.



KAREN PIERCE (United Kingdom), aligning herself with the statement to be given later by Germany, on behalf to the European Union, welcomed the Mecca agreement and expressed hope that the formation of a Palestinian unity Government would end factional violence. She condemned the 29 January suicide attack. Such attacks only further escalated tension in the region. Rocket attacks into Israel and Israel’s construction work at the Al-Aqsa Mosque were also matters of concern. The international community must continue providing assistance to help the Palestinian economy develop. Economic reform went hand in hand with political reform. She expressed the hope for a lasting solution of two States living side by side in peace and security.



Regarding Lebanon, she condemned today’s bus bombings, for which there was no justification. The United Kingdom continued to support the democratically elected Government of Lebanon and urged all parties to participate in dialogue. The United Nations had a central role to play in peace and stability in the region. Resolution 1701 was the best framework for solving Lebanon’s problems. She urged regional States to avoid destabilizing the situation there. It was critical to make progress on the Shebaa Farms issue, on securing the release of captured Israeli prisoners and the implementation of an arms embargo. In the wake of the 7 February incident on the Blue Line, it was important for both sides to act with restraint. The United Nations had an essential role to play in investigating the assassination of Rafik Hariri. She hoped that Lebanese officials could find an agreed way forward and that the tribunal could proceed.



JOHAN VERBEKE (Belgium), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said that, on the question of the Middle East, one could not afford another lost year. The role of the international community was to create the necessary conditions for the resumption of direct negotiations between the parties. He welcomed the recent meeting between Prime Minister Olmert and President Abbas and the initiative for a trilateral meeting. The resumption of dialogue should not be at the mercy of events. The responsibility of the parties was to demonstrate their commitments through negotiations. The Quartet was the guarantor and catalyst for different initiatives.



He welcomed the active part of the Arab countries and welcomed the Mecca agreement. If 2007 was to be different from previous years, one must rely on the actions of the parties. Belgium would be prepared to cooperate with a legitimate Palestinian Government. He condemned the firing of rockets into Israel, as well as the blind terrorist attack on the population in Eilat, and welcomed Israel restraint in that regard. He called upon Palestinian leaders to end the violations, and upon the Israeli Government to end activities involving settlements and the building of the Wall within Palestinian occupied territories. As a participant in UNIFIL, his country hoped that the political parts of resolution 1701, particular in regard to the Shebaa Farms, would be implemented. He condemned this morning’s “serious, odious and tragic” events in Lebanon.



Council President PETER BURIAN ( Slovakia), in his national capacity, said that, despite the many challenges, there was a window of opportunity to reinvigorate the peace process. The meeting at the end of last year between the Israeli Prime Minister and the Palestinian Authority President had created a positive momentum, which should be further developed by concrete and immediate actions. The views expressed by the parties and regional leaders during the latest visit of the United States Secretary of State to the region had also been positive. He welcomed the upcoming trilateral high-level meeting; the Quartet meeting of 2 February had also been welcome. He also supported the idea of regular Quartet meetings at the level of principals and envoys. Like previous speakers, he said that the resumption of transfers by Israel of tax and customs revenues was desperately needed. He also hoped the recent agreement among the Palestinians would end the deadly internal strife and allow for early engagement and a continuation of dialogue towards a solution to the Middle East conflict.



Turning to developments on the ground, he expressed deep concern over the recent deterioration and condemned the suicide bombing in Eilat on 29 January. He also reiterated his country’s call for an immediate end to violence by Palestinian factions, as well as attacks on Israel, notably the launching of rockets against Israeli population centres, and for the release of the abducted Israeli soldier. He supported the efforts of President Abbas in that regard. He expected Israel and the Palestinians to exercise the utmost restraint and to sustain and further consolidate the mutually agreed ceasefire in Gaza. At the present critical time, it was paramount not to jeopardize further possible progress and promising prospects for peace in the region. He called for a sensitive approach in dealing with religious sites in Jerusalem. The Israeli Government should continue its commitment to peace based on the Road Map, and he repeated his call for the immediate release of Palestinian Ministers and legislators in Israeli custody.



Noting that tomorrow was the second anniversary of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he said it was high time to put an end to politically motivated violence in Lebanon. Proper investigation of that case and bringing the perpetrators to justice would contribute to reconciliation. The signing of the agreement between the United Nations and the Lebanese Government to set up a special tribunal to prosecute the suspected killers was a welcome development, and hopefully that Government would take the necessary measures to complete the ratification process without delay. He had been following with great concern the recent developments in Lebanon, including the clashes in the streets. Only through the united efforts of all Lebanese could a solution for many outstanding issues be found. Resolution 1701 (2006) provided a good basis for the stabilization of the situation. It was crucial that the resolution and other relevant Council texts were fully respected and implemented by all relevant actors in all aspects. The constructive role of Lebanon’s neighbours, as well as others in the region, was crucial, he said.



RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for Palestine, said that, based on the initiative of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, a dialogue on Palestine National Conciliation had been held last week, which had culminated in an agreement between the leaders of the Palestinian people. That agreement endorsed the cessation of any and all strife among the Palestinian people and the approval of the speedy formation of a national unity Government. Peaceful dialogue would now serve as the sole basis for solving political differences among the Palestinian people. Key issues, such as Occupied East Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, the prisoners and the continuation of the illegal construction and building of the Wall and settlements would be given top priority.



He said that President Abbas would commission Prime Minister Ismail Hannieh to form the next Palestinian Government in the next couple of days. The President would call on the Premier of the next Government, among other things, to abide by the interests of the Palestinian people, to work towards achieving their national goals as ratified by the resolutions of the Palestine National Council, the Basic Law, the National Conciliation Document and the resolutions of Arab Summits, as well as to respect Arab and international agreements signed by the PLO. The formation of such a Government should provide for the lifting of the financial blockade.



The agreement produced a constructive environment for the upcoming meeting on 19 February between President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Olmert, he said. That meeting would address practical issues, such as the release of prisoners, the release of taxes, implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and lifting of restrictions on the movement of persons and goods in the West Bank. It would also address the overall political process. President Abbas would reiterate the readiness of the Palestinian side for talks on final status issues to commence at once. If that meeting proved to be a success, it would greatly influence the success of future meetings, including the Quartet meeting in Berlin. In order to arrive at two States, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and with secure borders, a specific timeline had to be established, with a mechanism of monitoring. An international conference could provide a way for accomplishing those objectives.



He said the Palestinian side had spoken. Now the question was whether Israel was ready for real and genuine talks to commence, which would forever terminate its occupation of the territories occupied since 1967. However, recent developments had dashed hopes for peace among the Palestinian people. Those included the decision by Israel to continue with the politically motivated and extremely explosive construction and so-called excavation under the Al-Buraq Wall in the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. That illegal action had sparked serious alarms that the intentions of the Israeli Government were not to promote peace, but rather to agitate the Muslims and Christians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.



In a scene reminiscent of the September 2000 intifada, Israeli occupying forces had stormed the compound on 9 February, using excessive force against Palestinian worshippers and wounding dozens of them. The Old City of Jerusalem and its walls were protected by the United Nations Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972). Moreover, the Israeli action had been in violation of the 1994 Fourth Geneva Convention, The Hague Regulations of 1907, and in blatant defiance of relevant Council resolutions. The Council had repeatedly reaffirmed that actions taken by Israel aimed at changing the legal status, demographic composition and character of the city were null and void and without any legal validity whatsoever.



He said that if the Council were to succeed in halting and reversing Israeli actions, it would have played an extremely crucial role, not only in upholding international law, but also in creating the necessary environment favourable for enabling the peace process to move forward. He sincerely hoped that that would be achieved. The rest of the international community also had an obligation to ensure that no unilateral measures were taken that endangered the fragile prospect of peace. Illegal actions taken by Israel, including continued settlement activity and construction of its wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, could prove to be a catalyst for the historic moment to slip away. “The time has now come to offer real and genuine proposals that promise a just and lasting peace -- one in which a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, will be established.”



DAN GILLERMAN ( Israel) said that the international community had clearly determined that any Palestinian Government must recognize the State of Israel, halt and disavow terrorist activities, and accept and implement agreements previously signed with Israel, including the Road Map. Those were non-negotiable principles, prerequisites for peace that could not be circumvented. As such, the published agreement on a so-called “unity Government” did not address the reality on the ground. Palestinian terror, including the firing of Qassam rockets and the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, continued. Israel was respecting the November ceasefire agreement, while the Palestinians were consistently violating it. Meanwhile, Hamas had yet to release abducted soldier Gilad Shalit.



Two weeks ago, a 21-year-old Palestinian from the Gaza Strip blew himself up inside a bakery in the southern city of Eilat, killing three Israelis. Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for and praised the attack. Such action was the continuation of the Palestinian leadership’s policy to wage a war of terror against Israel, rather than put its people on the road to Statehood. The only reason Hamas had sought a so-called unity Government was because of international pressure. Hamas must be made to understand that it could not bypass the world’s demands by creating a façade of unity. There could not be a peace process so long as one side refused to acknowledge the existence of the other. Further, the Mecca agreement did not condemn violence and terrorism. Previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians must be fulfilled before the unity Government could be addressed. “The previous agreements are not part of a menu from which Hamas can pick or choose only those elements it wants to fulfil.”



He said that the reality of the situation in Jerusalem had been completely distorted and blown out of proportion. Since 1967, the Mugrabi gate had been the access bridge to the Temple Mount for all non-Muslims. Only Muslims could enter through the other gates. Israel had consistently respected the sanctity of the area, and showed the utmost sensitivity when dealing with the various religious authorities. During the winter of 2004, part of the ramp leading up to the Mugrabi Gate collapsed, due to erosion caused by a snowstorm and an earthquake. A temporary wooden bridge was constructed, but by law the debris must be removed or the collapsed part rebuilt.



He said that the salvage works under way in the Jerusalem Archaeological Park were for the sole purpose of erecting support pillars for a permanent access ramp, to replace a pre-existing ramp. The bridge was for the benefit and safety of visitors to the area. He asked the Council to imagine the outcry, from Muslims and others, if the bridge were allowed to collapse. The works were taking place in sovereign Israeli territory and outside the very sensitive area of the Temple Mount. The digging was being conducted with full transparency, in accordance with antiquities laws and under the auspices of leading experts and professionals, in coordination with the various religious authorities. Israel had no intention of affecting the Temple Mount during the repair works or causing any damage to it.



He said that the situation in Lebanon, by contrast, was one of pressing concern. Last week, Israeli soldiers discovered explosive devices in a situation that reminded many of the incident that provoked last summer’s war with Hizbollah. Later in the week, Israeli soldiers were shot at by the Lebanese Army while looking for similar devices in the same area, north of the technical fence and south of the Blue Line, all in sovereign Israeli territory.



The real violations, however, were seen on Friday, when the Lebanese Army confiscated a truckload of arms on its way to Hizbollah, which was rearming through the trafficking of arms and munitions across the Syria-Lebanese border. The Council should have addressed that incident, which shed light on the violation of resolutions 1559 (2004) and 1701 (2006). Meanwhile, Udi Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, kidnapped seven months ago, still had not been released and there had not even been signs they were alive. He urged the Council to follow through with the commitment in resolution 1701 for their unconditional release.



Hizbollah’s rearming and the killing of innocent people in public bus bombings were the real situation in the Middle East. A disturbing trend was emerging where some within the international community wished to advocate concessions, coddle the extremists and prematurely declare success. Those pronouncements only emboldened the extremists. The international community must send an unequivocal message to the forces of extremism -- to Hamas and Hizbollah and to their puppet masters Iran and Syria, whose tentacles exerted a destabilizing influence -- that it would no longer permit their villainous meddling in the region.



He said that, in order to lay the groundwork for peace, Israel was willing to work with moderates, strengthening their ability to fight terror, assisting them in meeting economic and humanitarian needs, and helping with the development of their political agenda. For those endeavours to be successful, Israel’s neighbours needed to make the right choices. Moderation must prevail over extremism. If they did make the right choices, they would be surprised to learn how far Israel was willing to go to secure the reality of a peaceful Middle East.



CAROLINE ZIADE ( Lebanon) said that today, her country had been subjected to “a heinous terrorist attack that took the lives of innocent civilians and is emblematic of the instability our region is experiencing”. The bombs had killed three people and injured 22. The act aimed to intimidate the people of Lebanon, to cause panic and to destabilize the country. The Prime Minister had requested technical assistance from the United Nations International Independent Investigation Commission in investigating the act of terror. Recently, Israel had begun construction and excavation work beneath the holy Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. It had dealt heavy-handedly with civilians attending Friday prayers and peaceful protesters. Those actions not only seriously threatened the foundations of the Mosque, it also threatened the foundations for any other possible peace or goodwill in the region.



As for the events along the Blue Line on 7 February, Israel had claimed it was conducting demining activities, by night in an area where the Blue Line was not clearly demarcated. The Lebanese Armed Forces had conveyed a message to Israel through UNIFIL that Israel postpone its activities until the morning and that the matter be resolved through regular liaison channels. The Israeli Armed Forces persisted and their bulldozer crossed the technical fence despite warning shots, crossing into the Lebanese side by a width of 50 metres and a depth of 30 metres. It was clear that the Israeli Armed Forces had provoked the incidents. Her Government strongly protested the ongoing Israeli violations of the Blue Line, in breach of resolution 1701 (2006). It also looked forward to a prompt settlement of the Shebaa Farms issue.



She said Israel’s July war on Lebanon continued today with over 1.2 million cluster bombs that continued to kill and maim innocent civilians. Israel dropped those bombs in blatant defiance of international humanitarian law. She thanked all countries that were helping in the demining efforts and asked the Council to press Israel to provide maps of where it had laid those bomblets, as well as all the maps of mines planted during the occupation of South Lebanon. On 25 January in Paris, the international community had demonstrated its support for Lebanon, with total pledges of $7.6 billion after the Lebanese Government had presented a reform plan. The political message was clear: Lebanon’s sovereignty and stability were vital and the Lebanese deserved and required international assistance to achieve those goals. The Lebanese Government had undertaken all necessary measures within its capacity to ensure security along its borders. The Lebanese army was doing its utmost to combat arms smuggling across the border.



BASHAR JA’AFARI ( Syria) thanked Mr. De Soto, even though he had failed to refer to the occupied Syrian Golan while describing the “situation in the Middle East”. Israeli occupation authorities continued to detain scores of Syrian nationals in detention camps and continued to build settlements in the Syrian Golan, in violation of Security Council resolution 497 (1981). Associating himself with the statements to be delivered by Kuwait, on behalf of the Arab group; Azerbaijan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, he said that one of surprising ironies in the annals of the United Nations, without which Israel would not have seen the light of day, was the fact that Israel had continued its racist settler occupation of Arab lands, as well as its suppression and acts of aggression against the Palestinians. It had become one of staunchest adversaries of peace, stubbornly spoiling the will of the international community. Meanwhile, those with influence, stood in the way of holding Israel accountable.



Given that Israel had violated all conditions of United Nations membership and reneged on its Charter commitments, it was legally legitimate to question the burden that resolution 273 (1949), by which Israel was admitted as a United Nations Member State, placed on the international community. Israel continued to desecrate all international laws and ethical norms. Its latest series of terror began on 6 February, with its excavations that threatened the foundations of the Al-Aqsa Mosque. In 1969, Israel had tried to burn the Mosque. In 1996, it had built a tunnel close to the Mosque, and in 2000, Ariel Sharon, then the head of the right-wing opposition, had visited the Mosque compound, leading to the second intifada and obstructing the peace process.



Since 1967, Israel had also taken deliberate steps to change the demographic map of Jerusalem, confiscating territory and building illegal settlements, all in violation of United Nations and international instruments against building in international territories. A just and comprehensive peace required a genuine commitment by both parties. It was not about buying time, and providing Israel with everything in exchange for nothing in return. It required the effective withdrawal from the occupied Golan to the line of 4 June 1967 and withdrawal from other territories, including Jerusalem. Peace was not elusive, if the will was available on the Israeli side. More than 30 initiatives had been presented so far, all of them rejected by Israel, which was supported by the use of the veto of a super-Power. Until the Israeli Government took responsibility and stopped hiding behind military might, the region would lack peace and stability.



ABDULLAH AL MURAD ( Kuwait), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the attacks in Lebanon were a criminal act of terror that must be condemned. The question of Palestine was the quintessence and core of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The resolution of the question represented the essence of the comprehensive and just solution to the conflict. He commended the agreement reached in Mecca between the Palestinian factions and hoped that a national unified Palestinian Government would soon be formed. Recently, the Occupied Palestinian Territory had witnessed a serious escalation in the acts of demolition and excavation in the perimeters of the Noble Sanctuary. It was a flagrant violation of the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as a threat to its infrastructure. Condemning those hostile Israeli actions, he called on the Council to intervene immediately. The Council had emphasized in numerous resolutions that such measures aiming at altering the legal status of Al-Quds were null and void.



He said Israel’s continued work in the perimeters of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, its military incursions in the areas of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, as well as the imposition of an economic siege and the illegal construction of the separation wall and new settlements, were all unlawful and illegal practices. Not only had those practices had a dire effect on the security and stability of the region and the world, they also undermined the international efforts that were being exerted to revive the peace process led by the Quartet. The just, durable and comprehensive solution for the Arab-Israeli conflict would never materialize if Israel continued its unilateral measures, aiming at imposing a fait accompli and influence the outcome of the final settlement negotiations.

continued......


http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8953.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 14 2007, 04:10 PM
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONDEMNS TERRORIST ATTACK IN ZAHEDAN, IRAN




The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



The Secretary-General condemns the terrorist attack on a bus in the south-eastern city of Zahedan, carrying Iranian security officers, which killed at least 18 people and wounded many more. He reiterates that no cause can justify the use of terrorist violence. He extends his sincere condolences to the families of the victims and to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10881.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 14 2007, 04:11 PM
Commission for Social Development

Forty-fifth Session

12th Meeting (AM)



COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT HEARS BRIEFING BY DIRECTOR


OF RESEARCH INSTITUTE, NOMINATES MEMBERS TO ITS BOARD




The Commission for Social Development heard a briefing by the Director of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) this morning and addressed such organizational matters as the programme of work for 2008-2009 and the nomination of members to the Institute’s Board.



Reporting to the Commission, UNRISD Director Thandika Mkandawire said the Institute had always adopted a broad definition of social development that emphasized not only people’s material well-being, but also social cohesion, security and justice. Its research programme continued to focus on social justice, poverty reduction and equity -– three explicit principles of the Millennium Development Goals. The bulk of the Institute’s work was carried out by researchers based in academic institutions around the world, a network that allowed UNRISD to develop large international research programmes, while maintaining a minimal staff in Geneva.



During the biennium, he said, a new phase of the UNRSID research programme had been initiated under six themes: social policy and development; democracy, governance and well-being; markets, business and regulations; civil society and social movements; identities, conflict and cohesion; and gender and development. Research on social policy and development, carried out in 40 countries and involving 118 researchers, had been used in numerous publications, documents and conferences. Cited in academic journals and used in university curricula, the Institute’s work had also been featured prominently in the 2006 International Forum on the Social Science-Policy Nexus, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Governments of Argentina and Uruguay.



Another significant area of work over the past two years had been the publication and dissemination of the UNRISD policy report on gender and development, which presented guiding principles for policymakers, he said. The Institute had made greater efforts to synthesize the findings into a format that was accessible to policymakers. Its small group of senior research staff in Geneva had also fulfilled nearly 100 requests for a wide range of consultative and advisory services over the past two years.



Under its current research agenda, he said, UNRISD had embarked on a major initiative that would contribute to the understanding of different paths to poverty reduction and to the improvement of policies and institutions. That work would culminate in the publication of a flagship report in 2009. The Institute’s programme for the next biennium included research on mechanisms for financing social policy and measuring its results.



He added that the Institute received no funding from the Organization’s regular budget and depended entirely on voluntary contributions from Member States, research foundations, United Nations agencies and other bodies. Last year’s independent evaluation had assessed the relevance, quality, impact and cost-effectiveness of the Institute’s work from 1996 to 2005. It had found that UNRISD had promoted a coherent and distinctive perspective on development, provided important inputs for United Nations summit processes, fostered an inter-disciplinary perspective, and played an important role in stimulating debate and mobilizing scholars from developing countries.



The Institute had been found to be cost-effective, and its autonomy to be valuable and deserving of protection, he said. At the same time, the evaluation had recommended that UNRISD devote greater efforts to improving the visibility and impact of its work. Another recommendation related to the need to put the Institute’s financing on a more secure and stable foundation and to increase its funding.



Under its agenda item on programme performance and implementation, the Commission took note of the proposed programme of work for the biennium 2008-2009 of the Division for Social Policy and Development (document E/CN.5/2007/CRP.1). Johan Shovlinck, Director of that Division, presented an extract from the Secretary-General’s report on programme performance of the United Nations for the biennium 2004-2005 (document A/61/64), noting that General Assembly resolution 61/235 had approved the biennial programme plan for 2008-2009 containing the narrative of the social policy and development programme, which described its objectives, expected accomplishments, indicators of achievement and strategy. Accordingly, the programme narrative and review of the proposed outputs would be included in the Secretary-General’s budget proposal for 2008-2009, which would be submitted to the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ) and the General Assembly at its sixty-second session.



Also this morning, the Commission nominated Peter Brandt Evans, Rosalind Eyben, Pasuk Phongpaichit, Annika Sundén, Zenebeworke Tadesse, Yakin Ertürk, Elizabeth Jelin and Marina Pavlova-Silvanskaya to serve on the Board of UNRISD, subject to confirmation by the Economic and Social Council.



The Commission will meet again tomorrow, Thursday, 15 February, to hear the introduction of draft proposals to be adopted on the last day of its session.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/soc4728.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 15 2007, 03:35 PM
Ad Hoc Committee on Assembly

Resolution 51/210

39th Meeting (AM)



NEGOTIATIONS ON COMPREHENSIVE ANTI-TERRORISM CONVENTION AT CRITICAL


STAGE, SAYS CHAIRMAN AS COMMITTEE CONCLUDES ELEVENTH SESSION


Negotiations on a draft comprehensive convention on international terrorism had reached a critical stage, Rohan Perera (Sri Lanka), Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee established by General Assembly resolution 51/210, said today as that body concluded its eleventh session by adopting its draft report.



“I urge delegations to remain active during the up-coming intersessional period in order to sustain the momentum we have built at the current session,” he said, encouraging delegations to continue their bilateral contacts with a view to reaching a compromise solution on outstanding issues with respect to the draft convention.



The Chairman said the report on the just-ended session contained three chapters and an annex, part A of which contained an informal summary of general comments made during the Committee’s thirty-eighth meeting, on 5 February. Part B contained an informal summary of comments made during the general exchange of views and the results of informal consultations and bilateral contacts concerning the draft convention. Part C contained an informal summary of comments made during informal consultations on convening a high-level conference under the auspices of the United Nations. The summary was for reference purposes only and should in no way be taken as the record of the discussions, he noted.



Before the Committee adopted a draft recommendation asking the General Assembly’s Sixth Committee (Legal) to establish a working group to finalize the draft convention and discuss the convening of a high-level conference under United Nations auspices, the representative of the United States sought clarification regarding the recommendation’s financial implications.



The Committee Secretary said that the working group would meet during the time originally reserved for Sixth Committee meetings and therefore no additional meetings would be required.



Egypt’s representative suggested changing the part of the annex dealing with the proposed high-level conference to read “a majority of” delegations, rather than “some” delegations, supported the proposal in order to better reflect what had happened during the session. However, Egypt would not break the consensus if the change could not be made.



The Chairman informed her that his summary reflected the established practice and format of capturing a range of views, but did not quantify them. It could not be altered.



Pakistan’s representative wished the record to reflect his statement that part B of the annex was a compilation of some, but not all, proposals put forward, as well as to stress that the proposal of the Organization of the Islamic Conference remained on the table and should remain the basis for future negotiations.



The Chairman said all proposals remained on the table.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/l3114.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 20 2007, 03:09 PM
Background



The Security Council met this morning to consider, in an open debate, its role in security sector reform, for which this month’s President, Peter Burian (Slovakia), sent a “concept paper”, annexed in a letter to the Secretary-General dated 8 February (document S/2007/72).



According to the concept paper, the United Nations has been engaged in security sector reform for many years, although not necessarily under that label. However, a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated United Nations approach to security sector reform has been absent. The open debate would offer the Council membership and other Member States the opportunity to articulate their views and propose concrete recommendations to enable the Council to formulate its role in the development of a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated United Nations approach to the issue.



In his paper, Mr. Burian states that security sector reform is driven by the understanding that an ineffective security sector represents a decisive obstacle to peace, stability, poverty reduction, sustainable development, rule of law, good governance and respect for human rights. The security sector is defined as including all those institutions, groups, organization and individuals -- both State and non-State -- that have a stake in security and justice provision, including law enforcement institutions, such as police and armed forces; security management and oversight bodies, such as parliament and the executive, as well as civil society actors, such as the media and non-governmental organizations; justice institutions; and non-statutory security forces, such as liberation armies and political party militias.



As the security sector shares many of the characteristics of other service delivery systems, it should be subject to the same standards of efficiency, equity and accountability as any other public service. The overarching objective of security sector reform is to ensure that the security institutions perform their statutory functions efficiently and effectively in an environment consistent with democratic norms and the principles of good governance and the rule of law, thereby promoting human security.



Although a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated United Nations approach to security sector reform has been lacking, according to the Council President, such reform is very much on the Organization’s agenda, cutting across a wide range of policy areas, from peace and security to poverty reduction, economic and social development, human rights, rule of law and democratization, particularly in post-conflict environments. The absence of an adequate system-level capacity for planning, coordination and implementation is likely to hinder United Nations efforts to support nationally led security sector reform programmes in an effective, efficient and accountable way.



Mr. Burian suggests that the immediate priorities for promoting comprehensive, coherent and coordinated international support to nationally led security sector reform programmes for the United Nations are as follows: to reach consensus on a concept of security sector reform; to allocate roles and responsibilities among the various United Nations entities; to generate lessons learned, norms, standards and best practices; to establish coordinated mechanisms within the United Nations family; and to establish coordinating mechanisms with other external actors and with internal actors in partner countries.



As key issues for special attention during the debate, he suggests norms and standards for security sector reform; system-wide United Nations guidelines and best practices for security sector reform support; the need for the United Nations to ensure consistency of its approach to reform with related areas, such as disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, rule of law and transitional justice; the roles of the Security Council and the Peacebuilding Commission; ensuring sufficient United Nations capacity for supporting security sector reform; and the proper coordination among intergovernmental organizations and other international actors involved in security sector reform assistance.



Statements



Council President, JÁN KUBIŠ, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, said that today’s meeting on security sector reform was the first thematic debate under Slovakia’s first-ever presidency of the Security Council. That was no surprise, since Slovakia’s own experience had shown the importance of such reform to ensuring peace, stability and development. Further, over its year-long transition, and throughout its experience on the international scene, Slovakia had seen that a lack of security sector reform could become one of the causes for relapse into conflict or prolonged instability.



He stressed that, while reformed and restructured security sectors were crucial for post-conflict peacebuilding, the ultimate objective should be the improvement of everyday lives of the people through the improvement of the security sector. He said that, while the United Nations had done a good job in dealing with security sectors in post-conflict situations, it was time for the Organization and the wider international community to devote more time and attention to the matter. Indeed, security sector reform must be delicately balanced between international support and national ownership. Such reform called for coordination, coherence and efficiency of international- and national-level efforts. Finally, he noted that security sector reform was one of the first thematic debates in the opening weeks of the new Secretary-General’s tenure and, noting Ban Ki-moon’s presence, said he hoped the matter would remain high on the United Nations agenda.



BAN KI-MOON, Secretary-General, said that today’s theme on security sector reform lay at the heart of the Council’s responsibilities in the maintenance of international peace and security, in particular in assisting the re-establishment of sustainable peace after violent conflict. Security sector reform, a relatively new term, stood for issues such as the search for sustainable security and the recognition that security was also a precondition for setting countries on the path to development. Security sector reform aimed to achieve effective, accountable and sustainable security institutions operating under a framework of the rule of law and respect for human rights. It embraced values and principles such as commitment to the rule of law, commitment to the protection of human rights and commitment to the State as the cornerstone of international peace and security.



From decades-long experience in peacekeeping in post-conflict environments, four lessons had been learned, he said. The first was that security was a crucial and immediate condition for peacebuilding. A basic degree of security was one of the most visible and immediate dividends. It was also a condition for initiating efforts towards long-term development. There was now a better understanding of how early decisions in peace agreements -- particularly in the context of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration -- impacted on efforts to establish sustainable security structures and processes.

He said a second lesson was that security could not be restored and maintained in a vacuum. It was also vital to address the needs and perspectives of the State and the communities within it. National ownership was the key to sustainable peace. National ownership in post-conflict environments was not a static entity, but evolved as leaders and communities were brought into the peacebuilding process. That principle had guided United Nations efforts in Kosovo, where the Organization was conducting a province-wide consultation on security sector reform with the purpose of obtaining a comprehensive picture of security needs and perspectives.



A third lesson learned was that sustainable security went beyond reintegrating soldiers and units, or training and equipping individual police officers, he said. As Haiti, Timor-Leste, Sierra Leone and Liberia had shown: without effective, well-governed security institutions in place, the maintenance of peace was short-lived. Sustainable security involved strengthening institutions and processes. It called for capable management, sustainable funding and effective oversight. Through initiatives such as the Standing Police Capacity, the United Nations worked to support national authorities in building sustainable law enforcement institutions.



He said the fourth lesson learned was that building sustainable security after conflict went beyond the scope of any one actor. Even within the United Nations, coordination was necessary as a part of an effective response. Also, to build sustainable security, many others must be engaged: Member States, regional organizations, Bretton Woods institutions and others. All efforts must be carefully coordinated.



He said that, increasingly, peacekeeping mandates reflected the perspectives of security sector reform, such as in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Sierra Leone and Côte d’Ivoire. From now on, the overall task must be to ensure that United Nations peacekeepers were provided with the guidance and support they needed to carry out those tasks effectively and efficiently. Peacekeepers must be provided with the standards, guidance and training they needed to provide consistent and quality assistance to national authorities. It must be ensured that mission leaders had the knowledge to direct personnel in carrying out complex support tasks. Finally, United Nations support for security reform in post-conflict environments must be closely coordinated with ongoing efforts to develop integrated peacebuilding strategies.



SHEIKHA HAYA RASHED AL KHALIFA ( Bahrain), President of the General Assembly, said the Assembly had reaffirmed the United Nations leading role in supporting countries emerging from conflict in building and strengthening institutional capacities. It had also stressed the importance of strengthening the role of the international community in dealing with countries emerging from conflict, in order to prevent them from sliding back into conflict. The role security sector reform could play in promoting that agenda could not be underestimated. The Organization had already developed a great deal of expertise and best practices in its peacekeeping operations.



She said the core institutions of State –- police, army and judiciary –- were crucial to national stability and justice, good governance and the rule of law. The impartiality of those institutions reflected the strength of a country’s democratic values. A competent, law abiding and well-governed security sector, with effective civilian oversight, was vital for overall peacebuilding and reconstruction efforts, and sustainable development. That was why national ownership was extremely important. The United Nations could play an important capacity-building role. Security sector reform, beginning with peacekeeping operations, was an integral part of the transition from conflict situations to long-term stability and economic development.



Better coordination of collective efforts at the international level and across the Organization was necessary to ensure that much needed assistance to countries emerging from conflict had a greater impact, she said. There was a need for a common policy within the framework of the Assembly to define such concepts and coordinate the efforts across the Organization. The Peacebuilding Commission could play a very important role in that regard. She also emphasized the important contribution the General Assembly could make to the emerging debate.



The President of the Economic and Social Council, DALIUS ČEKUOLIS ( Lithuania), said that the Security Council’s meeting was yet another acknowledgement that the traditional divide between “security issues” and development concerns was actually an artificial and unsustainable one. Indeed, that was the perspective under which the Economic and Social Council Ad Hoc Advisory Groups on Africa –- on Guinea Bissau and Burundi -- had operated. The experiences of the Groups had led them to conclude that the role of security forces, particularly its internal role, and the processes of security sector reform were key ingredients of the post-conflict peacebuilding agenda. “Without a secure environment, recovery, reconstruction and sustainable development is not possible,” he said.



That was why the Ad Hoc Groups, in their meetings with the countries concerned, had always seen the military as key interlocutors for dialogue, he said, adding that it was that interaction, as well as their dialogue with other stakeholders, that had led tem to support the wider call for security sector reform. Indeed, the Group on Guinea-Bissau had lent its voice to the Security Council during a joint mission in June 2004, in calling for urgent and immediate international assistance to finance a comprehensive restructuring package for that country’s armed forces, because of concerns regarding poor conditions of service, ethnic divisions in the military and the availability of small arms.



He went on to say that the lack of progress in security sector reform in post-conflict countries would continue to contribute to political instability and uncertainty and hamper development. Moreover, progress on poverty eradication would make the task of security sector reform easier, as demobilized soldiers and ex-combatants would be more willing to “give up the gun”. For that reason, special attention must be given to such ex-fighters in national poverty reduction strategies and also within the context of donors’ development cooperation activities. He said that, as the United Nations developed its capacities in the area of security sector reform, the Economic and Social Council, within the context of its coordinating role, would continue to promote a coherent and coordinated approach, based on the shared understanding of the system’s comparative advantage relative to other multilateral, Government and civil society actors.



ISMAEL A. GASPAR MARTINS ( Angola), Chairman of the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission, said that, considering that security sector reform constituted one of the key ingredients of the post-conflict peacebuilding agenda, today’s debate was of particular importance to the Commission, as it took place at a moment when that newly established body had embarked on concrete field efforts. He hoped that the proposals that emerged from the meeting, as well as from other United Nations forums, would enable the Council to reach its objective concerning a comprehensive, coherent and coordinated Organization-wide approach to security sector reform.



He said the security sector was itself complex, as it included all organizations that had the authority to use, or to order the use of, force or threat of force to protect the State and its citizens, as well as those civil structures that were responsible for their management and oversight. Given that, a comprehensive and coordinated approach was required. While it was generally considered that the United Nations needed to better enhance its capabilities and capacities in the security sector reform area, it was also important to note that the Organization had accumulated invaluable experience, through, among other bodies, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, as well as the Security Council, the General Assembly and others. He also noted the formulation last year of the Policy Committee Working Group on Security Sector Reform.



At the same time, the United Nations approach should take into account the organizational reforms already under way, including the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission, which was an important framework for the consideration of many of the same issues. With that in mind, he said the Commission, in coordination with the Governments concerned, had spared no effort in addressing security sector reform in the countries on its agenda, Burundi and Sierra Leone. In Sierra Leone, the Commission had agreed on the need to pursue ongoing national efforts in the fields of justice and security sector reform, strengthen the administration of justice and promote further reform of the police and army. As for Burundi, the Commission had agreed on the importance of national efforts to strengthen the rule of law, as well as completing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration.



“We are therefore before a challenging task,” he said, adding that, nevertheless, implementing security sector reform in post-conflict countries was possible, provided there was adequate international support in the presence of responsible national ownership. Such reform was a “worthy investment”, he said, noting that the recent experiences in Haiti, Timor-Leste, Guinea-Bissau and others had clearly demonstrated that, unless there was a sustainable and long-term engagement by the international community, there could be total disruption of fragile peace agreements and, ultimately, perhaps even a return to the Security Council’s agenda. All those lessons should inform the debate today, as should the experience accumulated by regional organizations and others working in post-conflict situations.



CUI TIANKAI, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said security sector reform had become an important part of peacekeeping and peacebuilding. As Liberia and Sierra Leone showed, security sector reform was conducive to restoring peace and promoting development. Reform of the security sector should aim to ensure the involvement of the security sectors, such as the army and police, in nation-building, preservation of stability and promotion of economic growth. It should not be used as a tool for wars and violence. Security sector reform should also serve the comprehensive strategy of peacekeeping and peacebuilding.



He said the United Nations should play the leading and coordinating role in the reform. It should formulate a comprehensive approach to the issue by drawing on practices proved effective over years of peacekeeping operations. The General Assembly, the Security Council, the Peacebuilding Commission and relevant United Nations missions should be more involved, and coordination with regional organizations strengthened. The will of the countries concerned should be respected. The rebuilding of national institutions was, after all, a country’s internal affairs. The international community should act more as an adviser and assistance provider.



The United Nations had been founded following the two world wars and had the important responsibility of building a harmonious world of lasting peace and common prosperity in the twenty-first century, he said. “We are duty-bound to reach out to those people who are suffering from conflicts, help them get out of the abyss of war, restore law and order and enjoy stability and security. We should bring the conflicting parties together through mutual tolerance, resolution of differences and national reconciliation. We should help them heal the wounds of conflict, embark on the road to development and thus enabling them to enjoy the dividends of peace.”



VITTORIO CRAXI, Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Italy, aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, said his country attached crucial importance to security sector reform in countries emerging from conflict. Such reform should include the principle actors, such as the armed forces, but also Government institutions in general and the judiciary in particular. Security sector reform was an integral part of peacekeeping strategies, in which the United Nations played a vital role. It must be closely linked to the immediate post-conflict phase, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, and be part of broad planning for development and reconstruction. It was also necessary to develop an effective system for the administration of justice.



He said the role of the United Nations in security sector reform was crucial, as the Organization enjoyed the greatest international legitimacy. It also had at its disposal a wide range of tools. As for the role of the “Blue Helmets”, priority should be given to the development of the police component in peacekeeping operations. In that regard, he proposed to establish in Brindisi the headquarters of the new police force.



It was crucial to strengthen international coordination among international and regional organizations, he said, and proposed intensifying operational cooperation between the United Nations and the European Union. Respect for national responsibility remained key to security sector reform. That implied that the country’s authorities define priorities. Italy contributed to peacebuilding efforts in Afghanistan, where it was the principal partner in reforming the judicial system. It would organize a conference on justice and the rule of law, in order to revive donor activity in that sector. Without justice and the establishment of the rule of law, one could not expect security and development.



MUHAMMAD ABDULLAH AL-RUMAIHI, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said the issue of security sector reform was multidimensional and multifaceted, and did not fall within the purview of the Council alone, but involved several organs, both within and outside of the United Nations. Security sector reform should be viewed in the wider context of building State institutions. It must be ensured that the process was subject to the same requirements of accountability as any other public service.



He said that, first of all, at the forefront of security sector reform lay the stabilization of security and the achievement of comprehensive political and economic development, including establishment of an effective judiciary. The overall objective of security sector reform was ensuring the discharge by the security institutions of their statutory functions; i.e. providing security and justice for the people efficiently and effectively. A suitable strategy must be elaborated in order to ensure national ownership. The United Nations bore a special responsibility in elaborating a strategy for security sector reform, especially in countries where it had peacekeeping missions. The Peacebuilding Commission had an important role to play in securing operational continuity.



National ownership of the security sector reform process was crucial, but the contribution that could be made by regional organizations was another element in ensuring coordinated efforts, especially in view of the pioneering role that could be played by regional and subregional organizations. All efforts in security sector reform required adequate and continuous support by the United Nations and other international players, including bilateral and international donors. That would guarantee the success of the reform process, with a view to consolidating peace, strengthening democratic institutions and creating the necessary conditions for the establishment of justice and the achievement of development.



PIERRE CHEVALIER, Special Envoy for the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, said that a better understanding of the complex security sector reform issue would lead to better implementation and coordination among national and local actors. Belgium believed that the success of any security sector reform hinged on the capacity of, and interrelationships between, the various institutions concerned, in order to ensure lasting peace and stability. Belgium also stressed the importance of national ownership, which was critical in the so-called “transition” phase of post-conflict countries that followed coordinated disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts.



On the need to have interaction and coordination between all the players in security sector reform –- who did what and when -– he said, among other things, regional and bilateral actors were necessary to help recovering Governments carry out security sector reform. The Peacebuilding Commission could be critical in helping coordinate the actions of various actors. On the issue of funding security sector reform, he said that the Organization and the wider international community should recognize the importance of official development assistance (ODA), as well as non-official funding.



ALEJANDRO WOLFF ( United States) said his delegation agreed that the multidimensional nature of today’s complex emergencies and peace operations required carefully coordinated and cohesive international responses. Security sector reform was a critical component of that response. Indeed, ad hoc responses were not sufficient, and failing, failed and post-conflict States presented a common challenge to global security and prosperity. If left unattended, they could provide a breeding ground for terrorism, trafficking, humanitarian catastrophes and other threats to common interests. While the United Nations could play a critical role in mitigating and responding to such crises, individually and collectively, States must continue to develop integrated approaches to address crises rapidly, from the first response stages to elements critical to promoting and ensuring sustainable development.



In the wake of war, there was often a rise in criminal activity, particularly in the immediate post-conflict period, he continued. While military and peacekeepers could help stabilize a country, establishing a competent, impartial and adequately resourced law enforcement system was crucial for continuing maintenance of security. While police were critical to re-establishing local and national public security institutions and the rule of law, a comprehensive approach required not only policing, but also the involvement of the entire public security and justice systems. Building police capacity must be integrated with assistance to the judicial and penal systems. Without that integrated approach, policing became nothing more than a continuation of the peacekeeping function, rather than a vital precursor to peacebuilding. To that end, it was of paramount importance that the rule of law be established rapidly across the full territory of the post-conflict State, to present the emergence of political corruption, organized crime and other criminal and terrorist elements.



JORGE VOTO-BERNALES ( Peru) said the responsibilities of the Council had evolved. It was no longer restricted to conflicts among States, but had transcended to violent conflict within countries with international implications. Dealing with those crises required not only ending the conflict, but also combating its root causes. Every State affected by internal armed conflict needed to rebuild institutions that would enable them to provide security and to promote the well-being of its population. Progress must go hand in hand with the protection of human rights and equality before the law.



He said security sector reform implied wide intersectoral planning and required participation of all political and social groups at the national level. The United Nations played a key role in supporting those processes, in particular its Peacebuilding Commission. Security sector reform should include making disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants a priority. Measures for arms control, particularly small arms and light weapons, were also important. It should create institutions oriented to public order and internal security, as well as the adequate composition of its staff. The effective application of security sector reform required the implementation of policies on incentives, supervision and sanctions. The reform process should be complemented with due attention to economic and social factors that might cause poverty, marginalization and exclusion.



EMYR JONES PARRY (United Kingdom), aligning himself with the European Union, stressed that security sector reform was a national responsibility that should be defined and owned by national stakeholders, informed by the best international standards and practices, and supported by the international community. Effective security sector reform required a comprehensive approach, particularly in post-conflict environments involving many complex and interrelated problems. A single, nationally owned, agreed and driven strategic plan was needed, around which international partners could coordinate their support.



He said the United Nations should be willing and able to play a key role in the coordination of that support by facilitating the work of the national stakeholders in three key areas: shared analysis of what must be done and to what extent; development of a clear strategic implementation plan; and establishment of a mechanism for management, monitoring and evaluation of implementation. The establishment or re-establishment of capable, accountable, responsive and sustainable security and justice institutions would require strong political support, technical expertise and human and financial resources.



There were three main areas in which measures could be taken to strengthen the Organization’s work on security sector reform, he said. First, the United Nations system must further define the roles and responsibilities of its different departments, agencies, funds and programmes on security sector reform. Second, there should be a clear strategic lead within the system, coordinating the work and overseeing the whole process. Finally, the Organization should define system-wide core principles on security sector reform, drawing on its own lessons-learned and on established best practices.



DUMISANI KUMALO ( South Africa) said that, while new, the security sector reform tool was critical for lasting development, as well as for creating an enabling environment for promoting and protecting human rights and the implementation of the rule of law. When a country was in the grip of conflict, State institutions were the first to collapse, democracy eroded and the culture for human rights generally regressed or disappeared. Further, he said that, at such times, State organs such as the courts, police and military began to serve those that were in power, rather than the people they had been created to protect and serve. Parties to the conflict began creating their own private armies.



He said all that led to a general breakdown of trust of State institutions, as citizens were left to conclude that democracy had been abandoned and human rights no longer applied, “Security sector reform, therefore, is not a process that was only restricted to building the State institution,” he added. “It is also about the building of trust between the populations with the newly established democratic institutions.” Such reform required full country ownership backed by an informed and active legislature, a clear Government policy framework, an effective executive authority and an active civil society. The roles and responsibilities of all those involved in a specific country’s security needed to be spelled out, he added.



He went on to say that it was imperative that the international community, including the United Nations, seriously define its role in the security sector reform process, as the complex issue required diverse activities and actions from which expertise could be drawn at national and local levels. Such international assistance should be clearly defined, as the donor community should avoid imposing solutions that were often at odds with the interest of the concerned country. The process should be one that favoured conflict resolution and which promoted national reconciliation.



In the recent past, the international community, particularly donors, had a tendency to impose solutions on countries emerging from conflict, he said. The uncertainty brought about by the competing interests of donors and national actors often deepened the challenges faced by the post-conflict country. As a result, the process ended up favouring donors, rather than promoting national reconciliation or nation-building. “While external actors can inform and advise, they cannot prescribe, when it comes to matters of national security, and this can be achieved through an open and transparent national process, with the assistance of the international community.”



RICARDO ALBERTO ARIAS ( Panama) said security development and human rights were each intimately affected by the historical, political and cultural reality of each country. Each security sector project, therefore, must conform to those realities. The rationale of security was to protect individuals: a democratic State had the duty and responsibility to offer security as a service with the same standards of quality regulating other public services and institutions. Under that perspective, the State’s protection of democratic institutions and national integrity constituted the way to guarantee sustainable human development.



He said the Security Council had the duty to prevent situations that might jeopardize international peace and security, and an equal responsibility to resolve conflict situations. It was somewhat more complex to deal with security sector reform in post-conflict situations. In that phase, the Council, the Peacebuilding Commission, the General Assembly and the Secretariat, as well as other United Nations organs, must act as parts of a whole in carrying out the objectives and priorities previously established.



In that context, he said, the Security Council must facilitate and foster the participation of regional organizations, as provided for in Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter, as well as a more active role for civil society organizations. Today’s debate must be aimed at generating a broad consensus, based fundamentally on respect for the principles and norms of international law and the Charter.



JEAN-MARC DE LA SABLIÈRE (France), aligning himself with the statement on behalf of the European Union, stressed that security issues were not just a military issue, but a precondition for development and the fight against poverty. A holistic approach should be taken towards security sector reform, within the broader framework of improving governance. Simultaneous action in different domains had to be taken, including in the police, military and judicial sectors.



He said that, with the Peacebuilding Commission now in place, it was important to reflect on the specific responsibility of the Council in post-conflict situations. The Council should address security sector reform early on, when establishing mandates for peacekeeping operations. However, the scope of Council consideration could not be defined ahead of time, but would depend on the circumstances in each different case. It was crucial that the international community act in support of a national plan. His country had contributed to security sector reform in support of peacekeeping operations in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Haiti. One of the challenges in security sector reform was to create synergies and to coordinate actors. It would be up to the Peacebuilding Commission to enhance synergy and ensure such coordination.



REZLAN ISHAR JENIE ( Indonesia) said that, despite the fact that security sector reform continued to receive increasing attention, it remained a contentious and complex issue on which no consensus had been reached. In practice, security sector reform often appeared not as a single programmatic entity, but as a cross-cutting activity that involved various stakeholders. Reform in the security sector was interlinked with reform in other sectors. When crafted carefully and implemented consistently, with participation of civil society, reforms in different sectors would be mutually reinforcing, as the reforms in his country over the last seven years had shown.



He said that a United Nations approach to security sector reform should be confined to post-conflict contexts, but that a coherent and coordinated approach within the United Nations system was still lacking and warranted managerial and institutional reform. The Organization should have a sufficient planning, coordinating and implementing capacity in order to assist in security sector reform. The Peacebuilding Commission could bridge the coordination and implementation gap within the United Nations. It could also contribute to the definition, principles, norms, standards, modality and mechanisms of security sector reform. In order to make security sector reform sustainable, financial and technical assistance from the international community would be meaningful. The Council could propose, through its mission mandates, the parameters for security sector reform in post-conflict countries.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8958.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 22 2007, 04:04 PM
SECURITY COUNCIL PRESS STATEMENT ON IRAQ




The following Security Council press statement on Iraq was delivered today by Council President Peter Burian ( Slovakia):



The members of the Security Council are following with concern the situation in Iraq, and condemn all terrorist attacks, including the recent chlorine gas and other bombings in and around Baghdad, which have resulted in the death and injury of many innocent Iraqi civilians and others.



The members of the Security Council acknowledge the efforts of the Iraq security forces and the Multinational Forces-Iraq, whose members are also being targeted in ongoing attacks. The members of the Security Council extend their condolences to all of the victims and their families.



The members of the Security Council urge an end to the violence in the country and the redoubling of efforts to allow fulfilment of the goals of relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, in particular resolution 1546 (2004) and most recently resolution 1723 (2006), to help meet security and stability needs, and express their hope that the efforts of the Government of Iraq will contribute to bringing security and stability to the country.



The members of the Council reiterate the Council’s call upon Member States to prevent the transit of terrorists to and from Iraq, arms for terrorists and financing that would support terrorists.



The members of the Security Council reaffirm the need to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and by all means, in accordance with international law.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8963.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 22 2007, 04:06 PM
PRAGMATIC STEPS NEEDED TO CLOSE COLONIAL CHAPTER IN HUMAN AFFAIRS,


SAYS DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL TO DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE




Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the opening of the 2007 session of the Special Committee on decolonization in New York, 22 February:



It is a pleasure to join you so early in my tenure as Deputy Secretary-General.



The decolonization movement is one with which the United Nations is closely identified, and indeed was part of the Organization’s founding mission.



That quest gained clear momentum in the early 1960s, with the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, and the establishment of this Special Committee.



Four decades later, decolonization is a United Nations success story, albeit an unfinished one.



Today, there are still 16 Non-Self-Governing Territories, in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Pacific. Thus, there clearly remains work to do.



The United Nations and the international community have a responsibility to bring about a speedy, successful and sustainable solution for the total eradication of colonialism. And, if we are to close this chapter in human affairs, we need to focus on pragmatic steps.



One of the most promising opportunities for progress in the year ahead is the Pacific Territory of Tokelau. Last February, as you know, Tokelau held a referendum on a measure designed to ensure its attainment of self-government in free association with New Zealand, the administering Power. That referendum did not result in the two-thirds majority needed to effect a change in status. Nevertheless, New Zealand and Tokelau subsequently agreed to move the process forward by holding another referendum in November of this year. This demonstrates the indispensability of political will on the part of the administering Power.



I know you share my hope that the example of Tokelau, and the parties’ renewed efforts to hold a referendum, will inspire other administering Powers and Territories to move towards self-determination for the peoples in the Territories concerned. Needless to say, the cooperation of the administering Powers will be crucial. They must ensure that the views of the peoples of these Territories are heard. They should take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions. Towards that end, I urge all administering Powers to adopt a constructive attitude. They should do their utmost to muster the political will necessary for implementing the principles enshrined in the UN Charter.



I commend the Special Committee for its important work and for its steadfast commitment to the Declaration and the UN Charter. As you begin your new session, let me assure you that we in the Secretariat will continue to fully support your efforts.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/dsgsm300.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 23 2007, 04:12 PM
SECRETARY-GENERAL STRESSES PREVENTIVE DIPLOMACY, SPREAD OF VALUES,


IN REMARKS TO CULTURE OF PEACE NEW YEAR CELEBRATION




Following is the text of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at the Culture of Peace New Year celebration in New York, yesterday, 22 February:



I am delighted to join you for today’s celebration, and to convey the Secretary-General’s greetings to everyone. I know that he had hoped to be here in person to mark this occasion, but official travels have kept him away from New York this week.



Let me begin by wishing all of you a very happy Chinese Lunar New Year, and by welcoming to the United Nations all the performers who have travelled from different parts of the world to enliven this occasion. Let me also thank His Excellency Ambassador Chowdhury for hosting this event, and for his years of service to the cause of peace, here at the United Nations and beyond.



As an African and as a mother, the ideals behind the International Decade for the Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World hold deep significance for me. Today, it seems particularly appropriate that I -- one of the UN’s newest staff members -- should be among all of you to mark the UN’s efforts to build a culture of peace.



Over the years, it has become clear to everyone in our Organization that our work to end war must reach well beyond the mere absence of conflict. Peacekeepers and preventive diplomacy remain essential tools in our efforts to silence guns and implement ceasefires. But, by themselves, they are not enough to counter humanity’s worst instincts.



Instead, the search for a durable and enduring peace demands action at a deeper, more profound level. It requires the spread of values, attitudes and behaviours that reject violence and embrace tolerance, justice and respect for human rights. In short, it requires a culture of peace.



Of course, attaining such peace is a daunting challenge. Often, it proves a painfully slow process; one that requires action at multiple levels and by myriad actors. Yet, it remains a goal well worth pursuing.



We need only look to the suffering inflicted by conflicts and violence on the world’s children to understand what lies at stake. The young suffer enormous harm in countless wars that are never of their making. Globally, millions of children are displaced from their homes due to conflict. They are deprived, not only of education and health care, but also of the opportunity to become productive members of society. Many are unwittingly caught up in the vicious cycle of conflict, drafted as child soldiers and trained to fire AK-47s even before they have learned to read or write.



Creating a peaceful world for the next generation is the driving force behind the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. I believe that such a world is attainable. It requires collective effort and the teaching of tolerance and coexistence at all levels within our respective societies. And it requires that we keep the promises captured in the Millennium Declaration. By meeting the goals that we have already set, we can create a world fit for our children. A world that is at peace, where no child is forced to fight or flee, and where all children can grow and thrive.



On this day, I hope you will join me in reaffirming your commitment to achieving this vision. Together, we can make a difference. Together, we can create a culture of peace and non-violence.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/dsgsm301.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 26 2007, 04:03 PM
UNITED NATIONS MEETS SILICON VALLEY IN INITIATIVE TO PROVIDE DEVELOPING WORLD


WITH BENEFITS OF INFORMATION, COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY




28 February Event Gathers High-Tech, Academic, Venture Capital Communities



The Strategy Council of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, a United Nations initiative to bring the benefits of information technology to developing countries, will meet with Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry on 28February.



At the event -- to be held at Mountain View’s Computer History Museum and jointly organized by Intel Corporation, prominent members of industry, academia and the venture capital community -- will join Global Alliance members to identify areas where the United Nations and Silicon Valley can work together to expand the benefits of information and communication technology (ICT) in the developing world. Intel Corporation Chairman Craig Barrett, Chair of the Global Alliance, will host the meeting.



“Increasing access to technology will be a critical driver of economic growth in emerging economies,” Mr. Barrett said, “but it will require Silicon Valley’s leaders and the public sector to work together to make their respective programmes more impactful. This forum is designed to foster discussion and, more importantly, create action.”



Some 250 people are expected to attend. Global Alliance participants include Datuk Seri Dr Jamaludin Jarjis, Malaysia’s Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation; Ali Abbasov, Azerbaijan’s Minister for Communications and Information Technology; Hamadoun I. Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union; Cai Liu,Vice Chairman of China’s Science and Technology Commission for Telecommunications; Lyndall Shope-Mafole, Director-General of South Africa’s Department of Communications; Farrukh Qayyum, Pakistan’s Secretary for Information Technology and Telecom; Walter Fust, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation; and Guy Sebban, Secretary General of the International Chamber of Commerce.



Silicon Valley participants include executives from communications, hardware, Internet, software and venture capital firms. Among them are Eric A. Brewer, Director, Intel Research Berkeley; John Davies, Vice-President, Intel World Ahead Program; Georg Haubs, Senior Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer for Innovation, Nokia Siemens Networks; Andrew M. Isaacs, Executive Director, Management of Technology Program, University of California-Berkeley; Wayne Johnson, Vice-President for Worldwide University Relations, Hewlett Packard; Andrew McLaughlin, Head of Global Public Policy, Google; Claudia Fan Munce, Managing Director and Vice-President, IBM Venture Capital Group; Art Reilly, Senior Director, Cisco Systems; William Schoch, Vice-President and Director of Emerging Markets, Visa International; and Fred Tipson, Director for International Organizations and Development, Microsoft.



“The United Nations sees the private sector as bringing a lot to the table -- abundant resources, capacity and an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Global Alliance Executive Coordinator Sarbuland Khan. “Business fuels innovation, and so many of the world’s problems are crying out for innovative solutions.”



Panel discussions will examine what is on the minds of Silicon Valley’s innovators regarding science and technology for development; case studies of private-public sector collaboration; relevant content in developing countries; and venture capital and the internationally agreed Millennium Development Goals.



“There is a need to find innovative business solutions and to invest in the right technologies for the 4.8 billion people without access to ICT,” Mr. Khan said. “Developing pro-poor business models and technology solutions that can make the market grow also enhance profits for those who have the courage to think beyond the traditional modes.”



The event’s opening remarks by Mr. Barrett, Mr. Touré and Mr. Qayyum will be available at http://un-webcast.edgesuite.net/un/index.htm at 8:30 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time). A press conference featuring Mr. Barrett, Mr. Khan and Mr. Touré will be webcast at http://un-webcast.edgesuite.net/qa/index.htm at 9:45 a.m. (Pacific Daylight Time). Podcast interviews related to this event are available on the “About Intel” channel intelpr.feedroom.com.



The event will be preceded on 27 February by a meeting of the Global Alliance Steering Committee. At the meeting, to be held at Intel’s headquarters in Santa Clara, participants will focus on the next steps for reaching the objectives of the Alliance, and discuss the ways in which they can contribute to the implementation of the Business Plan.



Participants will pay special attention to the Alliance’s Flagship Partnership Initiatives, such as improving broadband connectivity in Africa and expanding telecentres in developing countries. Parallel sessions on the Alliance’s Communities of Expertise, organized by area of focus, will facilitate discussion on how these networks of experts can contribute to the objectives of the Global Alliance.



The Alliance, an initiative of the Secretary-General to promote effective use of information and communication technology for development, held its inaugural meeting last June in Kuala Lumpur.



For further information, please visit www.un-gaid.org or contact Enrica Murmura at the Global Alliance secretariat, tel: 212 963 5913, e-mail: murmura@un.org; Timothy Wall at the Department of Public Information, tel: 212 963 5851, e-mail: wallt@un.org; or Laura Anderson at Intel Corporation, tel: 480 552-9020, e-mail: laura.m.anderson@intel.com.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/pi1761.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 27 2007, 02:50 PM
Information technology central to quest for development, dignity, peace,


Secretary-General tells global alliance




Following is the text of the video message by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon for the opening session of the meeting of the Steering Committee of the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development, today in Santa Clara, California:



Information and communications technologies have a central role to play in the quest for development, dignity and peace.



The international consensus on this point is clear. We saw it at the 2000 Millennium Summit and at the 2005 World Summit. And we saw it in the two phases of the World Summit on the Information Society.



With the launch of the Global Alliance for ICT and Development last March, the international community has taken that consensus a crucial step further. The Alliance is well placed to promote the use of ICT in fighting poverty, illiteracy and disease, in protecting the environment and empowering women and girls.



It is important that you work as a true partnership of all essential stakeholders -- Governments, civil society, the private sector, academia and others. All of you are needed if we are to succeed.



So let us use all our energy and innovation to harness ICT to our work towards the Millennium Development Goals. Let us turn the digital divide into digital opportunity. Let us promote new business models, public policies and technology solutions in the global approach to development.



The United Nations family is a willing and able partner in that process. I send you my best wishes for a successful meeting, and look forward to learning about your progress.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10888.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Feb 28 2007, 03:19 PM
UN INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL-UNITED NATIONS CONFERENCE ON ‘GLOBAL WARMING:


CONFRONTING THE CRISIS’ TO TAKE PLACE 1 - 2 MARCH




NEW YORK, 28 February (UNIS) -- The theme of the thirty-first annual United Nations International School-United Nations (UNIS-UN) Conference is “Global Warming: Confronting the Crisis”. The Conference will be held on Thursday and Friday, 1 and 2 March, in the General Assembly Hall of the United Nations.



Over the past decade, word of significant changes in the Earth’s temperature has spread around the globe. In the twenty-first century, instability in the environment has caused a great deal of worry among the scientific and political communities. Variability in the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans is mainly attributable to human activities that have disrupted the world’s natural balance. From collapsing ice shelves to increasingly violent hurricanes, global warming promises to shape the future of the modern world.



This year’s UNIS-UN Conference will investigate climate change and its effect on the political, environmental and economic spheres of our world. The debatable causes and consequences of climate change, as well as the alternative methods of mitigating it, are the fundamental topics that will be discussed throughout the two days of the Conference. Through close examination of factors shown to influence global warming, we hope that attendees will gain insight into this pressing issue, as well as make their own conclusions from the available evidence in the current day.



This year, we are honoured to have the new United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, as our keynote speaker. In addition, other distinguished speakers include Laurie David, the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, who is best known for her efforts in mitigating global warming. Also, James Hansen, formerly of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States (NASA), will discuss astounding evidence illustrating the Government’s inaction in fighting climate change, and Robert Bindschadler, who currently works for NASA, is a glaciologist who has led 14 field expeditions to Antarctica and has travelled to the South Pole to study the climate patterns in ice sheets. The Conference will conclude with a student panel on “How Important is Climate Change to the Future of our World?”, followed by a presentation of student produced and selected films on this year’s topic of global warming.



The UNIS-UN Conference is organized and run by UNIS students in the Upper School (Tutorial House). The UNIS-UN Committee begins preparations for the Conference nearly a year in advance, finding and researching a topic of global relevance, drawing up a list of speakers, inviting several hundred students from schools all over the world, managing UNIS Tutorial House debates and compiling a working paper of articles, written and edited by members of the UNIS-UN Committee, pertaining to the topic.



The structure of the UNIS-UN Conference is designed to provide students with expert knowledge through the experience of provocative guest speakers. The Conference also endeavours to give students a platform to express and debate their own opinions and views in arguably the most internationally significant gathering place on earth. More than 600 students hailing from six continents will attend the Conference. By outlining some of the issues that dominate the discussion of global warming, the UNIS-UN Committee hopes that this year’s Conference will foster awareness of climate change, a subject of great challenge in the twenty-first century. The Conference will be webcast on both days.



For further information, please contact Sylvia Fuhrman, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for UNIS, tel: 212 963 8729 or United Nations International School, tel: 212 584 3108, e-mail: unis-un@unis.org, Internet: www.unis.un.org.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/envdev911.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 5 2007, 07:00 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



Good afternoon.



**Guest at Noon Briefing



Our guest today at the briefing is Ms. Alicia Bárcena, the Under-Secretary-General for Management.



**Côte d’Ivoire Statement



The Secretary-General welcomes the successful conclusion of the dialogue on the Ivorian peace process and the signing of an agreement between President Laurent Gbagbo and Mr. Guillaume Soro in Ouagadougou on 4 March 2007, under the facilitation of the Chairman of ECOWAS, President Blaise Compaoré. The Secretary-General commends President Compaoré for his effective facilitation role and assures him and the Ivorian leaders of the commitment and readiness of the United Nations to assist in the implementation of the agreement.



The Secretary-General notes that the Ouagadougou agreement builds upon Security Council resolution 1721 (2006) and previous peace agreements with the aim of resolving the protracted political stalemate. The Secretary-General is especially pleased to note that the agreement addresses the key issues that had blocked progress on identification of the population, disarmament, reform and restructuring of the Armed Forces, restoration of State authority throughout the country, reunification of the country and the preparation of the voters list, in order to ensure credible, free and fair elections.



The Secretary-General stresses that this agreement was drawn up by the Ivorian leaders themselves, which places on them a special responsibility to implement it in full and in good faith. He looks forward to further discussions with President Compaoré and the Ivorian leaders on details of the provisions of the agreement and the role the United Nations is expected to play.



**Deputy Secretary-General



The Deputy Secretary-General spoke this morning at the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls, which the UN Office on Drugs and Crime helped to organize.



She said that trafficking respects no borders and the response, therefore, requires cross-border cooperation. She also encouraged parties to join the Global Initiative to fight Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, which is being launched by the UN this year in Vienna. We have her full remarks upstairs.



**Timor-Leste



The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) reports that on Saturday the International Security Forces (ISF) initiated an operation in Same, targeting the fugitive Major Reinado and his supporters.



The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, in a press conference yesterday said that UNMIT, in consultation with the Government of Timor-Leste and the ISF has considered all possible options to achieve Reinado’s surrender to justice.



UNMIT expresses regrets that the efforts to ensure a peaceful judicial path have not been successful, stressing that it is Reinado’s disregard for the laws of Timor-Leste and the well-being of its population that have brought us to this point.



**Security Council



There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council planned for today.



The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, will be briefing the Security Council in consultations tomorrow morning and then speaking to you at the stakeout microphone afterwards.



**Ibrahim Gambari



Ibrahim Gambari, who travelled to Saudi Arabia over the weekend as a Special Envoy of the Secretary-General, had an audience in Riyadh on Sunday with King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud. Gambari delivered a message from the Secretary-General. Their discussion focused on a range of regional issues, as well as on Saudi Arabia’s relations with the UN.



Gambari has since spoken with the Secretary-General by phone and will be able to fully brief him on all of his discussions upon his return to New York. While in Saudi Arabia, he will continue contacts with senior government officials and will travel to Jeddah later in the week to meet with the Secretary-General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.



**IAEA



The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) met earlier today in Vienna and considered, among other issues, the status of implementation of safeguards in both Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.



In his address to the Board, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said that the situation in Iran remains a stalemate. He said that, although the Agency has verified the non-diversion of Iran’s declared nuclear material, Iran’s lack of transparency continued to hinder the Agency’s ability to reconstruct the full history of the country’s nuclear programme and some of its components.



On the DPRK, ElBaradei told the Board that he had been invited by the Government to visit the country in the wake of the 13 February Beijing agreement at the six-party talks. We have more on this upstairs.



**Democratic Republic of Congo



The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, is currently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



The objective of her mission is to work towards ensuring greater protection for children in the immediate post-conflict phase and peace consolidation process. We have a press release on that.



**Women



UNICEF head Ann Veneman today addressed the fifty-first Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women, which is meeting here at Headquarters. She said that violence against women and girls is one of the most extreme forms of inequality.



She also said that education is key to addressing discrimination and violence against girls and to helping achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Educated girls are better equipped to protect themselves against life-threatening diseases and more likely to give birth to healthy babies, she said. We have a press release on that upstairs.



** Nepal



The United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Nepal announced today that it has launched a programme toolkit for Ministries of Education on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.



The HIV and AIDS situation in Nepal is categorized as a concentrated epidemic, spreading rapidly amongst its most at-risk groups, and by adapting an advocacy toolkit to the Nepali context, UNESCO hopes the toolkit can be used as additional efforts to limit the spread of HIV.



** Afghanistan



Divergent trends characterize opium cultivation in Afghanistan this year, with a pronounced divide between the troubled south of the country and the more stable centre-north, according to a survey by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics.



“The trend towards more and more provinces in Afghanistan cultivating opium may be broken,” UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said. “This is a moderately good sign.” We have more on that upstairs.



**Press Conferences



As you might know, the Minister of Defence of Lebanon, Mr. Elias El-Murr, is meeting the Secretary-General at 12:30 today. Right after the meeting, around 12:45, Minister El-Murr will speak to the press at the 2nd floor stakeout.



At 1 p.m. today, there will be a press briefing with Natalya Petkevich, the Deputy Head of Administration of the President of the Republic of Belarus and Vladimir Naumov, Minister of Interior of the Republic of Belarus. They will brief you on the International Conference on Trafficking in Women and Girls.

At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing with Mr. Nasir el-Rufai, Minister of Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria who will brief you on issues related to anti-corruption policy and Nigeria’s presidential election, which is scheduled to take place in April 2007.



Then at 12:30 p.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing with Ms. Mary Robinson, the President of Realizing Rights and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; and with Ms. Beatriz Paredes, President of Mexico’s political party PRI. They will brief you on gender equality and the empowerment of women. This is all I have for you.



**Questions and Answers



Question: Is the Secretary-General planning on attending the Iraq-Government sponsored governance conference in Baghdad this weekend?



Spokesperson: No, he is not.



Question: Was he invited? Or will there be any UN-related involvement in that conference?



Spokesperson: The conference, I’m sure there will be but I don’t know. I can check for you, but I know the Secretary-General will not be going.



[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, would attend as an observer.]



Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comments on the incident in Afghanistan in which American troops fired at Afghan civilians killing 16 of them? And since the UN has an extensive (inaudible) in Afghanistan, what was the UN version of that incident?



Spokesperson: We don’t have a separate version of this incident. The UN is not being involved in any way. However, I will try to get some answers for you on the first part of your question. You are not the first one to ask, so the UNCA seat does not hold.



Question: It only appears to be the case when we have a guest, not for the press briefings. Anyhow, thank you for this. But I was going to ask… one can assume that the Secretary-General has already started giving interviews to the press and my question is: is there any waiting list for that? How long is the waiting list and what are the priorities, if any, of the Secretary-General? To whom is he granting interviews?



Spokesperson: Okay, in this specific case, when we have, and that’s what we did last time, we had some interviews on his trip, there were some pre-trip interviews and post-trip interviews. This was the case also for his Quartet meetings. However, if you have filed, in my office, a request for an interview, we are considering all requests, and as we find the time for the Secretary-General to give these interviews, they are given.



Question: Only time?



Spokesperson: Only. Time schedule is the only criterion. Yes, indeed.



Question: The new UN humanitarian chief seemed to indicate today that the inquiry into the programmes in North Korea was focusing almost solely on UNDP. I had thought that the Secretary-General had ordered a much broader investigation of the operations. And I wonder if you could check and confirm whether it is just limited primarily to UNDP, or whether UNICEF and WFP were also being looked into.



Spokesperson: The only thing I can tell you is that, for the time being, it is being concentrated, because that was one of the issues, it is being concentrated on the UNDP programmes in North Korea. However, I’ll ask for whether, when there will be other agencies touched by that investigation. Just a second, okay, a follow-up.



Question: It’s exactly on that. We’ve heard that the suspension operations of the UNDP programme in North Korea may also undermine the audits that are supposed to be taking place. I wonder if you can say whether the auditors still have full access to all the papers they need and if the clock that you said has started will continue to run before the release of the audits.



Spokesperson: As far as I know, this will not affect the investigation.



Question: I’d like to know on whose initiative is the proposed press conference to be addressed by the Nigerian Minister tomorrow? Is it the UN that has invited the Minster to come and make this address? Or whose idea it is for the Nigerian minister to address the press conference regarding the elections that are coming next month?



Spokesperson: I can’t tell you who asked for it, but it was probably the Nigerian mission.



Question: I just wanted to follow up. As I understand it, the UNDP’s statement was posted on their website but I don’t think that we got any announcement. I would like to put in a request that on announcements, such as this, those announcements should be made to us, not just posted. We don’t go and read the UNDP website all the time.



Spokesperson: Well, I think we have someone from the UNDP here. I’m not sure. Yes, we do have Jim back there and he will be glad to answer your questions right after the briefing.



Question: Brammertz is in Saudi Arabia for the first time and Mr. Gambari is going to Saudi Arabia. Will they meet? Do you know if they are going to meet there? And the second question is, when will Mr. Secretary-General be leaving, going to the Middle East and in which capital will he be stopping before going to Riyadh for the Summit?



Spokesperson: Your first question, I cannot confirm that Mr. Brammertz was in Saudi Arabia. I cannot confirm that and, as you know, we do not comment on people doing investigations and where they go and when they go, okay? That’s a question of security for the people doing investigations. Second question, when is the Secretary-General going on his trip? We don’t know yet. I don’t have an exact date for that yet. And I will give it to you as soon as I have it, okay?



Question: Where?



Spokesperson: We don’t know yet either.



Question: As you know, we had a briefing held by the Georgian Mission today. Has the Secretary-General issued any statements or comments with regards to the parliamentary elections held yesterday in Abkhazia? Or is he planning to issue any statements?



Spokesperson: Not that I know of.



Question: Since you couldn’t comment on whether somebody else was there, we know that Ahmadinejad was in Riyadh at the same time that Gambari was there. Did he have any plans to meet with him or with any of his delegation? And also, since Ban Ki-moon said early on that he wants to impose a term limit of five years, how come he rehired Gambari after a little over five years?



Spokesperson: He means five years in the same post. That’s what mobility means. It’s five years in the same post.



Question: As far as that is concerned, the only one now is Guéhenno, who’s more than five years, right?



Spokesperson: Well, I can check on that but as far as I know, Mr. Gambari changed jobs.



Question: Does he plan to meet with any of the Iranian mission?



Spokesperson: Not that I know of. But if such a meeting takes place, I’ll let you know.



Question: Will the Secretary-General be attending the upcoming Human Rights Council conference mid-month, this month? And also, is the Secretary-General having any dialogue with the North Korean delegation that’s in town now? Or has he had some conversation over the last couple days?



Spokesperson: Okay, first question, the Human Rights Council -- no, he’s not going to that session. However, he will most probably take another trip to Geneva in the near future. Your second question was about the North Korean -- as far as I know, there has been no contact between the Secretary-General and the North Korean Mission here for the six-party talks. And the Secretary-General has not, as far as I know, any plans to meet with them.



Question: Do you know if the Secretary-General knows anything about the nine women from Iran, the delegation, that was supposed to come to the Commission, the current conference and was supposedly refused visas by the US? Do you have some information about that?



Spokesperson: No, we don’t, but I think you should address your questions to the Spokesperson for the President of the Assembly and you will probably get a chance to ask those questions later on with him.



Question: The Secretary-General noted the good progress on the discussions on the Ivory Coast, dispute or tension there. There are other positive developments in other lands. For example, there has been progress towards formation of unity Government in Palestine. There are indications that there will be a good unity Government very soon in Lebanon. And finally, there are indications that Iraq will have a new Government. Does the Secretary-General see progress on all these fronts and is he satisfied?



Spokesperson: Well, as you know, he has already welcomed the agreement among the Palestinians, between the Palestinians. And we are waiting to see what it is going to result into. This is the same thing for the Lebanese Unity Government. We are waiting to see when it comes into being fully.



Question: Have you got any more information on this reported letter from Sudan? Has the Secretary-General asked for an explanation as to why this letter of his got lost in the mail?



Spokesperson: Well, we have not received a letter yet as far as I know. And we don’t have the explanations yet. The Mission said -- ask the Mission about the letter.



Question: Have you asked the Mission?



Spokesperson: I can, no, not personally, no. I don’t know whether the Secretary-General has.



Question: Will the UN ask the mission for an explanation? Because it’s rather curious that there have been all these messages … the letter was signed and sent and it’s still not here. So I was just wondering whether the Secretary-General or anybody on the 38th floor had asked the Mission for an explanation, whether an explanation was given?



Spokesperson: Okay, we’ll ask, we’ll ask.



Question: A follow-up on Jonathan’s question. Has the SG had any contact with North Korean officials outside the Mission here, meaning the Foreign Minister in Pyongyang or somewhere else?



Spokesperson: Not that I know of.



Question: Just a follow-up, in terms of the upcoming Iraqi conference, can you clarify whether the Secretary-General was indeed invited to participate or indeed, was he not invited?



Spokesperson: I’ll check on that for you, I said I would check.



Question: Is Gambari going to be there?



Spokesperson: I can find out for you.



Question: In terms of this afternoon, Nicholas Burns is scheduled to meet with the Secretary-General. Do you have any details about that -- if it was initiated by the US? What’s on the agenda?



Spokesperson: It was initiated by the US. It will most probably be about North Korea and other issues. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other issues.



Question: As I understand, Dr. ElBaradei was in touch with the Iranian authorities concerning the arrangement. What is the nature of the meeting of the Security Council concerning Iran?



Spokesperson: Well, I think you should ask that question to the Security Council. You had Ambassador Kumalo on Friday and I’m sure you can get a chance to ask the Security Council. As you know, and as Mr. Kumalo said, in the next three days, you can expect to discuss that issue. If you don’t mind, I’m going to stop here because I would like to give Alicia a chance to present her briefing and we can have more later.



Question: We’re going to have a lot of questions for Mrs. Bárcena. Is there a possibility that we can at least have a briefing longer than normal because I do see that a lot…



Spokesperson: Yes, what happens here is that at 1, I have to give the room to another press conference which is taking place in the same room. It’s at 1 p.m. today and they informed me that we might have to cut it up exactly at 1. Anyway, I’ll invite Alicia Bárcena to come up.
http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070305.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 6 2007, 06:17 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



Good afternoon all.



** Iraq Statement



[The following statement was issued immediately after the noon briefing.]



The Secretary-General is outraged by the series of bomb attacks in Iraq today on Shia pilgrims who were making their way to the holy city of Karbala. He condemns these heinous acts, which appear to be aimed at provoking sectarian strife.



The Secretary-General appeals to all communities in Iraq to show maximum restraint in the face of these criminal actions. He also calls on all political and religious leaders in the country to exert their influence to protect civilian lives and to promote mutual respect and dialogue between all Iraqi communities.



**Indonesia Statement



The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the loss of life and destruction of property suffered by the people of Indonesia after the recent earthquake in Sumatra. He extends his deepest condolences to the families of those who have been killed or injured in the earthquake.



The United Nations has been in contact with the Government of Indonesia and stands ready to lend its assistance to efforts to respond to humanitarian needs created by the disaster, including by using existing resources and providing grants from emergency funds, and to mobilize international support for that response.



**Security Council



The Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, briefed the Security Council in consultations on the joint mission he carried out with African Union Special Envoy for Darfur, Salim Ahmed Salim, as well as on the next steps the two Special Envoys will take to assist in re-energizing the Darfur political process.



Hédi Annabi, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also gave an update.



Mr. Eliasson has agreed to speak to reporters at the Security Council stakeout following the consultations.



** Sudan



The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees has launched a $56.1 million appeal for operations in South Sudan to help tens of thousands of southern Sudanese refugees and internally displaced people return home and reintegrate in their communities.



Also on South Sudan, the World Health Organization has launched an emergency response operation to contain a meningitis outbreak. A mass immunization campaign, targeting more than 600,000 people in high risk areas, is being carried out.



**Gender Equality



Speaking at the opening of the General Assembly debate on gender equality, the Secretary-General pledged to work for a collaborative and coordinated approach to gender perspective – one that involves and engages the entire UN system in supporting Member States’ work for gender equality and empowerment of women.



Adding that there is still a long way to go in implementing global goals and commitments for gender equality, the Secretary-General stressed the need for changing values and attitudes, while transforming relations between women and men, at all levels of society.



He also urged partnership between Governments, international organizations, civil society and private sector, to ensure that women and girls enjoy their full rights and take up a rightful place in society.



** Iran



Regarding Iran, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today expressed strong concern over the arrest of at least 31 women activists during a peaceful gathering in front of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran last weekend.



Arbour emphasized that these women were exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. She recalled that Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and must adhere to its legal obligations. We have more on that in my office.



** Somalia



As the hijacking of a World Food Programme-chartered vessel off the coast of Somalia enters its tenth day, WFP is calling for a swift end to the impasse, citing concerns for the welfare of the crew. WFP is also concerned about increasing difficulties in contracting additional ships to deliver urgent food aid to hungry people.



Six hijackers remain in control of the vessel, now anchored in an area close to the border of Puntland and the central region of Somalia. None of the crew has been released, despite appeals and interventions for their immediate safe return.



WFP is in close contact with Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, the Puntland authorities and the vessel’s agents. We have a press release on that upstairs.



**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea



Responding to a letter dated February 13 from the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General has asked for the continued cooperation of the Government to allow the audit of United Nations funds and programmes in that country to be completed in a timely manner.



I quote from the Secretary-General’s letter: “On 22 February, I initiated an overall assessment and audit of operations of the United Nations funds and programmes in several countries where concerns had surfaced. On 9 February, the Advisory Committee on Budgetary and Administrative Questions made a formal request to the Board of Auditors to carry out a special audit of the United Nations Organizations in DPRK. The Board of Auditors is currently undertaking preliminary preparations and will be approaching your Government shortly to seek assistance in making logistical arrangements for the upcoming audit.” This is the quote from the letter. You can have the full text upstairs.



The first letter from the DPRK Permanent Representative has been circulated by the General Assembly.



**Kosovo



On the UN Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), Richard Monk of the United Kingdom yesterday assumed his duties as UNMIK Police Commissioner in Pristina, following his appointment to the post by the Secretary-General.



He replaces Stephen Curtis, who left the Mission last month. We have a press release on that.



** Ghana



In a message on the 50th anniversary of Ghana’s independence, delivered today in Accra by his Special Adviser on Africa, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila, the Secretary-General praised Ghana’s steady participation in UN peacekeeping operations around the world.



“Many Ghanaians have made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in the cause of peace. To them and to your nation, the United Nations owe a debt of gratitude,” the Secretary-General said.



He also noted Ghana’s work for regional conflict resolution through ECOWAS, its current chairmanship of the African Union and membership in the UN Security Council. We have copies of this speech upstairs.



**Timor-Leste



The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) reports that some 49 instance of violence broke out in capital Dili overnight. Most involved stone-throwing. The situation is now stable but tense.



While the search for Major Alfredo Reinado continues, a group of some 50 to 100 locals in the south-western city of Suai demonstrated peacefully in support of the major.



**Press Conferences



Right after this briefing, there will be a press conference with Mary Robinson, the President of Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; and with Beatriz Paredes, President of Mexico’s political party PRI. They will brief you on gender equality and the empowerment of women.



Just as a heads-up, at 10:15 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing with the president of the International Narcotics Control Board, Dr. Philip Emafo, and the board’s secretary, Koli Kouame. They will brief you on their latest report.



Then at 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press briefing on International Women’s Day with Rachel Mayanja, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Gender Issues;. Noeleen Heyzer, the Executive Director of UNIFEM; and Rima Salah, the Deputy Director of UNICEF. This is all I have for you today. Your questions.



**Questions and Answers



Question: I wanted to ask you about the meeting that the Secretary-General’s going to have with the Organisation of the Islamic Conference at 5 today. I know that François Lonseny Fall is in the building – is he going to be in attendance in that meeting? Is it going to be about Somalia? Or is it going to be about any other matter?



Spokesperson: No, as far as I know, it was a request from the Organisation and the issues that will be discussed will be the Middle East, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and other general issues. That’s all I have for you.



Question: Several things… can we have the reading from the meeting of the Secretary-General with Mr. Burns yesterday? And with the Foreign Minister of Montenegro? I saw that he met the Foreign Minister of Montenegro for 40 minutes even, so I’m really eager to see what did they discuss. And also, what other countries are mentioned that are under concern regarding that investigation?



Spokesperson: I’ll get the details for you, which country. On the readouts, the Secretary-General briefed Under-Secretary of State Burns yesterday on the latest developments related to Sudan, Darfur, and he drew attention to the potentially increasing peacekeeping engagement in Africa, for which he requested continued U.S. support. They also exchanged views related to negotiations concerning Iran and the DPRK. Burns updated the Secretary-General on the US position vis-à-vis the Human Rights Council. That’s the readout I got.



Question: Kosovo?



Spokesperson: That I don’t know. And I don’t have anything for you yet, but I can find out for you the readout about the Montenegro meeting.



[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General and the Foreign Minister of Montenegro discussed Montenegro’s foreign policy priorities, the UN’s presence in Montenegro and regional issues. The Foreign Minister expressed support for the Secretary-General’s reform package. On the meeting with Mr. Burns, the Spokesperson said that Kosovo had not come up.]



Question: What is going on Kosovo now in Europe? What is the stage? Is that going in coordination with the UN Headquarters here? There is a stage of seven days, I would say, in Vienna that is going on? What is that?



Spokesperson: Well, this is not directly related. As you know, they are continuing consultations on that, and it is led by Mr. Ahtisaari, and we are going to see what will come out of it. And as soon as we get something more constructive, I’ll let you know. And, in fact, it will be in front of the Security Council once it is decided.



Question: As you know, there is an important debate today in the General Assembly on the gender equality and empowerment of women. Since the Secretary-General’s assumed duties in Headquarters, he has made a number of senior appointments. How many of those appointments concern women? Is there a ratio?



Spokesperson: Well, it’s a little difficult to say now, because as you know the process is still continuing. As you know, the DSG is a woman and I think she’s an important part of the equation. And as you know, Alicia Barcéna is Head of Management and we will know more in the next few days about other, about the ratio that you’re talking about.



Question: Do you expect more appointments coming soon?



Spokesperson: We should get some. I don’t know how soon, but as you know, the ones who had been appointed are slowly picking up their charges at the UN. The beginning of April, two more SRSGs will be taking up their duties, 1 April.



Question: Mr. Gambari is in Riyadh right now. Do you know who -- he met with the King and who else did he meet with?



Spokesperson: Okay, I’ll try to find out more about his trip for you. We gave you some details yesterday, but we can have additional ones for you today. We couldn’t get in touch with them this morning.



[The Spokesperson later added that Mr. Gambari had also met with the Saudi Foreign Minister and the Saudi Ambassador to the United States.]



Question: When is he expected to be back to New York?



Spokesperson: I’m not sure but I can find out for you also.



[The Spokesperson later added that Gambari would return to New York this weekend.]



Question: Yesterday, I’m told the UNDP was here. I wasn’t able to hear what they said in the hall because we had a briefing on human trafficking. But I’m told that they said they now put the value of UNDP’s programme in 2006 in North Korea at 4.4 million rather than 3.2 as was previously said. So, I’m wondering, the numbers are changing. Is it possible rather than have a briefing out in the hall to actually have UNDP come and answer questions? Probably Mr. Dervis, since he signed the letter to suspend operations in North Korea. It seems more appropriate than to have, I mean I appreciated that they came yesterday, but I wasn’t able to get any answers…



Spokesperson: I’ll transmit your request to them. Yesterday, I’m sorry you were not there because David Morrison was fully available for everyone that had questions.



Question: First, we had Ms. Barcéna and after that, there was a briefing on human trafficking. I guess it’s just a matter of scheduling. Obviously there are some answers to be gotten, but it would be better to get…



Spokesperson: Actually, why don’t you contact David Morrison?



Question: I have and I don’t have the answer to this question. That’s why I’m asking you.



Spokesperson: Okay, I don’t have it for you. Only UNDP can answer.



Question: We had Cochemé -- that was great. In this case, it’s a high-profile thing with North Korea. The Administrator of UNDP has signed a letter saying “I’m suspending programmes”. It seems like the Administrator should come and answer questions like anyone else does.



Spokesperson: Okay, we’ll transmit your request, and I’m glad you spoke to them, so you have some of your answers at least, I hope.



Question: (Inaudible)



Spokesperson: Okay, thank you very much.
http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070306.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 7 2007, 05:35 PM
grounded approach’ to escaping poverty highly relevant, Secretary-General says


in message to international conference on official development aid


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s video message for the ODA International Conference hosted by the Korea International Cooperation Agency in Seoul, today, 7 March:



The Millennium Development Goals represent our common vision -- a partnership between rich and poor countries for building a better future. This year is a crucial one in our efforts to reach the Goals, as it marks the halfway point to the 2015 target date. Many regions remain distressingly off track, particularly in Africa. We must move quickly to implement our commitments.



I take special pride in Korea’s efforts to mobilize support for the MDGs, through this conference and other initiatives. I am all the more moved because in my lifetime, I have seen Korea transform itself from a war-ravaged and impoverished country, into a thriving society and globally competitive economy. The Korean people achieved this through their own determination, village by village, community by community. But they were also backed by remarkable support from the international community.



This grounded approach to assistance remains highly relevant in our time. Today, you will hear about one example. My Special Adviser, Professor Jeffrey Sachs, will describe how the United Nations supports Millennium Villages in Africa. These empower rural Africans with the basic tools they need to escape extreme poverty. I am proud that the Korean Government will now join this effort in Madagascar.



Together, we must implement such programmes on a large scale. This conference has an important role to play in advancing that mission. I wish you a most productive day, and express my gratitude to all of you for your leadership and your commitment.
http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10902.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 8 2007, 07:58 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General and Frehiwot Bekele, Special Assistant to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.



Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General



Good afternoon all.



**International Women’s Day



Today is, of course, as you know, International Women’s Day. And here at Headquarters, all across the UN system and around the world, we are celebrating this important occasion with various events and activities. You’ll find upstairs in my office copies of key speeches by UN officials and press releases on most of these events.



To flag just a few, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon earlier today spoke here at Headquarters at an inter-agency event on ending impunity for violence against women and girls. He said that International Women’s Day is an occasion for all of us -- men and women alike -- to unite in defence of women and girls who live with violence, or the threat of violence. “Violence against women and girls,” he said, “makes its hideous imprint on every continent, country and culture. It doesn’t care about your income, class, race or ethnic background.”



Echoing the Secretary-General, Louise Arbour, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that violence against women is the most common but least punished crime in the world. She noted that less than 5 per cent of rape prosecutions lead to convictions globally and that 130 million girls and women alive today have undergone female genital mutilation.



A little later today, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will be delivering a speech shortly here at Headquarters at an event titled “Breaking Barriers: Achieving Balance in Numbers and Work-Life.” In her remarks, the Deputy-Secretary-General is expected to say that “resolution after resolution of the General Assembly has called for 50-50 gender balance in the staff of the United Nations system. But so far, we have failed to make it a reality.”



On the same theme, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says in a report released today that more women than ever before hold jobs, but a persistent gap in status, job security, wages and education between women and men is contributing to what the ILO calls the “feminization of working poverty.” We have more on all of that upstairs.



** Iran



The Board of Governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) earlier today singled out 22 technical assistance projects in Iran and decided by consensus to suspend them in order to meet the requirements of Security Council resolution 1737.



As you’ll recall, that resolution required, among others, that Iran suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities and discontinue work on all heavy water-related projects. The resolution also required Iran to allow the IAEA to verify that it had complied, something the IAEA Director-General recently reported that Iran has not done.



**Kosovo



A quick update on the Kosovo status process. The parties are currently considering Special Envoy Marti Ahtisaari’s revised status proposal. The next step will be a high-level meeting in Vienna this Saturday, to which Ahtisaari has invited representatives from both parties, the Kosovo Contact Group, the EU, NATO and the UN Mission in Kosovo.



Currently, there are no plans for any further meetings following the one on Saturday. As you know, Ahtisaari has already made it clear that his intention, after the Saturday meeting, is to finalize his proposal and send it to New York in order for the Security Council to receive it before the end of March.



** Sudan



The UN Mission in Sudan reports fighting between tribes in South Darfur and an attack by militiamen in West Darfur that forced the temporary suspension of humanitarian operations in that area.



The Mission also says that is has been facilitating in Wau, in southern Sudan, a 10-day Peace, Reconciliation and Justice Conference aimed at diffusing tensions between the communities arising from militia activity and a high influx of refugees coming from Darfur.



Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that food security in southern Sudan will improve in 2007.



But the World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that more than 100,000 tons of food aid will be required by 1.3 million people this year, including displaced persons and refugees returning home.



**WFP –- Southern Africa



The World Food Programme (WFP) has expressed deep concern over erratic weather patterns in Southern Africa, which have devastated harvest prospects for millions of people and could mean yet another year of widespread food shortages.



Even without these additional challenges, WFP already faces a funding shortfall of nearly $100 million for its current operations in that region. We have a press release on that upstairs.



** Mozambique



Turning now to Mozambique specifically, which has recently been hit by floods and a cyclone, the World Food Programme has distributed 520 tons of food to more than 95,000 flood survivors. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has made bed nets available, and the UN Population Fund has locally procured the contents for 4,000 hygiene kits.



For its part, UNICEF is helping to immunize children against measles and has been working to distribute kits for students, teachers and schools, as well as school tents.



Regarding the cyclone, WFP has provided over 120 tons of food to more than 15,000 survivors with the help of two helicopters. And UNICEF has supported more than 30,000 people with roofing materials. This is our update on Mozambique.



** Cambodia



In Cambodia this week, a Review Committee of international and national judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) are meeting to discuss the outstanding issues which have so far held up the adoption of the Internal Rules for the conduct of the Khmer Rouge Trials.



The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia is part of the Cambodian court system, using both Cambodian and international law. The ECCC is supported by the United Nations Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials.



**Democracy Fund



The UN Democracy Fund received a $10 million contribution from the Government of Japan yesterday. That makes Japan one of the largest contributors to the Fund, along with the United States, India and Qatar.



The UN Democracy Fund is currently financing more than 100 projects around the world aimed at strengthening democratic institutions and supporting democratic civil society organizations.



Japan’s donation adds to the Fund's current capacity of $65 million, and will be used to finance a new round of projects, expected to be advertised in the spring.



**ESCAP



The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), Kim Hak-su, today stressed that sustainable development strategy was critical to the long-term well-being of the Asian region.



Speaking at the opening of a Workshop on Developing Sustainability Strategies in Asia in Bangkok, Kim said it is a shared challenge for Governments, and sustainable development strategy must be the core of every country’s economic growth plan. We have a press release on that upstairs.



**Press Conferences



Then finally, we started with women, we end with women. The Commission on the Status of Women will conclude its 51st session tomorrow. The Chair of the Commission, Ambassador Carmen Maria Gallardo Hernandez of El Salvador, will be here tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. to give you a wrap-up briefing.



This is all I have for you. Thank you.



**Questions and Answers



Question: About this suspension of the Atomic Agency for work or aid to Iran. We know that the Atomic Agency has been dealing with Israel, which is a nuclear-proliferator, it’s a nuclear Power, and now they are denying Iran this peaceful facility aid. What is the criterion here used in dealing with nations? Israel is not an NPT signatory.



Spokesperson: Well, I think you should be directing your questions to the IAEA.



Question: But it’s part of the United Nations, isn’t it?



Spokesperson: But it’s a separate agency.



Question: On that same issue, if I may, you say that the IAEA has suspended these 22 projects in Iran. I’m not sure I understand what that means. You mean they’ve called upon Iran to suspend the 22 programmes?



Spokesperson: Well, those are projects. They are technical assistance projects, so the UN is involved.



Question: In other words..



Spokesperson: The IAEA is involved.



Question: The IAEA has told those 22 projects to…?



Spokesperson: That it will stop…



Question: …to terminate themselves and pull out their people?



Spokesperson: It will stop providing technical assistance to those projects.



Question: The same issue, it seems there are some differences among the Security Council States regarding a new resolution against Iran. I wonder about the position of the Secretary-General – does he prefer a tougher resolution or gradual sanctions to be imposed on Iran?



Spokesperson: Well, the issue is now in front of the Security Council. It is for the Security Council to decide.



Question: How the Secretary-General sees the issue?



Spokesperson: Well, on the issue, he has said from the start that Iran should comply and be more transparent on its projects. And this was a public position.



Correspondent: But Iran’s already [inaudible] and allowed every inspector to go into its facility.



Spokesperson: This is a point of view.



Question: Two questions – Cambodia and North Korea. You talk about the Cambodian courts and the UN’s involvement trying to get it started. It’s reported that Cambodia wants to charge $2,000 for every international lawyer that comes to represent either defendants or participate in it – that’s one of the sticking points. It hasn’t really -- it’s been said, but it hasn’t been written -- what are the sticking points that the UN is trying to resolve?



Spokesperson: We can ask the Legal Office for you what the major points are.



Question: That would be great. And if this fee would result in there not being enough UN or international participation in the tribunal? Then, on North Korea or DPRK, I heard yesterday late from Security Council diplomats that North Korea has denied or has indicated it will deny visas to auditors, so I’m wondering, it’s unclear to me if the letter was written, the letter that you spoke about was dated 28 February, and it was announced here 6 March. Was this after a denial of visas? Was this in anticipation of this coming up? Have visas been denied? What’s the status of the auditors getting in?



Spokesperson: As far as I know, the UN has not been officially informed of any visa being denied.



Question: Not to say there’s anything behind it, but what was this gap in the letter being dated 28 February and the decision to announce it here 6 March? What was the thinking behind that?



Spokesperson: There was nothing particular behind it. Just a second, we have… yes, Vladimir.



Question: Would you please have any comment on yesterday’s guilty verdict by a jury in the courthouse in Manhattan on Vladimir Kuznetsov’s case?



Spokesperson: Well, the only thing I can say is that the United Nations had waived Mr. Kuznetsov’s immunity as a UN official. And his arrest came as a result of an OIOS investigation of former procurement official Alexander Yakovlev, as you know, and has cooperated with the US Attorney’s office. There has been continued cooperation between the UN and the US Attorney’s office. My understanding is that, as Chair of the ACABQ, Kuznetsov was proposed by his Government and elected by the General Assembly. He was not an SG-appointed UN staff member. And you can have more on this with my colleague Ashraf, who will be coming to brief you for the General Assembly. It will be Freh, who will be briefing you in a few minutes.



Question: Israel has been recently carrying on more raids on southern Lebanon, and in defiance of 1701, with the approach of review of 1701. Have you been making any newer presentations to Israel on why they are violating 1701 so regularly?



Spokesperson: This is a Security Council matter, as you know.



Question: Did you establish the reason… how the two UNIFIL soldiers died in south Lebanon yesterday?



Spokesperson: Well, I think the details were given. We gave them yesterday.



Question: But it was an accident? Or nothing to…[inaudible]?



Spokesperson: Thank you very much. Freh.



Briefing by the Special Assistant to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly



Good afternoon.



**Informal Thematic Debate



The General Assembly concluded this morning its Informal Thematic Debate on gender equality and the empowerment of women. In adjourning the debate, Assembly President Haya Al Khalifa noted that the discussions over the last two days had “highlighted the importance of a two-track approach to achieve gender equality and women’s economic and political empowerment. First, gender equality needs to be mainstreamed in legislation, national budgets and in macroeconomic and social policies. And second, targeted interventions, such as quotas for political representation are needed to support women”.



The President also observed: “Though we have made progress in many areas, we must not forget the scale of the challenges that lie ahead. However much we can learn from best practices and the challenges that have been overcome, the real issue lies in the area of implementation. The promises that Governments have so far made to eliminate all discrimination against women need to be realized.”



**International Women’s Day



The Assembly President also addressed this morning a panel discussion on the occasion of International Women’s Day, with the theme “Ending Impunity for violence against women and girls.” She emphasized: “In order to allow women to enjoy their full human rights and uphold their dignity, we need strong interventions now, to immediately prohibit and delegitimize acts of violence against women and girls…Criminal impunity must end. Every crime must be prosecuted.”



**Secretariat Restructuring Proposals



Finally, informal consultations of the General Assembly plenary on the Secretary-General's proposal to realign the Department of Disarmament Affairs are scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. Consultations on the realignment of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations are scheduled for Monday afternoon.



I’ll take questions now.



**Questions and Answers



Question: In terms of these restructuring talks, is there an end date envisioned? There have been consultations almost every week. Do you know about..?



Special Assistant: No, we just have to see how things go, how things unfold. I know that on the Department of Disarmament Affairs meeting, last week or the week before, a first draft framework resolution was presented and they’re coming back with a revised version. That’s what they’re going to discuss in their consultations tomorrow. And on DPKO, they’re just going to begin discussions on elements for a draft framework resolution.



Question: How about the facilitators’ process on the Security Council – are they doing anything or do you know…?



Special Assistant: As you know, they had meetings. Each facilitator had plenary consultations. They were also supposed to continue consultations in different kinds of configurations; they’re still doing that. And at the end of the month, they’re all expected to present reports to the President.



Question: And will there be a final meeting of the full Group?



Special Assistant: There will be a consolidated report to be presented to all Member States after that.



Question: There has been in the Fifth Committee this week a discussion of OIOS reports. One was on the tsunami, on the OIOS’ attempt to audit the spending of money in the tsunami. And OIOS said that various funds and programmes were unwilling to cooperate with OIOS and its audit. So I’m wondering, from the release that they wrote about the meeting, it doesn’t say which funds and programmes didn’t cooperate with the OIOS.



Special Assistant: I have no idea, Matthew. I’ll have to find out. Let’s talk later.



Question: Talking about Kuznetsov. He was a Chair of the General Assembly body?



Special Assistant: Yes.



Question: But his immunity was lifted by the Secretary-General without any consultations with the General Assembly and in a very hasty manner. So, the Russian Foreign Minister today calls it “groundless” –- the decision of the former Secretary-General on the question of lifting immunity of Kuznetsov. Would you have any comment on this?



Special Assistant: The comment I have regarding this case is that the President has been informed of the latest developments. What is important to note in this instance is that the Organization acted promptly, and fully cooperated with the authorities in the investigation of the case. We should also acknowledge that measures are being taken currently by the Secretariat -– such as the establishment of an Ethics Office, financial disclosure procedures and tightening of procurement rules -- to ensure greater compliance with rules and regulations and to uphold stronger accountability and ethical standards.



That’s all I have to say. Thank you.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070308.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 12 2007, 04:58 PM
WORLD IS WATCHING, SECRETARY-GENERAL TELLS HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL


IN MESSAGE URGING IT TO PROMOTE OBJECTIVE, UNIVERSAL APPROACH


Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s video message for the opening of the fourth session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva today, 12 March:



As you open this fourth session of the Human Rights Council, a vast responsibility rests on your shoulders. The pursuit of human rights lies at the heart of the mission of the United Nations. It underpins the hopes of millions of people for a life in freedom, security and prosperity.



Last year, I participated in your inaugural session as Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea. I saw, at first hand, the high level of excitement and anticipation at that time.



Now, the world is watching to see whether this young Council will live up to its promise. It is my hope that Council members will work together to promote an objective and universal approach to human rights.



In the weeks and months ahead, your determination will be put to the test time and again. Acute crises and long-simmering human rights issues will demand scrutiny and remedy. It is crucial that you have the components in place to pass those tests.



By your first anniversary in June, the wheels of the Council should be in full motion, including the universal periodic review. This mechanism has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.



Once the review is in place, you will be able to examine the record and performance of all countries, on all human rights, at regular intervals.



This will also require the help of independent experts, who can use impartial fact collection and analysis to facilitate your work. It will require you to tap into the resources of civil society and the international human rights machinery. And it will require you to make full use of the mandate-holders of special procedures.



I hope you will ensure that all States open their doors to all of them. I hope you will strive to ensure that Governments cooperate with the Council’s decisions. And I hope you will work in full partnership with the High Commissioner and her Office, who offer invaluable support for your work to make human rights a permanent item on everyone’s agenda.



All victims of human rights abuses should be able to look to the Human Rights Council as a forum and a springboard for action. That is the essence of your mandate. That is ultimately how you will be judged.



I wish you strength and inspiration in that mission.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10905.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 14 2007, 05:06 PM
MEETING TO REVIEW INTERNATIONAL COMPACT WITH IRAQ AT HEADQUARTERS ON 16 MARCH


The following statement was issued today by the Spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:



In accordance with the United Nations mandate under Security Council resolution 1546 (2004) to assist in the reconstruction and recovery of Iraq, the Secretary-General will convene a meeting at United Nations Headquarters this Friday, 16 March, to bring the Government of Iraq and the international community together to review the substantive progress made in the development of the International Compact with Iraq. Adel Abdul Mahdi, Vice-President of Iraq, will lead Iraq’s delegation and brief participants. All Member States and representatives of multilateral institutions have been invited to attend.



Together with the Government of Iraq, the United Nations continues to serve as co-chair of the International Compact with Iraq. The Secretary-General recently appointed Ibrahim Gambari to be his Special Adviser for the Compact, and he will serve as United Nations co-chair.



The Secretary-General looks forward to the participation of the broader international community at Friday’s meeting to help put Iraq on a credible path towards sustainable development and economic prosperity.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sgsm10910.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 15 2007, 04:34 PM
The Human Rights Committee met this morning to conclude its examination of the fifth periodic report of Chile, as part of the Committee’s eighty-ninth session, which is scheduled to run through 30 March. It will present its concluding observations at the end of the session. For background, see Press Release HR/CT/681 issued on 8 March and HR/CT/684 issued on 14 March.



Delegation’s Response to Initial Round of Questions



Responding to questions on the penal system, a member of Chile’s delegation said that penal reform had been far reaching and included adjustments relating to those with mental disabilities. A pending draft law would set up psychiatric units within the penal establishments, in order to provide special attention to those in the inmate population who needed it and to examine the possible culpability of those presented to court.



Responding to questions about gender minorities, another member of the delegation said that Chile was advancing in that area through several legal initiatives. A bill on sexual discrimination, which added new crimes and aggravating factors, was in the advanced stages of working its way through the legislature. Meanwhile, another draft bill, which was yet to be presented to Congress, would regulate civil unions to provide a platform for same-sex couples.



As for the national human rights institute, she said that it was compatible with the Paris Principles. It was constituted as a corporation of public law with its own legal personality and assets. Its leadership was elected by law school deans, Chile’s President, the two houses of Congress and various human rights institutes. The institute had a specific sphere of competence to protect human rights and its operations were transparent, with all acts and recommendations open and public.



Experts’ Questions and Comments



MICHAEL O’FLAHERTY, expert from Ireland, said he had taken note of the expressions of strong will to correct the problems, particularly through the legislative route. That was very welcome. He hoped that, in what seemed to be a very heavy programme, the issue of discrimination against sexual minorities and mentally disabled persons would not “fall down the priority list”.



He asked whether the procedures for voluntary incarceration and the appointment of guardians in that regard could be reviewed. Also on the issue of sexual minorities, while welcoming the news that sexual orientation would be one of the prohibited categories in the new anti-discrimination bill, it seemed that the problem had to be dealt with in the context of the very wide social prejudice. All the laws in the world would not correct the problem. The legislative initiatives should be matched by very widespread public awareness and education programmes, he stressed.



WALTER KÄLIN, expert from Switzerland, thanked the delegation for its detailed answers, but requested copies of legislation pertaining to terrorism, particularly the text of the articles that defined crimes of terrorism, plus copies of the articles that set out specific procedures for cases, trials and so forth that related to terrorist acts.



NIGEL RODLEY, expert from the United Kingdom, referring to torture and reparations, asked why the National Commission for Political Detentions and Torture could not identify the perpetrators of the torture. Were the reasons the same as why the National Commission on Truth and Reconciliation had not been allowed to identify the perpetrators of disappearances and extrajudicial executions? Had he understood correctly that not one of the more than 27,000 perpetrators in the cases of torture had been prosecuted? And was there no intention to review the power of judges for “incommunicado detention” for up to 10 days?



On the question of prison abuse, it was not clear whether the 61-day sentence was final or whether it was still under appeal, he said. For compensation, were separate judicial proceedings required, or was that part of the same judicial process against the alleged perpetrators?



JOSE LUIS SANCHEZ-CERRO, expert from Peru, noted that the Supreme Court had recommended non-implementation of the decree law on amnesty and that it had also annulled the sentences of the military courts that had implemented that amnesty decree. He asked if that decree law had been repealed since it was incompatible with a State that had the rule of law as Chile now did. Also, did that decree law continue to be enforced? Were crimes against civilians heard in military courts?



CHRISTINE CHANET, expert from France, felt the responses of the delegation had been somewhat vague, and it had not always been possible to “get to the essence of things”. She drew the delegation’s attention to the fact that often its answers concerned draft laws, and, in response to Mr. O’Flaherty’s questions, that was a pre-draft law. The Committee considered that positive law could modify provisions, but draft laws were considered in a “lesser light”.



Moreover, she said, drafts could sometimes be delayed for several years. The matrimonial regime for example was very complicated. She wanted to know what institutional process had been blocked for 12 years and how the Senate had been able to block it, as well as how inter-American “instances” had been able to intervene in that area.



Committee Chairman, RAFAEL RIVAS POSADA of Colombia, informed the delegation that, in accordance with standard practice, it would have until Tuesday to respond to those additional questions in writing, in order to give it time to consult with its capital, or it might wish to supply some answers right now.



Delegation’s Response



On the subject of identifying the perpetrators of torture, disappearances and executions, a member of the delegation said that the relevant commissions did not have the same characteristics as courts of law. Another member clarified that the decree creating the commissions had as its goal the identification of victims for purposes of providing reparations. As for identifying the guilty parties, that was a judiciary matter. To sanction those who were guilty of torture, there had been investigations but those were part of broader initiatives. He could find out more information about that topic and provide it to the Committee.



As for the question about the 61-day sentence for prisoner abuse, another representative said that the sentence was not subject to appeal. He added that the person convicted was a warden of a penitentiary, not just a policeman or guard. In addition to the 61-day sentence, he had also been permanently relieved of his duties. As for whether civil indemnification was a separate process, he said that, under the new penal process, a person could bring a civil suit against the perpetrator but not against the State. As for third parties, the law followed the classic measures on liability.



On the amnesty law, another member of the delegation said that the Supreme Court had reaffirmed the application of that law. Another member clarified that the amnesty law had not been revoked. Previously, there had been no possibility of revoking it. Following the 2005 constitutional reform, a constitutional court could declare a general annulment or revocation of a law, but that had not been applied to the amnesty decree. Some draft bills had been presented to nullify or revoke the amnesty law, but they would not succeed.



As for judges’ power to confer incommunicado detention, he said that the rules were strict. All individuals must be brought to court within 24 hours. Once there had been a judicial review of detention, a judge could order pretrial detention, but a person could not be prevented from communicating with legal counsel and family members.



As for the congressional stalemate on property under the marriage regime, he clarified that the 1994 law had established a new system providing for joint ownership of assets. What was under discussion was not the establishment of an additional regime but a supplementary one.



On the subject of civilians being brought before military courts, another member of the delegation said that Chile was seeking to change that. The current power of military courts made it possible to bring civilians before them for specific crimes. Legal modifications were being examined that would grant military courts the competence only to address situations involving military officers.



Continuing, the head of the delegation said that, as of 2000, the Chilean Government had decided to address the issue of deteriorating prison conditions by adopting non-traditional measures, which were based in a public-private investment partnership. Some $249 million had been invested in the construction of 10 new penitentiaries, and more than 16,000 new places had been made available for inmates. Hopefully, that had put an end to the old housing conditions in many of the penitentiaries. There was a table in the fifth periodic report, which provided a detailed breakdown of how the investment programme was being applied.



Regarding reform of the criminal proceedings, he said there was an organic law in place, which regulated the duties and powers of the judges. In 2000, a reform had supplemented the penal procedural law to ensure proper supervision and monitoring of prison living conditions for which certain actions had been taken. Those had included weekly visits of one judge per court to each prison unit, with the aim of investigating whether detainees were suffering from any form of undue pressure, deprived of the right to defence, or whether due process had been delayed without grounds. Moreover, the hygiene and state of security and safety were also monitored in the context of the weekly and monthly visits. Clergy also visited the prisons when deemed necessary.



An organic code on courts also requested that the Office of the Prosecutor monitor and supervise whether adequate penal proceedings were being pursued by the courts of appeal, he noted. In 2002, information officers had been assigned to take on board suggestions and complaints of inmates. Those officers had been dispersed throughout the country. In addition, a procedural manual had been elaborated. It governed the way the officers worked. Finally, the national directorate of the Chilean gendarmes provided compulsory training for the criminal judiciary personnel.



Responding to the series of questions yesterday and today about the military courts, he said that an inter-ministerial expert group had formulated new norms commensurate with international standards. Nevertheless, there had not yet been a comprehensive reform of military justice. However, the Government had sought to correct many of its deficiencies, and numerous decree laws had been issued to restrict the military court’s power. For example, journalists formerly could be brought to trial for freedom of expression, and now they no longer could. The independence and impartiality of the courts must be guaranteed, he stressed.



On the legal treatment of juvenile offenders, a special criminal proceeding had been created to be applied to juvenile offenders between the ages of 16 and 18, he said.



On discrimination, the 1980 Constitution, which had been ushered in during the military regime, had established a bi-nominal electoral system applicable to congressional elections, he said. That system needed to be overhauled, in order to bring it in line with the larger electoral system because it resulted in insufficient representation of minorities. The system also made it difficult to forge political alliances.



Also, he drew attention to a draft law containing measures against discrimination and it was well under way, now in its second constitutional phase. In essence, it was aimed at the prevention and elimination of all forms of discrimination against any person and made it the duty of the State to establish policies to ensure that all persons fully enjoyed their rights. The law defined arbitrary discrimination, required legal implementation and established the grounds for appeals.



Regarding the indigenous population, he said that, until 2003, nearly 30 per cent were living in poverty, with a more than 10-point separation from the non-indigenous population. That had been an “alert point” for the State, which had now narrowed that disparity. The problem had stemmed from the “strong economic and social discrimination” suffered by the indigenous population until the 1980s. Now, the indigenous people in Chile enjoyed approximately 10 per cent of the State’s benefits, as well as policies of “positive discrimination”, such as the inter-cultural health and education programmes, the return of lands, scholarships and special housing provisions.



He said that indigenous people did have rights that had been acknowledged under the law, including those regarding land, water, cultural diversity and identity. One of the main legal objectives had been to enhance indigenous lands. The 2005 law dealing with coastal lands had been drafted with the input of Mapuche organizations and had consecrated their right to coastal access. As stated previously, Chile was determined to ratify the universal declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples. Owners of indigenous lands enjoyed all rights under the law, with the exception of the right to transfer land to non-indigenous persons. Mineral resources remained the property of the Chilean State. The Indigenous People’s Act of 1993 addressed the main demands put forth by the indigenous peoples, but those demands had changed in the last 14 years. Recent debates had focused on political representation, sustainable development, the historical truth process and other issues.



Experts’ Questions and Comments



Mr. RODLEY, expert from the United Kingdom, said he desired further clarification on the subject of incommunicado detentions. Was there concrete information on periodic prison visits? To what extent had ad hoc visits by senior judges occurred, and what results had been produced thereby? Had there been any similar efforts in the area of detentions in police custody? Where were people held after being brought before a judge?



On the subject of prison building and overcrowding, he asked what the rate of incarceration per 100,000 people in Chile was. New prisons were being built and existing ones needed refurbishment. How many prisoners were accommodated in them? It was not possible to build oneself out of overcrowding. There were alternatives to imprisonment and he invited the delegation to consider them.



Under Chile’s political system, if a party had 33 per cent of the seats, it could block legislation, which explained why there had been a hold-up in many of the proposed changes, he said. Where were the votes to change the law going to come from if the country’s system provided such a blocking capacity? What were the prospects for changing that system?



EDWIN JOHNSON LOPEZ, expert from Ecuador, expressed concern about the jurisdiction of military courts and whether that contributed to the impunity of military personnel for gross human rights violations. Granting military courts the ability to try civilians was not in compliance with the Covenant. The law needed to be changed. He expressed concerns about allegations of torture, excessive use of force by police and other forces, and the lack of independent mechanisms for investigation. The State should create an independent body to investigate such excessive use of force.



He added that the 1993 law on indigenous populations was now considered obsolete in view of the enhanced acknowledgment of the rights of indigenous peoples in international law. Chile’s legislative framework had proven insufficient for dealing with Mapuche demands and preventing the gradual loss of their lands.



On the issue of sexual minorities, he referred to the case of the judge who was a biological mother of three and had a partner of the same sex. The Supreme Court had granted custody to the children’s father because she was a lesbian, which ran counter the normal practice of giving custody to the mother unless she was a drug addict, alcoholic or a prostitute. He would like further clarification on that issue.



As for union rights, he said that those were only guaranteed at the company level. The 2001 law, rather than providing for national collective bargaining, only provided for voluntary collective bargaining, and then only if the employer gave its consent. In the public sector, employees did not have the right to go on strike and agricultural workers could not go on strike during the harvest season. Instead of preventing firings, labour codes prevented workers involved in such actions from defending themselves. Anti-unionization activities continued and proceedings in the case of unfair dismissals were so slow and expensive that workers often abandoned them. He wanted to know what measures were being taken to resolve all of the above issues.



PRAFULLACHANDRA NATWARLAL BHAGWATI, expert from India, said that, following the last report, the Committee had noted the existence of sexual harassment in the workplace. The delegation had said that a law would be passed making that an offence. What action had been taken on that recommendation?



In the judiciary, what was the representation of women? In the last report, the Committee had said that women’s representation was inadequate and that something should be done to improve that, if necessary, by affirmative action. He also wanted to know what major reforms had been taken as a result of the new Code of Criminal Procedure. What were the qualifications for granting legal aid? Was that done by statute or executive order, and when would the new legal aid bill be enacted? He also wanted to know more about the family courts and the judicial academy for the training of judges.



IVAN SHEARER, expert from Australia, said that the prison visits by members of the judiciary had been greatly appreciated. He knew of one magistrate who had drawn attention to several inmates sleeping out in the open and others living in unhealthy conditions. Another district attorney had revealed serious human rights violations following her visit. He was wondering what the State party had done to follow up those very recent reports. He had also been told that female prisoners were not always kept in special facilities, but sometimes in sections where the male prisoners were kept.



In the tables set out in the report in response to the Committee’s question 13, a special section had been devoted to the category of prisons classified for “homosexuals-HIV-insane”. That was a rather strange and unfortunate grouping on the face of it. Insane prisoners often were held, not in prisons, but in special sections of mental hospitals. Those persons infected with HIV might need special care, and he doubted whether homosexuals should be in a section all to themselves unless they had been convicted of assaults on children, but that would apply to heterosexuals as well.



He also had a series of questions about conscientious objectors to the military service, including why Congress had rejected such a measure and whether it was possible to reconsider it, not necessarily the abolition of compulsory service, but perhaps an alternative service in the form of community service.



Mr. O’FLAHERTY shared his disappointment that that legislative initiative had failed and asked whether it might be reintroduced. Also, could Congress consider a reformulation ensuring that there be no punitive consequences for objection to military service, not just before military service commenced, but also during the time it was operational?



On indigenous issues, he said that, while he was reassured that the State party recognized that those issues were very important, he felt the Government should seek once more to ratify the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169.



Also on that matter, the State party had said it did not intend to ensure coverage of ancient land within the framework of regulating indigenous lands, he noted. However, not recognizing ancient land had been a catalyst for many social problems and tensions. Several references had been made today to matters of land, but not to other resources, such as water and maritime use, on which indigenous people traditionally depended. Did the delegation agree with the position by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous peoples on that issue, and, if so, what was it doing to act upon that?



ABDELFATTAH AMOR, expert from Tunisia, asked several questions about voter lists, noting the statement that the Government was moving towards “proportional representation”. Specifically, he wanted to know whether that meant national voters lists or only proportional lists at the district level. Also, did they imply a simple vote or a preferential vote? In addition, might proportional representation, even with a 3 per cent threshold, entail the risk of placing too much emphasis on minorities?



ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, expert from South Africa, asked about what happened at the moment of an arrest. There were still reports of physical mistreatment and psychological torture by police, especially among the poor. What measures had the State party taken to deal with that residual subculture of police violence within the framework of the new criminal procedures?



Also on the indigenous population, she queried continuing reports of violations in the context of land ownership, including cases of intimidation and even death threats when those complaints were brought to the authorities.



JULIA ANTOANELLA MOTOC, expert from Romania, asked how, if the Government supported the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, it did not then support the International Labour Organization’s Convention 169 since the former text was far more progressive and forward-looking.



She also asked how the Government obtained informed consent with regard to investment projects to be undertaken on the territory of indigenous persons.



Mr. SANCHEZ-CERRO, expert from Peru, noting that the delegation had mentioned that there was a constitutional reform under way to introduce five changes to provide for greater proportionality in the elections, asked whether that was an executive or congressional initiative. If it was an executive initiative, did the delegation foresee another rejection by Congress? Efforts to change that “perverse system” since 1992 had so far failed, so what did the State party envisage in that respect, given that the election system was “in the very least, unfair”? he asked.



YUJI IWASAWA, expert from Japan, thanked the delegation for their replies thus far, adding that his question had already been asked, and for the sake of time, he would not repeat it.



RUTH WEDGWOOD, expert from United States, noting that, although there had not yet been any prosecutions for torture, asked whether an administrative process had in some way assured the retirement of all persons so involved and some process to maintain a historical record.



More generally, she said that the report had been very welcome because of the high-profile accorded Chile owing to the “Pinochet incident”. Thus, Chile was of huge importance, not just for Chile, but for the rest of global society, and the country’s success in dealing with its problems was “a kind of class action in a global sense” -– “a kind of model for other societies”.



Responses of Delegation



On questions regarding the penal system, a member of the delegation said that far-reaching reform was under way to bring it into line with international norms. Access to justice services had improved considerably. Since 2002, more than 500,000 persons had received legal aid before the penal courts. There had been more than 17,000 visits to penal institutions in northern Chile alone by public defenders and defence attorneys, clear evidence that there was day-to-day monitoring of conditions.



There was a 24-hour limit to the amount of time someone could be held before appearing before a judge, and police must report arrests to the prosecutor’s office within 12 hours, he said. Once the court heard a case, it determined what measures were to be implemented. If a preventive prison sentence was handed down, it would be in the appropriate penal system under control of gendarmes, not the police. Chile was not proud of its rate of incarceration but was taking measures to build new penitentiary facilities to solve overcrowding and help in rehabilitation.



On the topic of prisoners held incommunicado, another representative said that, during the former regime, people could be held indefinitely. The 2000 law introduced important modifications. For example, prisoners could not be prevented from communicating with their lawyers.



On the case of the judge whose children were taken away because she was a lesbian, another representative said that that decision could be repealed or reviewed. The judge had appealed to the court of human rights and the case was pending. Currently, she was in negotiations with the State. Since both sides had reached a confidentiality agreement on the talks, he was unable to reveal more information.



On sexual harassment, another member of the delegation said that, since the re-characterization of that crime in 2004, many cases had been filed under the heading of sexual abuse. The percentage of women serving on the higher courts was gradually on the rise. While the President was working to achieve gender balance in distributing portfolios at the various ministries, such affirmative action had not yet been applied to the judiciary. Another factor was that access to judiciary posts required the completion of training in the judicial academy.



On the question of indigenous issues, another member of the delegation said that the new indigenous policy had been drawn up to expand recognition of indigenous rights. Hopefully, further discussions would be launched in the current year. The President hoped to see the indigenous people’s declaration submitted to Congress and ratified. As for land issues, no community had been deprived of land since 1990 and there had been no accusations that that had happened. Rather than appropriating indigenous lands, the Government was working towards restitution, which was not covered by prior legislative mechanisms. So far, some 500,000 hectares had been returned to indigenous ownership.



She recognized that there had been institutional delays in applying the measure that applied to purchasing land in order to transfer it to the indigenous community. The situation had since improved greatly, as institutions had been streamlined. Land could be held collectively, if a community so decided. The law also provided for recognition of ancestral waters and their restitution. A draft bill submitted last year recognized preferential access to the coastal community for indigenous people. It was currently undergoing a second reading and being examined by the Senate; hopefully, it would be adopted by the end of the year. While the indigenous law was limited, it did require that communities be consulted on investment projects in their areas or in neighbouring ones. Chile was working on improving that mechanism.



As for detentions of indigenous peoples, she said that nine regional offices had been set up to make sure that they were getting proper protection and being provided with interpretation. The police force had undertaken significant efforts when operating in indigenous areas to make sure that they took account of local customs.



On labour laws, another member of the delegation said that additional information would be provided to the Committee at a later time. The number of unions was a problem and Chile was working to address that. Extended collective bargaining did take place, though not in the public sphere. Nonetheless, there were associations of officials within all ministries, and there was also an extensive system within the Ministry of Planning which in practice meant that the collective bargaining process was provided for. It was also important to distinguish between strike and stoppage. Strikes took place during collective bargaining and were provided for in the Labour Code.



He added that an outsourcing law had entered into force a month ago. It enshrined the principle of solidarity between the contracting and contracted parties and the fact that the parent company, not the subcontractor, must ensure that all requirements were met.



On the subject of prisons, another member of the delegation said that new places had been made in the Santiago 1 prison, which had resolved the overcrowding situation. As for inmates sleeping in the open, changes had been made to ensure that adequate follow-up was given to visiting and reporting. The rate of incarceration was approximately 238 inmates per 100,000 population. Chile was working on the reduction of sentences and other limited measures; by the end of the year, the Ministry of Justice would submit further proposals.



He added that further information would be provided to the Committee at a later time on the electoral system, voters’ lists and conscientious objection. Another member of the delegation clarified that conscientious objection would be addressed in an independent draft bill, which was currently before the Chamber of Deputies.



Concluding Remarks by Committee Chairman and Head of Delegation



The Committee Chairman thanked the delegation for the information it had provided and took note of the quality of the report, the earnestness of the issues elaborated and efforts to disseminate the information. He hoped that the next report would be submitted in a timely manner.



Highlighting some of the Committee’s lingering concerns, he touched on the need for wide-ranging reforms to the legislative, constitutional and social systems following the military regime. The Committee had highlighted the immense efforts made in legislative reforms to rectify the previous situation and install the rule of law in the most perfect sense. The delegation had acknowledged that its mandate was not limited to legislative measures.



The Committee assigned equal importance to the implementation of legislative measures and addressing human rights abuses, which was why it insisted on having information about the practical results of legislative measures. In the case of Chile, there were clearly obstacles to the speedy adoption of constitutional and legal reforms. He reiterated the hope that political difficulties could be overcome as soon as possible.



He said he still harboured serious concerns about the persistence in the law of provisions such as the amnesty decree. While non-implementation was a step forward, there was a real danger of reversion to measures that contradicted the Covenant as long as it remained on the books. He hoped that situation would be done away with as soon as possible.



Restrictions on abortion remained a concern, he said. As long as such criminalization existed in the legislature, it would impinge on article 6 of the Covenant. In countries with a separation of powers, there were often difficulties when it was not the executive branch’s responsibility to respect the Covenant. The delegation must recognize that the responsibility to implement the Covenant must lie with the state, not with the different branches of Government. Doubts remained about the treatment of indigenous peoples and property rights within marital unions. Further clarifications of reforms in those areas were needed.



EDGARDO RIVEROS, Subsecretary in the Ministry of the General Secretariat of the Presidency of Chile, thanked the Committee for the dialogue and said that Chile had a stake in the internationalization of human rights. Globalization could not just be economic and commercial; it must have a human face, which would be provided by respect for the basic rights of persons and the cooperation of the international community. Strengthening of Chile’s democracy was based on the defence of human rights.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/hrct685.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 20 2007, 05:21 PM
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


Following is a near verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



**Guest at noon today



Good afternoon. Our guest at the briefing today is Mr. Yvo de Boer, Executive Secretary for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Mr. de Boer will brief you on his meeting with environmental ministers at the “G-8+5” meeting that took place this last weekend in Germany.



**Secretary-General / Palestinian National Unity Government



I will start with a clarification. The Secretary-General views the establishment of the new Government of Palestine as an important and positive step forward, and he wants to encourage that process. At the same time, he expressed disappointment because he would like to see the program of the National Unity Government fully reflect Quartet principles.



He will be watching very carefully the new Government's actions and hopes to see further positive movement in that direction.



**UNIFIL



Also, to answer some questions we received yesterday about UNIFIL, a number of recent press articles regarding UNIFIL have not accurately reported the Mission’s current activities. Contrary to what was expressed in one article, there has been no official communication between the United Nations and the Lebanese Government planning for the establishment of a UN or any other monitoring mechanism on the Lebanese border with Syria.



UNIFIL is mandated under resolution 1701 to assist the Government of Lebanon to secure its border with Syria, at the request of the Government of Lebanon. Until now, the Government has not made any such request and UNIFIL’s activities are limited to helping facilitate international bilateral assistance to the Government of Lebanon in this regard.



As the Secretary-General stated in his recent report regarding the implementation of resolution 1701, the United Nations strongly encourages bilateral assistance to the Lebanese Armed Forces and other internal security and border agencies to assist the Government to secure all its borders.



It should be noted that any smuggling across the Lebanese border with Syria is a serious violation of resolution 1701.



As the Secretary-General’s recent report stated, it is critical to reinforce and strengthen the Lebanese Armed Forces and other internal security and border agencies so that the Lebanese Government is able to extend its authority over all its territory, including all its border areas.



**Security Council



The Security Council is holding a meeting on Afghanistan. Briefing Council members were the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs and Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the Office on Drugs and Crime. We have their briefings upstairs and they will both go to the Security Council stakeout microphone immediately after the meeting.



Mr. Koenigs, the Special Representative, in his briefing, said that while the conflict continues in the South, with Afghanistan’s border areas in the east and southeast vulnerable to incursions and violence, the need for strategic co-ordination of military, political and development efforts is stronger than ever. The threat to peace has not diminished.



Mr. Costa, referring to the current opium situation, outlined four points and said he hoped that the Security Council will judge these developments as helpful to free Afghanistan from the clutches of drugs, crime and violence.



** Sudan



The Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, after briefing the Security Council yesterday afternoon on Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir’s response to the Secretary-General’s letter detailing UN support to the African Union force in Darfur, said: “We still have, unfortunately, a long way to go because there may be some fundamental misunderstandings on what are the expectations of the Government of Sudan and what is on offer.”



But in response to a question, the Under-Secretary-General said, “We'll never take any reaction as a rejection. We can't afford that and the people in Darfur can't afford that."



** Darfur Today



Meanwhile, the most recent humanitarian update from Darfur reports that camps for internally displaced persons are almost at full capacity due to a continuing influx of people fleeing violence.



The report noted the need to locate a site for a new camp in the vicinity of El Fasher, capital of North Darfur. A new site has been identified in North Darfur near Zam Zam camp, which is nearing maximum capacity.



According to the report, 30,000 people were displaced across Darfur in February, bringing the total number of people who have fled violence in the region since January to 80,000. In 2006, almost half a million people were displaced.



**Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty



The Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty is 10 years old this year. And on the occasion of the commemoration of the Treaty’s anniversary, Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva and Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament, spoke at a special event in the Palais des Nations in Geneva. He said that the conclusion of the Treaty marked the completion of an important step in the ongoing process towards the verified elimination of all nuclear weapons. And yet challenges that impede the Treaty’s entry into force persist.



“A universal and effectively verifiable Treaty constitutes a fundamental instrument in the field of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” the Director-General noted. He added that the Treaty’s entry into force would restore confidence in multilateral security arrangements in general, and would boost efforts to negotiate further instruments towards nuclear disarmament, such as a treaty on fissile materials. And we have his full remarks upstairs.



** Lebanon



Available as a document today is the latest progress report of the International Independent Investigation Commission on the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, and 22 others.



In it, chief investigator Serge Brammertz provides information on his team’s progress in the Hariri case, with particular emphasis on developing crime scene leads and collecting evidence relating to perpetrators as well as other aspects of the case. The report also asserts that the Commission has continued to provide significant technical assistance on 15 other cases. The Commission also reports that it continues to work with the Lebanese authorities on the investigation of the 13 February bombings, in which three people were killed and at least 20 people were injured when two explosions occurred on two buses travelling through the village of Ain Alaq, near Beirut.



And Brammertz is scheduled to brief the Security Council on March 21 and will also speak to correspondents at the 2nd floor stakeout after briefing the Council.



**Human Rights Council



In Geneva, the Human Rights Council began discussing thematic reports today, hearing presentations in the morning from human rights experts on minorities’ issues; the rights of migrants; and the rights and freedoms of indigenous peoples.



This afternoon, the Council is considering three additional reports, namely, from the representative of the Secretary-General on human rights of internally displaced persons; the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; and the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. We have additional information available in a press release for you upstairs.



** Iraq -- Refugees



The UN refugee agency says that invitations have now gone out to more than 190 governments, 65 international organizations and some 60 NGOs for next month's international humanitarian conference on refugees and displaced persons in Iraq and neighbouring countries.



The April 17-18 ministerial-level meeting will be held in Geneva in the Palais des Nations. It will examine the humanitarian dimensions of the displacement crisis, identify the enormous needs, and seek to forge a common international effort to address those needs, including through sharing the burden that's now being borne by neighbouring states.



It will also seek targeted responses to specific, urgent humanitarian problems, including immediate solutions for those who are particularly vulnerable both inside and outside Iraq.



**FAO –- Africa Floods



The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is appealing for close to $4 million to help flood victims in southern Africa, where heavy rains and a series of cyclones have destroyed thousands of hectares of crops.



As part of efforts to adapt aid to conditions on the ground, affected families in Mozambique will be given vouchers that they can redeem for seeds, tools and even small livestock at trade fairs organized by the FAO and the local Government.



The agency is also asking for help for Madagascar, where cyclones have caused severe crop damage over the past four months. In the coming days, the FAO also plans to launch an appeal for funding for Zambia. We have a press release upstairs.



**WFP –- Sri Lanka



The World Food Programme (WFP) is ramping up its operations in eastern Sri Lanka, where intense fighting between Government and LTTE (Tamil Tiger) forces has more than doubled the number of internally displaced persons in just the past week. The WFP plans to send nearly 600 tons of rice and wheat flour to the Batticaloa District. The agency warns, however, that its available food stocks in Sri Lanka are dwindling. The WFP has received only about a third of its required funding for food assistance, and could run out of supplies by the end of next month unless it receives new contributions soon. We have a press release upstairs.



**IFAD -- Remittances



The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is launching a global initiative to improve the remittances services used by foreign workers around the world to send money back to their families in rural areas.



IFAD is establishing a $10 million financing facility to fund innovative money transfer proposals. While competition has driven down the cost of sending remittances between major cities, it is still more expensive to send money to rural areas that lack formal financial services.



As part of the Fund’s efforts to turn remittances into a development tool, priority will be given to proposals submitted by financial institutions that link remittances with other services, such as savings, insurance and loans. We have a press release upstairs.



**World Bank -- Climate Change



The World Bank today launched the Carbon Fund for Europe, in partnership with the European Investment Bank. The Carbon Fund is a €50 million trust designed to help European countries meet their commitments to the Kyoto Protocol and the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme.



The fund will purchase greenhouse gas emission reductions from climate-friendly investment projects. We have more in a press release upstairs.



**UNESCAP – Infrastructure Conference



The United Nations Economic and Social Commission on Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) is holding a regional meeting in New Delhi, India from 21-22 March, to tackle underinvestment in infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific region. A proposal is expected to be made in the meeting on raising the $200 billion annually. UNESCAP estimates that the requirement of infrastructure investment in the region is over $600 billion annually but falls short by about $200 billion every year.



**Guest at noon tomorrow



And our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Mr. Antonio Maria Costa, the Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.



This is all I have for you. Thank you. Yes?



**Questions and Answers



Question: Did you say you were clarifying the Secretary-General’s statement on the Palestinian Unity Government? What is the clarification?



Spokesperson: The clarification is that the disappointment that was noted by some media, I just explained the fact that he is watching very carefully the new Government’s actions and he hopes to see positive movement in that direction. He wants to encourage the process. His disappointment was, because he would like to see the programme of the National Unity Government fully reflect Quartet principles.



Question: This is broadly what he said yesterday in his statement. That’s why I asked what was the clarification.



Spokesperson: Because there were some misunderstandings, apparently. We have gotten quite a few questions about this statement, so we had to clarify what was said. Yes?



Question: Michèle, is the Secretary-General going to meet the President of Syria, al Assad?



Spokesperson: I can check. I don’t know. I don’t know.



Question: Okay, because a media source is telling me that he is going to meet him, that the news is broken. Is he visiting Baghdad also?



Spokesperson: No, he is not visiting Baghdad. And he is not going to Syria.



Question: He is not going to Syria?



Spokesperson: No, he is not.



Question: I was just wondering if you could tell us what’s holding up the statement from the Quartet?



Spokesperson: I don’t know at this point. I do know that some of the principals had to discuss the terms of the statement, and that’s why the statement has not been released yet.



Question: Do you know when it might be released?



Spokesperson: I really don’t know at this point. Yes, in back?



Question: Just to follow up on the first question, according to the Secretary-General, what is the new Palestinian Government required to do in order to show its commitment to the Quartet and the calls of the international community?



Spokesperson: Well, you know, the conditions of the Quartet were set quite clearly. Yes, Mr. Abbadi?



Question: Michèle, yesterday the Secretary-General met with Mr. Ould-Abdallah, the Special Representative to West Africa, and Mr. Bedjaoui, the Foreign Minister of Algeria. Can we have a readout of those two meetings?



Spokesperson: I will get it for you. I think we have the readout upstairs for Algeria, but I can check for the other one for you. Yes, Laura?



Question: I wanted to ask you about the Human Rights Council that you mentioned had gone over some reports. British Foreign Minister Margaret Beckett called on the Human Rights Council to examine the problems going on right now in Zimbabwe. Was there any mention of that in the (inaudible)?



Spokesperson: Not that I know of and I haven’t seen any reaction on the part of the Council on that. But, we can certainly get more information from Geneva. If I find anything concerning that, I will let you know. Yes, Masood?



Question: Michèle, there is a United Nations report out, which says that there are thousands and thousands of refugees, Iraqi refugees, in Jordan and in Syria and that they are suffering from malnutrition, lack of medicine and everything. What is being done about that? Are there (inaudible) there? I mean, they are there, I know that’s what the report says. How is their situation being eased?



Spokesperson: There are United Nations programmes related to those refugees and we can get more information for you on that.



Question: I want to ask another question about this official at UNESCO. As you probably are aware, he gave out contracts to six American concerns without an open bidding process. Are the same rules applicable which are here, at the United Nations? Or, are those rules separate?



Spokesperson: UNESCO is a separate agency, but it is part of the United Nations family and I just want to reiterate the principles, as yet expressed, of the need in all United Nations bodies for accountability and transparency, as well as investigations into allegations of wrongdoing. But, you know, this is not a case that the United Nations Office of Oversight Services is involved with.



Question: So, it doesn’t oversee that body?



Spokesperson: Not directly.



Question: Any body… okay.



Spokesperson: Yes?



Question: One follow-up to Laura’s question. There’s a move afoot in the Human Rights Council to eliminate the Special Rapporteurs. It has been proposed by a number of countries that there no longer be investigations of abuse in countries. Kofi Annan used to call these Rapporteurs the “crown jewel of the human rights system,” and I’m wondering if Ban Ki-moon has any position. I understand you are going to say it’s a Human Rights Council matter, but it’s so central to the United Nations system that I’m wondering if Mr. Ban has any position on whether that type of human rights inquiry should continue.



Spokesperson: To start out with, the Human Rights Council has not decided on anything of that sort. You know, this is…some countries might talk about it, but this is not at all being decided by the Council right now at this point. The Secretary-General expects the Human Rights Council to complete its discussions on its procedures by June and he stands strongly behind the special procedures, which he has consistently supported. So, this is his position.



Question: I just wanted to ask you one question. The AU has called for additional, from the United Nations, financial and logistical help for its mission in Somalia, saying it really needs it and things are…so, I’m wondering if the Secretary-General is going to propose that, what the response from the United Nations system or DPKO is to this urgent request from the AU for help in Somalia.



Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have an answer on this yet. You know, the AU has proposed that and we should know more about it very soon. There should be a formal request done. Yes?



Question: Does the Secretary-General have any reaction to Peter Smith’s resignation from UNESCO and the audit being made against him?



Spokesperson: Well, we just had that question a few minutes ago. No reaction. Yes, Mr. Abaddi?



Question: Michèle, today is the International Day of the Francophonie and also the entry into force of the UNESCO convention on cultural diversity. Does the Secretary-General have any message or comment on this occasion?



Spokesperson: On the Day of Francophonie? No, I don’t have a statement, but as you know he is for cultural diversity and he has said it several times, and for also language parity.



Question: Today is Equinox and at 8:07 tonight the Peace Bell will be rung in honour of Earth Day. Usually, the Secretary-General, or many times, the Secretary-General has participated. Who is participating this time, tonight, from the United Nations? Does the Secretary-General participate? Is somebody else appointed to do that?



Spokesperson: I don’t know at this point. I’ll check for you.



Question: It happens tonight at 8:07 downstairs at the Peace Bell.



Spokesperson: Thank you for informing us. Yes?



Question: Following Russian anger over the United Nations plan on the official status of Kosovo and even an implied threat of a veto, what are the options left for the Secretary-General to pursue the plan?



Spokesperson: Well, at this point, we are not discussing hypothetical questions and I think we will wait for something to happen.



Question: There was nothing hypothetical about what the Russian ambassador said.



Spokesperson: Well, the Russian ambassador said it. But you know, at this point, the Security Council is dealing with the question, right? Yes, okay. Yes, any other questions? Okay, I would like to have Mr. de Boer just to come over and brief you.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070320.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 22 2007, 04:55 PM
SECURITY COUNCIL PRESS STATEMENT ON BAGHDAD ATTACK


The following Security Council press statement on the attack in Baghdad was read out today by Council President Dumisani S. Kumalo ( South Africa):



The members of the Security Council welcomed the Secretary-General’s visit to Baghdad.



They expressed their unwavering support for the efforts of the United Nations and its Secretary-General to promote an inclusive and effective political process in Iraq aimed at reaching national reconciliation, preserving its sovereignty and territorial integrity.



The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the abhorrent terrorist attack on the Iraqi Prime Minister’s office where the Secretary-General participated in a joint press conference.



The members of the Security Council condemned all terrorist attacks and reaffirmed the need to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and by all means, in accordance with international law.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8974.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 23 2007, 05:27 PM
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL


The following is a near verbatim transcript of today’s noon press briefing by Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



I’m sorry I’m late. I was waiting for a statement being approved in Cairo, where the Secretary-General is. The first statement is on the attack on the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq.



**Secretary-General Statement on Iraq Attack



“The Secretary-General met with the Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Salam Z. Al-Zubai, yesterday in Baghdad. He was shocked and dismayed to hear that the Deputy Prime Minister had been injured in an assassination attempt earlier today. The Secretary-General sent a personal message to Mr. Al-Zubai, offering his condolences for those who were killed and injured in the attack and wishing him a full and speedy recovery from his injuries.



“The Secretary-General greatly valued the opportunity to meet with Mr. Al-Zubai yesterday to hear his views on the current situation in Iraq. He reiterates his admiration for the Deputy Prime Minister’s readiness to serve Iraq at a great personal risk.”



**Secretary-General on Iraq



In a meeting with a group of reporters travelling with him today, the Secretary-General made it clear that his position on any possible increase of the United Nations role in Iraq has not changed because of the incident yesterday, in which a mortar exploded nearby while he was giving a press conference.



He said that he will consider upon his return to New York how the United Nations could do more for the Iraqi people and for political and development work in that country. At the same time, he noted that United Nations activity has been largely constrained by the security environment, and that the situation in Iraq is still very volatile.



The Secretary-General added that he was very moved during his meeting with United Nations staff in Baghdad, saying: “From my meeting with them, I was very much assured and grateful to them that, even in such an exceptional situation, they were working with a sense of dedication and duty.”



** Iraq Refugees



The UN refugee agency, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), today announced that Iraq had regained the top spot among asylum seekers in the world's industrialized countries in 2006. There is more on that from UNHCR upstairs.



**Secretary-General in the Middle East



The Secretary-General is in Cairo today, where he arrived earlier in the day from Baghdad. After meeting with the United Nations country team he was to meet with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, which should be taking place now. He will also attend a dinner hosted by the Foreign Minister. The Secretary-General continues his visit in Egypt tomorrow.



**Secretary-General Statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo



“The Secretary-General continues to follow with concern the developments unfolding in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo. The civilian population continues to be threatened by fighting in the heart of the city. He urgently appeals once again for a complete halt to all fighting. He deplores the unnecessary loss of life and condemns the looting and destruction that have taken place.



“The Democratic Republic of the Congo has reached a critical turning point. The recent violence in Kinshasa underscores the urgent need for a new political culture in the country. The Secretary-General urges all parties to turn away from violence and to actively pursue political dialogue at all levels. He urges the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to provide the necessary space for effective participation of all political parties in debate and in decision making and urges the Congolese authorities to observe due process and respect for fundamental human rights.”



** Democratic Republic of the Congo -- Update



Following yesterday’s hostilities between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and the guards of former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba in Kinshasa, the United Nations Mission there reports today that sporadic fighting continues but order has generally been restored.



While MONUC welcomes the restoration of order by Government forces, it deeply regrets the fact that force was used to resolve a situation that could and should have been settled through dialogue. MONUC deplores the loss of life, damage to property, looting and the serious risks caused to civilians living in the capital.



In response to the unrest, MONUC moved two military companies into Kinshasa from elsewhere in the country. They have helped provide first aid, for example, to victims of the violence, as well as water and rations to school children holed up at their schools and people sheltered at MONUC headquarters.



The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, William Swing, is in contact with the different sides as well as with international officials, and issued repeated public appeals over the UN Radio station calling for an end to the violence.



** Democratic Republic of the Congo -- DSG



Here at Headquarters, the Deputy Secretary-General called Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in his capacity as chair of the Organ of Peace and Security of the South African Development Community (SADC) to discuss the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



**Security Council



The Security Council this morning unanimously adopted a resolution extending the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan by one year, until 23 March 2008. It then heard a briefing about the sanctions adopted under resolution 1737, concerning Iran, by the chairman of that sanctions committee, Ambassador Johan Verbeke of Belgium. This is a periodic briefing, as called for in that resolution.



After that, Council members resumed consultations on the draft resolution on non-proliferation, concerning Iran, which they had also discussed yesterday afternoon.



**Chissano



Following a briefing yesterday afternoon in the Security Council on the situation in the Great Lakes by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Lord’s Resistance Army affected areas, former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement in which it stressed its support for a negotiated settlement in the conflict in northern Uganda.



** Sudan



Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today travelled to Juba, Southern Sudan. While there, Mr. Holmes met with First Vice-President of the Sudan and President of the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), Mr. Salva Kiir, and Vice-President of the Government of Southern Sudan, Dr. Riek Machar.



While the largest humanitarian crisis in the world unfolds in the north, securing funds for Southern Sudan in the shadow of Darfur remains a significant challenge. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs notes this in a press release they have on this subject upstairs.



John Holmes, said from Juba today: “The United Nations, donors and NGOs all need to do much more to support the Government and people in Southern Sudan. Recovery and development activities need to be accelerated and the benefits of peace to become more apparent.”



** Sudan -- Eliasson



Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, has arrived in Khartoum from Asmara after having constructive meetings with Eritrean officials, including the President on the coordination of Eritrean mediation efforts in Darfur with those of the United Nations and the African Union.



Jan Eliasson is about to meet with African Union Special Envoy for Darfur, his counterpart, Salim Ahmed Salim. The two will be in the Sudan on a five-day mission in their attempts to re-energize the stalled peace process in Darfur.



I have just been informed that Security Council consultations have adjourned. For those of you who need to go out there, they will resume this afternoon at a time to be confirmed. Back to the briefing.



** Somalia



The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Eric Laroche, has condemned the recent violence in Mogadishu, calling on all combatants, uniformed or not, to desist from further acts of aggression and to respect civilian life.



Laroche said the desecration of bodies of fallen fighters is a barbaric act and a gross violation of international humanitarian law. Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the humanitarian situation in Mogadishu continues to deteriorate. We have more on both of these subjects upstairs.



**Human Rights Council



In Geneva, the Human Rights Council today heard presentations from independent experts on the human rights situations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea; Burundi; Myanmar and Liberia. Human Rights Council members are currently holding a general debate on a number of country situations.



Afterwards, if there is enough time, the members will vote on certain drafts before them. You can find all relevant documents and draft resolutions on the Human Rights Council webpage. I think somebody asked me about this yesterday.



**Timor-Leste



The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste reports that the official campaign period began yesterday for the eight declared contenders in the April presidential election, following the completion of voter registration all across that country.



Speaking at a press conference yesterday in the capital Dili, the Special Representative to the Secretary-General for Timor-Leste, Atul Khare, said he was pleased that the registration went smoothly and without major security incidents.



The two-week campaigning period will see rallies, meetings, campaign posters and media publicity across Timor-Leste’s 13 districts. All campaigning will be supervised by the National Electoral Commission (CNE) and monitored by both national and international election observers. The campaign period ends on 6 April, ensuring a two-day information black-out ahead of the election. And we have more on this upstairs.



**Meningitis Epidemic



We also have a press release on a meningitis epidemic that erupted in Burkina Faso and is also affecting eight other countries in West Africa. You can read more about that upstairs.



**International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members



Sunday will be the International Day of Solidarity with Detained and Missing Staff Members. The Secretary-General is marking the occasion in a message recalling that 14 staff members are currently under arrest, detained or missing. There are copies of that message upstairs.



**United Nations Global Initiative on ICT



On Monday, the first global forum on the United Nations Global Initiative for Inclusive Information and Communications Technologies is taking place here at United Nations Headquarters. Some 200 participants from industry, Government, academia and civil society are expected to attend the all-day meeting, which will address how such technology can improve the lives of people with disabilities. We have the full week ahead for you so that you can plan your coverage of the United Nations next week. And that’s what I have for you today.



Mr. Abbadi?



**Questions and Answers



Question: Regarding the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the latest report indicates that Jean-Pierre Bemba has taken refuge in MONUC’s premises. Can you confirm that? And also, does the Secretary-General have any reaction to the alleged information that Iran has taken 15 British marines in the sea?



Deputy Spokesperson: On the latter, I have nothing. On Mr. Bemba’s whereabouts, the United Nations Mission has not reported on that.



Question: On the DRC, it’s reported and I think it’s true that Mr. Bemba has been indicted for treason. There’s now a court proceeding against him. Does MONUC or the Secretary-General have any comment on the utility of that in terms of maintaining the peace?



Deputy Spokesperson: (The Deputy Spokesperson referred the question to the above statement by the Secretary-General.)



Question: I have two more questions. You have a press release upstairs about UNMIK in Kosovo and the Romanian soldiers who left the country despite the request that they stay there. Can you explain, what are the duties of a troop contributing country? If they’re under investigation for having killed these demonstrators in Kosovo, can they just leave the country? And is the United Nations just asking Romania to voluntarily produce them, or is there some legal requirement that peacekeepers answer to charges of absence?



Deputy Spokesperson: I had that item, I don’t know why it’s not in my pile so I cannot read it out and I don’t really have too many details on that. Let me get you more after the briefing.



Question: I guess it’s to understand whether they call on them to make them available but it’s not clear at all whether there is a duty on Romania’s part, or on these troops’ part, to answer to this.



Deputy Spokesperson: It’s up to the troop contributing countries, obviously, to investigate. The file is given to the national authorities for them to look into, but I will give you the precise language on that particular case.



Question: And to me also please. Can I follow up on Kosovo? What would be the scenario after the 26th? We are going to have a presentation of Mr. Ahtisaari’s plan. He is not going to be here? Or, he is going to be here?



Deputy Spokesperson: My only understanding at this moment of the Kosovo report is that it is coming out on Monday. After that, I think the Security Council President for the month of March told you at his press conference here, I believe he said it was something that would be taken up in the month of April. So we will now have to find out from the April Security Council Presidency when they will schedule the discussions on that report.



Question: On the 26th, there is not going to be any discussion, or it is going to start on the 26th? I’m asking whether this date is going to be the starting point for discussion and then it will continue.



Deputy Spokesperson: You would have to ask the Security Council members. The report is going to the Security Council members on Monday.



Question: Is Mr. Ahtisaari coming?



Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t have a date for when the discussions are, so we will have to find out. Nothing has been officially decided on the date for the debate. It’s not in the Security Council programme for the month of March. It’s something that the Council members will have to agree on. Yes?



Question: I’m sorry if I missed some information before. Is the Security Council definitely meeting tomorrow on the draft resolution regarding Iran?



Deputy Spokesperson: I think this is why everybody ran out of the briefing room right now when the Security Council consultations finished. The Council President is probably announcing right now what the scenario is for the resolution. But if there is a vote, we’ll be here. Yes?



Question: Yesterday, when UNDP’s David Morrison was asked…to a number of questions he said the Board of Auditors answers that, he’s asked the Board of Auditors to make themselves available. I know the Secretary-General has been asked the same thing. Is there some way, given the interest in the audit of DPRK-UN programmes, to get the Board of Auditors to explain the delays, to just give some kind of a briefing? It seems that everyone has said to them they should speak, but they have not spoken.



Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll look into it for you, okay. No other questions? Have a good weekend and we’ll probably see you tomorrow.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070323.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 26 2007, 07:19 PM
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



**Kosovo



Good afternoon. As you know, a short while ago we issued a statement on Kosovo, attributable to the Spokesperson, and I will read it for the record:



This morning, the Secretary-General conveyed to the President of the Security Council the report on Kosovo’s future status and the comprehensive proposal for the Kosovo status settlement, prepared by his Special Envoy for the Kosovo future status process, Martti Ahtisaari.



In doing so, the Secretary-General expressed his full support for Special Envoy Ahtisaari’s report and settlement proposal.



With the handing over of the report and settlement proposal to the Security Council, the process designed to lead to a determination of Kosovo’s future status has reached a decisive phase. The Security Council has been presented with a plan, which that the Secretary-General believes contains all of the right elements for a fair and sustainable solution to Kosovo’s future status.



The Secretary-General wishes to express his gratitude to Special Envoy Ahtisaari and to his team for their ongoing efforts to facilitate bringing the Kosovo future status process to conclusion.



And we have the report by Mr. Ahtisaari, as well as the addendum on a comprehensive proposal for the Kosovo status settlement, available on the racks and on the website. In the report, Mr. Ahtisaari says that, upon careful consideration of Kosovo’s recent history and the realities of Kosovo today, and taking into account the negotiations with the parties, he has come to the conclusion that the only viable option for Kosovo is independence, to be supervised for an initial period by the international community. He says that the comprehensive proposal provides the foundations for a future independent Kosovo that is viable, sustainable and stable, and in which all communities and their members can live a peaceful and dignified existence.



**Secretary-General in Israel



Turning to the Secretary-General. At a joint press conference in Jerusalem with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert today, the Secretary-General stressed once more his conviction that the long-term safety and security of Israel and the creation of a Palestinian State go hand in hand.



In his remarks to the press, he encouraged all Israelis to assess carefully the opportunity that may be emerging, saying that “we must use the weeks and months ahead to advance the political dialogue, since the alternative is renewed stagnation, which only means more extremism and violence”. The Secretary-General also stressed the need to give the new Palestinian unity Government some “political space”.



In his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister, the Secretary-General also discussed the Iranian nuclear issue, the situation in Lebanon and the importance of making progress on the Palestinian issue.



**Secretary-General’s Meeting with the Palestinian Authority President



Yesterday in Ramallah, the Secretary-General met with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas. During a press conference on Sunday, the Secretary General stressed that “achieving peace will require all parties to go further than they have before. But it can and must be done.” And his message to Israel and to the world from here in Ramallah is that he is convinced that President Abbas is ready.



**Secretary-General’s Meeting with the President of Egypt



On Saturday, he arrived in Israel after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo. In a press conference after that meeting, he said that he had explained to the Egyptian President all that has been discussed between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan on Darfur, including the deployment of hybrid peacekeeping operations and the humanitarian situation there. He added that he expects that President Mubarak and other leaders in the region will take the time and look at this issue more seriously to help the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union to address this issue as soon as possible.



We have the transcripts of the Secretary-General’s recent press encounters upstairs and on the website.



** Sudan



On Darfur, the Under-Secretary–General for Humanitarian Affairs and the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, completed his five-day mission to Sudan today, returning from Darfur to Khartoum, where he met with Sudanese Vice-President Ali Osman Taha and Senior Assistant to the President Minni Minnawi, as well as with representatives of the donor community.



Mr. Holmes said the talks focused on issues of humanitarian access, the need for security guarantees so aid workers can operate safely, accountability for crimes when they happen and addressing the significant bureaucratic impediments that affect the aid community. Summarizing the impressions of his visit to Sudan, Mr. Holmes noted the extraordinary humanitarian achievements that have been made, given the massive scale of the problems faced. However, the one major concern was how long such a massive humanitarian response could continue, as large populations have been displaced for several years and ever more newly displaced people continue to flow into existing camps.



A planned visit on Saturday to a camp housing displaced persons in Darfur had to be abandoned, but Mr. Holmes noted it was due to communication problems, and was not a deliberate attempt to exclude him from the camp. “But, if this can happen to a senior United Nations official, you can imagine the effect on an ordinary humanitarian worker,” he said. “We need to see a return to the commitments made and actual implementation on the ground.”



There’s a press release that we’re expecting from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Mr. Holmes’ visit to the region. And he travels to eastern Chad tomorrow.



**Security Council -- Iran



And here, at the Security Council, there are no meetings or consultations scheduled today. But, on Saturday afternoon, for those of you who were here, the Security Council unanimously approved resolution 1747, which includes an annex adding 13 entities and 15 individuals to the list of those affected by sanctions measures. It calls upon all States to report to the Council’s sanctions committee within 60 days on the steps they have taken to implement the resolution’s steps.



In a statement issued yesterday in New York, the Secretary-General noted with satisfaction the Security Council’s unanimity in adopting that resolution, and he calls on Iran to fully implement the resolution’s provisions and to take, urgently, the necessary steps to restore the international community’s trust that its nuclear programme is peaceful in nature. The Secretary-General believes that a negotiated solution would strengthen the international non-proliferation regime and hopes that dialogue will resume on this issue of paramount importance.



** Democratic Republic of the Congo



And turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the situation is reported to be relatively calm in Kinshasa after days of deadly gun battles between the Congolese Armed Forces and the security detail of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba, a former Vice-President, who is reported to have taken refuge at the South African embassy. Some 96 members of Bemba’s security detail have, for their part, surrendered to United Nations peacekeepers and remain at the United Nations compound in the capital.



Over the weekend, also, the Secretary-General placed a call to Congolese President Joseph Kabila, during which he expressed concern over the latest escalation of violence and urged the President to ensure an immediate cessation of hostilities and resolve the situation through dialogue.



** Somalia



And also on Saturday, we had issued a statement on Somalia, which you can pick up upstairs, regarding the latest fighting there, and the Security Council also issued a similar statement last Friday evening, I believe.



**Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery



And today, the United Nations is commemorating the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro this morning addressed the General Assembly, saying that today, we celebrate the fact that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Yet around the world, millions of people are still deprived of their most fundamental human rights and freedoms. There should be no place in the twenty-first century for trafficking, forced labour or sexual exploitation, she added.



And we have copies of her statement upstairs.



**Press Conferences



Following this briefing, at 12:45, there will a press conference on this commemoration with the Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations from Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago, Professor Rex Nettleford and the Director of the Department of Public Information’s Outreach Division. And that’s here at 12:45.



**Human Rights Council



In Geneva, the Human Rights Council is continuing this week with its current session due to conclude this Friday. Today, it has held a special event focusing on people living with disabilities in light of the recently adopted Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will be opened for signature here at Headquarters this Friday, 30 March.



High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour addressed the Council's special meeting on the rights of persons with disabilities, reminding delegates that States remain the key actors in ensuring improved respect and protection for these rights.



And you can get more information upstairs, and we will have a press release on the day’s Council activities later in the day.



** Yemen



The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today reports that at least 29 people are confirmed dead and 71 others reported missing after smugglers forced some 450 Somalis and Ethiopians into stormy seas off the coast of Yemen. The incident occurred last Thursday, UNHCR reports. Some of the survivors say the smugglers forced the passengers overboard when they were still far from shore. Those who resisted were stabbed and beaten with wooden and steel clubs, then overthrown, where some were attacked by sharks, they say. The survivors were taken to a UNHCR reception centre, where they received medical assistance and other aid. There’s a press release on that upstairs.



** Angola



UNHCR also reports that nearly 410,000 Angolan refugees who had fled their country during 30 years of civil war have returned home from neighbouring countries. The High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, will attend a ceremony tomorrow to officially mark the successful conclusion of what has been the largest repatriation of refugees in Africa this decade. And there’s a press release on that, as well.



**United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime -- Human Trafficking



The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime today launched a global initiative to fight human trafficking, at the House of Lords in London. Some 2.5 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking at any given time, the experts say.



**International Strategy for Disaster Reduction



We also have a press release from the secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction, which says that scientists and advisors from 29 specialized United Nations bodies are gathering in Bonn, Germany, for discussions on how a people-centred early-warning system could be implemented around the world. And there’s more information on that, as well.



And that’s what I have for you today. Anything for me?



**Questions and Answers



Question: Any question about whether the Secretary-General has a comment on the seizure of the British sailors and marines by Iran over the weekend, and whether he has a statement or any remark on that?



Deputy Spokesperson: No, he doesn’t. He has not commented. He did have a roundtable with the travelling journalists last Friday. He has a brief remark on that. But no, he does not.



Question: Any idea when the Security Council plans to discuss the Secretary-General’s report on Kosovo?



Deputy Spokesperson: As I think I mentioned last Friday, the discussions on the Secretary-General’s report have not yet been scheduled. The Security Council President for the month of March has indicated that it would happen in the following month, which would then place it under the United Kingdom presidency, so, I think you would have to check with the incoming president to see when the discussion will be scheduled. Today, the report has come out as a document.



Question: I asked you because the report was presented today, so I thought there would be some scheduling of the meeting.



Deputy Spokesperson: The meeting has not yet been officially scheduled. But Mr. Ahtisaari -- I think this is a response to a question that Erol had earlier -- will be here to present the report when the meeting is scheduled.



Question: A follow up on this. Now that Mr. Ahtisaari has really finished his job -- and he deserves nothing but congratulations for his persistence and diplomatic skills, and for putting the dot on the “i” of the final chapter of the Yugoslav crisis -- what is left for him? What is he going to be? Is his job really finished? Is his mandate over? And what is he doing now, in this, if I can say, “limbo”, between the Secretary-General’s report and expectations of the Security Council meeting?



Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Ahtisaari is expected to come to United Nations Headquarters shortly to present the report to the Security Council.



Question: But is he still officially Special Representative, or is his job finished?



Deputy Spokesperson: He will be here shortly, as I mentioned, to present the report that he just wrote in his capacity as Special Envoy.



Question: Two questions. There’s a report that Ban Ki-moon had a press conference with the Egyptian Foreign Minister, at which he, Ban Ki-moon, said that Egypt should play a more active role in getting [President] al-Bashir to allow the United Nations into Sudan, and that the Foreign Minister of Egypt said pressure is not the point at this time. Is that accurate as to what had taken place there?



Deputy Spokesperson: Let me just... I think what you’re referring to is, on Saturday, the Secretary-General met with President Mubarak. I just gave you a recount of his account of the conversation that he had with the President of Egypt. And in it, the Secretary-General, just to reiterate, said he explained to the Egyptian President the discussions between the United Nations and the Government of Sudan on Darfur, including the deployment of the African Union-United Nations peacekeeping operation and the humanitarian situation. And he added that he expects that President Mubarak and other leaders in the region will take the time to take a look at the issue more seriously, to help the efforts of the United Nations and the African Union to address this issue as soon as possible.



The Egyptian President and the Secretary-General, as I mentioned, discussed this request. And I think there’s no question that they did not reject his request to get involved in the process. And I think the Secretary-General will be bringing -- pushing -- the Darfur issue in his coming days of talks, especially at the League of Arabs States Summit in Riyadh.



Question: Also, do you have any update on the status of Guido Bertucci from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs? There’s some word in the building that he may have been suspended -- could you confirm any of that?



Deputy Spokesperson: No, he has not been suspended. I have nothing else further.



Question: Before I get to my real question, what do we have to learn from the fact that, while in the region, the Secretary-General does not have any substantial statement on probably the most important crisis right now, with the Iranians hijacking the Brits? I mean, is it an oversight? Does he have no opinion on that? Does he not want…?



Deputy Spokesperson: At this point, he does not have anything publicly to say about this incident.



Question: So, basically that’s all we know -- that he’s not commenting on that? And that he’s staying away from the whole thing?



Deputy Spokesperson: That’s it. Yes.



Question: Okay. The second thing is, when we were briefed by Alicia Bárcena, we were told that not all of the people who were asked actually filled in the disclosure forms. Since then, some time has passed. Have those people been dealt with? What’s the deal?



Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll find out for you. I also followed up on Erol’s request to have Ms. Bárcena come to talk to you further, so you can probably discuss it with her further.



Question: And the second question is: how many people, if at all, are being urged to do what the Secretary-General has done, which is to make those statements public?



Deputy Spokesperson: I think what the Secretary-General says is that he hopes that he will set an example, and that it’s a voluntary process.



Question: The question is: how many people have been doing that? Has anybody done this thing?



Deputy Spokesperson: Since it’s voluntary, I’m not sure we’ll be giving out the information. But if I do have…



Question: You won’t be giving out the information about making public?



Deputy Spokesperson: If I have further information to give you, I’ll get it for you after the briefing.



[The Deputy Spokesperson later said that those who have not yet filled out their financial disclosure forms were being referred to the Joint Disciplinary Committee.]



Question: With reference to the Secretary-General’s reticence to comment on the seizure of the British sailors and marines, is this a case of “he does not wish to comment because of delicate ongoing negotiations”?



Deputy Spokesperson: That’s correct. Yes.



Question: That is the only reason, then?



Deputy Spokesperson: Yes.



Question: To follow up on this thing. If the Secretary-General does not have a comment, does he have any information on whether this was a trespass by British soldiers into Iranian waters?



Deputy Spokesperson: Right now the matter is between the countries involved. So, no, he does not have any further information.



Question: Marie, is the United Nations, in any capacity, involved with those negotiations between the Iranians and the Brits, or no?



Deputy Spokesperson: Not that I know of. There are no other questions?



Question: I just had two more, I’m sorry. On this thing that came up on Friday, of the Romanian “blue helmets” that left the country during the investigation of the death of two civilians in Kosovo, has the United Nations heard anything back about whether those soldiers will be made available for the investigation?



Deputy Spokesperson: As I mentioned, it’s up to the national authorities to pursue the investigation.



Question: But I thought the United Nations was doing its own inquiry into these people killed by rubber bullets in Kosovo.



Deputy Spokesperson: The United Nations would be. But the investigation at home can only be done by the troop-contributing country, in terms of any legal…



Question: And the other thing is: I noticed on the Deputy Secretary-General’s meeting with Ad Melkert of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) this afternoon... I guess I want to know the purpose of that, and whether we could speak to either or both of them before or after, given the North Korea-UNDP situation, and we also have a question for the UNDP about some hiring by Mr. Melkert. So, it would be very timely if you could at least put in a request for a brief stakeout.



Deputy Spokesperson: Sure.



Question: Please, did you have a scheduled date for the discussion of [resolution] 1701 at the Security Council? Is it going to be postponed to next month, or 27 March?



Deputy Spokesperson: I just looked at the Security Council programme before I came down here and I did not see anything for the month of March, I believe.



Question: It was supposed to be 27 March.



Deputy Spokesperson: No, that has been off the programme for a while. I don’t think there’s anything in the Council for the next couple of days. So, we’ll have to see, again, if it’s something that will be placed on the programme officially by the incoming presidency.



Question: Marie, on the Middle East conflict. There’s some indication that Saudi Arabia, in order to advance the peace process, may be contemplating establishing diplomatic relations with Israel. Do you have any information on that? Has the Secretary-General been encouraging this process, this trend, during his recent visit, or current visit?



Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing on that specific question as of now. But he is still, as you know, in Israel today. He will be giving a second press conference shortly after his meeting with, I believe, the Foreign Minister.



There are no other questions? Have a good afternoon.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070326.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 27 2007, 05:47 PM
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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



** Sri Lanka



I have the following statement attributable to the Spokesperson of the Secretary-General concerning Sri Lanka:



The Secretary-General is disturbed by the extensive and escalating violations of the ceasefire in Sri Lanka, which now includes an air attack this week by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).



He deeply regrets that air raids, military confrontations on the ground and suicide bombings have become a daily occurrence, prompting massive displacement and suffering for civilians.



The Secretary-General appeals to the parties of the conflict to break this vicious cycle of attack and retaliation, which only leads to more bloodshed and victims. He urges them to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible, without preconditions.



**Secretary-General’s Travels



Meanwhile, the Secretary-General has arrived in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where tomorrow he will address the Summit of the League of Arab States. He will also discuss his key concerns about Darfur and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, among other topics, with the gathered Arab leaders.



This evening, prior to the start of the Summit, he will meet with President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.



Earlier today, he met with the United Nations country team in Jerusalem, before stopping over in Jordan where he met the King of Jordan, also named King Abdullah, who is also travelling to the summit in Riyadh, and the two discussed the Secretary-General’s recent meetings during his Middle East tour, particularly concerning the new momentum for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.



Speaking to the press before departing Israel yesterday, the Secretary-General said that, despite the obstacles ahead, he believes that solid grounds exist for hoping we can advance the peace process in the coming period. He said, “I believe we can and must make progress in the coming weeks and months.”



We have the transcript of that press conference upstairs and on the web.



**Sudan



On Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, and African Union Special Envoy, Salim Ahmed Salim, held today in Khartoum separate meetings with representatives of Darfur’s Arab tribes and leaders of civil society groups. Discussions during the two meetings focused on the joint efforts of the two envoys to re-energize the Darfur peace process. The two Envoys heard from their interlocutors their views on how to move forward with the political process and reach a sustainable settlement of the Darfur problem. Mr. Eliasson and Mr. Salim will hold a joint press conference this evening in Khartoum.



Also, the United Nations Mission today reports that, to date, nearly 9,000 internally displaced persons have returned to Southern Sudan and the transitional areas since January, under the joint plan for returns that brings together the United Nations, the Sudanese Government and the Government of Southern Sudan.



We have more information about developments in Sudan in today’s bulletin from the United Nations Mission.



**Security Council



The Security Council this morning unanimously voted to extend the mandate of the International Independent Investigation Commission, headed by Serge Brammertz, by another year, until 15 June 2008.



Council members then went into consultations to hear from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, about the recent developments in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.



** Democratic Republic of the Congo



And on that subject: the situation is calm and life has resumed its normal pace in Kinshasa, reports the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. United Nations peacekeepers, meanwhile, are patrolling the city, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is working with local authorities to assess the number of civilian casualties of last week’s fighting between Government forces and the security detail of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba.



Here at Headquarters, out on the racks today is the Secretary-General’s latest report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, in which he urges Congolese leaders to respect the principles of transparency, inclusiveness and tolerance of dissent. He also notes that assisting the Government in facing the challenge of disarming groups operating in the eastern part of the country remains a key priority for the United Nations Mission.



**European Commission/United Nations Cooperation



The United Nations today is hosting a workshop on United Nations cooperation with the European Commission. In remarks to the workshop participants, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said that cooperation between the two institutions is invaluable in carrying out the United Nations’ reform agenda. She said that there is an old saying that encapsulates this idea: “A problem shared is a problem halved.” And we have copies of her remarks upstairs.



**Human Rights Council



Turning to Geneva, the Human Rights Council today adopted, by consensus, two resolutions: one on the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and the other on the human rights special procedures, namely the special rapporteurs, independent experts and other mandate holders reporting to the Council.



The resolution on the Occupied Palestinian Territory calls for the implementation of the decisions taken at the Council’s special sessions on that topic, in particular to dispatch the fact-finding missions mandated by the Council at those sessions.



Earlier in the day, the Human Rights Council held a series of discussions with various human rights mandate holders, including those dealing with counter-terrorism, torture, freedom of religion and expression, arbitrary detention, extrajudicial executions and racism, among others.



** Haiti



From Haiti, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) reports that more than 400 gang members have been arrested since the beginning of the year as a result of operations undertaken by the Haitian National Police and backed up by the United Nations police and military. The local population played a vital role in many of these arrests by providing information on the whereabouts of gang members to the Haitian and United Nations police via confidential hot-lines. Haitian police and UN peacekeepers continue these operations throughout the country in order to apprehend gang leaders and members who remain at large, and to confiscate illegally possessed weapons and ammunition.



** Central African Republic



Concerning the Central African Republic, the United Nations refugee agency reports that United Nations and non-governmental organization representatives have completed a visit to the town of Birao in the north-eastern part of the Central African Republic and found the town in ruins and almost empty some three weeks after it was attacked by an armed group. The joint team also found that, while some of the town's residents were slowly returning and attempting to resume normal life, many others remained too afraid to return.



The UNHCR-led team also visited the border town of Am Dafok to assess the situation following a rebel attack earlier this month, which caused some 14,000 to flee the fighting. Some 700 houses and vital stocks of food were destroyed during that attack, UNHCR said. And we have more on this upstairs.



**World Food Programme -- Djibouti



The World Food Programme (WFP) says it may soon have to stop delivering food to 53,000 people in Djibouti, due to a critical shortage of funds. WFP says child malnutrition rates are at emergency levels in the Horn of Africa country, which has suffered a series of droughts during the past five years. The agency says it needs $1 million immediately to avoid halting distributions in May and $6 million in order to continue operations through the end of the year.



**World Health Organization -- Guinea Worm



From the World Health Organization (WHO): The World Health Organization reports that guinea worm disease could be wiped out worldwide in just two years, if progress continues at its present rate. Earlier this month, 12 more countries were declared guinea worm free. There are still some 25,000 cases of the tropical disease in nine countries, and it remains endemic in some villages in sub-Saharan Africa. If current efforts are successful, guinea worm would become only the second disease -- after smallpox -- to be completely eradicated.



**Under-Secretary-General’s Visit to Chad and Sudan



I have something hot off the presses from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, arrived in the town of Abéché in eastern Chad this morning, on the second leg of his two-week, three-country mission to Africa. The Emergency Relief Coordinator said he was looking forward to travelling to IDP settlements the next day, in order to assess for himself the situation on the ground. And we have upstairs, just now, a press release that you can pick up with some more details on Mr. Holmes’ strip.



**Press Conferences



Tomorrow, there will be a press conference at 12:30 in this room with Ambassador Frank Majoor, the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the United Nations, who will brief you on the Peacebuilding Commission field visit to Sierra Leone. Ambassador Majoor was the leader of the Commission’s delegation there.



And do you have any questions?



**Questions and Answers



Question: A couple of quick ones. First of all, you announced that the Secretary-General is in Riyadh and he’s going to be meeting with Bashar al-Assad and King Abdullah. Is that going to be all together?



Associate Spokesperson: No, those are two separate bilateral meetings. And whenever we can get the readouts of those meetings, I’ll try and squawk them.



Question: And the other thing is that, you read out some comments from the Secretary-General. Was that in response to -- because I haven’t seen the transcript yet -- was that in response to questions about [Condoleezza] Rice’s statement that she made last night?



Associate Spokesperson: No, not directly. This had to do with the press conference that he did, that did take place in Israel last night with reporters there. But he was talking more generally about his feelings about progress on the Israeli-Palestinian peace track.



And that, by the way, includes his hopes for progress because of the recent attitudes expressed by Israeli Prime Minister [Ehud] Olmert, Palestinian President [Mahmoud] Abbas, but also because of the efforts by others, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to push for progress on this.



And so, while he is in Riyadh, he’s going to continue with that effort, and we’ll see what sort of initiative the Arab leaders are willing to get behind while they’re there at the Summit.



Question: A follow-up on the Summit. You did not mention a possible meeting between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and President [Omer al-]Bashir of Sudan. So I was wondering if this has been cancelled, or…?



Associate Spokesperson: No, it hasn’t. It’s… What we expect is that he will meet President Bashir tomorrow. I just gave out the bilaterals that will take place later today, but we should have a list of bilaterals tomorrow. But we do expect that that will include President Bashir.



Question: Concerning his visit to Palestine and Israel, did the Secretary-General have any reaction to reports that settlers have illegally reoccupied a settlement that’s already been evacuated by the Israelis in the summer of ’05?



Associate Spokesperson: We haven’t made any specific comment about that particular settlement. Obviously, as you know, we have repeatedly called for a halt to settlement activities in general that could complicate any final [resolution].



Question: Any change you see in the final leg of the Secretary-General’s travels? Is everything going to plan? There are no more “surprises”, like it was in Baghdad?



Associate Spokesperson: If there were more “surprises”, it would come as a surprise. But no. As far as I know, the idea is that he will go from Saudi Arabia, he will go at the end of this week to Lebanon, and after that they should return some time over the weekend to New York.



Question: I understand that the French citizen who happens to be the station manager of the biggest Israeli newspaper in Washington and was in the entourage of the Secretary of State, previously, to Riyadh, now was denied entrance by the Saudis while in the entourage of the Secretary-General. My question is: did the Secretary-General say something? Because this is a step against the United Nations -- did he speak up for the United Nations?



Associate Spokesperson: Yes. We have spoken to the relevant authorities, trying to make sure that all the reporters that have been travelling with the Secretary-General have access to visit all of the countries on that tour, including the reporter that you are referring to.



Question: Is she going to Riyadh?



Associate Spokesperson: The question is whether the Saudis will provide the visa. But yes, we have spoken up on the need for this reporter, and indeed all the reporters, to have the necessary visas.



Question: Will you be able, tomorrow, to tell us what happened in this case?



Associate Spokesperson: I’ll try to get that information. You can also check with the Saudis whether they’ve provided any of the necessary visas.



Question: No, no, no, I want to check with the United Nations. Because my question is: What is at stake here is the honour of the Secretary-General, because the United States Secretary of State was able to take that person.



Associate Spokesperson: Thank you for telling me what’s at stake here. But my point is: yes, we have spoken up on behalf of this. Obviously, we don’t give the visas on behalf of the Saudi Government. The Saudi Government does.



Question: Kinshasa’s now calm and all this. Did the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) have a readout on whether Mr. Bemba’s still in the South African compound? How many people were killed in this round of fighting? What’s next?



Associate Spokesperson: In terms of the assessment on damage, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is trying to assess what kind of damage has been done. I believe I had read that out earlier -- that they’re working with local authorities to assess the number of civilian casualties that took place last week. So we’ll see back from them what assessment they get, once that exercise is complete.



As for Mr. Bemba, I don’t have… I could try to get the latest information for you. But I believe that he has been, in recent days, inside the embassy of South Africa.



[The Associate Spokesperson later confirmed that was still the case.]



Question: Has The Secretary-General, in fact, addressed a written invitation to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates to attend the next meeting of the Quartet?



Associate Spokesperson: There’s nothing we can announce on that just yet. The arrangements for the Quartet meeting would still have to be made. As you’re aware, there are some plans to expand that meeting beyond the principal members of the Quartet. At this stage, all I can say is what the Quartet said in their communiqué of last week, which is that the Quartet principals do intend to meet shortly in the region. And we’ll have to see what we can say about the full guest list later on, once that develops.



Question: I wanted to ask you about the Central African Republic-United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) assessment mission. When there was another assessment mission done for Chad and the Central African Republic, there was a note in the report saying they would take note of the Central African Republic Government’s…mention that a lot of the fighting, or problems on the north-eastern border, were a spillover from Darfur. But the assessment mission did not think so. Do you know if the UNHCR assessment mission now believes -- I know there are two different missions -- believes that that is from spillover? Do they specify that at all?



Associate Spokesperson: That’s not part of the note I read. I can check up, or we can get in touch with UNHCR afterwards to see what their own individual assessment is of that. Certainly, two things have been happening. There has been a rebellion in some areas of the Central African Republic. Plus, there has been some degree of spillover fighting. How they gauge that, how UNHCR gauges that, you can check with them.



[The Associate Spokesperson later said that Birao was attacked on 3-4 March by a Central African Republic group, the UFDR.]



Question: Back to my question earlier. Some press indicate that the Secretary-General had invited these four countries I mentioned to the next meeting of the Quartet. Would you deny that?



Associate Spokesperson: I’m not denying anything. What I’m saying is that I don’t have anything to announce about the next Quartet meeting until that schedule has firmed up. Yes, it is clear that the Secretary-General and others have indicated that this could be a larger meeting -- an expanded meeting of the Quartet. But who precisely will be invited, those details I still have to wait for.



Question: Do I understand that more invitations have been issued?



Associate Spokesperson: There’s nothing for me formally to announce so far. I would need to wait until the plans are set before we can make an announcement about who the invitees are.



Question: Do you have any update for us on banning Mr. Holmes from visiting certain towns in the Darfur region, and whether there’s an effort to allow him to have access there?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, as I just read, Mr. Holmes did in fact leave Darfur. He is now in Chad, in eastern Chad, in Abéché today, and we have a press release on his travels there. He did visit some parts of Darfur, but there were some areas where he was denied. And we reported on that earlier this week. So what we mentioned yesterday is where we stand on that.



Question: Two questions. One is the Ivory Coast. It’s reported that [Guillaume] Soro, the rebel, is going to become the Prime Minister. I’m wondering what that means for [Prime Minister Charles Konan] Banny and whether [Gerard] Stoudmann, or anyone else in the United Nations system, has had anything to say about these developments?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, we have seen the press reports indicating that Guillaume Soro has accepted the post of Prime Minister. But we have yet to see an official announcement by the Facilitator, President [Blaise] Compaore of Burkina Faso, or from President [Laurent] Gbagbo or Mr. Soro himself, for that matter. The United Nations will work closely with whoever is appointed as Prime Minister and the new Government to support the implementation of the Ouagadougou Agreement. And I’ve seen some signs that over the next day or so, there’s a chance that the Security Council may also pronounce itself on this topic. So you might want to check with the President of the Security Council, what they have to say about this.



Question: The other question is about whistle-blower protection in the United Nations system. I’ve recently become aware of a UNOPS [United Nations Office of Project Services] e-mail sent by Jan Mattson to all staff, saying anyone who speaks to the press will face the most severe repercussions. And I’ve seen similar communications within some other funds and programmes. Does the Secretary-General’s bulletin on the protections for whistle-blowing apply throughout the United Nations system? Only the Secretariat? And what does the Ethics Office do to implement these rights?Associate Spokesperson: Well, the Ethics Office is there to hear of any complaints… If someone, for example, believes that their rights as a whistle-blower are being violated, they can always take that to the Ethics Office. And yes, the Secretary-General’s bulletin is applicable. And whistle-blowers are protected in the system, as is underscored by the Secretary-General’s bulletin.



Question: But I mean, if the e-mail sent to staff in order to chill communications to the press is presented either to the Secretary-General or someone else, what happens?



Associate Spokesperson: I don’t have any details about that particular email.



Question: If such an e-mail…?



Associate Spokesperson: Certainly we do have a whistle-blower policy. You can look at the Secretary-General’s bulletin. And whistle-blowers do have protection and rights within the system, yes.



If that’s it, have a good afternoon.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070327.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 28 2007, 05:41 PM
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 Ashraf Kamal, the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.



Briefing by Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General



Just to let you know, we have a guest briefing at 12:30. The Permanent Representative of the Netherlands, Frank Majoor, will brief on the work of the Peacebulding Commission. So we’ll try to get this done fairly quickly, so that I and Ashraf Kamal, the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President, can do our part fairly quickly.



**Secretary-General Statement on Côte d’Ivoire



The Secretary-General commends President Laurent Gbagbo and Guillaume Soro for the steps they have taken to date towards implementing the Ouagadougou political agreement. The Secretary-General, in particular, welcomes the establishment of the integrated command centre on 16 March and the supplementary agreement reached on 26 March, which designates Mr. Soro as the new Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire.



The Secretary-General also commends President Blaise Compaoré for facilitating the supplementary agreement and congratulates Mr. Soro. The Secretary-General assures President Gbagbo and Mr. Soro of the readiness of the United Nations to work closely with them to support the implementation of the Ouagadougou agreement. He also expresses his gratitude to Prime Minister Charles Banny for his significant contribution to the peace process, in particular for his tireless efforts to rebuild trust among the Ivorian parties and launch the key disarmament and identification processes over the past 16 months. That statement is available in English and French upstairs.



**Secretary-General at Arab Summit



The Secretary-General today addressed the Summit of the League of Arab States taking place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and he urged the leaders gathered at the Summit to reaffirm their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative, which he called one of the pillars of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.



The Secretary-General noted the positive signs for that peace process, including the formation of a National Unity Government in Palestine and the prospect of an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. Solving the conflict, he said, is a moral and strategic necessity.



The Secretary-General also underscored other priorities, including the need to resolve the situation in Lebanon through dialogue; support for the security and recovery of Iraq, including through the International Compact for Iraq; and the need for peace and an end to strife in Darfur.



The Secretary-General today also attended a mini-summit on Somalia, chaired by the Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud, which brought together senior officials of the United Nations, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the African Union, the League of Arab States and the European Union, as well as the foreign minister of Kenya, to discuss the way forward for that country.



The Secretary-General also had a busy schedule of bilateral meetings, including a meeting with President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, with whom he had had a wider meeting with advisers, followed by a tête-à-tête. There will also be a summit meeting tonight on Darfur, which will be chaired by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and will also involve the Secretary-General and Arab League Secretary-General, Amr Moussa.



He also met, among others, with the Presidents of Lebanon, Mauritania and the United Arab Emirates.



Yesterday evening, the Secretary-General met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and he underlined the crucial timing of the Arab Summit. They discussed Iraq, the deteriorating situation in Lebanon, the National Unity Government in Palestine and the important Arab peace initiative, and Darfur.



** Sudan



Today in Khartoum, the Government of Sudan and the United Nations signed a Joint Communiqué, in which the Government of Sudan pledged to support, protect and facilitate all humanitarian operations in Darfur through rapid and full implementation of all measures outlined in the moratorium on restrictions, which was first penned on 3 July 2004.



Both parties recognize that progress has been made in addressing the humanitarian situation since the signing of the moratorium, and that this recommitment is to address current problems in the implementation of that agreement. Specifically, the Sudanese Government has, among other things, undertaken to extend current visas and permits through January 2008 to provide international NGO country directors and their families multiple entry visas, and to fast-track visa and customs procedures.



Also today, Jan Eliasson, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, travelled to Chad, where he met with the Prime Minister and Foreign Ministry officials, in the context of his consultations on revitalizing the Darfur peace process.



Meanwhile, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, arrived in the Chadian capital of Ndjamena today, following visits to IDP camps and aid projects in the area around Goz Beida, about 100 km from the Sudanese border.



Setting out from Abéché, Mr. Holmes travelled to Goz Beida, a hamlet whose population has more than quadrupled in the past three years due to the insecurity in the Chadian countryside and across the border in Sudan. Dwindling water resources are a pressing concern: non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in the water sector warn the limited underground water supply could be fully depleted in a matter of months, putting tens of thousands of people at risk.



**Security Council



The Foreign Minister of South Africa, Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma, is chairing the Security Council today as it discusses the relationship between the United Nations and regional organizations, particularly the African Union, concerning international peace and security. Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi, briefed the Council on the cooperation the United Nations has received from the African Union in its work.



That debate is expected to continue into the afternoon, with 32 speakers inscribed. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dhlamini-Zuma will speak to reporters at the Council stakeout at 12:30.



Once the meeting is done, the Security Council expects to hold a formal meeting to consider a resolution amending the sanctions imposed on Rwanda.



After that, the Council will consider a Presidential Statement concerning the implementation of the Ouagadougou political agreement for Cote d’Ivoire. And of course, you just heard what the Secretary-General had to say about that.



And yesterday afternoon, the Council President, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, read out a statement to the press on Cyprus, which welcomed the Cyprus Government’s decision to remove the wall and National Guard post at Ledra Street as a step towards opening a new crossing point.



** Democratic Republic of the Congo



The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that humanitarian organizations continue to undertake evaluation and assistance activities throughout Kinshasa in the wake of last week's fighting between Government forces and armed elements loyal to former Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.



In response to needs, the World Health Organization (WHO) distributed three metric tonnes of essential drugs and surgical materials, as well as 400 rolls of plaster and 100 sheets.



OCHA says that one additional concern has been the protection needs of vulnerable groups, including the families and dependents of the forces loyal to Bemba and arrested street children, as well as the risk of sexual violence and other human rights abuses.



** Gaza Flood



The UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees in the Near East says that sewage water yesterday flooded some 250 houses in the village of Um Nasser in Beit Lahiya in the Gaza Strip when the wall of a huge cesspool collapsed, causing some 1,500 people to flee the area. Among those too old or too weak to escape the flood, 4 people were confirmed dead yesterday and 18 others were injured; 11 others are still missing.



The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 96 homes were destroyed or damaged and some 300 families had to be relocated to a temporary camp on higher ground in the region nearby. OCHA adds that preliminary needs assessments indicate that tents, blankets, mattresses, food and water are required for those who have moved to the new camp. UNRWA responded to this assessment by making 300 tents and 6 water tanks, as well as blankets and mattresses, available to the displaced civilians.



**Former Yugoslavia



The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia reports that Blagoje Simić, a former Bosnian Serb politician, was transferred yesterday to the United Kingdom to serve 15 years in prison.



Simić was convicted in October 2003 for persecuting non-Serb civilians in the town of Bosanski Šamac between April 1992 and December 1993. The non-Serb civilians were detained and confined under inhumane conditions, lacking sufficient space, food or water, and were subjected to torture including sexual assaults, the extraction of teeth and threat of execution. And we have more on this upstairs.



**Human Rights Council



Turning to Geneva, the Human Rights Council earlier today concluded its interactive dialogue on the reports of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions; the Chairperson of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent; and the Special Rapporteur on racism and racial discrimination.



The Council is currently holding a discussion with experts on human rights and transnational corporations, the right to health, and on the situation of human rights defenders. Meanwhile, here at Headquarters, the Human Rights Committee which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, will conclude its current session on Friday.



**FAO -- Locusts



The Food and Agricultural Organization is taking part in a new offensive against Desert Locusts in the Horn of Africa. Along with the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa, FAO has launched aerial control operations on the Red Sea coast near the Sudanese/Eritrean border. This week operations will start on the coast of northwest Somalia near Djibouti. And we have more in a press release upstairs.



**Bird Flu -- Indonesia



Turning to the bird flu, the World Health Organization (WHO) is welcoming Indonesia's decision to immediately resume sharing samples of the H5N1 avian influenza virus. And we have more on that in a press release upstairs.



**HIV-Circumcision



In the fight against HIV infection, experts are recommending that male circumcision be recognized as an additional way to reduce the risk of heterosexual transmission in men. That recommendation was made by an international consultation of experts that was convened by the World Health Organization and UNAIDS in Switzerland earlier this month. And we have more in a press release upstairs.



**ESCAP



The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is turning 60 this year, and we are celebrating the occasion with a gathering in Bangkok of major beneficiaries, stakeholders and partners of the Commission. In a video message aired at that event, the Secretary-General said that ESCAP has carved out a unique role in regional advocacy, consensus-building and cooperation. And we have copies of his remarks upstairs.



**Asia Africa Trade



In a joint report released today, the UN Conference on Trade and Development and the UN Development Programme say that foreign direct investment in Africa by developing Asian countries is growing and has the potential to reach much higher levels.



The report says that this significant observation owes much to the complementary nature of economic development between Asian and African countries, even though Asian direct investment mostly targets African natural resources. And that report is available on both UNCTAD and UNDP websites.



**Flag



You may notice that the UN flag is being flown at half-mast at UN Headquarters today, to observe the official mourning for the late Prime Minister of Armenia, Andranik Margaryan.



**Press Conference Today



Right after this briefing, there will be a press conference with H.E. Frank Majoor, the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to the UN, who is the Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission Country-Specific Meetings on Sierra Leone. Ambassador Majoor will brief you on the Commission’s field visit to Sierra Leone. And between now and then, we’ll also have, Ashraf Kamal to talk about the President of the General Assembly.



**Guest at Noon Tomorrow



Our guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be Mr. Thomas Schindlmayer, Expert with the United Nations Secretariat for the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.



Also, the Permanent Mission of Greece wanted to remind you all that at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium at 2 p.m. today, there is a concert by Voices for Peace, by Thea Musgrave, and also by the New York Virtuoso Singers and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. Again, that’s at 2:00 at the Dag Hammarskjöld Auditorium and you’re all invited. Are there any questions before we go to Mr. Kamal?



**Questions and Answers



Question: Right. I want questions on two subjects, if that’s OK with you, Farhan. First of all, the Secretary-General talking on Darfur, it seems to have all gone in one ear and out the other since President Bashir said immediately “no” peacekeepers, just African troops, logistical things. Do you know if there’s any kind of pressure from Arab countries, or are they giving into his, as usual, supporting everything he says? And then, secondly, can we have Mr. Annabi’s text -- I don’t see it anywhere. And thirdly, where is Mr. Bemba –- is he still in the South African Embassy? And what’s wrong with him? I thought he was on his way to the Netherlands.



Associate Spokesperson: As far as I’m aware, yes, he continues to be in the South African Embassy in Kinshasa. We can check whether that’s changed in recent hours or not.



Question: Ambassador Kumalo said yesterday something’s wrong with his neck, but he wasn’t too…and he was on his way to the Netherlands for medical care, which our people thought was a little strange.



Associate Spokesperson: I think the South Africans who have him under their auspices might be better positioned to comment on that than I would be. As for the others, on Mr. Annabi, yes, we’re trying to get a hold of his prepared text for the meeting that took place in the Security Council. Once we have that, we will put that out and squawk it. And tracking back to your first question, yes, there’s further activity taking place today concerning President Bashir and Sudan. As I said at the start of this briefing, the King of Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah, will convene a meeting fairly late this evening. It’s expected I believe to go on sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight. That will also involve the Secretary-General and that is designed to move forward on Darfur. And regardless of some of the comments that have been made by President Bashir in his public comments today, we continue, of course, to press ahead with our efforts on the light support package and heavy support packages concerning the UN assistance in Darfur. And as you know, we’ve also continued to press ahead on other matters, including with the humanitarian agreement that was reached at today.



Question: What moves has the President garnered? He keeps saying the same thing for the last year, no matter how many agreements there are. Is there a real concerted effort among Arab nations or just the Saudis?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, let’s see what kind of persuasion, what kind of effect, this mini-summit that’s being convened late this evening will have. Certainly, the effort is continuing, it’s going to be continuing throughout the night and we hope that this will assist in our efforts to help the people of Darfur.



Question: I know you gave quotes on this yesterday but I’d like some more clarification and explanation. Yesterday, there was a terrorist threat made against UN Headquarters here in New York, the NYPD Counter-Terrorism Squad sent SWAT members with machine guns to all the entrances and the UN Security Forces were on elevated alert, people were inspected more thoroughly coming in and out of the building. And yet the press corps here was not informed through an email or some sort of detailed announcement. I have a few questions for you. The first one is, why weren’t we told that there was a potential terrorist threat against out workplace and this building? Two, what is the procedure in place to inform people at UN Headquarters that there is a threat? Three, what will you do in the future to ensure that we are informed of these potential attacks?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, throughout the day in fact, including both before and beyond the noon briefing, I did talk to reporters and informed them of the fact that, what you call a terrorist threat, we characterize as an unconfirmed bomb threat. It is something that could, in fact, just as easily have been a hoax and it may indeed have been a hoax. It was a phone-caller, calling in some information about a threat to the building and calling in to the NYPD. And once the NYPD shared that information with us, we also stepped up our security, as did the police department. In terms of that, whenever we feel that there is any significant threat against the building, as you are aware, we have informed the press and indeed everyone in the building through the intercom system. And if need be, if there were any need to evacuate the building, we have procedures in place for that. As it was yesterday, work carried on as usual and, like I said, this was an unconfirmed threat. We do not know whether there was any credibility or legitimacy to it.



Question: I have a couple of questions but I’ll just do one and see if there’s more time. I asked you yesterday about the whistleblower policy and since I’ve obtained this UNOPS email that references a story that Inner City Press wrote about its Dubai operations of UNOPS and says “when we learn the identity of the individuals involved in any breach of confidentiality, we will apply the severest disciplinary action”. So, I’m wondering again, what is the position of Ban Ki-moon on whether UN agencies can threaten staff members for speaking to the press about alleged corruption at the UN?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, first of all, I checked after the briefing with UNOPS, who said they were unaware of any email joining, prohibiting anybody from communications. And they reaffirmed, by the way, in their discussions with me, that their personnel, as with all UN staff, are free to speak within the regular rules for all UN personnel.



Question: They don’t have a Press Officer, UNOPS doesn’t. But I’m going to give you the email but I’d like…



Associate Spokesperson: There’s actually a person who handles their communication and what I can do is put you in touch with that person and he can talk to you further. But I..



Question: Because it’s a Ban Ki-moon question and he’s the top of the agency. I tried to ask Ms. Barcena yesterday about it. It seems to me like he needs to have a… what is his position on whether the head of agencies saying to the press, you shouldn’t speak to the press is legitimate or not?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, I don’t know about the validity of that email. Like I said, the people who I talked to, deny that there was anything beyond…



Question: I just want to be clear. There’s two different things. There’s as it applies to this email, and that’s one thing. And then there’s two, there’s just this policy question. What is Ban Ki-moon’s policy on whether staff can be disciplined for speaking with the press about alleged corruption at the UN?



Associate Spokesperson: You know what the whistleblower’s policy and the Secretary-General’s bulletin is. And that policy stands. Staff who are whistleblowers are free and are protected in terms of their communications.



Question: So, if an individual gets suspended by a UN agency, and goes to the whistleblower policy, he’s already suspended, so what happens is that then he has a two-year case through the justice system of the UN -- which is admittedly broken. So, I guess I’m just seeking from you some statement, doesn’t have to be right this moment, but sometime today, what the position is of Ban Ki-moon on whether staff can speak to the press about alleged corruption at the UN? It seems like, I hear the policy there, but if you could just say it, that would be great.



Associate Spokesperson: That policy is clear, that if staff have any reason to believe any corruption or any mismanagement, they are free to speak. There are whistleblower protections and again, I can show you what the bulletin is. The text of that still stands.



Question: I don’t know, maybe I missed it yesterday because I wasn’t here, but it seems to me the UN system pretty much comments on any important events in the world. And nobody, not the head of OCHA, not the head of the Human Rights Council, not DPA, not Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have said anything about that situation with the Brits and the Iranians. I don’t know whether it’s a threat to world peace and security or whether it’s as important as other situations you comment on?



Associate Spokesperson: That’s not unusual, nor is it exceptional. The United Nations is an organization that deals with diplomacy and there are certain cases when there are certain diplomatic efforts or diplomatic problems where it may not necessarily be helpful to give comments right off the bat. At this point, I have no comment to give on that. We’ll see what down the line we can say.



Question: Well, let me try one thing. I mean is there any way for the UN to verify the GPS coordinates, as were given by the Brits? At least to say whether those coordinates are indeed in Iraqi or Iranian waters?



Associate Spokesperson: That’s a very nice try, but in all honesty, the basic point is that, at this point, I have no comment to make on this issue.



Question: It’s not important?



Associate Spokesperson: We’re not saying that it’s not important. I’m saying that, at this point, there’s no comment I could give and surely, you know enough about the work the UN does, that you know that that happens on a number of issues.



Question: Can I get the Secretary-General’s comment on the fact that the Zimbabwean opposition leader was arrested again today?



Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, what we’re looking forward to, there’s a regional meeting by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and we’re looking to see what stance the leaders attending the SADC meeting will take in terms of dealing with the problems that have been occurring in Zimbabwe. So, we’re waiting to see what’s going to come out of that first.



Question: What if they take no position?



Associate Spokesperson: We’ll make some commentary regardless, but let’s see what they have to say from SADC.



Question: Regarding these five diplomats kidnapped by the Americans in Irbil some weeks ago –- is the United Nations doing anything regarding them? I remember you did not issue anything at that time, but after the meeting of Baghdad?



Associate Spokesperson: Thank you, Mr. Abboud, for helping to prove my point that there are a number of situations, not just the one of the last few days, on which we have given no comment. Yes, we have given no comment on that, you’re quite right.



Question: I want to pursue Neil’s question. Before security determined that it was a hoax and a threat, is there a procedure to let the people in this building know that there is something going on, that they should be aware of, before you say it’s a threat or a hoax. You see, when you send in security with machine guns running all over the place, people working here should know what’s happening.



Associate Spokesperson: Yes, and we did talk to anyone who was asking us about this, about the nature of this unconfirmed bomb threat. But neither were we trying to play it up out of proportion. The work of this building doesn’t stop because of one anonymous phone call. And we continue to go about our work. But yes, we did inform anyone who asked about the nature of the security activity at the gate. And if anything more serious were to develop, if there were anything such as a confirmed or credible threat, further action certainly would be taken.



Question: Would you consider (setting up someone) for example so that the media can get precise information at that moment?



Associate Spokesperson: Yes, I’m in regular contact, I’m the person from the office who’s in regular contact with UN security on this. And UN security, by the way, when it feels the needs to do so, also does put out general information on the intercoms.



Question: Just one follow-up on what they’re talking about and then I have a couple questions. Maybe it would be helpful, if you know how we get emails from you folks, from the Spokesman’s Office, could we all get a blanket email just saying we’re investigating a call in? Just something like that, so at least we’re all informed and we’re not pestering you with phone calls? Is that difficult or worth considering?



Associate Spokesperson: I’ll talk it over with my boss. We’ll see whether that’s…



Question: OK, a couple questions. On Darfur, obviously the Arab League brings up a whole bunch of questions about Bashir and what he’s saying. Is Ban Ki-moon doing anything about the Human Rights Council and where it’s heading on making a statement on Darfur that appears to be something that probably will come to a vote I think tomorrow or the day after, that’s going to be very watered down…



Associate Spokesperson: Well, we’ll see what the Human Rights Council has to say first. Obviously, Ban Ki-moon has already made it very clear that he wants the work of the Human Rights Council not to be narrowly focused on one country, but to focus on a number of different issues and he specifically mentioned the need to take up the issue of Darfur. So, let’s see what they have to say.



Question: But he did, even before the Human Rights Council began its latest session, beg them to consider things and behave in a way that is equitable and fair and reasonable and its obviously a judgement call of a variety of countries, but in terms of the poor people in Darfur, and poor people suffering around the world in various places in which human rights are being abused, it looks like we’re heading for yet another series of major failures. Why wouldn’t he pre-empt and come out with a statement?



Associate Spokesperson: Let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. The basic point is, the Secretary-General certainly hopes that the Human Rights Council will be able to deal, and deal seriously with the issue of Darfur. Let’s see what they have to say.



Question: A couple of questions. Is he reluctant, then, to lend his political clout to get certain issues pushed through?



Associate Spokesperson: No, no.



Question: His predecessor Kofi Annan, at one point, really put his foot down and asked for things to happen on the Darfur front, for instance.



Associate Spokesperson: No, the Secretary-General has already spoken about the need of the Human Rights Council to act on Darfur. And we’ll see how they act. Let’s not jump the gun and see what it is that they do.



Question: Just a follow-up. Does he at least urge the Council to adopt the Jody Williams report, which the Council itself sent? And it seems the versions of the resolution proposals does not specifically endorse that report?



Associate Spokesperson: I am not going to get ahead of what the Member States of the Human Rights Council are deciding any more than we do that when, for example, the Security Council is considering a matter. Let’s see how they react and then we can evaluate it.



Question: On the Human Rights Council, I think they’ve taken a decision to stop periodic reporting on both Iran and Uzbekistan? Does the Secretary-General have any comment on that action taken by the Human Rights Council to diminish country-specific human rights reports?



Associate Spokesperson: I’ll see whether we can actually get a comment on that. I’ll see whether there’s something for you on that.



Question: I had a couple of questions since you’re good at…



Associate Spokesperson: You’ve actually had three or four, but a couple in the expansive sense.



Question: I think the Human Rights Council and where they’re heading is pretty important. I had a question about immunity and when, because you handle these legal things, what are the guidelines in terms of lifting the immunity of a UN employee within the UN? And then I have another just small follow-up, whether you’re familiar with a case of OIOS of a Johannes Van Aggelin, a disabled UN employee who claims he’s been discriminated against? He’s a Geneva employee.



Associate Spokesperson: I’m not aware of that case. As for the waiving of immunity, the basic rule is that the immunity of staff can be waived by the Secretary-General. The decision by the Secretary-General to waive immunity can be for any number of circumstances, but it follows advice normally from his legal counsel.



Question: I have two questions actually. Do I understand correctly, if God forbid, some action had to be taken and clear the building you have some plan to squawk the same to us and I assume to everyone else in the complex?



Associate Spokesperson: Yes, and we’ve done that in the past. For example, on September 11th, 2001, we evacuated the building and I think the press was informed first on our squawk box, but then there were squawks throughout the building on that.



Question: And secondly, with reference to the Human Rights Council, do you have, obviously not right in front of you, but do you have, I’d like to have it, the particular statements of the SG in which he said he would like the Human Rights Council to focus less narrowly on Israel and on other things of importance?



Associate Spokesperson: Yes, that’s from a while back. It’s on our website, we can show that to you. And if that is it, then please Mr. Kamal will come up. And after that, we will have Frank Majoor, the Ambassador of the Netherlands, give his briefing at 12.30 on the work of the Peacebuilding Commission.



Briefing by the Spokesperson for the General Assembly President



Good afternoon.



**Arab League Summit



Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa became today the first President of the General Assembly and the first Arab Muslim woman ever to address a Summit of the League of Arab States. Sheikha Haya, who received an official invitation from the Arab League Secretary-General, Amre Moussa, told the Arab leaders that “this honour of addressing the summit reflected the Arab world’s appreciation of the role of women.”



The President called on the international community to “deal positively with the Arab peace initiative of 2002, as it provides the necessary basis for a just, comprehensive and permanent solution that is consistent with international resolutions.”



She met with several Arab leaders including President Mubarak of Egypt; Mr. Moussa, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States; Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Prime Minister, Ismail Haniyeh; Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.



Her statement is available now in Arabic and we are awaiting the English translation. As soon as it is available, we will post it to the website.



**General Assembly Plenary



The General Assembly met in plenary this morning and granted observer status to the Islamic Development Bank. It also adopted a decision by which, hopefully, it would fix the “broken system” that Matthew was talking about. The Assembly would continue at its sixty-second session its consideration, under the item “Administration of Justice at the United Nations,” of the report of the Redesign Panel on the United Nations system of administration of justice and the comments of the Secretary-General on the Panel’s recommendations. The decision also requests the Secretary-General to provide more details on strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman. The Fifth Committee, on the other hand, is continuing consultations on the same subject and may end up adopting a framework resolution endorsing a new internal justice system at the United Nations.



**Security Council Reform



On Security Council reform, consultations are continuing with the facilitators who are expected to have a report ready for the President upon her return.



**Questions and Answers



Question: You express that she was the first Arab woman to address an Arab League Summit. Let me ask you again -- I asked it before. Does Sheikha Haya have a driver’s license? And if she does, is it valid in Saudi Arabia?



Spokesperson: She does have a driver’s license, yes.



Question: Is it valid in Saudi Arabia?



Spokesperson: I suggest you call the Saudi Mission and ask them that.



Question: It had been said that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) was going to make its presentations to the General Assembly, to the Fifth Committee, in this current session. Did that happen?



Spokesperson: I haven’t looked at the calendar. I’m not sure if it’s this resumed session or the next resumed session.



Question: We keep hearing that they’re going to give a briefing here, but only after they finish with the General Assembly. But that was in December. But they’re not doing it, now, until May.



Spokesperson: I will check the date as soon as we finish and I will let you know.



Question: And if you have any “in” with them, and if you get them to sit where you are, that would be very good.



Spokesperson: Sure.



Question: How was her speech received?



Spokesperson: I was watching it on Al-Jazeera this morning, and it was fairly well-received.



Question: Did everybody applaud? Was there full applause? Or was it... I’m wondering.

Spokesperson: Al-Jazeera moved to live news at the end of her speech, so I cannot tell you if there was wide applause or not. I suspect that it’s a regularly courteous thing to do when the leaders speak. They applaud each other when they finish.



Question: One would hope.



Spokesperson: They do.



Question: I hope so.



Spokesperson: Anything else? Thank you.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070328.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 29 2007, 06:03 PM
SECURITY COUNCIL PRESS STATEMENT ON IRAN




The following statement to the press was delivered today by the President of the Security Council, Dumisani S. Kumalo ( South Africa):



Members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the capture by the Revolutionary Guard, and the continuing detention by the Government of Iran, of 15 United Kingdom naval personnel, and appealed to the Government of Iran to allow consular access, in terms of the relevant international laws.



Members of the Security Council support calls, including by the Secretary-General in his 29 March meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, for an early resolution of this problem, including the release of the 15 United Kingdom personnel.

http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs//2007/sc8989.doc.htm

Posted by: batmanchester Mar 30 2007, 05:36 PM
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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



**The Secretary-General in Lebanon



The Secretary-General met today in Lebanon with many key leaders, including Prime Minister Fouad Siniora and Speaker of the Assembly Nabih Berri, and stressed to all the leaders the need to engage in dialogue for the purpose of promoting national reconciliation.



Following his meeting with Nabih Berri, the Secretary-General said they had discussed cooperation with the UN Force in Lebanon, UNIFIL, as well as the issue of the special tribunal of an international character. He emphasized his commitment to the establishment of that tribunal as soon as possible, saying that he welcomes Lebanese national consensus on the tribunal, but stresses the importance of moving forward on this issue.



Later, the Secretary-General held a meeting with Prime Minister Siniora, which began with a political meeting, after which he had the opportunity to confer with many ministers in the Cabinet and then held a meeting focused on security issues. He told reporters afterwards that he was disappointed that the political crisis that has now lasted some four months has not been resolved, and he added that the path of dialogue and compromise has to be the way forward out of this impasse. He also noted the continued Israeli overflights of Lebanon, saying, “These violations of Lebanese sovereignty must stop.”



The Secretary-General also met with other Lebanese political leaders, including Saad Hariri and Walid Jumblatt.



We have the Secretary-General’s comments following several of his meetings upstairs and on the web, as well as a press release from UNIFIL providing an update on the work being done by its nearly 13,000 peacekeepers.



**Security Council



The Security Council today extended the mandate of the UN Mission in Liberia by six months, until the end of September.



Yesterday, following the end of consultations, the Council President, Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo of South Africa, told the press that members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the capture by the Revolutionary Guard, and the continuing detention by the Government of Iran, of 15 UK naval personnel, and appealed to the Government of Iran to allow consular access, in terms of the relevant international law.



He added that Council members support calls, including by the Secretary-General in his 29 March meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, for an early resolution of this problem, including the release of the 15 UK personnel.



The Council President also read out a press statement on Guinea-Bissau, saying that members of the Council expressed concern about the continuing political and social tensions there and called on the parties to resolve their differences through dialogue and strict respect for the constitutional framework.



Today is the last day of scheduled meetings under the Council Presidency of South Africa. The United Kingdom will assume the rotating Presidency of the Council for the month of April, and the Security Council is expected to hold its first consultations for that month on Tuesday, to discuss the programme of work. We expect that the Council President for April, UK Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry, will talk to you in this room about the Council’s work during April next Tuesday, tentatively at 11 a.m.



**Rights of the Disabled



The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol were formally opened for signature earlier today at an event in the General Assembly Hall in the presence of Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro. In her remarks to the gathering, the Deputy Secretary-General said that the Convention went from dream to reality in three short years. It is the first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century, and the fastest negotiated international human rights instrument in history, she said.



She also expressed confidence that the Convention would relatively easily garner the 20 signatures that are required for its entry into force and she urged Member States to sign it, noting that around the world today fewer than 50 countries have specific legislation that protects persons with disabilities.



And at 12:45 this afternoon, there will be a press conference on the opening for signature of that Convention. Here to brief you will be the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour; the Vice-President of Ecuador, Lenin Moreno; New Zealand’s Minister for Disabilities Issues, Ruth Dyson; Mexico’s Under-Secretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, Juan Manuel Gómez Robledo and Yannis Vardakastanis from the International Disability Caucus. So in just about half an hour from now.



** Central African Republic



The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, is in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, today, after spending the morning visiting some of the areas most affected by civil conflict in the northern part of that country.

Holmes said that the UN plans to establish coordination offices in these remote areas since one of the greatest challenges for humanitarian workers is reaching people in need. Tens of thousands of people are hiding in the bush, the road system is degraded, and there are few NGO partners on the ground, he added.



And we have a press release on that upstairs.



** Chad



Meanwhile, in nearby Chad, the World Food Programme (WFP) is warning that thousands of displaced Chadians in the eastern border region with Sudan are running out of food. WFP had planned to feed some 50,000 displaced persons but, because of continuing conflict and instability in the region, that number has almost tripled. WFP says it needs more than $7 million to provide additional food for the next six months.



And we have more in a press release upstairs.



** Haiti



The UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) says that its Justice Section has so far helped to train a total of 334 judges and registrars working in 16 districts as part of an effort to strengthen the rule of law and the Haitian judiciary.



The programme, which was begun in August 2006, aims to deepen local judges’ and registrars’ understanding of the rules and regulations of the Peace Tribunals, with a view to improving and streamlining the administration of the tribunals and reducing the backlog in pending cases, among other goals. And that programme is run jointly with the International Organization of la Francophonie and the US National Center of States Court.



**Human Rights Council



From Geneva, the Human Rights Council today concluded its fourth session, adopting nine resolutions and decisions including, by consensus, one on Darfur, in which it expressed deep concern about the seriousness of the ongoing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law there.



In addition, the Council decided to convene a group, to be presided over by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Sudan, to work with the Sudanese Government and African Union mechanisms to monitor the situation on the ground and follow up existing resolutions and recommendations.



Other human rights resolutions and decisions adopted today addressed unilateral coercive measures, international cooperation, globalization, intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief, and the right to development.



**United Nations Population Fund



From the UN Population Fund, we have information that the Malawi Government today launched the first African Road Map to combat maternal and infant death. Every day, 16 Malawian women die due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth. The new Road Map provides strategies that will reduce these numbers and ensure that women go through pregnancy, childbirth and post-delivery safely, while also ensuring that their babies are alive and healthy.



And we have a press release from UNFPA upstairs with more details.



**UNESCO/Press Freedom Prize



For the first time, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is giving its annual press freedom award posthumously, to Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. She was killed in front of her Moscow home last October.



The award jury for the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize cited Ms. Politkovskaya’s “incredible courage and stubbornness in chronicling events in Chechnya after the whole world had given up on that conflict”.



And we have more in a press release upstairs.



**The Week Ahead



We will have upstairs for you The Week Ahead. Among the events taking place next week: our guest at the noon on Monday will be Mr. Eloho Otobo from the UN Economic Commission for Africa, who will brief you on their “Economic Report on Africa 2007”, which is to be launched in Addis Ababa the following day .



We will also have a press conference on Monday at 11:00 am, sponsored by the Ugandan Mission to the United Nations on the International Summit of Grandparents and Kinship Caregivers. The guest speaker will be the recording artist Patti Page. The following NGOs will also participate: the National Committee of Grandparents for Children’s Rights, the AARP, the Child Welfare League of America, the Grand Magazine, and the Florida Kinship Center-University of South Florida.



That is it for me, are there any questions?



**Questions and Answers



Question: Does the Secretary-General have any updated statement on the unrest in Somalia, in Mogadishu, right now?



Associate Spokesperson: No. The statement that we put out yesterday is what stands. Obviously, in that statement, he had expressed his concern at what was a significant escalation of the fighting on the ground in Mogadishu. And his Special Representative, François Lonseny Fall, also expressed his concerns, as we noted yesterday. Mr. Fall is continuing to follow-up. But today, as yesterday, the fighting is a cause for concern by us.



Question: Just a follow-up. Is the Secretary-General making any phone calls with reference to this? Is he speaking to the Organization of the Islamic Conference or...?



Associate Spokesperson: I don’t want to get too ahead of ourselves, but I do expect that in the coming few days he will in fact be making phone calls on this. But I’ll be able to give you the details once those have actually happened. But yes, he does intend to take this matter up with a number of leaders.



Question: Regarding the implementation of [resolution] 1701, is Mr. Ban Ki-moon going to visit the border areas with Syria or with Israel in the south?



Associate Spokesperson: He will in fact be visiting southern Lebanon tomorrow. He’ll make a tour of the area and we’ll have some information about that at the time. But yes, he will also be visiting the UNIFIL zone and will tour certain areas by helicopter.



Question: Will he meet anyone from Hezbollah in Lebanon?



Associate Spokesperson: I’ll see what the further meetings for today are. I know that among the other meetings scheduled are with some different members of Cabinet. And he is meeting across a wide spectrum of parties.



Question: Does the United Nations have anything to report, any progress, on the Iran-Britain standoff? Any progress at all that the Secretary-General has?



Associate Spokesperson: We don’t have anything particularly further to say beyond what I just read of the press statement that was read out by the President of the Security Council. Obviously, we’re continuing to monitor the situation.



Question: Since then, nothing?



Associate Spokesperson: We’re continuing to monitor the situation. You, of course, can also tell from the statements by the respective Governments where they stand on this.



Question: Yesterday, the Secretariat’s briefer about Zimbabwe to the Security Council was asked if he thought the situation in Zimbabwe was a threat to international peace and security. And he said that he does not think that it is. I’m wondering if that is the Secretariat’s position?



Associate Spokesperson: The Secretariat has mentioned in the past certain possible problems, including problems that could go across the border. However, we haven’t given any evaluation to the Security Council in terms of whether or not this constitutes a threat to international peace and security. And it’s up to the Security Council, of course, to determine these things. So, in some ways, it would be better to ask the members of the Security Council whether they are discussing, or whether they have any view, on whether this does constitute such a threat.



Question: I will do that as well. And there’s also another thing that came out of the Council yesterday: it’s that, back to the Secretariat, on Kosovo, there’s a discussion of getting a report for the Council about the implementation of resolution 1244, the original Kosovo resolution. But they said it’s up to the Secretariat to actually produce that report. Are you aware of that? That seems to be a precondition for going forward.



Associate Spokesperson: If the Council formally requests a report, obviously we always comply with that. So we would await any request for such a report.



Question: You’re not aware of such a request?



Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, the next event, which may happen as early as next week depending on when Council Members agree to it, would be the report by Mr. [Martti] Ahtisaari, on the question of final status. And, like I told you yesterday, Mr. Ahtisaari has made it clear that, once he talks to the Council, he’ll be willing to talk to you about that topic as well.



Question: Is that report that Matthew mentioned going to be a report from the Secretariat, or a United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) report, or just a specific report on Security Council resolution 1244? Who is going to do it?



Associate Spokesperson: We would have to see what and whether the Security Council would request any such report. Depending on what the Council wants, obviously.



Question: Yes, but we really don’t have, now, a clear picture of what is this report. Is that an UNMIK report? Or it’s a special additional report that has to be produced?



Associate Spokesperson: UNMIK already produces regular reports. We give the Security Council regular reports on the work that’s being done by UNMIK. If there is any need for any other sort of report, having to do with resolution 1244 and its implementation and its follow-up, we would await any request from the Security Council for what kind of information they’re looking for.



Question: You had a readout on the Human Rights Council. I was just wondering, does the Secretary-General have any remarks, especially in regard to Darfur and that resolution?



Associate Spokesperson: Well, in terms of the resolution: as you know, the Secretary-General has called for the Human Rights Council to branch out and look at a range of human rights issues, rather than focus narrowly on just one or two countries. So, it’s clearly a good sign that they’re able to deal with issues like Darfur. Beyond that, Louise Arbour is actually in the building now. In fact, she’ll be talking to you on disability rights at 12:45.



Question: But the question is specifically about the Secretary-General. Because I’ve read the resolution and it’s very weak, on reading it. So the question is: does the Secretary-General, in terms of not accommodating what Jody Williams had mentioned in the Mission and what their findings were -- they were barred by Khartoum and things like that -- so, is the Secretary-General at least expressing some sort of judgment on what…?



Associate Spokesperson: I haven’t spoken to him directly about the contents of this particular resolution. But certainly the Member States of the Human Rights Council were able to come to an agreement. It was an agreement that was satisfactory to all the Members of the Council. That, at least, is a step forward in terms of trying to get them to deal with this issue, and we hope they will continue to deal with this issue.



Question: Regarding [resolution] 1701, again: Obviously, Mr. Ban Ki-moon has pointed out that Israel continues to defy the international community’s wish to stop overflights over Lebanon. What’s the next step? Israel has been criticized for this for many months, but no action has been taken. Is Mr. Ban Ki-moon going to recommend, for example, bringing it before the Security Council?



Associate Spokesperson: At this stage, we already inform the Council regularly of any violations of resolution 1701, including overflights across the Blue Line. So, they are informed of that. And, as you know, I just read out what the Secretary-General had to say about this, which is that these violations of Lebanese sovereignty must stop.



Question: So am I to interpret from what you just said that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is satisfied that the people of Darfur are getting justice and that their human rights are being protected?



Associate Spokesperson: As I said, I haven’t heard from him specifically about the text of this resolution. Of course, the main person in the United Nations system dealing with human rights will be talking to you in just about 20 minutes from now. You can always -- although most of the questions will be about disabilities, I’m sure -- but you can ask her about that.



Question: In trying to follow up on yesterday’s noon briefing -- your answer to Mr. Pincas Jawetz: in essence, are you saying that he has no right to a judicial forum? And if so, isn’t that in contradiction to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which says everybody has a right to a competent judicial forum, and Section 29 of the Convention on Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, where the United Nations is required to provide a judicial forum for disputes, not only for contracts, not only for staff, but for everybody else?



Associate Spokesperson: Mr. Jawetz, like every other person who has applied for a press pass in this building, goes through a process, which includes a process of review by the Department of Public Information. They actually gave him an opportunity, after November, to have a period of several more months in which his pass was extended, so that he could show that he could submit any actual, original copy. After that period passed, and they did not receive any original copy, he didn’t get any further extension. It’s quite possible that he can continue to try in the coming months or the coming years to apply and to provide any evidence of any journalistic copy. But this discussion is really, essentially, about the question of “Are there any criteria at all by which we give out press passes”?



Question: Without getting into the substance of...



Associate Spokesperson: But he has availed himself of a process, and I assure you that his rights have been respected, and he has been treated with respect.



Question: But the Department of Public Information is not a judicial body. I’m saying the right to a competent judicial forum.



Associate Spokesperson: I think you’re going off on a bit of a tangent. His rights have been respected under the same sort of process that other journalists in this building face or would face.



Question: One thing on that, and something else on a follow-up on Jonathan’s question. I think yesterday you’d said that it was a joint decision by the Department of Public Information and the United Nations Correspondents Association. And I asked Mr. [Ahmad] Fawzi, and there was an on-the-record quote from him that it was the Department of Public Information’s decision. And in this meeting with the United Nations Correspondents Association, he said, “We are informing you, as a matter of courtesy.” So I wanted to ask you, is that your understanding as well?



Associate Spokesperson: And what Mr. Fawzi told me was that the United Nations Correspondents Association was informed and they raised no objection. I checked with Tuyet, who said that that was an accurate description. So in other words, the United Nations Correspondents Association was...



Question: Just to be clear: at the meeting, Mr. Fawzi said to the United Nations Correspondents Association people present, “As a courtesy, we are informing you of a decision we are about to take.” That was a direct quote that was sent to Mr. Fawzi for his commenting. It’s on tape.



[Another speaker] Actually, the former President of the United Nations Correspondents Association and the current President, they raised an objection. They said that it’s not our -- UNCA’s -- decision but it’s a decision of the Department of Public Information. Mr. Halder is here, and Tuyet is there. They raised an objection.



Associate Spokesperson: I was told that there hadn’t been any actual objection raised.



Question: Can I ask something about the Human Rights Council? There’s some controversy about an incident that took place. The U.N. Watch, a non-governmental organization accredited to the Human Rights Council, read a statement about human rights and was told by the Chair of the Human Rights Council that he wouldn’t be thanked for his statement and such statements would be stricken in the future. This is circulating quite widely, actually. So I’m wondering if the Secretariat has any position on whether -- it’s because he criticized, I guess, some things about the Council -- whether statements can be stricken from the record. Given the importance of the Human Rights Council to the United Nations system as a whole, you’re not aware of that?



Associate Spokesperson: I’m not aware of it. I’d need some more information. So I’ll get in touch with my colleagues in Geneva.



[He later told correspondents that the statement had not been stricken from the record.]



If that’s it, I wish you all a happy weekend and to remember that, at 12:45, we’ll have the briefing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in this room.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070330.doc.htm

Posted by: Stronghold1 Apr 3 2007, 05:31 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.



**Guest at Noon



Good afternoon. Our guest at the briefing today is Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Mr. Guéhenno will brief you on the International Day for Landmine Awareness, which will be observed tomorrow.



On that subject, we have an embargoed copy of the Secretary-General’s message for the day in my Office.



**Security Council



The Security Council this morning held its first consultations for the month of April, agreeing on its programme of work for the month. The Council President for April, Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom, will speak to you in this room at 12:45 about the Council’s work during the coming month.



Among the things the Council discussed this morning was the format of discussions they will have this afternoon concerning the report on the final status of Kosovo, which is to be presented by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari.



The Council is about to adopt a presidential statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo before resuming consultations in a few minutes.



Ambassador Jones Parry can tell you more precisely how this afternoon’s discussions will be held. Meanwhile, Mr. Ahtisaari has made clear that he intends to speak to you at the Council stakeout once he has briefed the Security Council, and we will squawk when that happens.



**Kosovo



Also on Kosovo, we have a press release from the UN Mission on how the Customs Service has been transferred today from the Mission to local customs officials.



**OCHA -- Solomon Islands



A team from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination unit has been deployed to the Solomon Islands in response to yesterday’s devastating tsunami, which was caused by a large underwater earthquake, followed by some 27 aftershocks.



The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the tsunami has caused the deaths of at least 28 people, with 19 injured and some 5,400 forced to flee their homes. Many more remain unaccounted for and search-and-rescue operations continue.



Solomon Islands authorities, who declared a state of emergency, estimate that 1,000 houses were destroyed on Choiseul Island. That estimate was based on an aerial assessment conducted yesterday. More information has been hard to obtain because of communication outages and difficulties of access.



Seismological experts, meanwhile, warn of a high possibility of further large earthquakes in the days to come.



**OCHA –- Funding



The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it has provided some $130 million worth of life-saving aid during the first quarter of this year through its year-old Central Emergency Response Fund.



The money is being used to pay for everything from food, clothing and shelter, to vaccines and other medicines. The largest recipient of funding was Mozambique, where nearly $11 million helped in the response to severe flooding in the Zambezi River Valley and destruction caused by tropical cyclone Favio.



We have more information in a press release upstairs.



** Somalia



On Somalia, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is deeply concerned about the high number of civilian deaths and injuries in the recent hostilities in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Reportedly, these were the result of indiscriminate attacks and aerial bombardments in populated areas.



The High Commissioner also condemns the repeated cases of desecration of bodies witnessed in recent days. She urges the parties to respect international humanitarian law and reminds them of their duty to protect the human rights of civilians at all times. This included granting civilians safe passage and allowing humanitarian agents to reach those who had been affected.



Meanwhile, UNHCR says that nearly 100,000 Somalis were now believed to have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February, some 47,000 of them within the last two weeks alone. And the World Food Programme (WFP) calls on all the warring parties to stop fighting and to allow access to humanitarian agencies so that aid could reach those in need.



We have more details in the Geneva briefing notes.



**UNHCR -- Chad



Turning to Chad, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it is dealing with a new wave of displacement in the south-eastern part of the country, following a deadly attack over the weekend on two villages.



According to the eyewitnesses interviewed thus far, the attack was led by Janjaweed militia, who were fought off by local self-defence militias and national army soldiers.



** Cambodia



On Cambodia, the international judges serving on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia today presented the President of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Chambers with a letter, which informs the Cambodian judges of their decision not to hold a judicial plenary session to adopt the internal rules of the court this month.



The international judges believe the Cambodian Bar's proposed first year fee for lawyers of $4,900 would create a prohibitive entry cost and was not in line with accepted practice at the international level. And they emphasized that the window of opportunity to hold a plenary on the court’s rules is closing quickly and they simply cannot allow for endless delays.



We have the full press release upstairs.



** Timor -Leste –- Election Observers



Counting down to the 9 April presidential elections in Timor-Leste, nearly 1,900 national observers from more than 50 Timorese organizations have registered to observe the voting, which will take place at some 500 polling centres in 13 districts throughout the country.



The United Nations Representative for Electoral Support, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said observers provide a valuable role in ensuring that the elections are free, fair and transparent while meeting national and international standards.



The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste says, in addition to national observers, 180 international observers will be accredited by the electoral authorities representing around 20 national delegations and organizations.



**UNESCO -- BBC Journalist



The Director-General of UNESCO is calling for the release of a BBC journalist who was abducted in the Gaza Strip three weeks ago.



Koichiro Matsuura also spoke out against the proliferation of hostage-taking involving members of the media in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which he said poses a threat to freedom of expression.



“When a journalist is abducted, the whole of society is taken hostage,” he said. We have copies of his statement upstairs.



I’ll take your questions now. This is all I have for you. As I mentioned earlier, at 12:20, we’ll have Mr. Guéhenno here with you.



**Questions and Answers



Question: Do you have any update on the report that the Americans have released these Iranian diplomats which were captured by them around three or four weeks ago.



Spokesperson: I don’t have any more on that.



Question: No update on that?



Spokesperson: No, not on the side of the UN.



Question: The Saudi cabinet issued a statement today that Israel should accept the Arab peace plan that was discussed this past week with Ban Ki-moon at the summit in Riyadh before they go to direct talks. And I was wondering if the Secretary-General had any comments on that?



Spokesperson: No, he does not at this point.



Question: What is the procedure now with immunity when it comes to investigations of suspected wrongdoings at UNDP? Is that up to the Secretary-General to resort immunity if it comes to that?



Spokesperson: Well, I think there are rules governing immunity, and the Legal Department can probably give you more on that.



Question: And what are those rules?



Spokesperson: I said they can give you more on that. I don’t have these rules with me.



Question: In the briefing this morning, Peter Boyle said he found it shocking that smoking was still allowed in the UN building. I was wondering if you can tell us what exactly is the official position on that. There are signs saying that it’s not allowed -– that’s precisely where people smoke. Is there anything going on internally in the building with regard to this matter?



Spokesperson: No, actually, the rule is the same. There is supposedly no smoking in the building. Whether it occurs is a question to be addressed, I think, by the Member States. That rule was adopted, as you know, by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And you’re right -- it’s not being enforced totally in the building. But the rule remains.



Question: I don’t know, Michèle, if Mr. Vojislav Kostunica met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and if he did, what would be the readout of that meeting. And also, there is one letter back in January that was written by the Prime Minister of Serbia to the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. I wonder if we can get a copy of that letter -- if we can see that letter regarding Kosovo -– back in January, I don’t know the date.



Spokesperson: Well, I think those are different issues. You can ask Mr. Ahtisaari about them. In terms of the letter itself, I will confirm for you whether it was received or not and what was done about it. As for the meeting, as you know, he will be also in the consultations first and the open meeting on Kosovo. And I hope you will have also…



Question: Who will be?



Spokesperson: I’m talking about the President.



Question: You mean Kostunica? What about -- did he meet Ban Ki-moon?



Spokesperson: Yes, he did meet Mr. Ban Ki-moon.



Question: What is the…?



Spokesperson: I don’t have a reading on that yet. It was this morning.



Question: One follow-up to Benny and another question. Maybe you’ll answer this. If UNDP officials decline to speak on a voluntary basis with prosecutors about the counterfeit matter at UNDP, would Ban Ki-moon consider lifting immunity?



Spokesperson: I’m sorry. Your “if” is a big “if”. From what I know, they’re collaborating with federal investigators. So there are no “ifs” here.



If you have further questions about UNDP and the situation of the fake money, then you can talk to David Morrison.



And further to your recent questions about the work being done in auditing UN activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we have been informed by the Audit Operations Committee of the UN Board of Auditors that last week, the Committee completed the preparatory portion of the DPRK assignment, which was being done here at Headquarters as you know. A scoping report, which would determine the parameters of what is being audited, is currently being drafted for further consideration by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). That was in answer to your question yesterday.



Question: Will that be made public?



Spokesperson: You have to wait for it to be over first.



Question: There was a quote by the head of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, saying he spoke with Ban Ki-moon about the Fijian peacekeepers, and again asked him to either enforce or implement the idea that peacekeepers, following the coup, wouldn’t be used by DPKO. He said, and I’m not sure if it’s true or not, “Don, we need the peacekeepers”, Mr. Ban said. Did Mr. Ban say that?



Spokesperson: I cannot confirm this at this point. I cannot confirm this at this point.



I think we have to stop here because Mr. Guéhenno is with us right now.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070403.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 4 2007, 02:56 PM
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Guest at Noon

Good afternoon. Our guest at the briefing today is Jean-Marie Guéhenno, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations. Mr. Guéhenno will brief you on the International Day for Landmine Awareness, which will be observed tomorrow.

On that subject, we have an embargoed copy of the Secretary-General’s message for the day in my Office.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held its first consultations for the month of April, agreeing on its programme of work for the month. The Council President for April, Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry of the United Kingdom, will speak to you in this room at 12:45 about the Council’s work during the coming month.

Among the things the Council discussed this morning was the format of discussions they will have this afternoon concerning the report on the final status of Kosovo, which is to be presented by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Martti Ahtisaari.

The Council is about to adopt a presidential statement on the Democratic Republic of the Congo before resuming consultations in a few minutes.

Ambassador Jones Parry can tell you more precisely how this afternoon’s discussions will be held. Meanwhile, Mr. Ahtisaari has made clear that he intends to speak to you at the Council stakeout once he has briefed the Security Council, and we will squawk when that happens.

**Kosovo

Also on Kosovo, we have a press release from the UN Mission on how the Customs Service has been transferred today from the Mission to local customs officials.

**OCHA -- Solomon Islands

A team from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination unit has been deployed to the Solomon Islands in response to yesterday’s devastating tsunami, which was caused by a large underwater earthquake, followed by some 27 aftershocks.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that the tsunami has caused the deaths of at least 28 people, with 19 injured and some 5,400 forced to flee their homes. Many more remain unaccounted for and search-and-rescue operations continue.

Solomon Islands authorities, who declared a state of emergency, estimate that 1,000 houses were destroyed on Choiseul Island. That estimate was based on an aerial assessment conducted yesterday. More information has been hard to obtain because of communication outages and difficulties of access.

Seismological experts, meanwhile, warn of a high possibility of further large earthquakes in the days to come.

**OCHA –- Funding

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says it has provided some $130 million worth of life-saving aid during the first quarter of this year through its year-old Central Emergency Response Fund.

The money is being used to pay for everything from food, clothing and shelter, to vaccines and other medicines. The largest recipient of funding was Mozambique, where nearly $11 million helped in the response to severe flooding in the Zambezi River Valley and destruction caused by tropical cyclone Favio.

We have more information in a press release upstairs.

** Somalia

On Somalia, High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour is deeply concerned about the high number of civilian deaths and injuries in the recent hostilities in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Reportedly, these were the result of indiscriminate attacks and aerial bombardments in populated areas.

The High Commissioner also condemns the repeated cases of desecration of bodies witnessed in recent days. She urges the parties to respect international humanitarian law and reminds them of their duty to protect the human rights of civilians at all times. This included granting civilians safe passage and allowing humanitarian agents to reach those who had been affected.

Meanwhile, UNHCR says that nearly 100,000 Somalis were now believed to have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February, some 47,000 of them within the last two weeks alone. And the World Food Programme (WFP) calls on all the warring parties to stop fighting and to allow access to humanitarian agencies so that aid could reach those in need.

We have more details in the Geneva briefing notes.

**UNHCR -- Chad

Turning to Chad, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says it is dealing with a new wave of displacement in the south-eastern part of the country, following a deadly attack over the weekend on two villages.

According to the eyewitnesses interviewed thus far, the attack was led by Janjaweed militia, who were fought off by local self-defence militias and national army soldiers.

** Cambodia

On Cambodia, the international judges serving on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia today presented the President of the Supreme Court Chamber of the Chambers with a letter, which informs the Cambodian judges of their decision not to hold a judicial plenary session to adopt the internal rules of the court this month.

The international judges believe the Cambodian Bar's proposed first year fee for lawyers of $4,900 would create a prohibitive entry cost and was not in line with accepted practice at the international level. And they emphasized that the window of opportunity to hold a plenary on the court’s rules is closing quickly and they simply cannot allow for endless delays.

We have the full press release upstairs.

** Timor -Leste –- Election Observers

Counting down to the 9 April presidential elections in Timor-Leste, nearly 1,900 national observers from more than 50 Timorese organizations have registered to observe the voting, which will take place at some 500 polling centres in 13 districts throughout the country.

The United Nations Representative for Electoral Support, Finn Reske-Nielsen, said observers provide a valuable role in ensuring that the elections are free, fair and transparent while meeting national and international standards.

The UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste says, in addition to national observers, 180 international observers will be accredited by the electoral authorities representing around 20 national delegations and organizations.

**UNESCO -- BBC Journalist

The Director-General of UNESCO is calling for the release of a BBC journalist who was abducted in the Gaza Strip three weeks ago.

Koichiro Matsuura also spoke out against the proliferation of hostage-taking involving members of the media in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which he said poses a threat to freedom of expression.

“When a journalist is abducted, the whole of society is taken hostage,” he said. We have copies of his statement upstairs.

I’ll take your questions now. This is all I have for you. As I mentioned earlier, at 12:20, we’ll have Mr. Guéhenno here with you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have any update on the report that the Americans have released these Iranian diplomats which were captured by them around three or four weeks ago.

Spokesperson: I don’t have any more on that.

Question: No update on that?

Spokesperson: No, not on the side of the UN.

Question: The Saudi cabinet issued a statement today that Israel should accept the Arab peace plan that was discussed this past week with Ban Ki-moon at the summit in Riyadh before they go to direct talks. And I was wondering if the Secretary-General had any comments on that?

Spokesperson: No, he does not at this point.

Question: What is the procedure now with immunity when it comes to investigations of suspected wrongdoings at UNDP? Is that up to the Secretary-General to resort immunity if it comes to that?

Spokesperson: Well, I think there are rules governing immunity, and the Legal Department can probably give you more on that.

Question: And what are those rules?

Spokesperson: I said they can give you more on that. I don’t have these rules with me.

Question: In the briefing this morning, Peter Boyle said he found it shocking that smoking was still allowed in the UN building. I was wondering if you can tell us what exactly is the official position on that. There are signs saying that it’s not allowed -– that’s precisely where people smoke. Is there anything going on internally in the building with regard to this matter?

Spokesperson: No, actually, the rule is the same. There is supposedly no smoking in the building. Whether it occurs is a question to be addressed, I think, by the Member States. That rule was adopted, as you know, by Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And you’re right -- it’s not being enforced totally in the building. But the rule remains.

Question: I don’t know, Michèle, if Mr. Vojislav Kostunica met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and if he did, what would be the readout of that meeting. And also, there is one letter back in January that was written by the Prime Minister of Serbia to the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. I wonder if we can get a copy of that letter -- if we can see that letter regarding Kosovo -– back in January, I don’t know the date.

Spokesperson: Well, I think those are different issues. You can ask Mr. Ahtisaari about them. In terms of the letter itself, I will confirm for you whether it was received or not and what was done about it. As for the meeting, as you know, he will be also in the consultations first and the open meeting on Kosovo. And I hope you will have also…

Question: Who will be?

Spokesperson: I’m talking about the President.

Question: You mean Kostunica? What about -- did he meet Ban Ki-moon?

Spokesperson: Yes, he did meet Mr. Ban Ki-moon.

Question: What is the…?

Spokesperson: I don’t have a reading on that yet. It was this morning.

Question: One follow-up to Benny and another question. Maybe you’ll answer this. If UNDP officials decline to speak on a voluntary basis with prosecutors about the counterfeit matter at UNDP, would Ban Ki-moon consider lifting immunity?

Spokesperson: I’m sorry. Your “if” is a big “if”. From what I know, they’re collaborating with federal investigators. So there are no “ifs” here.

If you have further questions about UNDP and the situation of the fake money, then you can talk to David Morrison.

And further to your recent questions about the work being done in auditing UN activities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we have been informed by the Audit Operations Committee of the UN Board of Auditors that last week, the Committee completed the preparatory portion of the DPRK assignment, which was being done here at Headquarters as you know. A scoping report, which would determine the parameters of what is being audited, is currently being drafted for further consideration by the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). That was in answer to your question yesterday.

Question: Will that be made public?

Spokesperson: You have to wait for it to be over first.

Question: There was a quote by the head of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon, saying he spoke with Ban Ki-moon about the Fijian peacekeepers, and again asked him to either enforce or implement the idea that peacekeepers, following the coup, wouldn’t be used by DPKO. He said, and I’m not sure if it’s true or not, “Don, we need the peacekeepers”, Mr. Ban said. Did Mr. Ban say that?

Spokesperson: I cannot confirm this at this point. I cannot confirm this at this point.

I think we have to stop here because Mr. Guéhenno is with us right now.

Posted by: mynameis Apr 5 2007, 08:54 PM
COMMISSION ON POPULATION AND DEVELOPMENT TO FOCUS ON OPPORTUNITIES OFFERED

BY WORLD DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT, DURING 9-13 APRIL MEETING AT HEADQUARTERS

NEW YORK, 5 April (United Nations Population Division) -- The ongoing profound changes in the structure of world population offer a unique window of opportunity that countries should seize, the Population Division argues in a report prepared for the Commission on Population and Development, which will meet from 9 to 13 April at United Nations Headquarters.

According to a Secretary-General’s report on the changing age structures of populations and their implications for development (document E/CN.9/2007/3), as fertility declines, there will be an increasing number of producers per effective consumer at the global level and, as societies age, there is the potential for increasing their wealth as people save more in preparation for a longer retirement period.

Because of the number of producers per effective consumer increases during the first stages of population ageing, says the report, the countries that find themselves still at those stages have a window of opportunity that may last between 40 and 60 years. As fertility declines from high to intermediate levels and the proportion of persons of working age increases, it is possible to reap a “demographic dividend” by increasing production and improving the living standard of the whole population -- if enough jobs are generated for the increasing workforce.

Further population ageing could lead to increases in productivity and wealth, the report says. As people live longer, they are expected to accumulate enough wealth to cover consumptions needs after retirement -- hence leading to greater investment that may itself contribute to raise productivity and earnings.

The Commission on Population and Development will focus on these trends and their consequences when it meets for its fortieth session to discuss “The changing age structures of populations and their implications for development”.

Three keynote speakers will address the session. Ronald Lee, professor of demography and economics at the University of California-Berkeley, will speak on 9 April on the economic and demographic aspects of intergenerational transfers; Somnath Chatterji, head of the World Health Organization Multi-Country Studies team, will, on 10 April, address the health aspects of ageing; and Nyovani Madise, senior researcher at the African Population and Health Research Centre in Nairobi, will, on 11 April, focus on Africa’s young populations.

A press conference on 11 April at 1:15 p.m. will feature two of the keynote speakers, Dr. Chatterji and Dr. Madise.

Changing Age Structures and Their Implications for Development

Countries could benefit from the ageing of their populations if they take advantage of the opportunities offered by the current demographic transition, says the report of the Secretary-General on world population monitoring, focusing on the changing age structures of populations and their implications for development (document E/CN.9/2007/3).

The effects of the demographic transition on population age structures can be divided into three stages. During the first, there is a rejuvenation of the age distribution, as the proportion of children (persons under age 15) increases. During the second, triggered by fertility reductions, the proportion of children begins to decline, while the proportions of adults and older persons (persons over 60) rise. During the third, the proportions of both children and adults of working age decline, and only the proportion of older persons rises, as a result of long-term reductions in both fertility and mortality.

During the transition’s second stage, working-age adults constitute a significantly larger proportion of the total population than during the first stage, so that the number of potential workers per dependant (children and older persons) increases for a certain period until it reaches a maximum. During this period, a population is optimally placed to benefit from productive investment, because its levels of economic dependency are low and there are relatively more potential workers to support dependants.

In this stage of “demographic dividend” and “demographic window of opportunity”, possibilities present themselves for raising a country’s rate of economic growth and living standards. Consumption per effective consumer can rise at the same time as the share of gross domestic product consumed declines, and a larger share of national output can be shifted from consumption into investment without sacrificing living standards.

In addition, as people realize that their prospects for living longer are improving, the demand for resources to support consumption in old age emerges. At this early stage of the ageing process, countries can most easily establish an institutional framework that fosters wealth accumulation, thus setting the stage for a second demographic dividend. This dividend arises from the improving balance of asset-holders to workers, producing higher wealth per producer, which can boost labour productivity and raise asset income -- albeit at the cost of an initial phase of slower consumption growth. Unlike the first dividend, which is transitory, the second dividend can be a permanent feature of an older population.

Reaping the benefits provided by the two dividends depends on developing sound macroeconomic policies that promote savings and productive investment, increase employment and ensure a stable socio-economic environment facilitating sustained growth. One of the challenges during the window of opportunity is to educate and provide employment for the rapidly growing youth population (persons aged 15-24). In addition, societies that are advanced in the second stage need to plan for rapid population ageing by developing policies in areas such as health care provision and support to older persons.

Population ageing is pervasive and unavoidable. By 2050, the proportion of people aged 60 will have doubled and their number will reach 2 billion -- three times what it is today. Europe currently has the oldest population, with older persons accounting for 21 per cent of the population and children for 15 per cent. Africa has the youngest population, with older persons representing just 5 per cent of the population and children accounting for 41 per cent.

While Africa can look forward to a longer window of opportunity if its fertility decline continues, Europe and Northern America are no longer likely to benefit from the expected changes in age structure, because both are already well advanced in the population ageing process. Oceania will soon be in the same position as Europe and Northern America, while Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean have a couple of decades to benefit from the window of opportunity.

To take advantage of the opportunity provided by a relative increase of resources vis-à-vis consumption, countries should focus on promoting savings and on investing in both productive and human capital -- by allocating resources to the education and health of both the young and the old.

With pension reform at the top of Governments’ agendas, the report recommends a pension system consisting of a mandatory, publicly managed, unfunded pillar and a mandatory, publicly or privately managed, funded pillar that should include supplemental voluntary privately funded schemes. Such a system would provide the institutional framework best suited to promote wealth accumulation by current workers, and thus make more likely the realization of the second demographic dividend. To promote equity, solidarity principles should guide the operation of the system under the first pillar.

Among the other recommendations:

-- Governments should facilitate or direct the accumulation of wealth to cover consumption at older ages by setting up appropriate mechanisms to promote savings and investment, including the addition of a funded component to existing pension systems.

-- Governments should focus on intergenerational transfers and the institutions that support them, in order to ensure intergenerational equity.

-- To accrue the potential benefits of increasing support ratios, investments should be made in the education of children and youth, and in the generation of sufficient jobs for the growing labour force.

-- All countries will need to address one consequence of increased longevity, the number of persons requiring care because of disability or severe health conditions. In particular, with the main causes of death changing, developing countries need to prepare for the burden of ill health associated with the persistence of infectious diseases and the increase of chronic disease.

-- Social pensions and other transfer programmes targeting the elderly not only have effectively reduced poverty among older persons, but have had some positive spillover effects on children and the young. However, this indirect support by older persons for the young should not become a substitute for programmes targeting youth.

-- As Governments are increasingly concerned about the consequences of population ageing, and as policies are focusing on ensuring the long-term sustainability of pension systems and on mobilizing the full potential of people at all ages, there is a need for measures to balance work and family life and to promote gender equality.

World Population Trends

A report of the Secretary-General on world demographic trends (document E/CN.9/2007/6) describes a world characterized by significant reductions in fertility as contraceptive use has increased in most countries, both developed and developing. However, world population is currently growing at about 1.14 per cent per year, is expected to reach 6.6 billion in July 2007 and may stabilize ultimately at about 9 billion if fertility continues to decline in the less developed regions.

Other trends include:

-- A growing number of international migrants (an estimated 191 million in 2005), not only from developing to developed countries (an estimated 62 million), but from developing countries to other developing countries (60 million).

-- A considerably older population, with the global number of persons aged 60 or over more than tripling, from 705 million in 2007 to almost 2 billion in 2050, and with the number of older persons in the world expected to exceed for the first time in history the number of children by 2050.

-- An increase in the ratio of the population aged 60 or over to the working age population not only in the developed countries, but in the less developed regions. In the developed countries, the rate will increase from 32 persons aged 60 or over per 100 persons of working age in 2007, to 62 in 2050. In the less developed regions, the rate will increase from 13 persons aged 60 or over per 100 persons of working age in 2007, to 34 in 2050.

-- A largely urban world, with half of the world population living in cities in 2008 for the first time in history, and with urban dwellers passing from an estimated 3.2 billion in 2005 to an expected 4.9 billion in 2030. However, the less developed regions today have more than twice the number of urban dwellers than the more developed regions: 2.3 billion versus 0.9 billion. By 2030, the urban population in the less developed regions is projected to be 3.9 billion, four times as large as that in the more developed regions (1 billion).

-- A longer life expectancy in developed countries as a whole, where people can expect to live 11 years longer than in developing countries (76 years compared to 65 years) and 23 years longer than in the least developed countries, two thirds of which are severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

-- A rural population in the less developed regions (3 billion) 10 times larger than in the more developed regions (0.3 billion). In addition, during 2005-2030 the rural population in developed countries is expected to continue its long-term decrease, down to 0.24 billion in 2030. In contrast, the rural population of developing countries will increase until 2019, reaching 3.1 billion, only then starting a slow decline.

Changes in the age composition of a population will determine the allocation of expenditures on services needed by the different segments of the population, says the report.

Population Programmes

Also before the Commission is a report of the Secretary-General on monitoring of population programmes, focusing on the changing age structures of populations and their implications for development (document E/CN.9/2007/4). The current demographic situation is unique, says the report, in that it encompasses the largest population ever of young people and elderly persons. The report stresses that the needs of all groups in society, both young and old, must be met.

Until recently, most Governments focused their attention on the growth and needs of the younger generation and little attention was paid to the ever increasing numbers of older persons. It was assumed that the family would take care of its elders, and most Governments gave low priority to the concerns of older persons.

The challenge now is to distribute limited resources to address the needs and rights of both young and old. National development policies should consider both youth and ageing issues as part of social and economic planning. Initiatives to address the challenges faced by each of those groups should be part of national development strategies and poverty reduction programmes. Because women tend to outnumber men at old ages, their needs deserve special attention.

Solidarity between generations at all levels -- in families, communities and nations -- is fundamental for achieving a society where no age group is forgotten. Intergenerational solidarity is also essential to achieve social cohesion and as a foundation for formal public welfare and informal care systems.

Prepared by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the report also describes the Fund’s Framework for Action on Adolescents and Youth, as well as the Fund’s programmatic work to assist countries in meeting the challenges of population ageing.

Financial flows

A report of the Secretary-General on the flow of financial resources for assisting in the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (document E/CN.9/2007/5) provides expected levels of donor and domestic expenditures for population activities in developing countries for 2005, and estimates for expenditures in 2006 and projections for 2007.

The report, prepared by UNFPA, says that donor assistance has been increasing steadily over the past few years, reaching $5.6 billion in 2004. If this trend continues, donor assistance may have reached $6.9 billion in 2005, $7.8 billion in 2006 and may be close to $8.6 billion in 2007. These optimistic estimates assume that donors increase their funding levels, but many major donors have not yet released their 2005 funding figures.

A rough estimate of resources mobilized by developing countries as a group yielded a figure of $17.3 billion for 2005. This number is expected to increase to $18.7 billion in 2006 and $19.5 billion in 2007. These figures also assume that developing countries continue to increase the resources devoted to population activities.

Although provisional figures show that both donors and developing countries are on target and indeed may have surpassed the 2005 goal of $18.5 billion, this conclusion is misleading, because the resources mobilized do not adequately address current needs, which have escalated considerably since the 1994 Population Conference and now include HIV/AIDS treatment. Indeed, for many developing countries, the lack of adequate funding remains the chief constraint to the full implementation of the Action Programme.

The recent increase in the flow of financial resources has been primarily a result of the increase in funding for HIV/AIDS activities. But these increases still do not meet current demands for resources to combat HIV/AIDS or treat those infected, which is higher than anticipated when the targets were set. Funding for family planning, which has been decreasing steadily, did not reach the suggested target of $11.5 billion in 2005, and is not meeting current needs.

The target amount may not be sufficient to address current global needs, even in the area of HIV/AIDS, where most of the increase in funding has occurred and where, according to the most recent estimates by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), $15 billion is needed in 2006 -- $8.4 billion for prevention and $3 billion for treatment and care. If not reversed, the trend towards less funding for family planning could undermine efforts to prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce maternal and infant mortality.

The report recommends that population issues figure prominently in national development programmes and poverty reduction strategies; that family planning and reproductive health issues receive the attention they deserve at a time when the increased focus is on combating HIV/AIDS; that the private sector play a role in mobilizing resources for population and development, in monitoring expenditures and in ensuring that targets are met; and that adequate resources be allocated to all areas of the Action Programme -- family planning, reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV/AIDS and basic research and analysis.

Other documents

A report of the Secretary-General on programme implementation and progress of work in the field of population in 2006 (document E/CN.9/2007/7) reviews the progress made by the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs in implementing its work programme in 2006. It covers such activities as the analysis of fertility, mortality and international migration; world population estimates and projections; population policies; the analysis of population and development interrelationship; the preparation of publications and documents; and the substantive servicing of intergovernmental bodies.

A report of the Bureau of the Commission on its intersessional meetings (document E/CN.9/2007/2) focuses on such meetings held in New York on 3 November 2006, 7 December 2006 and 16 January 2007. The Bureau focused on the organization of the Commission’s fortieth session and discussed the relationship of the Commission with the Economic and Social Council, the implications of relevant General Assembly resolutions for the Commission’s work and the Secretariat’s work programme in the field of population.

A note by the Secretariat (document E/CN.9/2007/8) contains the draft work programme of the Population Division for the biennium 2008-2009.

Background of the Commission

The Population Commission was established by the Economic and Social Council in 1946 and renamed Commission on Population and Development by the General Assembly in 1994. The Commission, as a functional commission assisting the Council, is to monitor, review and assess the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development held in Cairo in 1994, at the national, regional and international levels, and advise the Council thereon.

The Commission is composed of 47 members, who are elected on the basis of equitable geographic distribution and serve a term of four years. The members for 2007 are Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, China, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, El Salvador, France, Gambia, Germany, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Libya, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Oman, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay and Zambia.

For further information, please visit www.unpopulation.org or contact the office of Hania Zlotnik, Director, Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.: 212 963 3179, fax: 212 963 2147.
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PREPARATORY COMMITTEE FOR 2010 NON-PROLIFERATION TREATY REVIEW CONFERENCE

TO MEET IN VIENNA, 30 APRIL - 11 MAY

The Preparatory Committee for the 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will hold its first session from 30 April to 11 May at the Austria Centre in Vienna, Austria. This is the first of three sessions of the Preparatory Committee that will be held prior to the 2010 Review Conference.

This session, which is open to all parties to the Treaty, observer States, specialized agencies, international and regional intergovernmental organizations, and non-governmental organizations, will address substantive and procedural issues related to the Treaty and the upcoming Review Conference in 2010.

The Chairman designate of the first session is Ambassador Yukiya Amano of Japan.

The purpose of the session is to prepare for the Review Conference in terms of assessing the implementation of each article of the Treaty and facilitating discussion on any issue raised by parties to the Treaty with a view to making recommendations to the Review Conference.

The Treaty, which entered into force in 1970 and was extended indefinitely in 1995, requires that review conferences be held every five years.

The Treaty is regarded as the cornerstone of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime. It is designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to further the goal of nuclear disarmament and general and complete disarmament, and to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

For accreditation and further information, including for the film and photo opportunity on 30 April, please contact Veronika Crowe-Mayerhofer, Public Information Assistant, UNIS Vienna; telephone: +43 1 260 60 3342; e-mail: veronika.crowe-mayerhofer@unvienna.org.

Some meetings of the conference will be closed to the media. Further information on the preparatory sessionmaybe found at http://disarmament.un.org/wmd/npt/NPT2010/index.html.
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Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

ON ANNIVERSARY OF RWANDA GENOCIDE, SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS CURRENT

CHALLENGE IS TO MAKE RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT OPERATIONAL

Following is the message by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the 13th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, 9 April:

Last year, before being appointed Secretary-General, I visited Rwanda to pay my respects to victims and survivors of the genocide there. I had an opportunity to sit down and talk with those who had endured one of humankind’s darkest chapters. The experience had a profound and personal impact on me. I carry it with me every day I serve as the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

On this 13th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, two messages should be paramount.

First, never forget.

Second, never stop working to prevent another genocide.

Today, our thoughts go to the victims -- the more than 800,000 innocent people who lost their lives, with terrifying speed. May they continue to rest in peace.

Our thoughts go to the survivors. Their resilience continues to inspire us.

And our thoughts also go to fallen colleagues of the United Nations family: peacekeepers and civilians who lost their lives in the line of duty as the genocide unfolded. They saved as many lives as they could, and should be remembered for their courage and commitment.

Since those horrendous weeks 13 years ago, the United Nations has learnt profound lessons. We have appointed a Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide. We have established an Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention, which has submitted an ambitious and important report. But we must do more -- much more. In the coming weeks, I intend to strengthen both these mechanisms, including by upgrading the post of Special Adviser to a full-time position.

Africa, too, has taken action. The historic Pact on Security, Stability and Development for the Great Lakes Region contains a protocol on prevention and punishment of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is encouraging that the countries of the Great Lakes have come together to reflect on the terrible conflicts that have afflicted the region, and are striving to ensure that future generations can live together not only within their own countries, but also with their neighbours. I profoundly hope the protocol will be ratified soon.

All the world’s Governments have agreed in principle to the responsibility to protect. Our challenge now is to give real meaning to the concept, by taking steps to make it operational. Only then will it truly give hope to those facing genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility. Everyone has a role to play: Governments, the media, civil society organizations, religious groups, and each and every one of us. Let us build a global partnership against genocide. Let us protect populations from genocide when their own Government cannot or will not.

http://www.un.org/apps/press/latest.asp

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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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General this morning briefed the Security Council on his recent trip to the Middle East, on which, he told them, he focused on the Middle East peace process, Lebanon, Iraq, Darfur and Somalia.

He also discussed his recent report to the Council on the implementation of resolution 1701, concerning Lebanon. Afterward, the Secretary-General told reporters that the Lebanese Speaker of the Assembly, Nabih Berri, had invited Saudi Arabia to initiate consultative meetings, and that the Secretary-General was willing to dispatch his Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, to those meetings [if the parties are agreeable].

He said it is crucial to establish a tribunal for Lebanon at an early date and asked the Lebanese parties to follow the constitutional procedures.

The Secretary-General also said that the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan will participate in a technical-level meeting in Addis Ababa on 9 April, to finalize the measures for the heavy-support package for Darfur.

This afternoon, the Security Council expects to hear a briefing on the work of the Council’s sanctions committee on Sudan by its Chair, Italian Ambassador Marcello Spatafora.

And yesterday afternoon, the Council President, Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, read a statement to the press, saying that the members of the Security Council expressed their full support for the holding of the presidential elections in Timor-Leste on 9 April. They called upon all parties in Timor-Leste to adhere to the principles of non-violence and to democratic and legal processes.

The Secretary-General will also put out a video message over the weekend, expressing his hope for Timorese elections that will be free, fair, transparent and credible, and unmarred by violence and intimidation.

** Solomon Islands

Turning to the Solomon Islands, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says UN agencies are warning of potential health concerns following the recent tsunami, due to the shortage of clean drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities and malaria prevention.

The World Health Organization expects the number of malaria cases to rise in the next two months, due to an increase in mosquito breeding sites and the greater vulnerability of displaced persons.

There are also reports of diarrhoea outbreaks in camps where people have sought shelter. UNICEF says there’s a need for water purification tablets, jerry cans and water tanks. UNICEF has already used pre-positioned medical supplies and financial reserves, and is appealing for $500,000 to meet the most urgent needs of women and children in the region.

**WFP –- Afghanistan Floods

As spring floods devastate much of Afghanistan, the World Food Programme (WFP) has delivered one thousand tons of emergency rations to Kabul, enough to feed 60,000 people for 30 days.

The major highways linking Kabul to both the north and south of the country have been cut off by a combination of melting snows and heavy rains, and WFP remains concerned about people who may be beyond the reach of immediate assistance.

Also, in the southern province of Helmand, WFP says its trucks are frequently attacked by anti-government insurgents. We have a press release upstairs.

** Georgia

On Georgia, the Secretary-General’s latest report to the Security Council on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia and the situation in Abkhazia is out on the racks, and in it, he welcomes the recent progress between the two sides, including the continuation of joint patrolling in the Kodori Valley. He hopes that the sides will take further measures to improve the confidence between them.

However, the Secretary-General writes, the firing incidents that took place in the upper Kodori Valley on 11 March were a major setback, although no casualties resulted. He notes with regret that the situation along the ceasefire line has remained tense.

The report recommends the extension of the UN Mission by another six months, until mid-October.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

We also have an update from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

DPKO says that the former guards of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba and their dependents who are currently under the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) protection have been disarmed. The Mission is in discussions with the Government regarding their handover to Government authorities for disarmament or integration into the armed forces. No handover has yet taken place, however, as a detailed agreement is being negotiated by which the Government would guarantee respect for the human rights of these people, their proper treatment before the law –- should they face legal action, and guarantee MONUC Human Rights officials access to them for follow-up.

** Haiti

On Haiti, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti says that the Haitian National Police and UN peacekeepers earlier today captured wanted gang leader Alain Cadet, the alleged number two in the now dismantled Belony gang, which operated in the Bois Neuf and Drouillard areas of Cité Soleil in the Haitian capital.

The operation involved Haitian police, as well as 30 United Nations soldiers, police and formed police units, and was conducted at a home east of Petionville in the capital.

**WFP –- Bhutanese Refugees

The United Nations World Food Programme has welcomed a 1.5 million euro donation to its Bhutanese refugee operation in Nepal from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO).

WFP aims to provide food aid to more than 108,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next two years, at a cost of nearly 18.5 million euros.

**UNICEF -– Palestinian Child’s Day

Hundreds of children are marking Palestinian Child’s Day by gathering today in Gaza and Ramallah to speak out against violence. It’s the culmination of months of children-led campaigns, during which UNICEF has been training children on their rights and how to protect themselves.

UNICEF says the ongoing conflict is partly to blame for the violence, but cultural practices and the acceptance of violence as a fact of life also play a role.

We have more in a press release upstairs.

**Outer Space

On outer space, the Secretary-General has sent a letter to the UN Office for Outer Space Affairs encouraging greater participation in the five UN-sponsored outer space treaties. That letter went out to the Outer Space Office’s legal subcommittee, which just completed its forty-sixth session in Geneva.

This year is of particular importance in outer space affairs as it marks the 50th anniversary of the launching of the first artificial satellite and the 40th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Outer Space Treaty.

And you can consult a list of satellites and other objects launched into space under the UN Registration Convention in the searchable online database of the Outer Space Office.

**Climate Change Report

We just want to flag tomorrow’s launch of the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which will be released in Brussels.

After the report comes out, the UN Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization will have additional information on their websites.

We also have an embargoed press release from the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change upstairs.

**UN Holiday

I'd like to remind you that UN Headquarters will be closed tomorrow, during the Good Friday holiday, and there will be no noon briefing on that day. The regular noon briefing will resume next Monday.

This is all I have for you. Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Now that the Iranians have released the British soldiers, and yesterday the British Ambassador also acknowledged that the Secretary-General also helped in a way. So now, what about the fate of these five Iranians who are in custody of the coalition forces? Requests have been made by the Iranian Government to see them. The United States authorities are saying that they will consider the request. Can the Secretary-General played any role in this issue to ease the tension in the area?

Spokesperson: Well, we could ask that question, but we don’t have any comment on this at this point.

Question: Did the Secretary-General get the letter from Talat, from [Northern Cyprus] Cyprus [leader]?

Spokesperson: That I don’t have confirmation of, but I can check on that.

[The Spokesperson later characterized it as private correspondence.]

Question: Some time ago, in response to a question, I believe you had indicated that some senior level appointment would be made in April and announced. Are there any in sight?

Spokesperson: We don’t have any at this point. I will make sure to let you know as soon as I get them.

Question: I missed the beginning of the briefing, but the Secretary-General referred to this proposal by Nabih Berri to arrange some meeting on Lebanon. Can you give us some more detail about this?

Spokesperson: Well, the Lebanese Speaker of the assembly had invited Saudi Arabia to initiate consultative meetings, and the Secretary-General was willing to dispatch his Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, to those meetings. It is about the tribunal.

Question: Where would the meeting be held and when …?

Spokesperson: We don’t have that information yet.

Question: What’s happened to the audit of the Thessaloniki training centre directed by Guido Bertucci’s people? It was supposed to be released in December, so we were told last year. What’s happened to that?

Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have that information. We’ll ask for you whether the audit is completed and whether it is available.

Question: I just want to ask you one follow-up on that, on Guido Bertucci. I’ve heard that he had been suspended, and then the suspension was taken off. Is there some way we can confirm that? It’s been an ongoing controversy and from what I’m told, he was suspended and then the suspension was somehow revoked. I don’t expect you to say it from here, but if there’s a way you could nail that down.

Spokesperson: We can check on that.

Question: Later on this afternoon, the Secretary-General is expected to receive a group of three ambassadors. What is the subject of their discussion?

Spokesperson: You’re talking about the G-77 and Non-Aligned Movement group?

Question: The Ambassador of Mali and others.

Spokesperson: I can check for you, what the subject was.

[The Spokesperson later said that the meeting had been requested by Mali on behalf of land-locked countries.]

Thank you very much.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs//2007/db070405.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 9 2007, 11:24 PM
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 Farhan Haq, Associate Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon, everyone.

**Timor-Leste

We do expect, hopefully, to have a statement available for you concerning the elections in Timor-Leste. Those elections are reportedly proceeding well today, with the UN Mission in that country providing assistance. Among other things, the Mission provided additional ballots today to meet the high turnout at polling centres. The Secretary-General delivered a video message to the Timorese people prior to their first national elections since independence, telling them that they had reached a new milestone in their work to consolidate democracy. He said, “I hope the elections will be free, fair, transparent and credible. I hope they will be unmarred by violence and intimidation. And I hope they will lead to results accepted by all.”

We have copies of that message upstairs. And like I said, we do expect a further statement later this afternoon.

** Rwanda

Thirteen years ago, more than 800,000 innocent Rwandans were killed in an orchestrated criminal campaign now widely considered to be genocide under international law. And the Secretary-General recalled in a message that the experience has had a profound and personal impact on him when he visited Rwanda last year, and he carries it with him every day that he has been serving as Secretary-General. Two messages, he said, should be paramount as we remember the Rwandan genocide: “First, never forget” -- and “second, never stop working to prevent another genocide.”

The Secretary-General said the UN has learnt profound lessons from that tragedy and has appointed a Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide and established an Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention. But more remains to be done, and the Secretary-General has declared his intention to strengthen the existing UN mechanisms. He also appealed for the creation of a global partnership against genocide. We have copies of his remarks upstairs.

Later this afternoon, the Secretary-General will hand a signed copy of his message to the Permanent Representative of Rwanda at a planned meeting. The Rwanda exhibition downstairs, meanwhile, has been postponed and we’ll let you know when that is rescheduled.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, yesterday condemned the murder of Afghan journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi, who had been abducted by Taliban extremists on March 5. He called on the authorities to bring those responsible to justice.

Koenigs said, “The perpetrators of this crime have shown absolute indifference to the value of human life,” and added that the rights of journalists to go about their work, free from interference or harm, should be recognized and respected by all. We have his full statement upstairs.

On Saturday, a serious attack took place on a convoy of civilian demining and security personnel, in which seven Afghan deminers were killed and another two wounded. The UN Mission in Afghanistan strongly condemned this attack on individuals who are actively working to improve the lives and safety of the Afghan community.

Meanwhile, also on Afghanistan, UNICEF, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) have responded to recent flooding in the country by providing food, shelter, and other vital assistance for hard-hit families. For its part, WFP has pre-positioned 350,000 tonnes of food in five locations around Afghanistan for rapid deployment to the most vulnerable families.

**Disarmament

The Secretary-General this morning addressed the UN Disarmament Commission here at Headquarters. He said the limited progress in addressing the dangers posed by weapons of mass destruction, as well as the excessive accumulation of conventional weapons, was disappointing and unacceptable. He added that revitalizing the international disarmament agenda was a personal priority of his. That is why he had proposed a new Office for Disarmament Affairs, led by a High Representative, which would better mobilize the political will necessary to overcome the current stalemate and re-energize action on both disarmament and non-proliferation. And we have his full remarks upstairs.

**Climate Change

The Secretary-General, in a statement on Friday, welcomed the release that day of the findings of Working Group II of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and he expressed his concern that the impacts of climate change are increasingly noticeable, and likely to become more so in the future as extreme weather events intensify. The Secretary-General hopes that the parties to the Convention on Climate Change will avail themselves of the opportunity to make progress towards a comprehensive framework to replace the existing regime at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali in December this year.

We have the full statement upstairs, as well as a press release on the findings from the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

** Solomon Islands

Turning to the Solomon Islands, the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is now working in both the capital, Honiara, and in Gizo. Some 5,500 people remain displaced in the worst affected areas, according to the country’s Government. Sanitation is a problem in the spontaneous camps that have been erected near the centre of Gizo, while water supply remains a concern in some remote villages, since the earthquake damaged pipes and valves. The loss of the entire communication system in some remote areas is also hindering completion of a comprehensive damage assessment.

** Sudan

On Sudan, organized returns of internally displaced persons continue from South Darfur to parts of southern Sudan, reports the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). OCHA also reports that UN agencies and NGOs, working in support of the Government of Southern Sudan, have completed a first round of National Immunization Days against polio. An estimated 500,000 children under five were targeted by the campaign across Southern Sudan.

Also on Sudan, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Friday released two reports, documenting incidents of widespread sexual violence during attacks by Sudanese Government forces and allied militia in Darfur last December and the disappearance last September of at least 19 men, allegedly at the hands of the former insurgent forces headed by Minni Minnawi. High Commissioner Louise Arbour called for prompt and impartial investigations into the reported human rights violations.

The report on the December incidents said that at least 15 cases of sexual assault, including rape, had occurred, and that, based on testimony gathered, it appears that rape during the December 2006 attacks was used as a weapon of war to cause humiliation and instill fear into the local population. And the reports can be found on the High Commissioner’s web site.

**Security Council

There are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today. Tomorrow, consultations on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia are scheduled.

** Somalia

The World Food Programme is welcoming the release of a vessel it had contracted for food deliveries to Somalia, along with its 12-person crew, some 40 days after it was seized by pirates. The MV Rozen was hijacked near Puntland, in northeastern Somalia, on February 25th, and released in the same area last Thursday. WFP thanked elders in Puntland for mediating the release, but urged regional authorities, as well as Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, to curb piracy in Somali waters. It says the hijacking has caused delays in food aid shipments to Somalia and made shippers reluctant to carry cargoes there. And we have more in a press release upstairs.

** Madagascar

Turning to Madagascar, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has dispatched a five-member Disaster Assessment and Coordination team there. The team will help coordinate international assistance and urgent needs assessments in the wake of the recent series of cyclones that have struck the island nation.

**Democracy Fund

And last, the Secretary-General’s Advisory Board for the UN Democracy Fund will hold its fourth meeting tomorrow, to review progress on the work of the Fund after the inaugural year of activities and decide on priorities and policies for the future. The Secretary-General will address the Board, which meets in a closed session in Conference Room 7 at 10 a.m. tomorrow. And we have a press release with more details upstairs.

Do you have any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the reported violation by the United States of a ruling for North Korea not to sell arms to Ethiopia?

Associate Spokesperson: We don’t have any comment on that. Since North Korea is under Security Council sanctions, it would be up to the members of the Security Council to decide if and how to proceed on that matter.

Question: Since so much was made out of UNDP spending United States dollars in North Korea, will the United Nations be investigated whether Ethiopia paid in United States dollars, too?

Associate Spokesperson: Again, any issues concerning the relevant sanctions – whether they are sanctions on Somalia, sanctions on the DPRK – would be issues for the Security Council and its respective Sanctions Committees to consider.

Question: Can you confirm that the opening of the exhibition was postponed because of a complaint by the Turkish Mission about the contents of the exhibition?

Associate Spokesperson: No, that was not the sole issue. The basic concern is that the normal process that we have to review exhibitions was not followed in this instance. We’ll now follow the regular process, taking into account all positions, as we do with any exhibition. And the exhibition has been postponed until the regular review process is completed. There was concern expressed.

Question: What exhibition?

Associate Spokesperson: This is the exhibition concerning Rwanda, the Rwanda genocide, in the Visitors’ Lobby.

Question: That doesn’t make any sense to me, because the organizers said that the Department of Public Information signed off on that exhibition.

Associate Spokesperson: Like I said, the normal process had not been followed. There is a process: before people sign off on an exhibition, any exhibition… Every exhibition in the Visitors’ Lobby goes through an approval process by relevant UN departments. That process was not completely followed and the sort of people who review exhibitions did not see all the items that were being exhibited in this case. That process will now take place, and once it is completed, the exhibition will be installed downstairs.

Question: Is it not the case that Turkey complained about a specific item that had to do with the Armenian genocide, or so-called genocide?

Associate Spokesperson: Yes, that did come up. That wasn’t the sole issue, that wasn’t the sole reason for…

Question: What other reasons were there?

Associate Spokesperson: There were other concerns about other contents. You know, there were a number of contents that needed to be reviewed. But there were other concerns about other things. As for Armenia, in any case, the UN hasn’t expressed any position on incidents that took place long before the United Nations was established. In any case, the focus during the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide should remain on Rwanda itself.

Question: Another massacre story. The Sudanese Government in its latest style -– yes-no-yes-no -– is currently no, I think… I am just utterly confused, where we are, what’s going on? What agreement there is? What is the current understanding of the Secretary-General as to what agreement he has with Sudan?

Associate Spokesperson: We did come out with an agreement, the text of which we put out after the Secretary-General’s meeting in Riyadh with President [Omer Hassan al-]Bashir, with Mr. [Alpha Oumar] Konaré from the African Union, and in a meeting that was convened by the King of Saudi Arabia. Building on that understanding, we are going to have a technical…

Question: But can you just explain what you think the understanding is?

Associate Spokesperson: The understanding is to proceed, first of all, with the heavy package and then beyond that, with the hybrid operation.

Question: But that doesn’t seem to be the understanding today, based on what the Foreign Minister said.

Associate Spokesperson: Well, but there are a number of events in the coming week and a half in which we’ll iron some of this out. First of all, later this week, in Addis Ababa, you are having a technical-level meeting involving the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan, at which we can clear up any of the last outstanding issues having to do with the heavy support package. Then next week, on 16 and 17 April, Alpha Oumar Konaré, the AU Chairman, will be here for high-level talks to discuss ways on moving forward with the hybrid force. So, hopefully, within the next week or so, you’ll have more clarity on all these issues, and we can actually get these next phases of our support for the African Union mission and eventually for the AU-UN hybrid force, to move ahead.

Question: Going back to a previous question on North Korea and US -– you said that on things to do with the Security Council resolution, the Secretary-General has no comment…

Associate Spokesperson: I didn’t say the Secretary-General never has a comment on issues having to do with Security Council resolutions. The question is, in terms of whether or not any resolutions were affected or violated by what was reported in the papers over the weekend, having to do with Ethiopia and North Korea. It is up to the Security Council and its Sanctions Committees to decide on how those sanctions resolutions are implemented. So…

Question: However, the Secretary-General has been very outspoken about allegations of weapons being smuggled from Syria to Lebanon. Why does he choose to comment on that one, but not on this one?

Associate Spokesperson: He had been receiving information about his recent Middle East tour, you are right. Although, you will remember, the Secretary-General in his comments… [talkover] – Can you please… What?

Question: On a point of order… You have a private conversation between yourselves. We have been waiting here to ask our questions.

Associate Spokesperson: I beg your pardon… [talkover] Everyone will be called on, in turn.

Question: [inaudible] on these subjects here…

Associate Spokesperson: I beg your pardon. Everyone will be called on, in turn, but kindly, do not interrupt me while I am in the process of answering a question. If you are interested in having questions answered, you really ought not interrupt. Once I am done with answering this question, I will take further questions.

Now, having said that, where was I? So, it is up to the Security Council to determine on how sanctions resolutions are followed. And as for the Secretary-General’s comments, yes, you are right that he commented about the allegations concerning weapon-smuggling into Lebanon. That has to do with his own follow-up and the fact that he was in the Middle East at the time and received some information. Although you will appreciate the fact that the Secretary-General also said that those reports would need to be independently confirmed.

Now, as for further questions, thank you for waiting patiently.

Question: Do you have more news about Turkey and the Turks?

Associate Spokesperson: On…?

Question: [inaudible] killed Turkish soldiers, almost 8 of them in…

Associate Spokesperson: In?

Question: In the north of the country.

Associate Spokesperson: In northern Iraq? I would need to check up on that.

[The Associate Spokesperson later said that the United Nations did not have a presence in the area and did not have first-hand information.]

Question: I heard what you said about Sudan. Recent news is that Oumar Konaré of the African Union and President Beshir have agreed that there would be no international troops and they would ask only for logistical and financial and technical support. Is this confirmed news?

Associate Spokesperson: I wouldn’t be able to confirm that just yet. Ultimately, we are waiting for Mr. Konaré to come here for discussions to flesh out disagreements and see precisely what kind of support we have. We do believe we have moved forward in terms of agreement on the number of troops that would be deployed in Darfur. And as for what precisely the hybrid force will look like, we would have more clarity on that in the coming week.

Question: Again on Sudan. Mr. Konaré is now in Sudan. You didn’t get any report from that. And what happened to the 14 pages of objections on the heavy support package that President Beshir delivered? Have they disappeared? Are they down to one page, or what?

Associate Spokesperson: They haven’t disappeared, but any of the concerns of views about the heavy support package can be brought up at the technical level meetings that will be taking place in Addis Ababa and hopefully, we’ll be able to resolve these over the course of this week.

Question: I am not going to ask you what Benny maybe missed to ask you whether Serbia complained about that exhibition, because of the genocide in Srebrenica. However, do you have any knowledge -- since the International Court of Justice is the UN body –- why, according to the press reports, judges did not issue subpoenas for the documents that were kept by the military archives in Belgrade in the case of suing Serbia for the crimes of genocide from Bosnia and Herzegovina? Do you have any knowledge of that?

Associate Spokesperson: I do not. Ultimately, that is a question to be asked to the International Court of Justice. The Chief Justice, Rosalyn Higgins, said that the decision had been taken and she said that the decision that was reached by the court speaks for itself. Beyond that, I would suggest that you take it up with the ICJ officials in The Hague.

Question: Can I follow up on this? I can follow up with the ICJ in The Hague. However, ICJ is a UN body, and I am wondering what is your opinion on that. Whether the UN is going to take any action? This is a huge moral opinion, because the UN accepted guilt somehow – not guilt, but mistake -- for the genocide in Srebrenica. And I am wondering whether you are going to intervene or to look into that.

Associate Spokesperson: Well, in terms of the UN system, there is a number of things there. Yes, the UN did acknowledge, and the previous Secretary-General did acknowledge remorse, for what happened in Srebrenica. The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, for its part, had deemed that some of the killings that took place in Srebrenica could be considered to be genocide. So they did rule on that a few years back. But as for the International Court of Justice, that is a separate judicial body, and we do respect the principle of judicial independence. We don’t second-guess the judgements done by the courts, and so they are entitled to their procedures.

Question: The last thing Mr. Ban Ki-moon was talking about sending Nicolas Michel to Saudi Arabia for negotiations regarding the International Tribunal, what is the latest after the rejection of Mr. [Saad] Hariri for such negotiations? And he said he would go to Saudi Arabia only after a deal is struck. What is the situation regarding this?

Associate Spokesperson: As far as that goes, what we are doing, we are monitoring to see how the process goes forward in terms of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to organize talks among the various political leaders in Lebanon and our position remains that, if the parties are agreeable, the Secretary-General would then dispatch his Legal Counsel, Nicolas Michel, to those talks.

Question: Saudi Arabia said they don’t want to host that... as long as the Lebanese agreed beforehand.

Associate Spokesperson: Well, let’s see how the process plays itself out. Saudi Arabia is still talking with various different Lebanese leaders.

Question: On Somalia, it has been reported that a security expert of the EU has said that some of those who support the Transitional Federal Government may be complicit in war crimes, given the firing at civilian neighbourhoods last week. So I am wondering, since the UN is supporting all the way with the Transitional Federal Government and the WFP is just calling on them to take more action... if the UN has any response to that. That was an AP report on Friday.

Associate Spokesperson: Well, I can check whether we have any response. At this stage, no we haven’t responded to that. The UN support, by the way, is one in which a number of bodies including the Security Council, have recognized the Transitional Federal Government.

Question: So, the quote actually by the President of the TFG: “We will bomb civilian neighbourhoods.” He said that last week while they were doing that. So I guess, I am just saying...

Associate Spokesperson: Well, like I said, we have no specific comment on the EU report, but certainly, the United Nations is against the bombing or attacking of civilian areas. We have been against that across the board.

Question: On these exhibits. You have said there is this process for, I guess, the Visitors’ Lobby? There is an exhibit right now at the Vienna Café in that hallway. It is pretty graphic, and I just wonder if you can say or find out what is the review process for the exhibits, both in that space and for that exhibit in particular.

Associate Spokesperson: I believe that also in the Viennese Café and throughout the building, any exhibitions that are put up for display go through a process of being reviewed. And so the exhibitions that are installed have gone through the approval process.

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any plans or any outstanding invitations to visit either Syria or Iran?

Associate Spokesperson: As for Syria, I believe my colleague Michele said last week that he does intend to visit. We should have some more information for you, not immediately, but possibly we might have some more information in the coming days to provide about that. But nothing to say about Iran thus far.

Question: But the Secretary-General said that it had not been completed and the announcement has yet to be made. Does that mean he is taking back from the Spokeswoman?

Associate Spokesperson: No, the announcement has yet to be made. Like I said, I don’t have anything to say about that just yet. He did announce his intention to go, but I don’t have any specifics to give you now. Possibly, in the coming days, I’ll have some more information for you.

Question: On the former issue, you said that the Addis Ababa expert meeting to be held further in this week. But I think it was scheduled to be held this day. Was it postponed, or…

Associate Spokesperson: I believe it begins today and will continue. We will need to get some details about what the results of that meeting were as it proceeds, though.

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any comment on the Iranian announcement today, that it has gone to industrial production of uranium enrichment?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General did talk to a few reporters earlier today as he was leaving the Disarmament Commission meeting, and he was asked about the announcement that Iran has reached an industrial scale of enrichment. He said, “I sincerely hope that even at this time, when the Iranian Government is undergoing Security Council sanctions, that they should engage in dialogue, with the intention of communicating. It is very important for any member country to fully comply with a Security Council resolution. I urge the Iranian Government to do so.” That is what he said, and we will put that out upstairs.

Question: You announced that journalist Ajmal Naqshbandi was murdered. Alan Johnson, the BBC correspondent has been abducted in Gaza for almost a month. Has the BBC or any organization contacted the UN for help in his release, and is there a policy that the UN has when dealing with abducted journalists, if anybody does ask for help?

Associate Spokesperson: We have, from time to time, put out statements if we believe that it is helpful. Obviously, there are security considerations on the ground in any abduction to study before we come out with a statement, in case it may adversely affect the conditions that the abductee faces. In the case of the journalist you mentioned, I believe that the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, has also come out with a statement asking for his release.

Question: But has anyone contacted the UN asking for help in his release?

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t believe that we are involved in any talks having to do with his release, no.

Question: You had indicated that the Secretary-General, on the occasion of the genocide of Rwanda has called for “global partnership”. Specifically, what is this call directed to, the Security Council, the General Assembly, the international community? And what form would that take?

Associate Spokesperson: That call is directed to all Member States, particularly those who have the ability to influence the course of potential genocides. Not obviously just the historical ones, but the ones that may still be taking place or incipient. And of course we have the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide who is entrusted with trying to deal with situations as they arise before they rise to that level. As for further details, by the way, you can find more in the full speech, which is available upstairs.

Question: Is there a plan to reassess what is taking place in Sudan. Is it genocide, as the United States has said? Is there any effort by the UN, I mean?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the UN has made efforts to determine whether what was happening was genocide. There was an expert panel that went there and made its own assessment and the information that they had, they have then passed on for further work. Now, the matter is in the hands, a lot of the question of Darfur, is in the hands of the International Criminal Court. We are waiting to see how the Criminal Court follows up on this and it will be up to them to make any determinations. They, of course, can investigate genocide, as well as crimes against humanity and war crimes alike.

Question: Are you saying again that the International Criminal Court is totally independent and that you are just waiting to see what they are going to do, bearing in mind that the UN failed two times to prevent, or to involve or to engage the international community to prevent Rwanda and Srebrenica? Do you feel that more engagement is needed, or anybody else at the UN?

Associate Spokesperson: More engagement is needed. On issues like Darfur, certainly, there needs to be more engagement. And the sort of engagement that bodies like the Security Council in terms of the threats to peace and security side, and the Human Rights Council in terms of other violations that are taking place –- that involvement is needed and is encouraged by us. But in terms of what is happening on the prosecutorial front, right now, the International Criminal Court does have the necessary information, and it has started its work. And yes, like other bodies, it does have prosecutorial independence as it goes about how it proceeds with its work.

Question: But if turns out that again not enough documents are transferred to the International Criminal Court, what would be the role of the UN? Does the UN have any moral or any other legal alternative to push forward, to ask for all documents to be transferred to the prosecution?

Associate Spokesperson: Well, as with Yugoslavia and Rwanda Tribunals, yes, nations are enjoined to provide all the documentation that they have at their disposal in order for those cases to be resolved. And we do encourage nations to do that. And you might also recall that in transferring the matter of Darfur to the International Criminal Court, the Security Council has issued resolutions on this. And of course, all Member States have to comply with resolutions of the Security Council.

Question: You started the briefing by saying that the UN has learned from what happened in Rwanda genocide, from the mistakes made. Do you really think, in the light of what is going on in Darfur, that the UN has learned anything?

Associate Spokesperson: Yes. Yes, I do. And I don’t think that it’s naïve to say that. Frankly, when I was a child, there were so many cases around the world of so much mass atrocity where a lot of times the international community did little to nothing. Nowadays, the international community – however slowly at times, however tentatively – does act, and the United Nations is one of the main engines trying to prod the rest of the international community to act, so that things are responded to. And yes, it’s imperfect. The very fact that decades after the Holocaust, here we are on one of these days, acknowledging an anniversary of yet another, more recent genocide, shows you how slowly the international community has acted, and yes, that is a very painful sort of failing. But have we moved forward over the decades? I believe so. And I believe the amount of attention that all of you have been paying -– even just now, on Darfur -– is a sign that people do care about things spinning out of control.

Question: This is not necessarily a follow-up to that. On the DRC, the forces for Peter Karium are being integrated into the army. Who in the UN system is going to actually make sure that these 370 soldiers -- how many are child soldiers and how many are not? And also, what is the UN system going to do, that this is clearly an individual who recruited child soldiers and is now offered a Government post?

Associate Spokesperson: As for any sort of monitoring on the ground, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is capable of monitoring the situation and trying to monitor such things as whether or not child soldiers are used. As to the question of Peter Karim’s integration into the army, we are following that. The Mission on the ground is following that. But, this is a decision that is taken by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and we leave it up to the DRC Government to make decisions about such things as integration of its forces.

Question: I am sorry -– I just want to understand this better. Does the UN have any duty? If it verifies that there are child soldiers, that they have been recruited -– what do they do with that kind of report? Do they give it to the national Government to act? Do they ask them to act? Do they send it to..?

Associate Spokesperson: The general rule is that, whenever we have information about the use of child soldiers or any such violations, we inform the responsible Governments and responsible parties of both the violations and what their responsibilities are.

Question: One more try about Bosnia’s case. The New York Times report suggested that the whole process became flawed in the absence of documents. So I would like to know if the Secretary-General would ask at least for a report or an inquiry from the ICJ?

Associate Spokesperson: I could check whether that would happen. However, like I said, one of the principles of the United Nations is our respect for judicial independence. We don’t tell the various judicial bodies, whether they are the judges or prosecutors, how to go about their work. And in this case, these were the decisions that were taken by the ICJ and, again, I would enjoin you to ask the officials there about any further details concerning that decision-making process.

Question: With all due respect, what about moral responsibility? We were just talking about the lessons learnt. Did we really learn a lesson? And if nobody asks why these documents were not subpoenaed, then the lessons were not learnt.

Associate Spokesperson: I don’t quite agree, because the moral responsibility having to do with Bosnian war, I think, has been underscored by a number of bodies. By the Secretary-General, by the Security Council, by our various human rights bodies. The ruling you are talking about is a judicial ruling that took place in a case between two States, Serbia and Bosnia. And the ICJ followed its procedures in terms of making its judgements. Whatever problems you may have with that decision, I would suggest you take it up with them. But certainly, we do not second-guess what the ICJ as a body does in terms of its procedures.

And luckily for us, because this briefing has gone on as long as it has, we now have the statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General concerning the elections in Timor-Leste, which is available upstairs and which I’ll read into the record.

**Statement on Timor-Leste

The Secretary-General congratulates the many Timorese who showed their commitment to democracy and peace by participating in today’s voting -- the country’s first Presidential elections since independence in 2002. The Secretary-General commends the national authorities, particularly the Technical Secretariat for Electoral Administration and the National Electoral Commission, for organizing the polling -- the first time the people of Timor-Leste have had the opportunity to administer their own elections at the national level. He also expresses his appreciation for the work done by the United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) in support of the Timorese efforts.

The Secretary-General is heartened that the election was conducted in a general atmosphere of order and calm, and that the initial indications show high voter turn-out. He hopes that calm will prevail while the counting proceeds and when results are announced. The Secretary-General considers the 2007 electoral process to be an important step on the path to peace and stability in Timor-Leste, and hopes that the subsequent steps in the process -- including the legislative elections -- take place in an equally peaceful atmosphere.

The Secretary-General calls on the international community to continue providing assistance as Timor-Leste works to complete this year’s electoral process and to address challenges related to the security sector, the rule of law, governance and development.

And again, that statement is available upstairs.

And with that, I wish you all a good afternoon.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070409.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 10 2007, 09:51 PM
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon. I’ll start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson on Afghanistan.

** Afghanistan Statement

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned over the level of insecurity in Afghanistan, as witnessed by events over the weekend in the south and south-west of the country. These included the senseless murder of an Afghan journalist, who was abducted by the Taliban; an improvised explosive device attack, which killed six Canadian troops; and the murder of six Afghan deminers; as well as the murder of nine civilians, including five children, by a suicide bomber. The Secretary-General expresses his condolences to the bereaved families and the respective Governments.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns such acts of violence and calls upon the Government of Afghanistan and the international community, including ISAF, to redouble their efforts to ensure stability, combat impunity and ensure an environment of respect for human rights.

** Afghanistan

And also on Afghanistan today, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees says the number of Afghan refugees it has helped to return home voluntarily from Pakistan since 2002 has now passed the three million mark, making it the largest such operation in the refugee agency’s history. UNHCR notes, however, that more than two million Afghans remain in Pakistan, adding that the situation can only be resolved with continued international support.

** Chad

Now, turning to Africa and to Chad and Sudan, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees says that the situation following brutal attacks in south-eastern Chad in late March is far worse than previously expected. More than 9,000 Chadians from 31 villages have now arrived at the new site for internally displaced people (IDPs), joining some 9,000 others who had fled earlier attacks in the region. Estimates of the number of dead have also increased substantially, and the UNHCR says that the range is between 200 and 400.

Because most of the dead were buried where their bodies were found -- often in common graves owing to their large numbers -- we may never know their exact number, says UNHCR. Many who survived the initial attack –- particularly those most vulnerable, such as the elderly and young children –- died in subsequent days from exhaustion and dehydration, often while fleeing.

The Secretary-General is seriously concerned about this deteriorating situation.

** Sudan

Some of you asked yesterday about the technical meeting held in Addis Ababa attended by the United Nations, African Union and the Government of Sudan on the UN’s heavy support package to the African Union force in Darfur, known as AMIS. That meeting was held, as you know, in accordance with the decisions taken at last month’s meeting held on the margins of the League of Arab States Summit in Riyadh with the participation of the Sudanese President, the Secretary-General, the AU Chairperson, under the chairmanship of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia -- and of course, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States.

A communiqué issued after yesterday’s meeting says that the meeting finalized agreement on the UN heavy support package for AMIS, with the exception of one element on which the Sudanese delegation hoped to provide “a positive and expeditious response”. The meeting also agreed to move forward expeditiously with the implementation of the package, and continued international engagement will be important to facilitate the implementation of this package, as well as preparations for the third phase of AU-UN plans to enhance peacekeeping in Darfur, namely a hybrid operation.

Now, as you know, the visit of AU Commission Chairperson Alpha Konaré to New York on 16-17 April represents an important opportunity to advance and finalize plans in this regard. The communiqué in full is available in today’s bulletin from the UN Mission in Sudan, which contains an update on security and humanitarian developments in Darfur.

**Democracy Fund

Now, here at Headquarters, the Secretary-General this morning addressed the Advisory Board of the UN Democracy Fund, telling the Board that, although the Democracy Fund is a recent UN innovation, the United Nations democracy agenda is longstanding. In nearly every part of the world, the United Nations assists Member States conduct elections, improve governance, promote human rights and strengthen civil society. He told the Board that their work is vital to the Fund’s success, and the Fund’s success is vital to the UN mission. To date, the Democracy Fund has received a total of more than $61 million from 28 countries, with another $4 million in firm pledges. And there is a press release out with more details on the Fund.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held a private meeting on Georgia, which it is following with consultations on the same topic. The Prime Minister of Georgia and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Jean Arnault, spoke at the private meeting. In his report to the Security Council on the situation in Abkhazia, the Secretary-General had welcomed the recent progress between the two sides but noted with regret that the situation along the ceasefire line has remained tense. He recommended the extension of the UN Mission in Georgia by another six months, until mid-October.

Also today, out on the racks today a letter from the UK Ambassador to the Security Council, which will serve as the agenda item for the Security Council’s open debate on 17 April. The letter concerns the relationship between energy, security and climate. And I believe the Security Council President mentioned that to you in his monthly briefing on the programme.

** Somalia

Turning to Somalia, the UN Political Office for Somalia and other members of the International Advisory Committee today held their first meeting with Somalia’s National Governance and Reconciliation Committee in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss the planned reconciliation congress. Stressing the independent nature of its mandate, the Reconciliation Committee said that it continues efforts to bring on board all clans, each of which will be allocated quotas for all representative members of Somali society, including women and Somalis abroad. The Reconciliation Committee said it would be in a position to announce a final date and venue for the congress by April 16th and has proposed that Saudi Arabia be made a member of the International Advisory Committee.

** Haiti

And turning to Haiti, the UN Stabilization Mission there says it will be providing security and logistical support to the Provisional Electoral Commission in organizing the 29 April local elections there. Some 73 mayoral and municipal delegate seats will be up for grabs in 10 districts during the planned vote, and some 300,000 voters are expected to cast their ballots.

Meanwhile, UN peacekeepers and the Haitian police have detained some 51 presumed gang members in the ongoing security operations in the crime-ridden neighbourhoods of the capital.

** Colombia

The UNHCR is also expressing concern about the humanitarian situation in southern Colombia, where heavy fighting between the Government and an irregular armed group has forced at least 6,000 people to flee their homes in the past two weeks.

And you can read more about that in UNHCR’s briefing notes.

**Climate Change

And UNESCO is out today with a new report on the threat climate change poses to sites on its World Heritage List. The report looks at 26 endangered sites, including the Tower of London, which is threatened by rising sea levels and flooding. Meanwhile, the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world are at risk from rising sea temperatures. On land, the melting of glaciers is affecting the appearance of sites known for their outstanding beauty, while warmer temperatures may destroy the habitat of rare wildlife species. There is more in a press release from UNESCO on this upstairs

**WFP

The World Food Programme (WFP) announces that its new Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, officially took up her duties today in Rome. She will divide her first month between WFP headquarters in Rome and in the field. Her first mission will be to Africa, which she will visit at least twice in her first 90 days, WFP says, and you can read more about that in their press release.

**Press Conferences

And then press conferences to flag for you. At 1:15 p.m. tomorrow, on the occasion of the fortieth session of the Commission on Population and Development, here to brief you on that will be Dr. Somnath Chatterji, the team leader of Multi-Country Studies at the World Health Organization, together with a senior researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center.

**Photo Exhibit

At 6:30 p.m. today at the Vienna Café, there will be an inauguration ceremony for the photo exhibit “In Remembrance of the Victims of the Conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia”, organized by the Mission of Georgia to the UN. The Prime Minister of Georgia will attend the ceremony.

That’s what I have for you. Anything for me?

**Questions and Answers

Question: I wanted to just ask you about the Reconciliation Committee for Somalia -- if Saudi Arabia could be a member. You also mentioned clans. Do you know if the Islamic Courts militia is part of it? And also, the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)?

Deputy Spokesperson: I will have to check into that for you. I will let you know after the briefing.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that neither Saudi Arabia, the Union of Islamic Courts nor the Organization of the Islamic Conference were members of the Committee.]

Question: Could you tell us what the one element that the negotiators in Addis could not… that was not agreed on in the Darfur talks yesterday?

Deputy Spokesperson: My understanding is –- and you’ve probably seen in press reports –- that the one element involves tactical attack helicopters. But as I mentioned in my briefing, the Sudanese delegation is hoped to provide a positive and expeditious response to this, and we have been told that hopefully that will happen before Mr. Konaré comes to New York next week, when he meets with the Secretary-General.

Question: Regarding the exhibition today at 6:30 – was the exhibition announced together with DPI or any of the UN organs, or was it done by the Permanent Mission of Georgia?

Deputy Spokesperson: All exhibits here involve UN preparation, together with the Mission, so it involves …

Question: Will anyone from the DPI speak at the event, apart from the Georgian Mission?

Deputy Spokesperson: We can find out.

[Following the briefing, the Spokesperson’s Office announced that exhibitions held in non-public areas were not the responsibility of Department of Public Information and that the head of that Department would not be attending the event. For further questions, correspondents were invited to contact the Mission of Georgia.]

Question: On DPI, will we meet the new USG any time soon?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, let’s ask him.

Question: On this Rwanda exhibition, what is going to happen with it?

Deputy Spokesperson: As I mentioned, unfortunately, the standard review process was not followed this time, and so they are waiting for the standard review process to take place, reviewing the wording of many aspects of that exhibit, and I am waiting to hear from the head of DPI when the actual opening date will be. But yes, it has been postponed.

Question: I have one more question. In Nepal, I cannot really figure out the quote. It seems like Ian Martin said that the election of the Constituent Assembly cannot take place now, before 20 June, and then some have just expressed concern about it. Do you know what the UN’s position is?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have not seen an announcement by Ian Martin about the election date, but I will try to find out where we stand on that.

Question: Has the Secretary-General announced any more senior official appointments, or does he intend to announce any soon?

Deputy Spokesperson: I don’t know from when you are referring, but if there haven’t been any announcements, there haven’t been any announcements.

Question: [inaudible] there was a gentleman named Mr. Kim, and I believe he still works at the Secretary-General’s Office, and his designation is not clear.

Deputy Spokesperson: Mr. Kim is the Deputy Chief of Staff.

Question: The other thing is that, yesterday, it was asked about this small arms shipment being allowed by the United States to go to Ethiopia to be used in Somalia, and that is in clear violation of the Security Council resolution, which the United States itself [inaudible]. Now, is it obligatory on any Member State to explain its actions to the Member States?

Deputy Spokesperson: It is a Security Council matter, there is a Security Council Sanctions Committee. It is probably best to address this question to the Committee Chairperson, for starters.

Question: Does the Secretary-General have a position on that?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, he does not.

Question: Co-Chairmen of the Alliance of Civilizations are supposed to meet the Secretary-General later on today. We haven’t heard anything on that subject for months, despite the fact that there was a report, also months ago, part of it action-oriented. Can you ask the secretariat of the Alliance to give us a briefing?

Deputy Spokesperson: Sure, we can ask if they will give you a readout after the Secretary-General’s meeting today with the Permanent Representatives of the two countries that are most heavily involved.

Question: Since you mentioned that the Secretary-General came up with a report recently on Abkhazia… Recently, Ambassador Churkin of the Russian Federation told us that one of the reasons that the President of Kosovo was not allowed to speak in front of the Council was because the official of Abkhazia was not allowed to come here and brief the Council. He stated, in particular, that he was not issued a visa. Who is that official, do you know? Why was he not issued a visa? And when was he invited to brief the Council? Or is this a permanent request somehow?

Deputy Spokesperson: I think you should address that to the Security Council membership since it’s their meeting and they are the ones who are organizing it.

Question: Given that Iran is proceeding with enrichment of uranium, are you concerned, or is the Secretary-General concerned, about the safety, since IAEA is not providing technical assistance at this stage, or limited technical assistance?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General was asked about the latest developments regarding Iran yesterday, and I think he told a couple of news outlets who spoke to him that he hopes that, even at this time, when the Iranian Government is undergoing Security Council sanctions, that they should engage in dialogue with the intention of communicating. It is very important for any member country to fully comply with the Security Council resolution, and he went on to say that he urged the Iranian Government to do so. So that’s the latest that I have and we have that upstairs for you.

Question: [inaudible]

Deputy Spokesperson: No.

Question: It’s just a follow-up on the exhibition downstairs. Before, I wrote a story, which ended up with the cancellation of the exhibition. I read carefully what was written there and it was accusing Turkey of genocide. Do you not think that the United Nations should be neutral on international matters?

Deputy Spokesperson: On the matter of the exhibit, I really think we gave our explanation yesterday. I repeated it now. I mean, the focus, as you know, of the exhibit was intended to be on the Rwandan genocide. The Secretary-General’s intention was to go to the exhibit so that the world would not forget the thirteenth anniversary of the occurrence of genocide in Rwanda. It is unfortunate that other issues have clouded this exhibition and the fact that it had to be postponed. My only comment from here right now is to be able to announce when we can announce the opening of this exhibit.

Question: I just wanted… if you could give us a little more clarification: when the United Nations is really using the term “global warming” and when it prefers to use the “climate change”?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, that’s a technical question that I would refer you either to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), or the UNFCCC in [ Bonn]. And we can certainly put you in touch with them, and if they are here next time, let’s put the question directly to the experts.

Question: But, for example today, when you said that UNICEF is saying about the climate change, so can you give us from the point of view of the whole of the United Nations -- any explanation of that, besides that we can go directly to that agency?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, UNESCO has issued this press release today, associating the phenomena of climate change and its World Heritage sites. So it’s not UNICEF -- it’s UNESCO, which is a specialized agency. There is a whole press release up there, so why don’t you take a look at that, see how they are explaining that in there, and then we’ll take it from there. We can approach the experts, if we need to.

Question: I wondered if the Secretary-General has any response to the large demonstration in Iraq yesterday, about asking for the withdrawal of occupying forces?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, he does not.

Question: Just one more about the exhibition. Is one of the reasons of the cancellation, or postponement of the exhibition, because the previous head of DPI had approved it and then the newcomer has not approved it yet?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, no.

Question: The Secretary-General’s report on Georgia talks about this joint fact-finding thing… the helicopter incident in the Upper Kodori Gorge… so this hasn’t been finished yet. Do you know when that… Does UNOMIG or DPKO -- when is this report going to be finished to find out who did [talkover]?

Deputy Spokesperson: There was a press release that came out, I believe, last week. There was an interim press release on the status of that investigation. So let us take a look at that. Maybe it will say when it will be completed. Also, I don’t know if [Special Representative for Georgia] Jean Arnault -– if you might want to catch him on his way out from the consultations, if that will be another way.

Question: There are indications that Ethiopians are imprisoning a number of Somalis. Is this legal under international law? And the fact that there is a legal elected Government in Somalia?

Deputy Spokesperson: I am not aware of the issue that you are referring to, so we will have to look into that and to get you guidance, if there is some.

Question: At 3 p.m., the Secretary-General is meeting with the Prime Minister of Georgia. Can we get a readout on that tomorrow?

Deputy Spokesperson: Of course.

Question: And do we know anything at all in advance? The topic that they will be discussing?

Deputy Spokesperson: That will involve Georgia. But I will get you…

Question: Nothing specific?

Deputy Spokesperson: I will see if -- the readout -– if we can get one for you today. Not to wait till tomorrow. OK?

Have a good afternoon.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070424.doc.htm
http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

Posted by: mynameis Apr 11 2007, 10:41 PM
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon. I’ll start with an announcement of the Secretary-General’s travel plans.

**Secretary-General’s Travel Plans

The Secretary-General plans to travel early next week to Europe and the Middle East. His first stop is Rome for an official visit to Italy, during which he plans to meet with senior Italian leaders. He also expects to meet with the Pope in Vatican City.

He then travels to Bern for an official visit to Switzerland, where he will meet with leaders of the Swiss Government. While in Switzerland, he will attend a meeting of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), which brings together, on a regular basis, twice a year, the heads of the organizations of the UN system, under the chairmanship of the Secretary-General. The third leg of the trip will take him to Doha, Qatar, to address a forum on democracy, development and free trade. And his final scheduled stop is Damascus. During his official visit to Syria, the Secretary-General plans to meet with senior Government officials, including the President, on a range of issues.

** Algeria

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Algeria.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns the terrorist bombings that occurred today in Algeria, killing and wounding many innocent civilians, in what has been reported as an attempt against Prime Minister Abdelaziz Belkhadem. He extends his sincere condolences to the Government and people of Algeria and, in particular, to the families of the victims.

The Secretary-General believes this deplorable incident, the latest in a series of similar attacks in the Maghreb region as a whole, shows the need for concerted international action against terrorism, which has the effect of undermining the normal functioning of societies and disrupting the lives of ordinary people.

** Sudan

Turning to Sudan, the UN Mission there continues to report a number of security incidents involving humanitarian activities in Darfur. Among the incidents reported over the past few days are an armed robbery on a medical clinic run by an NGO in North Darfur, a shooting of a vehicle being used for a vaccination campaign in South Darfur and a shooting between armed militias and police inside a camp housing internally displaced persons in West Darfur.

Yesterday evening, the UN Mission strongly condemned an unprovoked attack carried out earlier that day by unidentified armed men on an African Union patrol team at a water point in North Darfur, during which one member of the [African Union Mission in the Sudan] protection force was killed.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Now turning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Mission (MONUC) there has contributed to the departure of Senator Jean-Pierre Bemba from Kinshasa today, following a request by the Congolese authorities and also by Senator Bemba himself. Bemba was granted permission by the President of the Provisional Office of the Senate to leave Kinshasa. Following that, MONUC provided security for the Senator’s transportation from the Embassy of South Africa to the airport of Kinshasa, where he took a plane for Portugal, where Mr. Bemba is to receive medical treatment.

** Somalia

On Somalia, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the humanitarian situation in that country is dramatically deteriorating and that aid workers are facing serious political obstructions as they work to help internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups. As a result of the political obstacles, UN agencies and their partners have been unable to hand out food and basic supplies in areas hit by drought, floods and conflict.

**Security Council

As you know, there are no meetings or consultations of the Security Council scheduled for today. But, on the racks, is a letter from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council, informing the Council of his appointment of two experts to fill vacancies on the Al-Qaida and Taliban Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

** Nepal

In Asia, the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) today began three days of registration and storage of Nepalese Army weapons at the barracks in Kathmandu. On the first day of the process, the Nepalese Army presented some 850 weapons for registration and storage by UN teams. Fourteen UN teams, supported by UNDP, registered each weapon individually for storage. Arms monitors are present throughout the registration process, and will maintain a 24-hour presence at the Barracks from today to monitor the weapons. Surveillance cameras have been installed at the site.

** Afghanistan

Turning to Afghanistan, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, singer Clay Aiken took part in a press conference at the UN Mission’s headquarters in Kabul this morning. Aiken said that the people of Afghanistan were without question the country’s greatest natural resource. He especially highlighted the eagerness for learning among people of all ages. And there is more in a press release from UNICEF upstairs on that.

**North Pole

And, then, six teams of adventurers are racing to the North Pole, and one team hopes to raise nearly half a million dollars for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in the process. Jake Morland, a former UNHCR field officer, and long-time friend James Turner are among the 15 competitors who left the last inhabited outpost in northern Canada on Monday. The race to the Pole is expected to take at least four weeks. They are hoping to raise 250,000 British pounds from sponsors. They want to earmark that money for a special trust fund to cover urgent medical evacuation for refugee children. So far, they’ve raised more than $50,000. And there is a press release from the UN refugee agency on that item.

**Press Conferences

Today, at 1:15 p.m., there will be a press conference on the occasion of the fortieth session of the Commission on Population and Development. Here to brief you, will be Dr. Somnath Chatterji, the team leader of Multi-Country Studies at the World Health Organization, accompanied by Dr. Nyovani Madise, senior researcher at the African Population and Health Research Center.

And then just to flag for you -- tomorrow, at 1 p.m. here we have scheduled a background briefing by a senior UN official on the Secretary-General’s upcoming report on system-wide coherence, which will be presented by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on Monday.

That’s what I have for you today.

**Questions and Answers

Question: You mentioned Somalia. I wanted to ask you two things. The Arab League has mentioned that a peace conference has been put off for a full month, until mid May. Has the UN been informed of that? And also, does the UN have any idea how many people have been killed in this most recent… one of the clans says it’s a couple of thousand… so does the UN have a figure? And finally, there is a quote from the Defence Minister of the Transitional Federal Government to the effect that certain sub-clans should be expelled from the city or exterminated. So I am wondering: with this language, people, I guess, are asking whether the UN system has any comment on its continued either use of the Transitional Federal Government or… the WFP called on the Transitional Federal Government to help it combat pirates. What is the UN’s response to the Defence Minister?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, specifically on the remarks you are quoting today, I don’t have anything, since that was just in press reports. In terms of what the UN is doing, as you know, we are involved both politically and on the humanitarian front, as we have reported to you in recent days. On the humanitarian situation, we had an update, as I reported today on the deteriorating situation there and, obviously, continued displacement. This is of great concern to the United Nations. And I don’t remember your first point. Oh, about the conference, yes.

The number of deaths, I have to tell you that, in most situations, UN agencies on the ground are there to help the victims and those who are still alive. If we have any statistics, those are generally not the UN’s own statistics, because death tolls are generally… statistics are provided by the local authorities.

Question: And mid May? Do you have any confirmation?

Deputy Spokesperson: That I do not have anything further than what we reported yesterday.

Question: Any reaction from the Secretary-General about the two proposals that are on the table about the Western Sahara? And what is the process from now? Is it going to be published as a document, or is it going to be included in the report of Mr. Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council about MINURSO?

Deputy Spokesperson: Ok, on… I think you are referring to the meeting that the Secretary-General had this morning with the Moroccan Permanent Representative… this morning he presented to the Secretary-General his Government’s autonomy initiative for Western Sahara. The Secretary-General expressed his appreciation, as well as his hope that the parties would find a mutually acceptable solution. The Secretary-General also noted a previous Security Council decision on the Western Sahara issue. I think the second plan that you mentioned is the Polisario plan -- and yes, I can confirm that we received that, as well, yesterday. And, in terms of where these plans go, they will be transmitted to the Security Council for them to take them up. In what format and when, I can’t tell you, because this just happened a few hours ago, when we received the report.

Question: Mr. Ban Ki-moon met with Bashar [al-Assad] in Riyadh. What is he going to discuss in Damascus, other than what he discussed in Riyadh?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I don’t think we are in a position here to tell you what he will discuss in a meeting that is going to be quite a ways from today. But, generally speaking, he, as you know, the Secretary-General visited a number of countries after and before his attendance at the Riyadh summit last month. He is continuing his visit to the Middle East by going to Qatar and Syria, and he hopes that his visit, especially to Syria, will be useful and constructive in continuing his efforts to contribute to the ongoing peace efforts in the region.

Question: Is there any progress regarding the exchange of prisoners in the Middle East?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have nothing further on any specifics.

Question: You indicated that Polisario also submitted a plan. There was no scheduled meeting yesterday with the Secretary-General. Where and when was that plan submitted?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have no details. All I can tell you that we are in receipt of that, as well.

Question: Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora has sent a memorandum to Ban Ki-moon yesterday on the tribunal. Any reaction to that?

Deputy Spokesperson: All I can say at this point is that, yes, I confirmed before I came here that we are in receipt of a letter from Mr. Siniora and that we are studying it.

Question: Do you think Mr. Ban Ki-moon will discuss the matter of the tribunal with President Bashar al-Assad?

Deputy Spokesperson: Again, I will have tell you that the readout of the meeting with the President of Syria will be made after the meeting.

Question: Can you tell us what the meeting with Mayor Bloomberg is about?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is scheduled to meet with the Mayor of New York, Mayor Bloomberg, this afternoon. The Secretary-General hopes to discuss a range of issues of mutual interest to the City of New York and to the United Nations. These include the City’s continuing support for the Capital Master Plan, ways to work together on climate change and possible cooperation in UN peacekeeping operations.

Question: Can you elaborate on cooperation in peacekeeping?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, again I’d like to give a readout on that afterwards, but, as you know, New York City has one of the most diversified police forces around, and the Secretary-General would like to explore possibilities, nothing specific... But, as you know, getting police to join peacekeeping operations is one of the high priorities for the UN. So, I think he would like to explore that and talk about possible cooperation.

Question: With reference to this letter that you said you just received from Prime Minister Siniora to the Secretary-General, is that going to be released at some point and, if so, vaguely when?

Deputy Spokesperson: The letter was just received. They are studying it. At this point, I have no information whether it is going to be made public or not.

Question: By any chance, do you know whether Mr. Ban Ki-moon got an invitation from the Iranian Government?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have no information about any plans for him to visit Iran at this moment.

Question: Is it possible to request a stakeout with Mr. Bloomberg?

Deputy Spokesperson: I think that is something you might want to take that up with the Mayor’s office.

Question: Has the Secretary-General made any comment about Hizbollah’s comments about rearming because of another war in Lebanon?

Deputy Spokesperson: No, I have nothing further on that.

Question: Regarding the Capital Master Plan, do you know if they are going to discuss instead of on the lawn building, building on the Robert Moses Park, and whether Mr. Ban Ki-moon has been reaching out to the, I guess, New York State political officials that have…

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, the Capital Master Plan, as you know, has been approved and, as far as I know, the ground-breaking on the lawn should happen this summer.

Question: So there are no circumstances under which... because there are reports that Mr. Bloomberg is still trying to get that skyscraper built on…

Deputy Spokesperson: We will have to find out what his plans are, if he has any proposals. But, as far as the UN is concerned, the Capital Master Plan has been approved and we are very much looking forward to moving ahead with the plan.

Question: Can I ask you something about Georgia? Yesterday, there was this meeting between the Georgian Prime Minister and Mr. Ban Ki-moon. What was said at that meeting? And also, there was a report that the Georgian delegation met with Mr. Guéhenno on the ninth. And I am wondering if Mr. Guéhenno ever met with the Abkhaz side, or if that is the totality of his contacts on the conflict.

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, we will have to ask Mr. Guéhenno’s office. As for the readout, I believe we do have one, I just don’t have it with me.

[The Deputy Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General and the Georgian Prime Minister had discussed the investigation into the events of 11 March in the upper Kodori valley by the Joint Fact-Finding Group. The Secretary-General thanked the Prime Minister for Georgia’s cooperation with the investigation and assured him that the United Nations would do a thorough job. The Secretary-General and the Prime Minister also discussed the human rights and security situation in Georgia’s Gali district. In that context, the Secretary-General noted that the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) had strengthened its human rights and police presence in Gali. The Secretary-General also encouraged Georgia to engage in dialogue with Abkhazia, and he called for greater cooperation on security along the Georgia-Abkhazia ceasefire line. Regarding any possible meetings between the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Jean-Marie Guéhenno, and the Abkhaz side, the Deputy Spokesperson later added that Abkhaz representatives were not in New York and that no meetings with them were planned.]

There are no other questions? Have a good afternoon.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

Posted by: mynameis Apr 12 2007, 09:18 PM
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

** Iraq Statement

Good afternoon. I will start with a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the attack on the Iraqi parliament.

The Secretary-General deplores the bomb attack in the Iraqi parliament today, which has killed several Parliamentarians and left many more people wounded. This attack targeted Iraq’s elected officials and attempted to undermine one of the country’s sovereign institutions. The Secretary-General extends his condolences to the families of the victims, the Government of Iraq and the Council of Representatives. He once again urges all Iraqi leaders to come together in a spirit of unity in order to stem the violence and work towards a more peaceful and stable Iraq.

** Iraq

Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, condemned in the strongest terms today’s attacks in Baghdad on the Al-Sarrafiya bridge and at the Iraqi parliament, Qazi said that the bombings constituted attacks on the symbols of Iraq’s proud history and hope for its future. They showed the need for enhanced dialogue and national reconciliation. He called on the Iraqi authorities to apprehend the perpetrators of these criminal acts and bring them to justice. We have Ashraf Qazi’s statement upstairs.

**Secretary-General’s Press Encounter

The Secretary-General was asked by a reporter after his town hall meeting about the abduction, one month ago, of BBC journalist Alan Johnston in Gaza, and he said that he was deeply concerned. The Secretary-General said that Johnston’s coverage of Palestinian issues has earned a great reputation worldwide, and he emphasized that freedom of coverage, as well as freedom of the press, should be protected as a matter of principle. “I sincerely hope that those who are responsible for this abduction should release him unconditionally and immediately”, the Secretary-General said.

Asked about the ongoing dispute in Lebanon about the international tribunal, the Secretary-General said he was very much concerned by the lack of progress on this issue, and he reiterated his hope that the Lebanese Government will take the necessary constitutional procedures, and will work through dialogue and the promotion of national reconciliation. He also discussed his hopes for progress on the deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur. And we have a full transcript of his remarks upstairs.

**Town Hall Meeting

The press encounter, as mentioned, was right after he spoke to staff at UN Headquarters and duty stations around the world in a town hall meeting, telling them that he had been profoundly moved by the professionalism, commitment and hard work he has seen among UN staff during the past three months. He told the staff that he has asked his senior managers to identify their priorities and goals in a measurable way, and that he is also working to strengthen the Management Performance Board. Afterwards, the Secretary-General told reporters that the town hall meeting –- in response to a question -– was very useful and rewarding, and allowed him to learn there are certain concerns among staff, particularly on his proposals to promote mobility among staff members. He said he would have closer dialogue with the staff.

**Security Council

And here at the United Nations today, the Security Council, at 3 p.m., will hold consultations on Sudan and Somalia and other matters. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations will provide an update on the meeting that took place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Monday, involving the United Nations, African Union and Sudanese officials, concerning the heavy support package for Darfur for the African Union force in Darfur. Then, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Tuliameni Kalomoh, will brief Council members on recent developments in Somalia.

** Lebanon

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, is currently in the Middle East. In a press conference in Beirut today, she said she had been shocked to see the destruction caused by the recent conflict in southern Lebanon and its considerable impact on children.

She also visited a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut, where she noted the very high school drop-out rate. Referring to that visit, she said it was crucial that children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized ones, be encouraged to continue to go to school. She also stressed that all parties should respect international humanitarian law with regard to the protection of children, and ensure that schools are zones of peace. And there is a press release on her visit upstairs.

** Sudan

And on Sudan today, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that, due to a reduced demand for food aid, it will gradually shift its operations in southern Sudan from emergency war relief to longer-term recovery, after more than 20 years of delivering food aid to the region. And there is a press release from WFP on that subject.

** Burundi

A delegation of the Peacebuilding Commission is currently on a four-day mission to Burundi. The mission is led by Norway’s Permanent Representative, and its main goal is to discuss with the Government and other stakeholders how the Commission can best support national peacebuilding efforts, bring increased attention to ongoing peacebuilding efforts in Burundi and communicate the main principles and purposes of the Peacebuilding Commission to stakeholders on the ground. And there is more information upstairs.

** Solomon Islands

Turning to the Solomon Islands, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that humanitarian activities are still being hampered by lack of access to, and communication with, tsunami-hit areas. Nevertheless, UNICEF has managed to send tens of thousands of packets of oral rehydration salts to the western town of Gizo. And UNICEF, together with the World Health Organisation, is planning a measles vaccination campaign for this coming Monday. And there is a press release on that with more information.

**FAO

And there is also a press release from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on a new strain of wheat virus that can lay waste to entire fields and that is spreading from East Africa to Yemen. And there is more information on that for you.

**Deputy Secretary-General

And just to give you heads-up, at 3:15, the Deputy Secretary-General will deliver an address to the General Assembly informally briefing on the rule of law. The meeting is an informal one and is closed, but we will make the statement available after it is delivered.

**Press Briefings

And at 1 p.m. today, there will be a background briefing in this room, by a senior UN official on the Secretary-General’s report on system-wide coherence. That report is scheduled to be presented by the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on Monday.

At 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference with Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Union Commissioner for External Relations. Ms. Ferrero-Waldner will meet with the Secretary-General tomorrow morning and will be here after that meeting to take questions.

And that’s what I have for you today.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Why is this meeting closed –- on the rule of law?

Deputy Spokesperson: You should probably ask the General Assembly Spokesman, but there are many briefings in the General Assembly that are informal. But frequently, we make the remarks available by senior officials.

Question: The Iraqi insurgence has come this far. Has the Secretary-General ordered some special security measures for the UN mission in Iraq?

Deputy Spokesperson: Well, I can’t comment on any security matters and movement of UN personnel, obviously, for security reasons. But generally, the world security measures and conditions are evaluated around the clock, and I am sure that following this morning’s incident, there is especially close attention being paid to the situation in Baghdad.

Question: In East Timor, Mr. Ramos-Horta has criticized the UN Mission for not having provided better security or not being more involved –- he asked the UN for answers. Does the UN have any answers?

Deputy Spokesperson: I have not seen any reports that had come directly from his to the UN on this matter. And as far as… I think we have been reporting to you from the UN mission that the situation so far has been calm regarding the elections.

Question: In Kosovo, there has been a poll showing that the acceptance of the UN is at an all-time low. I don’t remember exact figures. Some 20-30 per cent of the population approved of what the UN is doing and everyone else thought that the UN was doing a terrible job. What kind of response is the UN giving to these figures and these findings?

Deputy Spokesperson: My understanding is –- and this is from the UN authorities in Kosovo, the UN Mission there –- they say this is the latest of the regular quarterly surveys done by the UNDP in Kosovo, and it is based on opinion polls among its population. The UN Mission there has not been involved in this project, but we are told that UNMIK’s ratings have gone up and down in different quarters in the past. The UN Mission, when we asked them, did not have an immediate comment on the latest movement, but there could be several factors impacting on the public’s perception, but I don’t know, I can’t speculate further.

Question: But, movement or no movement, this is an ultimate figure here, and that is: the UN is overwhelmingly unpopular in Kosovo. What strategy, if any -– and this is not about how the poll was done and not a question about movement –- the question is, with the UN so unpopular, is the UN engaging in any kind of strategy to deal with this?

Deputy Spokesperson: I think the UN, from the start of its mission, has had a very proactive strategy in trying to reach out to the people of Kosovo. Specifically on what it is doing in response to the latest poll, I will have to find out from them on the ground.

Question: But if you are not wanted there, what are you doing there?

Deputy Spokesperson: The Security Council has mandated the UN to be there, it does have the mandate to be there, and it will be there until the Security Council tells it that it does not have to be there anymore.

Question: We know that there a few International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials in Iran. Can you give us some information on how their progress is going?

Deputy Spokesperson: I’ll have to check with the IAEA on that. I don’t have anything directly from them today.

Question: I am sorry if I missed that -- what is the reason for the Secretary-General meeting with former President Clinton? And whether he is considering engaging him in any new job or something?

Deputy Spokesperson: On the latter, I don’t know. I will give you a readout of the meeting after it happens. My understanding is that President Clinton asked for the meeting. And as you know, Mr. Clinton played an instrumental role in the tsunami recovery efforts for the United Nations.

Question: Just one more on East Timor. Ramos Horta is saying: “I asked the UN for an explanation.” So I am wondering if there is one. Are you saying, unless he writes a letter…

Deputy Spokesperson: No, I have just not seen anything. So I will follow up and if there is anything, we will get back to you, as we always do, with your questions.

[Following the briefing, responding to a question about complaints from Jose Ramos Horta, one of the presidential candidates for Timor-Leste, the Deputy Spokesperson said that some candidates had submitted complaints through the channels provided for by the law; they were being dealt with in accordance with the procedures. Others, while maintaining that there had been flaws, had announced that they would not submit formal challenges.]

Question: It was announced that the UN’s representative in Gambia, who is a UNDP representative, was thrown out for having challenged the President’s claim that he could cure AIDS with no medicine, but in some other way… He was expelled from the country, and now UNDP has replaced him with another person, who presumably won’t criticize. Can you explain why –- who made the decision in the UN system to -– unlike Jan Pronk, whom Kofi Annan stood behind to the end of his term –- to actually replace someone who was expelled for having criticized…?

Deputy Spokesperson: You really need to address this to UNDP. It was a UNDP representative, and it was the UNDP who I think…

Question: But he was also a UN representative.

Deputy Spokesperson: I understand, but I think this person came back to the UNDP for consultations. We would really have to ask the UNDP.

Question: The Secretary-General had no role in…?

Deputy Spokesperson: I’d have to check with UNDP.

If there are no other questions, have a good afternoon.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

Posted by: mynameis Apr 17 2007, 07:51 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**United Nations and African Union -- Darfur

On 16 to 17 April 2007, the Secretary-General and the African Union Commission Chairperson, Alpha Oumar Konaré, met at United Nations Headquarters for high-level consultations on Darfur. The Secretary-General and Chairperson Konaré believe that the situation in and around Darfur is at a crossroads. They expressed serious concern at the prevailing dire security and humanitarian situation on the ground, and continued attacks against civilians and the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) peacekeepers, as well as inter-tribal fighting and incidents of aerial bombardments. They called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in order to alleviate humanitarian suffering in Darfur and create an environment conducive to political negotiations.

The Secretary-General and Chairperson Konaré reiterated the determination of the United Nations and the African Union to jointly lead efforts to advance the political process, and to finalize plans for a strong peacekeeping operation, which would be capable of implementing the security aspects of the Darfur Peace Agreement (DPA) and providing protection for the civilian population.

The Secretary-General and Chairperson Konaré welcomed the broad support of the Security Council for the work of the African Union and United Nations Envoys for Darfur and called for a roadmap to be elaborated by the Special Envoys, as well as continued international support for their efforts to move forward towards substantive negotiations. They urged all movements to join the process in earnest, under the joint African Union-United Nations leadership. They also welcomed the agreement of the Government of Sudan with regard to the United Nations heavy support package for AMIS and reiterated the determination of the United Nations and the African Union to proceed expeditiously with the implementation of the heavy support package and finalization of planning for the hybrid operation.

We have the full statement upstairs.

** Sudan

The United Nations Mission in Sudan says that a fire broke out yesterday in the market place at the Abu Shouk internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in North Darfur. The fire destroyed around 100 shops, but no human casualties were reported, and local police say the fire was started accidentally. Meanwhile, in West Darfur, four children were reportedly killed by unexploded ordnance over the weekend, and the African Union Mission in Sudan will investigate the incident.

The United Nations Mission in Sudan has more details on these incidents, as well as on recent hijackings of United Nations and other vehicles, in today’s briefing note.

**Secretary-General -- Sudan

As I mentioned, the Secretary-General recently wrapped up his two-day meeting with African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konaré on Darfur, and he spoke to the press afterward to say that, although he is encouraged by the positive signs from the Sudanese Government, the important thing now is to implement these agreements into action. He said that the African Union and the United Nations have agreed to move towards deploying a hybrid operation in Darfur and to intensify their political process. They have also instructed their special envoys, Salim Ahmed Salim and Jan Eliasson, to come up with a more detailed and workable road map for the political process. We have the agreed conclusions of their consultations upstairs -- the statement I read earlier.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

Later today, the Secretary-General leaves for Italy, Switzerland, Qatar and Syria. He will return from the Middle East by the middle of next week.

** Afghanistan

The Secretary-General was deeply distressed to learn of the fatal incident which occurred earlier this morning, when a United Nations convoy was hit by a remote-controlled explosive device in Kandahar city, resulting in the death of an Afghan driver and four Nepalese contractors working with the United Nations Office for Project Services. The Secretary-General has also learned with sadness of an explosion which took place at a school in Herat this morning, in which at least four children were killed and four others wounded. He is deeply concerned at the security situation throughout Afghanistan, which results in increasing numbers of civilian casualties. The Secretary-General strongly condemns such despicable acts of violence against civilians and sends his profound condolences to the bereaved families and respective governments of the victims of today’s incidents.

We also have a statement from the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, which says that intentional attacks on civilians are a clear violation of international humanitarian law, and the United Nations will be pursuing full accountability for those who are behind this.

** United States -- Virginia Polytechnic Institute Shooting

Earlier today, the Secretary-General was also asked about the killings yesterday at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and he said that the rampant killing of innocent civilians is unacceptable, and he condemns it in the strongest terms. The Secretary-General is deeply saddened by the killings in Virginia. This tragic incident underscores the common bonds of all humanity. “We all grieve with the survivors,” he said, “and the families of all victims.” The Secretary-General hopes for a profound healing process for the many individuals and communities affected.

**Security Council

The Secretary-General this morning addressed the Security Council’s open debate on energy, security and climate. He noted that the planet’s warming is unequivocal, its impact is clearly noticeable and it is beyond doubt that human activities have been contributing considerably to it. The Secretary-General stressed that the issues of energy and climate change can have implications for peace and security. Specifically, he said that when resources are scarce -- whether energy, water or arable land -- our fragile ecosystems become strained, as do the coping mechanisms of groups and individuals. This can lead to a breakdown of established codes of conduct and even outright conflict, he added.

Another possible consequence of climate change was increased migration, he added, which could deepen tensions and conflicts, particularly in regions with large numbers of internally displaced persons and refugees. Calling for early action vis-à-vis climate change, the Secretary-General said the resources of civil society and the private sector must be brought in and that the Security Council has a role to play. We have his full remarks upstairs.

**Security Council –- Consultations

And while on the subject of the Security Council, we have just been told that the Council will most likely hold consultations on Lebanon, specifically on resolution 1701, following today’s open debate.

** Iraq

The Secretary-General delivered a video message to the international conference on Iraq’s refugees and internally displaced persons that began today in Geneva, telling the conference that for many fleeing Iraqis, resources are dwindling. Many will become destitute. The Secretary-General urged neighbouring countries to keep their borders open and uphold the principle of no forced return, and he asked Iraq to work to create the conditions for the safe return of Iraqis.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes and High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres laid out the challenges being faced by the two million Iraqis who have left their country, with as many as two million more internally displaced. Holmes said that the key point of the crisis, and of future humanitarian response, is the protection of civilians. He said that we must find ways to operate inside Iraq despite the terrible insecurity which dominates significant parts of the country.

We have the Secretary-General’s video message upstairs, and we also have a press release from the World Health Organization, which says that the escalating violence and widespread insecurity are putting severe pressures on the health of Iraqis. It notes that, on average, 100 people were killed daily in 2006.

** Lebanon

United Nations Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel arrived in Beirut today, and told reporters at the airport that he has come to Lebanon with an open mind and an open heart, and is ready to engage in a substantial dialogue as he assists the Lebanese on their way towards the ratification of the agreement on the establishment of a tribunal of an international character. He said he would meet with the whole spectrum of the main interlocutors involved, including the President, the Prime Minister, and the Speaker of the Parliament.

Mr. Michel underscored that the tribunal was requested by the legitimate Lebanese authorities, and its creation was unanimously supported by the first meeting of the country’s national dialogue. Although it will take at least one year after the adoption of its legal basis for the tribunal to become operational, he said, now is the time for the adoption of that legal basis.

**Kosovo

Turning now to Kosovo, International Prosecutor Robert Dean today presented to the United Nations Mission his interim report regarding the deaths and serious wounding of protestors during last February’s demonstration in Pristina. The interim report states that there is a substantial basis on which to conclude that Romanian gunners attached to the Romanian Formed Police Unit were indeed responsible for the four woundings -- two of which were fatal. But there is not enough evidence pointing to which specific Romanian gunners were responsible for firing the wounding shots, and the evidence does not show at this time that the entire group of Romanian gunners acted unlawfully. The interim report does add, however, that there is a reasonable suspicion that three of the shootings constitute crimes under Kosovo law.

In light of the above, the report says that the United Nations Mission, the United Nations, and the Government of Romania may consider initiating appropriate procedures for compensation for the surviving family members of those fatally shot and for those seriously wounded. Again, this report is not final. The investigation is continuing, and we have more information on that upstairs.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

In response to your questions about the dismantling of the demilitarised zone dividing Côte d'Ivoire, we have been told by the United Nations Mission in that country that it supports this dismantling, as it is in line with the Ouagadougou Agreement. The United Nations Mission also says it is ready to assist in this process, upon request from the parties.

This is all I have for you. Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Michèle, I want to know, in this deal with Sudan on Darfur, did China play any role in order to facilitate this agreement? Do you have any information about that? Do you have any comment on that -- on China?

Spokesperson: Not that I know of. As far as I know, the discussion took place between the parties -- the African Union and the United Nations. And the agreement was reached after three meetings between those parties.

Question: The other thing I wanted to know about was: in Afghanistan, you’re talking about these Nepalese who were killed, right?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Were there facilities in which they are working, over there?

Spokesperson: They were contractors, from what I gather.

Question: Contractors? The Nepali Government has contractors? And these were Nepalese who were killed?

Spokesperson: Nepalese were killed, and they were contractors for the United Nations.

Question: For the United Nations?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Any plans for Nicolas Michel to go to Syria while the Secretary-General is in Damascus?

Spokesperson: At this point, I don’t know. I do know that he arrived and he’s focused on his duties there, in Lebanon, to meet the different parties.

Question: Another question: the report on resolution 1559 will be released as scheduled on 19 April? Can you confirm it?

Spokesperson: As far as I know, yes.

Question: I’m not sure if it’s a very appropriate question, but I would like to ask: is there any reaction of the Secretary-General when the nationality of the shooter at Virginia Tech was disclosed this morning?

Spokesperson: Well, the Secretary-General does not have any reaction on the specific nationality of the shooter. I think he condemns what happened regardless of the nationality of the person involved.

Question: First of all, are there going to be any surprises with the Secretary-General travelling to the Middle East? My question is: can he, anyhow, go to Tehran, for example, this time?

Spokesperson: He was asked that question today at the stakeout and he said no.

Question: My second question is regarding yesterday’s questions: does the Secretary-General have full confidence in this chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Carla del Ponte, after what has been released in the media, and after Ms. Carla del Ponte was accused by the former prosecutor in theMilosevictrial?

Spokesperson: I said everything I could say about this and I would say about this yesterday. My statement stands. The statement I made stands.

Question: The Secretary-General does have confidence in her?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Are there any talks at the United Nations on who is going to replace her after her mandate legally expires in September this year?

Spokesperson: I don’t know at this point. I don’t have the information.

Question: About the journalist, Alan Johnston, from the BBC: the Secretary-General said last Tuesday that “I will do whatever I can in my capacity as Secretary-General to end this abduction”. Any information about this effort so far?

Spokesperson: I don’t have anything. We don’t have anything concrete on that yet.

Question: On the Secretary-General’s comments in the video conference: while he called on Iraq’s neighbours to open their borders to the refugees, to the contrary, the neighbours are actually closing the borders. The United States wants them to close. And also, for example, for Turkey there is a terrorist infiltration problem from Iraq, and for Syria it’s the same thing. How do you comment on that? How do you see the United Nations position, and the neighbours’ position and the United States’ position?

Spokesperson: I would suggest that you follow the work of the conference that is taking place in Geneva right now, where those issues are being raised.

Question: Just with regards to the heavy support package: do you have any details on the deal at the moment?

Spokesperson: Well, at this point, Mr. [Jean-Marie] Guéhenno gave some information yesterday afternoon during the stakeout, and we’ll probably... We’ll try to get more, additional, information for you if you need it.

Question: I’m sorry. Just to clarify, because I confess I missed yesterday. Do you know what the nationality could be, or the colour of the uniforms, of the 3,000 troops?

Spokesperson: I don’t have that information at this point but Mr. Guéhenno might have it for you. I think this is still in discussion, so I don’t think we will have specific information on the uniform.

Question: Do you have any details on this suggestion that Sudan retains veto power over the crews of the helicopters?

Spokesperson: No. I don’t know anything about this, and I think you should address these questions to Mr. Guéhenno. And I will try to have him come and...[The correspondent was later informed that the primary UN concern regarding the helicopters was that the requirement for air support be met effectively.]

Question: So is it fair to say that, at this moment, there is no deal on the heavy support package yet?

Spokesperson: Well, there is a deal on the heavy support package.

Question: Well, you say that there’s a deal, but these issues are not resolved. So how can there be a deal when there are issues that are not resolved? I’m confused.

Spokesperson: Well, I mean, the whole… The package itself is accepted.

Question: What uniforms are they going to wear?

Spokesperson: What they are discussing is how to carry them… how to make it, practically, a reality. [She later added that it was expected that the troops would wear some form of UN insignia.]

Question: Well then, it’s semantics. Because it sounds to me like you’ve got a deal, but all the details have to be discussed.

Spokesperson: Well, yes, there are some details still being discussed -- like the granting of land, like the granting of water rights for the troops.

Question: That’s clearly logistics. But more fundamental questions are: what colour uniforms are these people going to wear? And whether you can send these people who might not be from Africa? If you determine that you have specialist need for some Europeans, or some Indians, or whatever for that matter -- is that allowed or not? It seems to me that there’s still disagreement on this issue.

Spokesperson: I think on this issue there are a number… there are agreements. And when Mr. Ban, the Secretary-General, and Mr. Konaré spoke to the press earlier today, they did mention that there was an agreement.

Question: So what is the agreement? Is there an agreement that you can have any nationality whatsoever amongst these 3,000?

Spokesperson: Well, the priority would be given first -- that’s what Mr. Konaré said -- will be given first to African Union troops.

Question: Sorry to keep on going on this, but it’s kind of important. Have the Sudanese accepted that you can send non-African troops in this 3,000?

Spokesperson: I suggest you address those specific questions to the people in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. And we’ll have that information… they will, I’m sure, have that information available for you if all the details are worked out at this point.

Question: You mention that there is a deal on that heavy support package and they are -- correct me if I’m wrong -- now discussing as to exactly how it is to be implemented.

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: Is there any sort of timetable involved therein? And do they have any sense of urgency? Do they have a sense of sufficient urgency, such that -- crossroads though it may be -- if they don’t do something very quickly, the route out of the crossroads is going to lead to the world’s biggest cemetery?

Spokesperson: Well, they are fully aware -- and this was expressed clearly during the meeting -- they are fully aware of the urgency of doing something about the situation. And I think this was very clearly expressed.

Question: One thing on Darfur: Senegal a few days ago had said that it was thinking of pulling its troops out after five of them were killed in Darfur. Do you have any update on whether they are, in fact, going to pull those troops out?

Spokesperson: I think this information should come from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. I don’t have the confirmation of it.

Question: On what you read out about Kosovo, on this investigation of the Romanians: I remember about less than a month ago, the United Nations expressed some displeasure that the Romanian troops actually left the country without the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo being in favour of it. So, I’m wondering if you could say -- since they say a crime was committed, but they can’t figure out who did it -- whether it was helpful to this investigation that the Romanian troops and their supervisors weren’t in the country? I mean, might they have been able to identify who did it, if they had been there? What was done to figure out…?

Spokesperson: What they said was they weren’t able to identify who exactly did it. Whether they were present or not, there would have been the same conclusion.

Question: But did they speak with them? Did they interview them and say who fired the rubber bullets and did it?

Spokesperson: I don’t really know the details of the investigation, but we can try to find out for you.

Question: One last question. There’s been a lot of controversy in the last few days about the first round of elections in Nigeria. Human Rights Watch has said that it was filled with fraud and should be redone. Is the United Nations in any way involved? Has Mr. Ban made any calls? Does the United Nations have any thoughts about this major election with, now, 50 deaths and a lot of irregularities, in Nigeria?

Spokesperson: As you know, the United Nations is not, for the time being, involved in the electoral process. The process is being taken care of by the electoral council there. And…

Question: Is there going to be… Is the United Nations observing it? Is it monitoring it?

Spokesperson: No. The United Nations is not officially monitoring it. They have international observers, which are accredited with the national electoral commission.

And I’m sorry. There’s one thing I forgot to say earlier:

Following the noon briefing today, there will be a press conference on the United Nations Economic and Social Survey for Asia and the Pacific, which will be launched tomorrow. Mr. Robert Vos, Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, will be here to brief you on the survey. Please be advised that this press conference is embargoed until tomorrow, 5:30 a.m., New York time.

And at 1:30 this afternoon, there will be a press conference with Ambassador Angus Friday, the Permanent Representative of Grenada to the United Nations, who will brief you on global warming, on behalf of the new bureau of the Alliance of Small Island States.

And tomorrow at 11:15 a.m. there will be a press conference sponsored by the Mission of Canada to the United Nations by the non-governmental organization “Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict”, who will brief on violations against children in Sudan.

Thank you very much.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

Posted by: mynameis Apr 19 2007, 10:20 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

**Statement on Sudan

Good afternoon. We have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Sudan.

The Secretary-General views with deep concern the evidence that has been presented to members of the Security Council regarding the flying of arms and heavy weapons into Darfur, in violation of Security Council resolution 1591 (2005).

He is especially troubled by reports that private or national aircraft have been illegally provided with UN markings and used for military purposes. If further substantiated, such actions would be in clear violation of international law and in contravention of the United Nations international status.

The Secretary-General will continue to work closely with the Security Council on this issue and will expect full cooperation from the Government of Sudan, other Governments and all other parties to provide prompt clarification.

**Secretary-General in Rome

The Secretary-General arrived in Rome from New York early Tuesday and started his official visit to Italy with a meeting with the President, Giorgio Napolitano, followed by one with the Foreign Minister, Massimo d’Alema. The topics covered included the Middle East, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Kosovo, climate change, UN reform, Darfur, Somalia and Western Sahara.

At a joint press encounter with the Foreign Minister after their meeting, the Secretary-General told reporters that he had very useful and constructive meetings with the two Italian leaders. He commended Italy as the only country to rank in the top eight in both troop and financial contributions to the United Nations.

In response to a question about the killing of the Mayor of Nagasaki, Iccho Itoh, the Secretary-General said that he learned with shock and regret of the assassination. He said that Mayor Itoh “was a champion of peace for a world where nuclear war would never happen again”. We have a full statement available upstairs.

The Secretary-General was also asked about capital punishment, and he said that he and High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour “fully support the growing trend in the international community towards the abolition of the use of the death penalty”.

The Secretary-General then continued his discussions with the Italian Foreign Minister over a working luncheon and then met with the Foreign Affairs Committees of the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, among other officials.

Right now, he is expected to be having a tête-à-tête meeting with the Pope. Later tonight, he will attend a dinner hosted by the Presidents of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives.

**Security Council

The Security Council this morning held consultations on the diamond sanctions on Liberia, with a briefing by the chair of the Council’s Sanctions Committee for that country, the Ambassador of Qatar.

Under other matters, Council members also discussed the report of the monitoring group on Sudan sanctions.

Yesterday evening, the Security Council adopted a presidential statement on Lebanon, which, among other things, welcomes the Secretary-General’s intention to evaluate the situation along the entire Lebanese border and invites him to dispatch an independent mission to fully assess the monitoring of the border. It welcomes the completion of the second phase of the deployment of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).

** Iraq Conference

High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres spoke at the closing of the conference on Iraqi refugees and internally displaced persons in Geneva, and he lauded the Iraqi Government’s very welcome new policy to support the Iraqis outside the country.

He noted other recent achievements, including the adoption last week by the United Nations of a strategic platform for humanitarian action inside Iraq; the continued commitment of the countries that have been hosting Iraqis to go on granting protection and assistance until their voluntary return would be possible; and the unanimous recognition of the generosity of the host countries, especially of Syria and Jordan, and the clear commitment for burden sharing with those countries.

Guterres underscored that this was not a pledging conference, but “there was really a very clear commitment of support,” which he hoped will be translated in meaningful forms in the very near future.

**Timor-Leste

The UN Mission in Timor-Leste is pleased that the national preliminary results for the first round of the presidential elections in Timor-Leste have been announced. The final results would, of course, be certified by the Court of Appeals after consideration of any appeals that are lodged within the permissible 24-hour period.

As mandated in Security Council resolution 1704, the UN Mission has provided technical and logistical support, as well as electoral policy advice in support of all aspects of these elections.

The two candidates who have obtained the highest number of votes will now contest a second round on 9 May. Again, these elections will have the benefit of considerable assistance from the international community including through the United Nations.

The United Nations is particularly pleased that the first round of the election was completed without any serious incidents of violence and intimidation during the campaign, vote and the counting of ballots, and that candidates have made full use of the appropriate legal channels to raise their concerns about the process.

** Western Sahara

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Western Sahara is out on the racks today. In it, he recommends that the Security Council call upon the parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, to enter into negotiations without preconditions, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which will provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara. The neighbouring countries, Algeria and Mauritania, should also be invited to those negotiations.

The Secretary-General also encourages the parties to lift all restrictions on UN military observers’ freedom of movement, and calls on them to remain engaged with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. He also recommends that the Security Council extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Western Sahara for a further period of six months, until 31 October 2007.

**ESCAP

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) in a report said management of exchange rates is the biggest challenge facing Asia-Pacific economies in 2007.

In its annual economic and social survey of Asia and the Pacific released today, ESCAP also forecasts the external environment in Asia and the Pacific to be less favourable in 2007. It also states that the region is becoming the locomotive of global growth and developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region accounted for 16 per cent of global output and one-third of world economic growth in 2006.

A special study also estimates that the cost of gender discrimination to the region’s economies, saying that the region is losing $42 billion to $47 billion dollars a year due to restrictions on women’s access to employment, and another $16 billion to $30 billion a year because of gender gaps in education.

**OCHA – Uganda/Sudan

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says the situation in northern Uganda and parts of Southern Sudan has improved significantly in the past year.

More than 300,000 people have returned home from displaced persons camps in the wake of sustained security improvements -- a result of progress in peace talks between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army.

But OCHA notes that 1 million people still remain in the camps, and that the area requires continued emergency relief and protection, as well as assistance in returns and early recovery.

We have more in a press release upstairs.

**Background Briefing on Darfur

And then on Darfur, and as a follow-up to yesterday’s questions, we will have a background briefing for interested correspondents with a senior United Nations official today, 18 April, at 3:15 p.m. in the DPKO conference room, that’s room S-3727 A. It will be on the heavy support package.

That’s all I have for you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have any details, in terms of schedule and meetings, regarding the Security Council’s mission to Kosovo?

Spokesperson: No, I don’t have any readings on that.

Question: Just a follow-up on that. The US actually declared today that it would support Kosovo if it declared its independence, outside of what’s going on. What’s the UN’s position on that? Also, what is the subject of the SG’s meeting with the Pope?

Spokesperson: Well, we don’t know at this point. When they are finished meeting, I’ll let you know what they discussed.

As for the Kosovo issue, we don’t have any specific opinions on what a Member State says concerning another part of the world.

Question: Recalling my question of a couple of days ago as to how President Bashir got authority over approving helicopters, I know you don’t express an opinion but perhaps you could forward this question on to some of the people directly concerned with the issue. In light of subsequent events with the UN-painted planes, is it not possible that that strange issue whereby he arrogated to himself the right to approve specific items of military equipment was not in fact a smokescreen for his other actions with these UN-painted planes and other armed troops?

A totally unrelated question, by chance, if I just haven’t seen it, do you have the names of the first and second candidates in the Timorese election?

Spokesperson: No, I don’t have that information. On the first issue concerning Darfur, the best thing is for you to ask that question at the DPKO briefing. Then you will know exactly whether the facts you are citing are actually the facts.

Question: In northern Iraq, in Kurdistan, the PKK element is continuing to attack Turkey and the US is very concerned about this and it has urged Turkey to deal with it peacefully. But it fears that the attacks might be increasing. At the same time, Turkey is responding; the Chief of the Army has said that it should launch an incursion into Kurdistan if Parliament approves this. Also, Turkey has launched diplomatic measures with Iraq, urging Iraq to take urgent measures. So we have a very difficult situation here. Is the UN concerned about this? Is it doing anything before the situation turns into a full-blown crisis?

Spokesperson: Well it is a situation that we have been following very closely for quite a while now. What the UN will do, I cannot anticipate. But of course we will be keeping you informed about this.

Question: In an interview with Corriere della Sera, the Secretary-General said that there should be laws, internationally-accepted rules, on how to deal with hostages, but that nobody had yet come up with any concrete ideas to the UN. The question is does the SG himself have any guidelines? Does he have any ideas, for instance, on whether there should be negotiations with kidnappers regarding ransoms?

Spokesperson: No, in the interview with Corriere della Sera, which, as you probably know, was done in English, translated into Italian, and then translated back into English by a number of wires this morning, he did stress that it was a matter for Member States to discuss. He did say that hostage taking was a despicable act but he did not suggest any specific form of action, saying that it falls under the responsibility of Member States.

Question: In that case, can we see the transcript of his interview? It sounds slightly different than the way it was translated back, and for those of us who don’t speak Italian, is it possible to release what he actually said in English?

Spokesperson: Well, we would have to transcribe it for you, which has not been done at this point. I’ll try to get that for you whenever we can.

[The Spokesperson later added that the Secretary-General had said: “It is necessary to have common rules to face the knot of the seizures, and the United Nations is the right place to set them. I invite Member countries, Italy included, to present such a proposal to the General Assembly.]

Question: The Secretary-General is going to attend this Chief Executives Board meeting in Geneva of the UN funds and programme. When he announced the North Korea audit, I think it was said that he was going to try through that body to get the funds and programmes to begin releasing internal audits… somehow improve the system. Do you know if that’s on the agenda? And also now that it’s basically the ninetieth day since he announced it, what’s happening with the audit?

Spokesperson: I can try to have a readout for you on how far the audit has gotten. As you know, it’s not our responsibility. It’s with the Board of Auditors, and they’ve been working on it. I’ll try to find out for you how far they’ve gotten on this issue.

As for the Geneva meeting, it’s a meeting with the Chief Executives and they’re discussing quite a few issues, and this will probably be one of them.

Question: We’ll find out what they discussed after that meeting?

Spokesperson: Yes. It’s a long meeting. It’s a two-day meeting.

Question: Yesterday you read out that in Kosovo they said that someone was responsible, but they didn’t know which soldiers. It’s since been reported that the Romanian peacekeepers were using out-of-date rubber bullets that had expired in 1994, so they had hardened. I don’t know if you can answer it here or they can answer… whoever sent this used ammo, this decade-old ammo, might they be held responsible? And what is the UN’s policy in terms of peacekeeping, troop-contributing countries bringing in long-expired or otherwise defective ammunition?

Spokesperson: I can only tell you that this is an issue for the group that investigated what happened and I don’t have the answer. They would have the answer.

Question: There was actually something in the Congo that was similar, where a battalion from South Africa brought in, it was said, old munitions that went off-line. Is there any DPKO position on checking ammo before troops are deployed?

Spokesperson: We can ask DPKO that question.

Question: The Nigerian situation is getting increasingly deplorable. The opposition parties have come together to say that the elections should be cancelled. I wanted to know… what is the sense of the Secretary-General regarding what is going on in Nigeria right now with all the violence and the election manipulation? And secondly, you said yesterday that the United Nations is not monitoring the election. Why is that so?

Spokesperson: Not directly. ECOWAS is monitoring the election. You have a number of other international observers accredited by the Electoral Commission. But the UN as an institution is not.

Question: But why not? The UN has monitored elections…

Spokesperson: All this depends on the request from the Member State.

Question: Does that mean that Nigeria has not made a request?

Spokesperson: There was no request made, and the request went to ECOWAS. ECOWAS is monitoring the elections.

Question: So what was the answer to the first question?

Spokesperson: I think that this is a situation that the SG has been following since the beginning of the week. He is still waiting to see how things are developing. He’s certainly concerned about it.

Question: On the mission of Mr. Michel to Beirut, who has he met so far? And any progress on the international tribunal? Also, when do you expect him back? Is there any indication?

Spokesperson: I don’t think there is a date set for his return. He is meeting different people. How far has he gotten? I don’t know at this point. He was still meeting people today. So I will try to get a list of people he has met for you. But at this point I don’t have the information.

Question: According to the presidential statement that was issued last night on Lebanon, the SG is authorized to send a monitoring mission to assess the border between Lebanon and Syria. When will that mission be sent, and when will they present their report to the SG? How many people will be on the mission?

Spokesperson: I don’t have that information yet but it is certainly a question for which we will have an answer very soon.

Question: There was an OIOS report that was due last November on the Thessaloniki Centre. We were told that it was almost there last November and then we were told it was almost there every time I’ve asked since. We are now in April and I’m told it is not going to be issued before the next GA. Last time we were told it would be during the last GA. It seems a little bit… it’s not that fast, let’s put it that way.

Spokesperson: We’ll ask for you. Actually, you should ask directly. You should ask DESA about this.

Question: DESA? I thought I should ask OIOS.

Spokesperson: Yes, the OIOS.

Question: In that case, I don’t know if anybody ever requested it, but could we have OIOS brief us here?

Spokesperson: We have requested that.

Question: What was the result of that request? How long ago was that request made?

Spokesperson: First they said they are not commenting on ongoing investigations. So they will comment on an investigation once it is over. So we can get them to talk about something when it’s over.

Question: Can they comment on when an investigation will be over?

Spokesperson: We can ask.

Question: It seems that we’re stuck here in a vicious circle. You say that they will not brief us until the investigation is over. Meanwhile, the investigation is being… in order to find out when the investigation is over, you’re asking me to ask them. It almost seems like they’re trying to avoid us.

Spokesperson: No, they’re not trying to avoid you. As a matter of principle, they don’t comment on an ongoing investigation.

Question: But the investigation has gone on for a long, long time. And I’ve seen at least one draft of this investigation late last year, which makes it seem like most of the investigation is done.

Spokesperson: Well I cannot comment on this because I don’t have the information.

Question: Where do we seek comment from OIOS? Who is it exactly we should seek comment from? What’s the name of the person?

Spokesperson: I’ll try to get someone who can speak on their behalf or have one of them come and speak to you.

Question: You just said we should seek comment from OIOS. So, who do we seek comment from?

Spokesperson: I’ll get a name for you.

Question: On Western Sahara, the Secretary-General has called on the parties to negotiate directly and called on the others -- Algeria and Mauritania -- to join them on matters that directly concern them. And he also [inaudible] following the Baker approach. Why limit the field of work of Algeria and Mauritania to matters that only concern them directly? Why not search for a general political solution to the issue? Also, why does he suggest that the Baker approach be followed since Morocco has rejected the Baker II plan for Western Sahara? Why not try a novel approach?

Spokesperson: I think what you said about a comprehensive solution for the region has already been discussed with several stakeholders in the situation. When he mentions Algeria and Mauritania, it’s because they are on board for the specific issues concerning them. But it doesn’t mean that the comprehensive approach, an original approach, is not being sought after.

Question: On the question of the white aircraft, this report obviously is a month old, and it’s not clear to me when all this happened. It seems to have been referred to even before this monitoring group report. Was this discussed at all by Mr. Ban when he met President Bashir in wherever he was… Addis, I think it was?

Spokesperson: The violations? Yes. Actually, the Security Council sanctions committee had already spoken to the people responsible. What they were referring to I guess…

Question: These people?

Spokesperson: The Sudanese Government. Only the Council can answer those questions. As far as I know, those incidents that they mentioned in the report date back to the middle of March.

Question: Since then, I believe the Secretary-General has met the President of Sudan.

Spokesperson: Yes, he has.

Question: So, I’m saying… in that meeting, was this raised?

Spokesperson: A number of violations were raised.

Question: Specifically related to the white aircraft?

Spokesperson: No.

Question: Why did he not raise the question of white aircraft with the Sudanese President? Isn’t that something he’s concerned about?

Spokesperson: Well it’s something he’s certainly concerned about. However, the specific case of the white aircraft is something that the Security Council is discussing with the Government. They are still trying to investigate about that aircraft with the UN insignia on it.

Question: Isn’t this something that specifically concerns the Secretariat? I mean it’s an abuse of the UN-identifying characteristics in a place where there’s a big peacekeeping presence in the south and there’s some UN presence in Darfur. It seems to me par excellence a subject that peacekeeping should be dealing with and taking up with the Sudanese. Has that happened at all?

Spokesperson: Well, peacekeeping has already taken up the issue. This information was conveyed to the Security Council… the information about the violations. The information about the aircraft was conveyed to the Security Council on the 5th of April. The UN also informed the Security Council on Sudan’s violations, different violations in repeated reports dating back to 2006. So the violations had been reported steadily.

Question: But my question is not that. My question is what is the UN Secretariat doing with relation to Sudan? Has there been any demarche by the Secretariat to Sudan?

Spokesperson: When it comes to the sanctions, and violations of the sanctions…

Question: These aren’t violations of the sanctions.

Spokesperson: Of existing sanctions, yes, they are.

Question: Painting aircraft white is a violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement, which the UN was party in negotiating, and is an abuse of the UN logo, and these are not questions for the Security Council. These are questions for the Secretariat. So I’m asking you, what is the Secretariat doing in relation to Sudan? And what has Mr. Ban done, having met the Sudanese President, about these particular white aircraft violations?

Spokesperson: These particular white aircraft violations were not yet confirmed to the Secretary-General. For any State or any actor to co-opt the insignia of the UN, which of course implies privileges and immunities and a humanitarian purpose, violates the law of armed conflicts and also violates article 100 of the UN Charter on the exclusive international character of UN operations. If this is confirmed, of course, this is to be condemned and very strongly so.

Question: Is the UN taking any steps to confirm or disprove?

Spokesperson: Definitely yes. There is an investigation going on about the whereabouts of this plane, and whether it is one plane or several planes, and this is being pursued.

Question: And who’s doing the investigation?

Spokesperson: The Mission on the ground is doing the investigation.

Question: The UN Mission?

Spokesperson: Yes.

[Correspondents were later told that the Monitoring Panel for Sudan was handling the investigation.]

Question: On Iraq, we see from outside that the UN is almost scared to go deep into the problems of Iraq. It’s participating in the conference in Geneva and the neighbours’ meeting in Egypt. But when it comes to the real problems on the ground, the UN is staying out. For example, what is the UN doing in relation to the refugees, while the US is condemning Syria for hosting terrorists?

Spokesperson: There is a meeting right now on refugees and discussion on practical steps to help the refugees.

Question: Is the UN mediating between the US, between the Iraqi Government and the neighbouring States?

Spokesperson: You’re asking me whether the UN is involved in the political situation itself? The UN is mostly involved in the humanitarian situation right now and the economic development situation. As you know, because of security issues that affected UN personnel in Iraq, the UN has said repeatedly that as long as the security situation is the way it is, it could curtail UN involvement.

Question: What is the improvement you expect on security issues?

Spokesperson: Well security issues for…

Question: Do you expect the US to leave or do you expect them to…?

Spokesperson: There are a number of conditions and you can see from the security situation right now that it is a difficult situation for the UN to extend its participation in the effort. We are doing the most we can on the Iraq Compact. We are doing the most we can on the refugee issues with the neighbouring countries. And I think the UN is very involved in other issues concerning Iraq.

Question: The Secretary-General addressed the staff in his Town Hall meeting, the staff here at Headquarters and worldwide. After that he said has heard the concerns…

Spokesperson: I don’t have specifics on this, but I’ll get back to you on this.

Question: To follow-up on the question on Nigeria, it was reported that UNDP was actually asked to help with some aspects of the election. I’m not sure if they have, but that they were asked to do it. Is that a request to the UN? When you said the UN had no role in the election, is that just the Secretariat or the UN system as a whole?

Spokesperson: I would be surprised that UNDP would be asked to participate as an electoral observer. It would be the United Nations Secretariat that would be seized of the matter, not UNDP.

Question: You mean the observers?

Spokesperson: I’m talking about international observers to the election.

Question: Also, I wanted to ask you about the exhibit commemorating the Rwandan genocide… when you think it will actually be reopened, and whether the language will be shown to any missions prior to that taking place.

Spokesperson: The language is being changed right now. I don’t know if it will be shown to anybody. I do know that the exhibit is to open very shortly, either at the end of this week or at the beginning of next week.

Question: Two unrelated questions if I may. In view of both the importance and increasing complexity of Mr. Michel’s mission, would it be reasonable to expect that he would come to brief us upon his return? And may I hereby request that he be urged to do so. In an unrelated question on this whitewash episode, do I understand… is there a special UN investigative committee or is it one of the UN’s regular forces in the Sudan, and have they been charged with investigating the whole issue, this whitewash issue, and to see whether or not the whitewash has been “wet-washed”?

Spokesperson: The UN Mission in the field is the first body to investigate. Of course, DPKO and other… Political Affairs here, we’re all concerned about the situation.

Question: What about Mr. Michel? Would he come to brief us, do you think?

Spokesperson: Whenever he comes back. I have some additional things on UNDP and the Nigerian elections. While the UN is not observing, as I said, the Nigerian elections, but we have been providing advisory services and technical assistance to Nigeria’s Election Commission through UNDP, which is managing a basket fund of assistance from multiple donors. So that is the role that UNDP is playing.

Thank you very much.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070418.doc.htm




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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon. We have a group of Latin American journalists attending the briefing today. We would like to welcome them.

**Statement on Iraq Bombings

A statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General about the bomb attacks in Baghdad:

Following the horrendous carnage in Baghdad yesterday, where a string of bombings left nearly 200 people dead and many more injured, the Secretary-General expresses his outrage at the callousness and scale with which innocent civilians are being slaughtered on an almost daily basis in Iraq. Another deadly bomb attack registered today only underscores his concern.

In the face of these latest provocations, the Secretary-General expresses his solidarity with the Iraqi people and he appeals to all communities of Iraq to show maximum restraint. He calls urgently on the political and religious leaders of Iraq to come together in a spirit of dialogue and mutual respect in order to find a way out of this destructive spiral of violence.

Still on Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, also issued a statement, warning that these horrific acts threaten Iraq’s integrity and viability, jeopardising the country’s future, and thrusting its citizens deeper into the cycle of violence and vengeance. He again called on all Iraqis to resist being pushed into the abyss of calamitous sectarianism.

We have his full statement upstairs.

**Statement on Arab Peace Initiative

Another statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:

The Secretary-General welcomes the statement yesterday by the Arab Ministerial Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative, which indicates increased engagement of the League of Arab States to reinvigorate the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Secretary-General looks forward to meeting with the Ministerial Committee that has been formed to promote this process.

**Secretary-General in Europe

The Secretary-General wrapped up his visit to Italy today after he visited the UN Logistics Base in Brindisi, where he observed the main facility that provides support to UN field operations worldwide.

He toured warehouses, stocking tents, blankets and high-protein biscuits, which are ready to be sent at the outset of any humanitarian emergency worldwide, and he listened to staff explain the logistical challenges of setting up communications equipment in remote peacekeeping outposts.

The Secretary-General then flew back to Rome, where he attended a luncheon hosted by Mayor Walter Veltroni before leaving Italy for Switzerland.

He is scheduled to be meeting right now in Bern with Swiss President Micheline Calmy-Rey. He will have a working dinner with the President and other senior leaders before he travels to Geneva tonight.

** Sudan

The Tripartite Mechanism, composed of representatives from the United Nations, the African Union and the Government of Sudan, which oversees the implementation of the UN support to the African Union Mission in Sudan, held its 10th meeting yesterday in Khartoum.

The participants welcomed the Sudanese Government’s acceptance of the UN Heavy Support Package, as well as the pledge from Sudan that the Permanent Mission of Sudan in Addis Ababa has been instructed to expedite issuance of travel visas to AMIS staff and associated personnel.

We have more details on that meeting in today’s bulletin from the UN Mission in Sudan.

** Lebanon

UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel is continuing his visit to Lebanon, in which, since arriving on Tuesday, he has met with the Lebanese Prime Minister, the Speaker of the Parliament, the President of the Republic and a number of Lebanese parliamentarians and political leaders.

All of his interlocutors have expressed support for the establishment of the tribunal. Mr. Michel has emphasized that it is in the interest of all to have the tribunal established within Lebanon’s constitutional process. He will continue his meetings in Beirut tomorrow.

**OCHA - Gaza

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that Israel’s restrictions on where Palestinian fishermen can fish are hurting the 40,000 Gazans dependent on the fishing industry for their primary source of income.

As those Palestinians have become progressively impoverished in the last six years, the World Food Programme, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and other humanitarian agencies have been working to provide food and support job creation.

We expect a press release on this from OCHA later on this afternoon.

** Uganda

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today reiterated her call to the Government of Uganda to review its forced disarmament strategy in Karamoja, in north-eastern Uganda, where violence and human rights violations have continued to escalate since her report last November.

In a report released today, Arbour deplored Uganda’s failure to implement the recommendations in her last report. She concluded that any disarmament process must be accompanied by concerted and sustainable development initiatives in order to stabilize the situation in Karamoja.

We have more on that in my office.

**Children and Armed Conflict

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, just ended a two-week mission to Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Her conclusion was that children bear the brunt of the armed conflict in the Middle East.

Interacting with children in the region, Coomaraswamy said she was disturbed by their expressions of fear, anxiety, anger, revenge and hopelessness. But she added that she was pleased that both the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli Government said they were ready to review school curricula to make sure they weren’t inciting violence and hatred.

We have more on that upstairs.

**HIV/AIDS

Out today is the Secretary-General’s report on developments in the past year toward achieving universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment.

He says important progress has been made, but much more needs to be done in the areas of prevention and fulfilling international commitments. The rapid scaling up of services must also be balanced against ensuring the long-term sustainability of those services, he says.

**UNHCR

Mr. L. Craig Johnstone of the United States has been appointed as UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees. He succeeds Ms. Wendy Chamberlin, also from the United States, who left in December last year. He is expected to assume his duties in June.

**UNESCO

All next week, a UNESCO mission will be in Peru to assess the state of conservation at Macchu Pichu, one of its World Heritage sites.

That’s all I have for you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Do you have a response to the letter written to the Secretary-General on the New York Times report yesterday about the planes being used for attacks in Darfur?

Spokesperson: Not the letter… you mean the report to the Security Council?

Question: Yes, which was in the New York Times yesterday. The Ambassador called for an inquiry, suggesting that this was blatantly false and without any basis, and also questioned why it was released selectively to the New York Times. Do you have any response to that?

Spokesperson: I don’t know why it was released to one media but I can say that it was released to all the media, also because that same information was released in another British newspaper about two weeks ago. So it’s nothing new. The report concerns events in March, the sighting of that plane, and yesterday I gave the Secretary-General’s reaction on this. There was an official reaction of the Secretary-General.

Question: You said there was going to be an inquiry into this?

Spokesperson: Yes, UNMIS has been instructed to convey the Secretary-General’s concern expressed in the statement yesterday, and to seek clarifications from the Government on the reported use of the UN marking on aircrafts for military use.

Question: Is the UN going to take up with the Government of Kazakhstan the fact that its international registration code is “UN”?

Spokesperson: I cannot say at this point. Certainly, there is clarification to be obtained. Among the clarifications mentioned, there has to be clarification obtained about that.

Question: Will the Secretary-General instruct his staff to maybe suggest to Kazakhstan that they use a different designation other than “UN”?

Spokesperson: Well, this was not going to be done at the level of the Secretary-General. It’s going to be done at the level of, certainly, DPKO and other agencies.

Question: Regarding the mission to the Lebanon border, is there any progress regarding sending that mission?

Spokesperson: No, I can just confirm that the mission is going to be sent but we don’t have the details yet.

Question: The Sudanese Ambassador said he was going to write a letter. Is there a way for us to obtain it once you get it since it’s all about media coverage and the entire report is no longer confidential?

Spokesperson: Sure, certainly. If the letter comes, I will let you know.

Question: Back on Sudan, did the SG in fact receive and read the experts’ report before yesterday’s story was published?

Spokesperson: He was certainly aware that there had been violations. He didn’t have the details of those violations. As you know, he officially protested against a number of violations when he discussed Darfur, first when he was in Saudi Arabia, when he met with Mr. Bashir, he talked about the violations. He did not specifically mention that one plane, or those planes, because he did not specifically refer to that, no.

Question: But did he actually read and receive the report before yesterday’s story broke in the Times?

Spokesperson: Those reports go to the political affairs branch of the United Nations.

Question: So he read it?

Spokesperson: Probably.

Question: There have been many calls, probably to you as well, but from what we read in the media there are a lot of requests to the UN to come in, step in for the Kirkuk issue. As you know, it’s probably going to be bigger in the coming days. There was a report by the International Crisis Group today calling on the Secretary-General to appoint a special envoy to solve the Kirkuk problem. Have you received any formal request from any side, from the Turkish side, Iraqi side or Kurdish side?

Spokesperson: Not that I know of, but I can inquire about it. As you know, the Secretary-General is travelling at the moment.

Question: On the carnage in Iraq… is it the responsibility of the Iraqi Government or the occupying forces? There’re so many people that have been killed. It’s an absolute outrage what has happened. Who takes the responsibility… the occupying forces or the Government of Iraq?

Spokesperson: I cannot answer that question.

Question: Any news on the replacement or when a replacement will be found for Mr. [Alvaro] de Soto in the Middle East?

Spokesperson: No, not yet. Mr. de Soto’s contract is still continuing and as soon as it is finished, they will announce the new envoy.

Question: You said that the Secretary-General welcomed the efforts on the Arab Peace Initiative and he’s willing to meet with ministers. When is that going to happen?

Spokesperson: When he is going to be in … as you know, he’s going to go for the Iraq Compact [meeting] very soon in Sharm el-Sheikh, and probably will be meeting the ministers at that time.

Question: Is the Secretary-General going to attend the meeting in Cairo of the second round of the Baghdad Conference… the 3 and 4 of May?

Spokesperson: Yes, but it’s not going to be in Cairo. It’s going to be in Sharm el-Sheikh; that’s what I just said.

Question: The Secretary-General met with the Pope and they reportedly discussed multilateralism, inter-cultural dialogue and UN reform. Have they discussed any other issue, for example, the Middle East conflict? And also, the Secretary-General has invited the Pope to visit UN Headquarters. Has the Pope accepted the invitation?

Spokesperson: I don’t have that information yet. I know the invitation was extended. I can give you a better readout of the meeting. What you have is what I have in terms of what was said at that meeting.

Question: It’s been announced that the United States and Australia are going to start trading asylum seekers, i.e. people that try to go to Australia will be sent to US facilities and people trying to get to the United States from Haiti and elsewhere will be sent to Australia. This is in an attempt to make it less likely for people to try to get into the country. So I’m wondering whether anyone in the Australian press, whether anyone in the UN system, UNHCR or elsewhere has any comment on this type of asylum strategy.

Spokesperson: Not that I know of.

Question: On the plane thing, yesterday we had a briefing by a senior UN official, at which he said that he thought it was from Kazakhstan because of the symbol system that Mark brought up. Actually that plane shows up in a registry of planes sales as having been sold by a Russian airline to Sudan. So I’m wondering whether the senior UN official or DPKO… if the only basis for the Kazakhstan thing, was the “UN” symbol on the [inaudible]? Also, if it’s possible, given this situation, to actually name the individual? Why he only spoke on background, given that he spoke to like 40 reporters here?

Spokesperson: Well, he spoke on background. This is the current practice, as you know. When we want to give you additional information on one subject, where we don’t have a specific statement to make on that subject, we want to give you information. I think this is standard practice at the UN.

Question: Had he asked Kazakhstan, for example, if it was their plane or… but it seemed like that’s what he said.

Spokesperson: This was a possibility evoked. There is an investigation on what the plane is about. He also mentioned in the same briefing that some people sighted that plane, not only on the Janjaweed-controlled part of Darfur but also in the Chadian Government-controlled part of eastern Chad. And there were also sightings in the Central African Republic. Is it the same plane? We don’t know. At this point, we’re trying to ascertain the facts.

Question: I just want to nail down either the basis for the Kazakhstan thing… was it entirely based on just the “UN” being on [the plane]? Has the UN system run the number that’s actually painted on the plane’s wing? Given what it said yesterday, when will DPKO be providing an update or saying, here’s whose plane it is?

Spokesperson: Didn’t I just say that UNMIS is on the ground and trying to investigate this? So we’ll have an answer.

Question: On Sudan, Russia and China are actually opposing sanctions on Sudan, and the US is coming out saying that they will… if the UN doesn’t come forward, if Sudan doesn’t do more, they will put sanctions on Sudan. Isn’t it that the UN system is not working properly? That’s my question.

Spokesperson: What do you mean?

Question: Is not the UN system on Sudan working properly so that the sides are coming out with different ideas, different perspectives, different strategies?

Spokesperson: But you know that we are made up of a number of Member States, who have different interests and different strategies and different political views. So I don’t think it’s new to the UN. It’s part of our existence as an institution that you have different positions on an issue, whether it be sanctions in the Security Council or it is other matters in the General Assembly. So I don’t think it’s something new to the UN. We are not talking about the Secretariat here. We’re talking about the Security Council. The Security Council certainly doesn’t take instructions from the Secretariat. Nor does the General Assembly take instructions from the Secretariat. You are dealing with different entities here.

Question: This is a follow-up to the Thessaloniki audit. What does the SG intend to do in the stand-off between [Office of Internal Oversight Services] (OIOS) and [the Department of Economic and Social Affairs] (DESA)? [inaudible]… DESA’s refusal to accept OIOS recommendations from that audit… Who will he be backing in this stand-off and how will he be backing them?

Spokesperson: Well as far as… we got some information for you from DESA, and we heard that the final report on the Thessaloniki centre issued by the Office of Internal Oversight Services on 23 February, which is the one after the one you mentioned, it is still part of an ongoing process between the two departments – the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) and OIOS. The main focus of the final stage is to finalize recommendations to be implemented by DESA. So this is… we’re not at this stage yet. The conclusion that was reached that the two departments are at a stand-off… when I asked DESA that question, they said it was entirely false. They said that both entities considered that the audit process is a consultative one and that is what is going on now.

Question: I just want to say that whenever there is an OIOS report, it has to leak out, it’s never presented, it’s an ongoing process, recommendations take 50 years, and somewhere, for the sake of transparency, maybe this new administration can [inaudible]. Eventually diplomats are going to get it - like the one that was just done - and we will get it.

Spokesperson: But I think there are some audit reports that come out regularly. I mean audits are part of the way this house functions.

Question: I endorse everything Evelyn says. Under Ban, we still have yet to see evidence that the UN has any intention of becoming any more transparent than ever it was. Another question: regarding the 38th floor, what is the status on the hiring of all the staff there? Is the process almost finished yet?

Spokesperson: It’s still being finalized.

Question: How much longer because obviously there’s a wide sense of lack of communication between the membership and the 38th floor because the 38th floor is not working yet because it hasn’t got people there. How much longer is that likely to take, that process?

Spokesperson: I don’t have an exact date but I do know that you had been told of the number of people who had presented candidacies. I think right now we are at the final stage of the process. I cannot give you a date.

Question: In the next couple of weeks? I mean, just a month ago, it was in the next couple of weeks and now it’s… I’m just left a bit confused.

Spokesperson: I didn’t say the next couple of weeks.

Question: Not you, but a month ago, people were saying we’re almost there. And we’re still almost there. I’m just wondering what does that mean?

Spokesperson: We’ll find out soon. I’ll let you know.

Question: Yesterday I asked a question about what measures the Secretary-General has taken to respond to Staff concerns… in the town hall meeting with them. Were you able to get an answer?

Spokesperson: I do know that there are consultations continuing between the Department of Management and the Staff Council on those reforms, and I think this also is an ongoing process.

Question: This is a follow-up to the report from the person who visited Israel and the Palestinian territories. Is she equating the Israeli education system to that of the Palestinian education system, where we see examples of children being taught to hate Jews, to hate others?

Spokesperson: You’ll be able to ask her the question. She’ll be here on Monday as our guest at the noon briefing.

This is all I have for you.

Briefing by the Spokesperson for the President of General Assembly

Three short, albeit important, announcements:

The five facilitators on Security Council reform will be meeting with the Assembly President at 5 p.m. today to hand in their report. The President will take a look at the report, turn it over to Member States, give them a few days and then they will decide what to do with that.

ACABQ decided on Monday to take up the Secretary-General’s proposals on restructuring of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations when it returns from its recess on 15 May.

On mandate review, the informal consultations of the plenary are scheduled for tomorrow morning to introduce the new co-chair, who is theAmbassador of Namibia.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Just remind me what’s going on with the mandate review process. I just completely lost touch with it. So where are we in terms of proposals and discussions and so forth?

Spokesperson: There are some proposals that they think they can get consensus on but they were waiting for the naming of another…

Question: I’m sorry, who’s they? I mean, really, treat me like a total know-nothing on this one.

Spokesperson: Member States were awaiting the appointment of the second facilitator to maintain the required balance and this is why…

Question: I still have no idea what you’re talking about, I’m sorry. What are we talking about here? What is the proposal in terms of how many mandates are going to be cut and who is discussing what about…?

Spokesperson: I can get you the final report on that. It will give you all the details.

Question: Who’s the other facilitator?

Spokesperson: Ireland.

Question: So once they get a developing country, which is obviously going to be Namibia, then they’re actually going to start to work?

Spokesperson: Yes, that’s the hope.

Question: On system-wide coherence -- that dreadful phrase -- I see the SG wants the pilot programmes… he wants to do something about the women’s operation. Do you hear any discussion on environment? Now that climate change is very much in the news, I remember the panel report saying the UN has 200 days of meetings around the world on this issue, all of it overlapping. The developing countries not even having the staff to send to… Is any of that going to be condensed? Or is it just to have a new climate change…?

Spokesperson: As I said when the report came out, the easy part of it was, I hope, the issue of women, because that is a structural change that you can effect immediately and amalgamate everything. But other parts of the report require a lot of work because they are basically governance and financing, and this means money and sovereignty, and the way to run things. And this takes a little more time, to put it modestly, than other things like structure.

Question: Just on system-wide coherence, do you have a prediction… there were two days of debate, Monday and Tuesday, what happens next? What’s the next step on system-wide coherence?

Spokesperson: If I have to make a prediction, I will say it will take significant time. And again, that’s a very conservative estimate.

Question: On the urgent audit that Ban Ki-moon called for of UNDP in North Korea, they keep saying now that the ball is in ACABQ’s court, that the 90-day clock… I’m not really sure where it is. You once said that it had… what is the status about the GA…?

Spokesperson: Again, I told you that the ACABQ said we have not yet received the report. Once they receive the report, they schedule some time to discuss it and then they make the recommendations, and then it goes off to the Fifth Committee.

There was one question; I think Evelyn asked Michèle about the OIOS reports. You know it’s a decision by Member States that the OIOS reports remain with OIOS and are released on request by Member States; released to the particular Member State that asked for that report. So, like you said, you will eventually get them once Member States get them.

Question: It could be a decision by the Secretary-General to show some transparency. I mean Betsy Pisik has already run, a week ago, a storyon the Greek institute report. And it goes on this way. Different people go after them and get them. Why not all…?

Spokesperson: We should all become very close friends of Betsy.

Question: Why not just give the damn thing out because we never know where the process ends. The process always goes on. I’ve been here a long time and I’ve yet to get an OIOS report that makes sense, that’s not a summary of the year’s investigation.

Spokesperson: Let’s just hope for the best.

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070419.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 20 2007, 09:21 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Ashraf Kamal, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

**Statement on Mission to Fiji

Good afternoon. First, a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General:

The Secretary-General has dispatched a fact-finding mission to Fiji in response to the Security Council’s concern about the situation and its call for a peaceful resolution and the restoration of democracy.

The mission’s objective is to gain a first-hand assessment of the situation in Fiji through broad consultations with the interim authorities, representatives of all political parties and civil society. The mission, which arrives in Fiji on Sunday, will also meet with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the resident diplomatic community.

The mission is being led by Jehangir Khan of the Department of Political Affairs and will include political and electoral experts, as well as representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNDP. Following its consultations in Fiji, the mission will report its findings and recommendations to the Secretary-General.

**Secretary-General in Switzerland

The Secretary-General last night in Bern attended a joint press conference with the President of Switzerland, in which, in response to a question on Iraq, he said he would be launching the International Compact for Iraq in Sharm el-Sheikh on 3 May, together with the Iraqi Prime Minister.

The transcript of that encounter is available upstairs.

This morning, the Secretary-General attended a breakfast with the State Council of Geneva, during which he expressed his appreciation for its commitment to the United Nations by hosting 22 international organizations and more than 35,000 international civil servants and their families.

He later opened his first session of the Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) of the UN system. In the first session of the two-day meeting, the UN leaders discussed how best to coordinate their efforts in Aid for Trade, to enable developing countries to participate fully in the global trading system, and adopted a so-called tool kit to ensure that UN entities facilitate employment and decent work in the course of their operations. They also discussed system-wide coherence.

The Secretary-General and the CEB move on to a retreat this afternoon. Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General had also talked to UN staff at the Palais des Nations.

He wraps up his visit to Switzerland on Sunday morning, when he leaves Geneva and travels on to Qatar and Syria.

** Somalia

Unable to cross the city, displaced Somalis are now fleeing north from the capital, Mogadishu, as they seek refuge from the intermittent but intense fighting that has once more gripped the city, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports.

Meanwhile, aid deliveries have also been severely hampered by continued insecurity, including the harassment and detention of aid workers, new bureaucratic regulations imposed by the Transitional Federal Government and lack of access to stocks pre-positioned in the Mogadishu area.

At least 213,000 people have fled Mogadishu since the beginning of February, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, while field reports indicate that the number of displaced may even be as high as 300,000.

UNHCR yesterday started handing out relief supplies to thousands of displaced people in Afgooye, a Somali town some 30 kilometres west of Mogadishu. That’s despite fresh fighting in Mogadishu and yesterday’s explosion on the main road between Afgooye and the capital, which cut links to the small town.

The Secretary-General’s latest report on Somalia, which is out on the racks, says it is imperative to secure an immediate end to the fighting, through a cessation of hostilities and a commitment to peace by all stakeholders. He adds that using military solutions to stabilize Mogadishu would likely be counterproductive.

** Lebanon

UN Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel has completed his meetings in Lebanon. Today, he met again with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. Noting the support of all his interlocutors in Lebanon for the special tribunal for Lebanon, Michel said it is time for the Lebanese parties to demonstrate their support for the establishment of the tribunal. Such an outcome is possible only if the parties resume their dialogue, he added.

Speaking to reporters after his meeting with Premier Siniora, Michel voiced his conviction that the preferred outcome would be the early establishment of the special tribunal after agreement among the Lebanese parties.

Michel, who is leaving Beirut tomorrow, said he hoped that the parties will continue to seek a solution to the impasse and urged them to do so.

** Sudan

High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres is scheduled to visit Sudan next week, on his second visit to the country. He will arrive Monday in Khartoum, where he is scheduled to meet senior Government officials and the UN team on the ground.

UNHCR has been asked by the UN system to expand its operations for the internally displaced in Darfur, and Guterres will be looking into this issue during his talks with Sudanese officials.

UNHCR has a press release upstairs with more details on his trip.

Also, the Secretary-General’s latest report on the UN Mission in Sudan is out as a document and will be discussed by the Security Council next Monday. In it, the Secretary-General says that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between north and south Sudan has reached a delicate stage, and the parties must devote considerable attention to the verification of the redeployment of their forces.

** Nepal

The Nepal branch of the UN human rights office today released the findings of its investigation into last month’s killings in the town of Gaur. The 27 individuals, most of them linked to the Communist Party, were killed in a brutal manner, the report says.

The office also says that there can be no doubt that most, if not all, of the killings could have been prevented. And the incidents highlighted once more the weaknesses of law enforcement agencies, which, aware of the potential for clashes and other violence, were grossly ill-prepared to ensure effective crowd control.

The UN human rights office adds that it is the duty and responsibility of all actors in the peace and electoral process -- and especially the State -- to ensure that the events of 21 March are not repeated.

We have a press release on that upstairs.

A delegation from Nepal, including Government representatives, senior political leaders, members of the Interim Legislature and civil society figures is scheduled to visit United Nations Headquarters in New York from 23 to 25 April. This is an important visit that affords the delegation and the United Nations a chance to interact at a critical juncture of the peace process in Nepal and the United Nations support for it through UNMIN.

The aim of the visit to New York is to strengthen working relations with the United Nations and international agencies and resource institutions that are supporting Nepal’s peace and transitional justice processes, provided for in the Comprehensive Peace Accord.

Following the New York visit, the delegation will visit Peru to look at the work of that country’s truth and reconciliation commission.

The United Nations has requested the assistance of the United States authorities in issuing entry visas for the Maoist members of the delegation.

**Security Council – Western Sahara

The Security Council is holding consultations on Western Sahara following a meeting with troop contributors involved with the UN Mission there. Council members are hearing from Peter van Walsum, the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. We expect that Ambassador van Walsum will speak to you in this room after he is done in the Security Council, at approximately 1 p.m.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General departs over this weekend on a visit to Brazzaville, Republic of Congo. She is presently in Geneva. She will attend an annual meeting with UNDP’s regional management team there on Africa’s development agenda in a reforming UN system. She will also attend bilateral meetings with Congolese officials on the ground.

The Deputy Secretary-General will also travel to Kinshasa to visit our UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and, while there, she will meet with President Joseph Kabila and other Government officials. She returns to New York at the end of next week.

** Haiti

Two separate UN missions are currently visiting Haiti. A group from the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs has been there since Monday to discuss ways to eliminate discrimination against women. Officials from ECOSOC arrived on Wednesday to assess the post-conflict reconstruction challenges faced by the country.

After yesterday visiting Cité Soleil, where the UN Mission has recently achieved a significant reduction in gang violence, the ECOSOC mission today is in Cap Haitien and Ouanaminthe, in the northern part of the country.

**Measles Campaigns

In one of the fastest responses to a major outbreak of the measles, 16 million children and adults in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have been vaccinated against the disease since early March.

The campaign was organized by the country’s Government, with support from UNICEF and the World Health Organization.

Those agencies are also supporting a massive two-week measles immunization drive in Iraq. Starting Sunday, some 8,000 vaccinators will fan out across the country. They’re trying to reach the nearly 4 million Iraqi children between the ages of one and five. Because of the country’s security situation, many have never received routine immunizations.

We have more information on those two campaigns upstairs.

**Update on OIOS Audit Report

In answer to a question yesterday about the status of the OIOS audit report of 23 February 2007 on the Thessaloniki Centre, I want to clarify that the audit itself has been completed; no further audit work has to be done. OIOS is currently finalizing the recommendations in light of additional clarifications received from DESA at the meeting of the two departments on 22 March.

These recommendations, once finalized, have to be implemented by DESA. One recommendation, regarding the closing of the Centre, has already been implemented. When the recommendations are implemented, the audit process will be complete.

As you know, the implementation of audit recommendations is carried out under the oversight of OIOS itself. Upon receipt of the recommendations of OIOS, DESA will provide a timeframe within which the recommendations are to be implemented.

**Upcoming Press Conferences

Just a look ahead at press conferences on Monday: at 10 a.m. in Room 226, there will be a press conference on the “Next Steps towards an Arms Trade Treaty”. Briefing will be by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Jorge Urbina, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica; Kirsti Lintonen, Permanent Representative of Finland; and Joseph Dube from the Control Arms Campaign. There will also be a video message from Oscar-winning actress Dame Helen Mirren.

The guest at the noon briefing will be Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, who will brief on her recent mission to Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

We also have the “Week Ahead” for you. It will be in my office.

That’s all I have.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Regarding Mr. Michel in Lebanon, what we understand is that he requested from Mr. Siniora to send another letter to the Security Council asking for chapter VII. Can you confirm this please?

Spokesperson: No, I cannot. We spoke to his office this morning and this was not mentioned. We will try to get Mr. Michel when he’s back here to talk directly to you.

Question: He tries to have the same distance from all parties but by publicly supporting Siniora, and he said that he represents the real Government of Lebanon, isn’t he taking sides here… because Siniora’s Government is a party to the dispute in Lebanon.

Spokesperson: I have no comment on this.

Question: You said what is supposed to be discussed by the Security Council on Sudan next Monday? Also, when is the Secretary-General supposed to receive the final results of the investigation on the painted aircraft in Sudan?

Spokesperson: That I don’t know yet. That is being carried out by the team on the ground, so we should know a little more about it next week.

Question: What did you say is on Monday?

Spokesperson: I said on Monday… about the press conference?

Question: Something within the Security Council that you mentioned?

Spokesperson: The Security Council meeting… I can check that for you again. You can sit with me afterwards. I’ll get the information for you.

Question: I’m just wondering with regard to the Deputy Secretary-General’s visit… I’m still not entirely sure what her job is. What is it that she does, that she focuses on?

Spokesperson: She has a number of management responsibilities. She was the one who really oversaw the whole report on system-wide coherence. I have asked her, and she has accepted, to come to you; this will be her first press conference with you.

Question: You said something about development. So she’s the head of development?

Spokesperson: She’s not the head of development. She’s working on development issues, yes.

Question: And management?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: But what’s the difference between her role and the Secretary-General’s role on management? Because the Secretary-General’s been driving a lot of the management change. So that’s why I’m trying to understand. And then you’ve also got a head of management. So I’m trying to understand what her role is.

Spokesperson: They all work together. They work together on this. The system-wide coherence –- she works specifically on that issue for all of the last two weeks. As I said, she’s coming back here next week and we’ve asked her, and she has agreed to come and talk to you.

Question: When the Secretary-General saw the Pope, he said that he will appoint a High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations. Will he or she be an Italian? What criteria will be followed? And finally, what will happen to the old Dialogue of Civilizations?

Spokesperson: Well, I don’t have that information yet. I know they did discuss the Alliance of Civilizations. As for whether the person will be Italian, I don’t have that information at this point.

Question: And criteria?

Spokesperson: We’ll try to find out for you what the exact criteria is.

Question: Yesterday, the Russian Foreign Minister, Mr. Lavrov, was quoted as saying that the Ahtisaari Plan is dead, and he was then quoted as saying that he compared the Ahtisaari Plan with Annan’s Plan on Cyprus. First of all, what’s going on with Annan’s Plan on Cyprus? Is it dead? Do you share that opinion? And do you share this opinion of high international officials that Mr. Ahtisaari’s plan on Kosovo is dead?

Spokesperson: Well, we’re not sharing the opinion of anybody at this point. As you know, the whole issue is in front of the Security Council and you are going to be able to ask questions later on today about the issue.

Any other questions? Ashraf.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly

The five facilitators on Security Council reform (the ambassadors of Tunisia, Cyprus, Croatia, Chile and the Netherlands) met with the President of the Assembly yesterday afternoon and presented to her the report on the intensive consultations they conducted with Member States over the past three months.

The report reflects all current positions on the issue of Council reform and explores new ideas on moving forward, most notably the possibility of a transitional approach to reform in all its aspects –- including the categories of membership, the veto and expansion and size of the Council.

“A significant number of Member States tend to agree that their ideal solution may not be possible at this stage, and believe that it may be more reasonable to consider the best possible substantial solution for now,” the report states.

It continues: “A transitional approach assumes an intermediate arrangement and should have as an integral component a mandatory review to take place at a predetermined date.” The text also suggests that the next stage of discussions on the issue could include an agreement on a negotiating process.

The President of the Assembly considers this report an important contribution and is transmitting it to Member States this afternoon, stating: “I share the facilitators’ view that there is a path forward that Members States can build on, taking advantage of the current momentum.”

We will make copies of the report available as soon as we can -- very soon after 1 p.m.

And she also received a letter from the G-4 yesterday after the meeting in Brasilia, expressing basically the same sentiment -- that there’s a feeling that negotiations should start as soon as possible.

That’s all I have.

**Questions and Answers

Question: What exactly is the transitional approach? Can you specify what its components are?

Spokesperson: By transitional approach, what I think the report means is that everybody has now come to realize that the best and ideal solution may not be on the table at the moment. So the best thing is to seek something more realistic and see where we can deal with an expansion perhaps in the size, along with working methods, and at the same time have a mandatory review date for that transitional arrangement, so that everybody who still has a position that they want to see come to fruition can hope that this will be done when they review the transitional arrangements.

Question: That all sounds very vague. Does it imply, for example, that Japan will be in as a veto Power and nobody else?

Spokesperson: No, I don’t think the transitional arrangement deals with the veto power. I think the veto power is one of the more controversial issues, one of the more complicated issues. If you like, the more complicated issues are set aside for the moment for a future point when they can review them and review the transitional arrangement.

Question: Does it mean that now the conclusions are that reform of the Security Council is not possible at this stage?

Spokesperson: No, not at all. This is exactly what the report says. The notions that the facilitators provide are basically a summation of the position of Member States. And the facilitators feel that there’s enough momentum and that everybody is becoming more realistic about what could be possible and, therefore, these ideas should be explored by Member States.

Question: In other words, you mean they’re unwilling to do anything at this stage?

Spokesperson: I didn’t say that.

Question: I mean… that’s what we understand.

Spokesperson: I will repeat what I said. I did not say that there’s nothing to do at this stage. I said there are positive ideas in the report, and I quoted some parts of the report. Again, it’s up to Member States. If the facilitators have actually conveyed the actual feeling of Member States, then there is room for addressing and considering these proposals, and that would lead, hopefully, to negotiations.

Question: As far as I understand, the facilitators are of the opinion that the time is not right yet for ideal approaches of reform?

Spokesperson: Exactly.

Question: Did they explain why?

Spokesperson: The ideal approach would be that every country gets exactly what it wants, which we know is a bit difficult. If you move from idealism to realism, then things could be a little more possible.

Question: Is the General Assembly President going to, at the same time, make a suggestion that members of the Assembly start at a particular date to start talking about possible transitional arrangements?

Spokesperson: Well, the way she’ll be looking at it is… give the Member States a few days to digest the report and then hold a meeting and ask them whether they feel that this is the right thing to do right now.

Question: I’m wondering… the SG’s away and his Deputy’s away. By some strange coincidence, the very first time out of New York, the SG and the Deputy in the same country… who is the boss now at the UN?

Spokesperson: Michèle just left so I wouldn’t know… the SG leaves somebody. If the Deputy’s not here, she deputizes somebody to be Officer-in-Charge, but I don’t know who.

Question: So maybe the SG’s trying to show the world that this august body can be run without my presence here and even my Deputy…

Spokesperson: No, I don’t think we can say that. It’s just a coincidence that they both have…

Question: And the GA President is also about to leave too?

Spokesperson: No. She’s here.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007



http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070420.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 23 2007, 09:32 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Guest at Noon Today

Our guest at the briefing today is Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict. Ms. Coomaraswamy will brief you on her recent two-week mission to Lebanon, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

** Somalia

A statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Somalia:

The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the continuing heavy fighting in Mogadishu, which has reportedly killed more than 250 people and forced more than 320,000 from their homes in the past six days alone. He deplores the reported indiscriminate use of heavy weapons against civilian population centres, which is in disregard of international humanitarian law.

The Secretary-General calls on the parties to immediately cease all hostilities and to facilitate access for the delivery of urgently needed humanitarian assistance. He reiterates that there is no military solution to the Somali conflict and renews his call for an urgent resumption of political dialogue.

**Secretary-General in Qatar

The Secretary-General arrived in Doha, Qatar from Geneva late Sunday afternoon, to open the Seventh Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade. He began the day Monday with a meeting with the President of Finland, who was also scheduled to open the Forum later in the day. The Secretary-General then held talks with the Prime Minister of Qatar, and then with the Emir of Qatar.

The Secretary-General told reporters travelling with him that the international conference being convened by Qatar on democracy, free trade and development focuses on three key issues that the United Nations is working for in the region, as well as worldwide.

He added that, on free trade, he was frustrated by the level of progress concerning the Doha Round of trade talks. In his speech today, which the Secretary-General should be delivering right now, he emphasises progress on the Doha Round as soon as possible. The Secretary-General is scheduled to leave Doha for Damascus tomorrow morning.

Over the weekend, the Secretary-General had chaired the meeting in Switzerland of the Chief Executives Board that brings together all the leaders of the UN System. The Board agreed, at the conclusion of its meeting, to restructure arrangements for cooperation among UN organizations to ensure a more transparent, cost-effective and coherent approach to developing common programmes. The Board will meet again in six months to complete the new arrangements.

It also decided to develop a coherent approach to support the Aid-for-Trade initiative launched at the Hong Kong Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organization, to build capacity to underpin the efforts of developing countries to benefit from the changing international trade regime.

**Security Council on Sudan

The Security Council this morning is holding consultations on the UN Mission in Sudan, with a briefing by Tayé Brook Zerihoun, the Acting Head of that Mission.

In his most recent report to the Security Council on the Mission, which came out last week, the Secretary-General says that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between North and South Sudan has reached a delicate stage, and the parties must devote considerable attention to the verification of the redeployment of their forces.

**Security Council on Kosovo

The Security Council will hold consultations this afternoon on Kosovo and other matters. Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guéhenno will brief Council members on the current situation on the ground in Kosovo. Following consultations, he will go the stakeout to take a few of your questions.

The Security Council will be sending a mission tomorrow to Belgrade and Kosovo. The six-day trip will also cover Brussels and Vienna. Its objective is to get a firsthand look at the political, economic and social situation on the ground. For details about the mission’s composition and terms of reference, you can look at the relevant letter from the Security Council Presidency to the Secretary-General, which is out on the racks today.

Also, the head of the mission, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke, will come to this room at 11 a.m. tomorrow to give you more details about the trip.

** Iraq

Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Advisor dealing with the International Compact with Iraq, is beginning a week of travels to build up support for the Compact. He is accompanied by the Governor of Iraq’s Central Bank.

Gambari is in the United Kingdom today, and will travel from there to Kuwait, Bulgaria and Belgium before returning to New York next week. And, you will recall, the Compact will be launched formally in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on 2-3 May.

** Sudan -– Humanitarian

The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that, because of a Russian wheat shipment that arrived in Sudan today, it will be able to feed nearly 300,000 schoolchildren. Those children are enrolled in WFP's school feeding programmes in three chronically food-insecure Sudanese states. WFP will also be able to feed 6,000 participants in food-for-work projects. We have a press release on that upstairs.

**World Food Programme

Also from the WFP, the agency’s new head, Josette Sheeran, is currently on her first visit to Africa since taking office earlier this month. She was in Ethiopia today to discuss how WFP can increase the amount of food it buys on local markets.

On Wednesday, she will head to Sudan, where WFP has its biggest aid operation. She intends to visit Khartoum, Darfur and Juba, before heading to Chad this Saturday. We have more on her trip upstairs.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General is currently on a three-day visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Asha-Rose Migiro arrived Sunday in Kinshasa. At the airport, she reiterated the United Nations’ commitment to assist the Government and the Congolese people in their efforts towards reconstruction and reconciliation. During her visit, she is expected to meet President Kabila and Prime Minister Gizenga. She will depart tomorrow.

**Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

An update on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea:

At the request of the DPR Korea authorities, UNDP will withdraw its remaining two international staff members from Pyongyang on 3 May. They will proceed to Beijing and will be accessible to facilitate the audit. The WFP has agreed to provide storage and support for current UNDP office assets, as well as to make any necessary further payments on behalf of UNDP. All UNDP records are secured.

UNDP’s programme in DPRK remains formally in suspension. UNDP will retain its lease on its Country Office building in Pyongyang until further notice.

** Haiti

The arrest of gang leader Belony Pierre on Saturday, 21 April by the Haitian National Police marks another significant step forward in the fight against Haiti's armed gangs. Belony, who led a gang in Bois-Neuf, Cite Soleil, was arrested by Haitian National Police officers in St. Michel de l'Attalaye, 100 km north of Port-au-Prince. He was immediately transferred to the capital, where he faces charges of murder and kidnapping.

Belony's arrest was carried out by the Haitian Police. The United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) provided additional security during his transfer, and subsequent detention at the headquarters of the police judiciare in Port-au-Prince. The gang leader has been on the run since the end of February, when MINUSTAH forces, in support of the Haitian National Police, seized control of his Cite Soleil headquarters.

**UNODC

The head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is urging Member States to develop a more coherent global regime for fighting organized crime. Speaking to the sixteenth session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, Antonio Maria Costa said law enforcement is operating in an “informational fog”, due to a lack of information on organized crime activities. We have more on that upstairs.

**United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour leaves tomorrow for Central Asia. Her two-week trip will take her to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. Arbour’s aim is to increase her office’s engagement in the region. We have more on that in my office.

**UNESCO

The UN Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has adopted a landmark decision on protecting the Old City of Jerusalem.

The unanimous reaffirmation by UNESCO’s Executive Board of the need to safeguard the World Heritage site marks the first time that Israelis and Palestinians have worked together on this issue. Both sides consulted with the board on reaching this decision and continue to work together.

UNESCO sent a technical mission to Jerusalem in February, after Islamic authorities there complained about an Israeli construction project they said threatened the Al-Aqsa Mosque. We have more information in a press release upstairs.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

Our guest at the briefing tomorrow will be Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Mr. Holmes will brief you on the humanitarian situation in Somalia.

I’ll just take a few questions, because Ms. Coomaraswamy is already waiting.

**Questions and Answers

Question: You made this announcement about DPR Korea. I have seen the letter from UNDP to North Korea. It says they were told on 6 March that they had to leave by the end of April. Is this persona non grata? I mean, they are being thrown out of the country. How does the UN view it, and is North Korea still on UNDP’s Executive Board when they threw all the international staff out?

Spokesperson: As for being on the Executive Board, I will check out for you the situation. And we are not describing… The UNDP already decided to withdraw its staff from there, so we don’t consider it as being persona non grata that situation.

[The Spokesperson later added that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remains on the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Executive Board.]

Question: At they time, they announced they were suspending, they said that these two would remain in until the audit was completed. Now they are being thrown out of the country. Why wasn’t it announced when they were told they had to leave and how is it… Obviously something changed, because they said that they would stay there to facilitate the audit.

Spokesperson: Since it is the third of May and no agreement has been reached, they are leaving the country on the third.

Question: The letter from them to them says that March 26 they were told by [inaudible] that they had to leave by the end of April. If it is not persona non grata, what is it when a Member State tells UN personnel you must leave the country?

Spokesperson: I would underline the fact that it was UNDP that decided to leave in the first place, to withdraw its personnel.

Question: What is the status of the audit?

Spokesperson: As far as we know, the external auditors are now accessing UNDP records in Korea. Priority records are being copied and transported out of the country for their use. We don’t know if the external auditors will be able to visit the UNDP projects. That will be up to the DPR Korea authorities. But we do not anticipate that the suspension of UNDP’s programme in the DPRK and the departure of the international staff will have an impact on the audit.

Question: And when will we see some results from the audit?

Spokesperson: This is going on right now. I cannot answer that question.

Question: So you are saying that the UN has no comment on the fact that North Korea threw out these two remaining staff from North Korea?

Spokesperson: We don’t have any specific comments on this, because this was something that was announced before.

Question: I never heard it. When countries throw people out, normally people get a bit upset. But it sounds like the UN is not having problems with UN staff being thrown out of North Korea.

Spokesperson: I have to say that UNDP had announced first that they were withdrawing their staff. They had only kept two on a temporary basis.

Question: Right, can you remind me when the decision was taken that these two would then leave by the UNDP?

Spokesperson: I don’t know when this decision was taken, but I know that it was announced that they will leave by 3 May.

Question: It just strikes me that the sequence of events is that North Korea threw them out, after which the UNDP announced that they would withdraw…

Spokesperson: No, no, I am sorry, I am sorry, they were withdrawn before. You can go back to your files. The UNDP announced that they would withdraw their international staff way before this. This occurred afterwards. So, the sequence of events is not quite the way you have it.

Question: The former Foreign Minister of Germany said that Turkey’s entry into the European Union was of the utmost importance, because it would signal that a strong Muslim country was able to modernize, and also it would be a strong signal to the terrorists and jihadists. What is the position of the SG regarding Turkey’s application for joining the European Union?

Spokesperson: This is a matter for the Union to decide and it is a matter between Turkey and the Union.

Question: There is increasing tension between Turkey and, I don’t know what you call it now, I guess the Kurdish provinces of Iraq. A lot of people are worrying that a conflict might break out over the next few weeks. Does the UN in any way raise the alarm bells over this? Is the UN engaged in any kind of mediation about this, in any kind of talks?

Spokesperson: Not that I know of, but I will try to get some information for you on that.

Question: On the Sudan shipment, do we know who made the donation? Was it the Kremlin, the Government, one of the humanitarian agencies?

Spokesperson: We have that information in the press release upstairs. So you can have it.

Question: It does not specify who from Russia made the donation.

Spokesperson: I will find out for you additional information and who did that.

[The Spokesperson later said the donation came from the Russian Government.]

Question: Are there any contacts between the United Nations and Iran regarding attending the 3 May conference in Sharm el-Sheikh?

Spokesperson: If there is any contact, you mean?

Question: Between the United Nations and Iran regarding attending the conference of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Spokesperson: All the invitations were done by the Foreign Ministry of Egypt.

Question: Because Condoleezza Rice is calling for Iran to attend. Is the United Nations doing anything in this regard?

Spokesperson: No, as far as I know, the UN is not directly involved with the invitations.

Question: I want to ask you about the elections in Nigeria. The international monitors consider that it wasn’t free and fair. I would like to know if the Secretary-General has any comment on that?

Spokesperson: As you know, we are not observers at these elections. However, I did ask, and the Secretary-General says he continues to closely follow the developments in Nigeria, including the report from observer groups, which have expressed concerns, as you know, about the recent election. He strongly urges those with grievances to use the legal and constitutional means to address their complaints. He appeals to all national actors to resist any resort to violence. This is the reaction I got for you on the Nigerian elections.

Question: And has any international organization asked the UN to intercede in the process?

Spokesperson: No.

Question: When the announcement of the North Korea audit was made, there was also the intention to do a wider audit on the role of UN agencies. Is that ongoing? Or is that waiting for the North Korea thing to end, or…

Spokesperson: In the DPRK it is proceeding.

Question: In the DPRK it is proceeding, but what about other agencies in the UN…

Spokesperson: As I mentioned to you before, the first step was the DPRK and it is going to continue.

Question: So, until the DPRK is done, there are not going to be audits of other agencies?

Spokesperson: Of other agencies? No.

Question: On humanitarian conditions in Somalia, the Secretary-General has always expressed his concern about the situation there. I was wondering about, if there are any ideas, or concepts, or proposals by the Secretary-General to resume the political dialogue in Somalia.

Spokesperson: Well, as you know, the case of Somalia is right now in front of the Security Council, studying the situation. So, at this point, the Secretary-General has not taken any new initiative.

Question: There is a letter from the Transitional Federal Government to WFP, and I think to other agencies, saying that only they can bring in food, or aid, only if the Government inspects it. We have heard that there are not enough inspectors. I am wondering, what is the UN doing in the face of this directive of the Transitional Federal Government? Are you aware of this problem?

Spokesperson: We have asked about it, and we should have an answer about what the UN is planning to do and about what the situation is for you. I don’t have it right now.

Question: This regards the Darfur heavy support package. So, what is the current plan in terms of follow-up, troop-contributor meetings and so forth? Where do we go from here?

Spokesperson: We are waiting, I think, for answers from some of the troop-contributing countries. We don’t have that yet. As soon as we get something on it, I will let you know.

Question: Is there going to be another meeting this week in the Council?

Spokesperson: I don’t know when it is scheduled for. I’ll check for you.

Question: On the 29th of this month, Karzai and [inaudible] are going to meet in Ankara. Does the UN have anything on it?

Spokesperson: I don’t have any information at this point on this.

Question: In the Ivory Coast, these days, they are happily celebrating the newly-found unity of the country and of the army. Is the Secretary-General satisfied with the role of the United Nations and the international community, as far as this country is concerned?

Spokesperson: So far, I think, things are proceeding. We are hoping that we proceed with the agreements as reached, and that we’ll get to a peaceful solution.

Question: When are we expecting to hear from Mr. [Nicolas] Michel about his trip to Lebanon?

Spokesperson: Mr. Michel, as you know, we have upstairs for you all the statements he has made in Lebanon, and you can have them upstairs. Unfortunately, he has to travel very soon, again. I have asked him, and he would be willing to come and talk to you, but after his return, which probably will be next week.

Question: Is he going to Switzerland regarding this conference?

Spokesperson: He is travelling.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070420.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 24 2007, 11:43 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon. Our guest at the briefing today is Mr. John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Mr. Holmes will brief you on the situation in Somalia.

**Secretary-General in Syria

The Secretary-General is in Syria, where he met for an hour and 15 minutes tête-à-tête with President Bashar al-Assad.

On the plane ride from Doha to Damascus, the Secretary-General and his delegation talked for two hours with the Syrian Foreign Minister, Walid al-Muallem. And, following the meeting with President Assad, the Secretary-General met with Vice-President Farouk al-Shara.

The delegation also visited the UN Development Programme (UNDP) office in Damascus, and stopped over to see the work done by the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), whose more than 1,000 troops have been deployed in the Golan Heights since 1974, to maintain the ceasefire there.

The Secretary-General just spoke to reporters before leaving Syria, saying that he had held constructive meetings with the Syrian leaders. He said that President Assad has assured him of cooperation in all matters relating to peace and security in the region, including the implementation of resolution 1701 (2006).

** Sudan

The UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) reports that unknown armed men attacked an international NGO vehicle yesterday near Marla, 55 kilometres south-east of Nyala, in South Darfur, and they shot at the vehicle. As a result, two staff members were injured.

Also yesterday, the UN Mission says, a group of young men armed with sticks entered the Ardamata camp for internally displaced persons, five kilometres east of El Geneina, in West Darfur, and started threatening the people there. Local police intervened to address the situation, but humanitarian workers suspended their activities in the camp. The reasons behind this incident remain unclear.

We have upstairs a press release from the World Food Programme (WFP), about the visit by its Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, to Darfur and southern Sudan this week to view food aid activities on her first international mission as head of the world’s largest humanitarian relief organization.

**Security Council

This afternoon, the Security Council will hold a closed meeting of its Informal Working Group on Documentation and Other Procedural Questions.

And you’ve just been briefed by the Belgian Ambassador on the Security Council’s mission to Brussels, Belgrade, Kosovo and Vienna, which is scheduled to depart this afternoon.

** Côte d’Ivoire

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hédi Annabi just wrapped up a 12 day visit to Côte d’Ivoire. In an interview with the UN’s radio station in that country, he said he had found an easing of the situation, as well as a very clear willingness on the part of Ivorian leaders to implement the Ouagadougou Accord in a timely manner. Annabi added that the UN would continue to help the parties implement the Accord.

We have the full transcript upstairs.

** Cyprus

The UN Mission in Cyprus today released the results of an inter-communal survey measuring public opinions on the island.

The poll, which was conducted last January and February, indicates that majorities in both of Cyprus’ communities feel that the UN has an important role to play in Cyprus and that its presence on the island is essential.

The survey also shows that Cypriots believe inter-communal contacts can pave the way for improved levels of trust, and that a federal solution is still the best hope for resolving the Cyprus problem.

We have more on this upstairs.

** Colombia

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe chaired a meeting yesterday, bringing together senior officials throughout the UN system with a high-level delegation from the Government of Colombia that was led by Vice-President Francisco Santos and Foreign Minister Fernando Araújo.

The meeting allowed an open and constructive exchange on United Nations work in Colombia, as well as on the status of peace efforts in Colombia. In that context, United Nations officials expressed the willingness of the Secretary-General to use his good offices in support of a negotiated solution. The Colombian delegation expressed that, should appropriate conditions exist, the Colombian Government would value UN contribution in its peace efforts.

We have a press release upstairs with more details.

** Democratic Republic of the Congo

Renewed fighting between militias and Government troops in the north-eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has forced thousands of civilians to flee, according to the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

WFP has provided more than a thousand tons of food to those displaced, while UNHCR has conducted dozens of rapid assessment missions to follow up reports of serious human rights abuses.

We have more information upstairs.

** Madagascar

WFP says it has started flying desperately needed food and other humanitarian supplies into north-western Madagascar. The area has been cut off after one of the worst cyclone seasons in years left bridges and roads destroyed. As part of a four-week operation, WFP plans to use helicopters to transport essential relief items to some 20,000 people in isolated villages.

We have a press release upstairs.

**United Nations Children’s Fund

UNICEF has issued a statement condemning, as a war crime, the use of a minor in a Taliban execution.

It says that, a video circulating in Pakistan, showing a young boy beheading an adult, is a “terrible example of how children can be used by adults to commit heinous crimes in times of conflict”.

We have copies of the statement upstairs.

**Guest at Noon Tomorrow

Our guest at the briefing tomorrow will be Ambassador John McNee, Permanent Representative of Canada to the UN and head of the ECOSOC Ad Hoc Advisory Group’s four-day mission to Haiti. Ambassador McNee will brief you on the group’s evaluation of the current situation in Haiti and its assessment of the post-conflict reconstruction challenges the country faces.

This is all I have for you. Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Correspondent: There was this, I am sorry if I missed this, there was this speech by Mr. Ban in Geneva, in which he said that they were the first Correspondents’ Association…

Correspondent: I have to raise the issue officially. The Secretary-General met with the Association of Correspondents last week in Geneva, and he told them that we here, [the United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA)], have never invited him out. So I wonder… and we have an official transcript of his remarks. My colleagues were shocked by the remarks, to say it mildly. I want to ask you, what was the reason for him to say that and why did he say that, in Geneva, while we had meetings with him here, in New York, at our invitation. And I am pretty sure that he enjoyed the meetings, also.

Correspondent: And also, just to add, we did invite him to the annual UNCA dinner. He was seated with the [inaudible]. So all proper courtesies were extended to him by UNCA.

Spokesperson: Well, thank you to all three of you. I am sorry these remarks created a misunderstanding, which I want to lift immediately. It was meant in a light-hearted way by the Secretary-General. It was referring to the irritation expressed by some members of the Geneva press corps that he was not able to travel to our second headquarters at the Palais des Nations until last week. The comments were meant in jest, and not intended to be taken seriously. I can assure you, that the Secretary-General is most appreciative of his meetings with UNCA, particularly the two gracious invitations extended by you to him early in his tenure and, most recently, for his 100 days in office. He has told me how highly he values these informal exchanges and the exchanges he had with the correspondents’ association. And the work you do, covering the UN, is to him essential.

Correspondent: As the treasurer of the Organization, I’d like to just add to that, which is that this is an official UN transcript document. I don’t, for one minute, with the greatest respect, of course, to the Secretary-General, doubt his word when he says he meant it in jest. But when one sees it purely in print, without the benefit of his facial and vocal expressions and his presence, it is impossible to tell that it was in fact meant in jest, which makes it somewhat more serious.

Spokesperson: Point well taken.

Question: Another issue is that he seems to favour Geneva to New York, calling Geneva the headquarters of the UN. I wonder, can he show more appreciation of what New York is doing for him?

Spokesperson: I don’t think that he appreciates Geneva more than he appreciates New York. I can assure you that he just met with Geneva recently, and he has met with you several times. As I said earlier, he truly appreciates these meetings, particularly the informal exchanges he has with you, which, as you know and you can tell, were open, very frank and sincere. And I think he truly appreciated them. And I think he has told you himself that he appreciated those meetings with you.

Question: In his talk there, he said that Geneva was the largest UN city in the world and that there were more international organizations and more diplomatic staff. It may be the real UN headquarters. I am wondering, I don’t know if that was a joke as well, but if anyone could get the numbers, to know what the basis of this is. And also, I don’t know if you will answer this, but who is writing his speeches now, like what is the process of that?

Spokesperson: I don’t know if that was a speech. He just improvised that. He was answering questions after a lunch. It was not a speech in any way.

Question: Got you. Can we get those numbers?

Spokesperson: Sure, sure, you can have those numbers on how many agencies there are in Geneva, how many people work there, that you can have. No problem there.

Correspondent: Just for the record, some in New York have advocated moving the UN out of New York, but… just for the record.

Correspondent: I would just like to make a suggestion that, since the transcript does appear on the UN website, that perhaps there could be a note attached saying that this was said in jest.

Spokesperson: Well, it is not right now on the website. It has been sent to you, but it is not on the website.

Correspondent: Some diplomatic missions saw the transcript. I got a reaction from some missions also.

Spokesperson: Okay.

Correspondent: Maybe there should be a section on the website for humorous speeches.

Spokesperson: It was just a humorous remark of an exchange that took place, and that was about very serious issues.

Question: Since the institutions like the World Bank and the IMF are part of the Bretton Wood institutions, and here is the President of the World Bank, Mr. Wolfowitz, involved clearly in a case of nepotism, favouritism, does the Secretary-General have any problem with Mr. Wolfowitz’ continued presence at the World Bank, which is undermining the World Bank itself?

Spokesperson: No, not at this point.

Question: Could you please ask him?

Spokesperson: We could ask, but I do not think that we would have a reaction to a situation that is occurring right now in the World Bank.

Question: There was a report on National Public Radio here yesterday about reports of forced abortions in China and problems with China. So, it, maybe… I have been sort of trying to… that is a pretty credible media source. Is anyone in the UN system aware of this, looking at this, has the UNFPA said anything, are you aware of this?

Spokesperson: Of course the UNFPA has been following these issues for a very long time. You can find a number of…

Question: This was a specific report of last week about women being forced to go to clinics and forcibly aborted…

Spokesperson: No, I don’t have a specific remark on that specific news report.

Question: There is a case now that the Supreme Court is considering whether New York City can collect real estate taxes from portions of diplomatic missions that are used as residences. It is the Permanent Mission of India vs. New York. And Mongolia as well, but the name of the case is India. I know that the US State Department is siding with the Permanent Mission of India in this case. Does the UN have any position on the case? Does it feel that all of these premises should be tax exempt?

Spokesperson: We don’t have a position on this at this point. As you know, there is a committee about the relationship with the Host Country in the General Assembly, and they are handling this type of situation.

Question: Are they handling it? Because we don’t have the Spokesman for the GA…

Spokesperson: But you can ask the Spokesman even if he is not here today.

Question: There was a report I read about UN staff being kidnapped in Sri Lanka. Did you talk about this? Do you know about this situation? Is there a situation where there are negotiations underway to ensure the freedom of these staff?

Spokesperson: We don’t have any confirmation of those reports. We have heard them. As soon as we have a confirmation, we’ll get something for you on that.

Question: I mean, are there… when you say “we”, do you mean you checked with the Sri Lankan mission and they don’t know if their staff went missing?

Spokesperson: A mission? I am checking with the UN presence there.

Question: So you don’t know if there are any staff missing or not?

Spokesperson: I don’t know. We don’t have any confirmation. They have not confirmed those reports. I heard them through the press, also.

Question: It seems a little bit confusing that the UN wouldn’t know if its staff was missing or not.

Spokesperson: Well, they have not confirmed that it is true.

Question: Regarding Mr. Ban’s trip to Damascus, can you confirm that he is with Nicolas Michel and Roed-Larsen?

Spokesperson: No, he is with Roed-Larsen and with Mr. Pedersen. He is not with Mr. Michel, who is travelling elsewhere today.

Question: When will Mr. Michel be in New York?

Spokesperson: Most probably Saturday or Sunday this coming weekend.

Question: Can we have a press conference with him after he gets back?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: What is Mr. Roed-Larsen’s position in the UN right now?

Spokesperson: Well, it hasn’t changed. He is still in the same position, and that is why he is with the Secretary-General in Syria.

Question: Do you have anything on Nicolas Michel’s mission? Was it successful? [Inaudible.]

Spokesperson: As you know, he has met with different people and we gave you a readout of his different meetings. He is willing to come and talk with you. The problem was a logistics problem. He had to travel. He will come definitely and talk to you about it. He did brief members of the Council and he briefed the Secretary-General about the results of his meetings. I don’t have that yet.

Question: And are they encouraging, I mean, since he briefed the Secretary-General, are the results encouraging, discouraging?

Spokesperson: Well, Mr. Michel always sees encouraging signs.

Question: The UN opinion survey in Cyprus, is this an official survey? And if it is official, is it going to be taken as a basis for any new UN initiative on Cyprus?

Spokesperson: Well, it was, as you know, taken to assess the two communities’ attitudes towards the UN presence. So, of course, it is going to be part of any follow-up discussions on Cyprus.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070424.doc.htm


Posted by: mynameis Apr 25 2007, 09:00 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

Our guest at the briefing today is Ambassador John McNee, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations and head of the Economic and Social Council’s Ad Hoc Advisory Group’s four-day mission to Haiti. Ambassador McNee will brief you on the group’s evaluation of the current situation in Haiti and its assessment of the post-conflict reconstruction challenges the country faces.

Also present at the briefing will be the Permanent Representative of Haiti to the United Nations, Ambassador Leo Merores, and the Permanent Representative of Trinidad and Tobago to the United Nations, Ambassador Philip Sealy, who were on the mission.

** Iraq

On Iraq, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has issued its tenth report on the human rights situation in that country, which notes, despite some progress, frequent failures of the Iraqi institutions to protect the life and dignity of all Iraqis in a manner that conforms to international humanitarian and human rights laws.

With regard to the ongoing Baghdad Security Plan, UNAMI is concerned that large numbers of Iraqis, among them professional groups and law enforcement personnel, continued to experience intimidation and killings. It also notes continued political interference in the affairs of the judiciary, a matter in need of urgent attention.

Unlike previous reports, the Mission’s now quarterly human rights report does not contain official statistics of violent deaths, regularly gathered by the Ministry of Health and the Medico-Legal Institute in Baghdad. This is because the Iraqi Government decided not to make such data available to UNAMI. This is a matter of regret because UNAMI reports have been regarded as a credible source of information regarding developments in the human rights situation in Iraq.

The Mission will continue to speak with the Iraqi authorities and urge them to provide the necessary information.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is on his way back to New York, ending his week-long trip to Italy, Switzerland, Qatar and Syria. Speaking to reporters yesterday as he was leaving Damascus, the Secretary-General said that he was delighted with his first visit to Syria, adding: “It was short but productive.”

He said that, during his discussions with President Bashar al-Assad, he had encouraged the President to reach a border agreement with Lebanon, and Assad had agreed to reactivate the Border Committee with Lebanon. The Secretary-General warmly welcomed this positive step.

The Secretary-General told reporters that he had discussed the issue of a tribunal for Lebanon with President Assad. The Secretary-General said that the most desirable path is that the Lebanese people should find their own way, in accordance with their own constitutional procedure.

**Security Council

On the Security Council, the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, B. Lynn Pascoe, this morning briefed the Security Council in its open meeting on the Middle East, telling them that the political and diplomatic initiatives aimed at rejuvenating peacemaking in that region have continued to evolve in a mostly positive fashion. However, Pascoe said, the forward momentum we are witnessing on the political and diplomatic level is threatened by the deteriorating security situation on the ground, especially the continuing violence experienced by both Israelis and Palestinians. Leaders on all sides must do their utmost to prevent this latest upsurge of violence from escalating any further.

Pascoe added that the United Nations continues to be deeply concerned about the fate of kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston, and reiterates the Secretary-General’s call for his safety and immediate release. We have his statement to the Council upstairs. Pascoe has informed us that he will talk to reporters at the stakeout after the open debate on the Middle East.

**Security Council Mission

The Security Council mission to Kosovo arrived in Brussels today, where it was received by Belgium’s Foreign Minister, Karel de Gucht. Mission participants met with Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), as well as a representative of Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy. The mission also held a working lunch with the European Union’s Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn. This evening the mission heads to Belgrade.

** Sudan

On the Sudan, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres arrived in West Darfur yesterday, where he urged local officials to improve security, on the start of a four-day mission to Sudan. He announced that Sudan had agreed to an expansion of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) work in West Darfur. We have details in a press release upstairs.

The United Nations Mission in Sudan reports that the cooperation between the United Nations, the Sudanese Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan to implement the joint plan for returns continues. Since road convoys started in February 2007, more than 26,000 internally displaced persons have been assisted to return to their homes. The United Nations Mission in Sudan’s daily bulletin is also out today, and it includes information about the recent reports of the Mission’s work.

** Central African Republic

On the Central African Republic, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have sent a seven-truck convoy from the capital, Bangui, to a north-eastern area of the country, near the border with Darfur. That humanitarian convoy carried seeds from FAO, food from WFP and educational materials from UNICEF. This year the United Nations and its humanitarian partners have asked for nearly $55 million in aid for the Central African Republic. Only 32 per cent of those funds have been received so far.

**Democratic Republic of Congo

The Deputy Secretary-General has wrapped up her visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and is now in Brazzaville to attend a meeting of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) country directors for Africa. During her stay in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Deputy Secretary-General met with President Joseph Kabila and various political leaders, including members of the opposition. Her message to all her interlocutors was that the United Nations is prepared to continue working with the Congolese authorities and Congolese people to promote reconciliation and reconstruction.

Meanwhile, the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is calling for greater protection of endangered animals in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We have a press release on that in my Office.

**UNRWA

In its latest report, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) finds that living conditions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory continued to decline during the second half of 2006. Israel’s impounding of customs revenues and the freeze in donor support has left the Palestinian Authority starved of resources and unable to provide basic services, UNRWA said. It found especially dire conditions in Gaza, where 80 per cent of households were living on less than a dollar a day, and unemployment stood at 40 per cent. The full report is available on UNRWA’s website.

**Humanitarian Response Capacity

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today launched a $62.5 million inter-agency appeal for building global humanitarian response capacity. The appeal seeks funding for 11 sectors to strengthen global humanitarian response capacity. These areas include agriculture, camp coordination and management, early recovery, education, emergency shelter, emergency telecommunications, health, logistics, nutrition, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes stressed that the aim of the appeal is to reinforce United Nations support to Governments in providing relief and protection to people affected by emergencies. The press release is available upstairs.

**Central Asia

High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour today wrapped up a two-day visit to Kyrgyzstan. She met with a variety of officials, including the country’s President and Foreign Minister. Ms. Arbour said she was pleased by Kyrgyzstan’s efforts to develop a strong civil society. But, at the same time, she raised concerns about domestic violence in the country and reports of ill-treatment and torture of detainees. Ms. Arbour is now in Tajikistan, where she will stay for several days before heading to Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan.

And, while on the topic of Central Asia, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific says it will hold its next session in Kazakhstan in late May. It will be the first time the Commission’s highest decision-making body is meeting in Central Asia.

We have more on those items in my office.

** Africa Malaria Day

And finally, today is Africa Malaria Day. This year’s focus is on fighting the disease in countries where it is endemic. Each year, one million people die from malaria. More than 80 per cent of those deaths are in sub-Saharan Africa, and malaria is responsible for almost one in five deaths of African children, according to UNICEF. The agency’s Executive Director, Ann Venemen, is calling for greater use of insecticide-treated bed nets, which cost just $10 each and have been shown to significantly reduce malaria deaths. We have more information upstairs.

I will take a few questions. Then we’ll have our guest for you. Any questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: In the New York Sun, actually Benny had an article about the United Nations Development Programme and North Korea. I was just wondering: did the Secretary-General know about this decision to follow through with North Korea’s demands for the remaining two United Nations employees to leave the country? And also for the transfer of the equipment and other things to North Korea, worth about two million dollars?

Spokesperson: As far as I know, and what I’ve said in this briefing about two days ago, is that this was being left to the care of the World Food Programme, still staying on the ground. I did not say that these assets were transferred to the North Korean Government. So, I just want to get that fact straight.

[The Spokesperson was referring to equipment owned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).]

The second aspect of this: the Secretary-General knew about, he has been following very closely, what is happening there.

Question: And where does this leave the audit? Are the auditors now going to go to… I guess, these two gentlemen went off to Beijing -- is that where they’ve gone? Are the others going to meet up with them in Beijing, or are they going to go to North Korea? Has Ban Ki-moon requested that the auditors go to North Korea? Where does this whole investigation stand?

Spokesperson: Well, the whole investigation is being pursued, as you know, and, as I said yesterday, in no way will the audit be, in any way, blocked. All the information will be made available to the auditors. And the United Nations Development Programme made sure that they will have access. For instance, the accounts that they had are still open. They have a minimal amount of money in those accounts, and the reason is so the auditors will have access to those accounts.

Question: One other follow-up. Who’s calling the shots here? Are the North Koreans dictating what the United Nations needs to do? And also, where’s the guarantee that this equipment, which I understand has some -- you know, there’s some specialized equipment here -- that that’s not going to go to the North Korean military, for instance?

Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, it’s in the care of the World Food Programme. I can get more information for you on what guarantees they have -- that this will stay with the World Food Programme. But, as far as I know, that is the situation.

Question: Just a couple of questions. On Syria, was the Lebanon tribunal discussed at all? Because I’m not sure you talked about that. Was there an agreement? Did Syria basically give its agreement to the tribunal?

Spokesperson: Well Syria said they accepted to... Let’s say they would encourage the Lebanese to implement the tribunal.

Question: But did Syria accept the tribunal as designed with its current statute, and agreed to that? Because there’s been a lot of negotiation going on between Syria and various people trying to change the status, and the nature, and guarantees, and all the rest of it. It would be helpful to actually get a little more sense of what Syria asked for, and what the United Nations agreed to or didn’t agree to with regards to the tribunal.

Spokesperson: The Secretary-General is coming back today. I should get more about it. As you know, he had a tête-à-tête with President Assad and these issues were discussed. So I should get more for you on that, on specifics.

Question: One other thing, the Staff Union is basically handing out leaflets at the entrances to all the United Nations staff, basically asking for a freeze on the Secretary-General’s mobility package. In talking to some of the representatives, the concerns are that, basically, the Secretary-General is pushing through a mobility package that, first of all, changes the terms and conditions and understanding upon which a lot of the staff joined this Organization, and that it didn’t address fundamental issues of family, visa issues, security tenure and all the rest of it. How does the Secretary-General and his team respond to this request to freeze that mobility until there’s more of an agreement with the staff?

Spokesperson: Well, for the time being, as you know, the Staff Union is asking for a meeting with staff on the issue and to discuss the issue. As far as I know, the mobility package has been extensively discussed with them. I realize they are not fully satisfied with the answers they got, and I think this issue is being discussed.

Question: How?

Spokesperson: With the management services. With the Office of Ms. Bárcena [Department of Management].

Question: In light of Jonathan’s previous question, is there a formal list of other countries, besides North Korea, somehow produced at the United Nations, which is available to be seen? Other countries that may be under the investigation triggered by this investigation in North Korea of the United Nations Development Programme?

Spokesperson: Okay, I will try to get that information for you.

I have got some additional information from the United Nations Development Programme right this minute. I’ve got some information about the number of projects, because I had that question earlier today.

UNDP had 24 active projects at the time of its suspension and 6 projects that were operationally complete. Where it was complete, standard UNDP procedures came into play, including transfer of ownership of project assets to Government counterparts. The projects were halted pending decisions upon UNDP’s future in the country. Though Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK) authorities have signed for custody of project assets, the formal title transfer has not taken place. A full inventory of all items of value will be completed before the staff leave the country. This is the information I just got from UNDP.

It is important to keep in mind that, in all cases, the DPRK authorities were already in possession of the assets, in some cases for several years. Nothing new has been given or physically transferred to the DPRK authorities. This is what I just got from UNDP.

Question: So it sounds to me like the assets were transferred to North Korean authorities and counterparts.

Spokesperson: Counterparts.

Question: What counterparts?

Spokesperson: Well, this was for the projects that were completed.

Question: Didn’t you say they are in possession of the other assets?

Spokesperson: I can get you the information on that from UNDP…

Question: This is a question of the other assets?

Spokesperson: In some cases, yes.

Question: Does it say in some cases or does it say [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: It says, in all cases, the DPRK authorities were already in possession of the assets. In some cases for several years, it says. Nothing new has been given or physically transferred.

Question: So all the assets are in the possession of DPRK -- is that correct?

Spokesperson: That’s what they’re saying here, yes.

Question: Didn’t you say that the development programmes [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: I’m talking about the equipment that the United Nations Development Programme had before it was halted. I’m talking about… I’m not talking about projects. I’m talking about assets -- like computers, like equipment. These were transferred to the care of the World Food Programme.

Question: But you said that all assets are in possession of the DPRK. Is that all assets except for computers, hard drives, memory parts?

Spokesperson: If you want more information, I will get someone from the United Nations Development Programme to come and explain this to you.

Question: Can someone from the United Nations Development Programme come tomorrow to explain all of this to us?

Spokesperson: Tomorrow I’m afraid we have another guest, but I’ll try to get someone to come, not at the noon briefing but later on during the day.

Question: Just one follow-up on this -- on the record, in the briefing room, and not in the hallway. There seems to be a lot of these questions, like why they didn’t announce that they were being put out of North Korea instead of waiting for it, for the letter, to leak out?

Spokesperson: Okay, we’ll try to get a briefing for you, on the record.

Question: I just wanted to ask, one non-North Korea and one North Korea. Non-North Korea: what is the status of the Rwanda genocide exhibit that was supposed to have been reopened late last week, or early this week? When is it going to be opened?

Spokesperson: I have to say that, it is almost finalized right now. The equipment has to come from London and be brought here physically. We are hoping that it still will open by the end of the week as I had announced. If it cannot be opened on Friday, it will be on Monday.

Question: In that regard, is the Department of Public Information considering organizing any kind of exhibition on Srebrenica, since the United Nations somehow recognized its complicity and guilt in what happened in Srebrenica in 1995?

Spokesperson: I can ask that question for you, whether the exhibit... whether there’s any plans for exhibits on that issue.

[The Spokesperson later added no exhibit on Srebrenica was currently planned, but that there had been one in July 2005.]

Question: Does the Secretary-General have any reaction regarding the recent elections in Nigeria, which according to many observers were rigged, with irregularities, and were not conducted according to international norms?

Spokesperson: I stand by what I said yesterday, that the results of these elections, the people contesting the elections, have to go through the regular process -- which is the internal process -- and go through the electoral council there.

Question: With the United Nations Development Programme people being told to leave the country, who or which agency is going to be the Resident Coordinator -- that system where there’s always one agency in charge? How is that decided and which agency is it going to be?

Spokesperson: As far as I know, the World Food Programme.

Question: Also, we’ve heard that the previous Resident Coordinator, this guy Timo Pakkala, has now been sent back, sent home, essentially, on leave with full pay. He’s in Mozambique, he’s on leave. If he’s the person most knowledgeable, is he going to be involved in the audit? Why is the number one guy...?

Spokesperson: Of course he will be. Everyone who was involved with the project will be open to auditors’ questions, of course.

Question: Is Timo Pakkala on leave with pay or without pay?

Spokesperson: I can check that for you. That’s why I said, I’m going to get... I don’t have someone from the United Nations Development Programme here now with me, and I hope to have one with me tomorrow.

Question: We’ve passed the 90-day mark in which the audit should have been completed. The Secretary-General [inaudible] that a formal, official extension of the audit. Is there a timeline?

Spokesperson: The auditors are an independent body, as you know. It’s not up to the Secretary-General to dictate the terms.

Question: [inaudible] open-ended or let the audit, the board of auditors…?

Spokesperson: We’ll try to get more on the audit for you.

Question: Is there any sort of movement to get any United Nations staff at all to visit, to conduct site visits of, some of these projects to facilitate the audit?

Spokesperson: Well, the board of auditors is going there.

Question: Will North Korea let them in?

Spokesperson: Well, we are willing... We’ll find out.

Question: On the whole mobility thing, it might be helpful to have management come just to talk about this. I’m just interested in one issue. For example, moving people around as a United Nations servant is different to moving people around in a national administration, because of the constant issue of United States visas. Once you leave this country you don’t have the visa any more. So what happens to your wife, your children and so forth? I’m wondering, since the United Nations wants to create this new system, are there any talks between the United Nations and the United States immigration authorities about how they might coordinate with people going in and out of the country on a more permanent basis?

There are lots of questions, so it would be helpful to have more of a sense of what’s going on in all of this.

Spokesperson: Okay, sure.

Question: On this Rwanda exhibit lag, it seems to me this whole thing blew up a week or 10 days ago, and there is some question, as I understand it, that some photographs may be added or removed, and some captions may be changed. Meanwhile, the thing is still sitting... All the packages are sitting in London in some custom house or Heathrow Airport or something like that. Why was it not shipped into New York some days ago?

Spokesperson: Because the text has been changed in the meantime.

Question: I understand that. But why can’t they bring the things here? And they’ve got to change some of the texts or add or remove photographs, fine. But, this way, it’s still 3,500 miles away.

Spokesperson: Well, technically it had to be done there because the panels were done there, printed there.

I’m going to invite our guest to come to the podium.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070425.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 26 2007, 10:11 PM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon all. Our guest at the briefing today is Mr. David Morrison, Communications Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). He will brief journalists on the Programme's operations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

** Alliance of Civilizations

Following consultations with the Heads of Government of Spain and Turkey, the co-sponsors of the Alliance of Civilizations, the Secretary-General has designated Jorge Sampaio, the former President of Portugal, as High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations.

The High Representative will provide the vision and leadership required, especially to promote the Alliance of Civilizations as a credible and viable attempt to diminish the dangerous tensions between diverse societies and their threat to international stability. We have Mr. Sampaio’s biodata upstairs.

**Deputy Secretary-General

The Deputy Secretary-General today met with the President of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, in Brazzaville, before departing for Kinshasa en route back to New York.

While in Brazzaville, the Deputy Secretary-General had met with the Congolese Prime Minister and addressed an annual UN Development Programme meeting of its African Regional Management team, as well as chaired a panel on the Millennium Development Goals at a conference on African development priorities.

** Darfur

On Darfur, UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres has visited thousands of Chadian refugees who fled to strife-torn Darfur. He then met with African Union officials in West Darfur and stressed that security was a key component for humanitarian workers trying to help the displaced.

He acknowledged the vital importance of water for everybody living in the region, and promised the refugee community that UNHCR and its partners would try to find the best solution for all.

Today, Guterres was to travel to Kassala State in eastern Sudan and visit two refugee camps hosting Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees. The camps were established almost four decades ago.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Executive Director, Josette Sheeran, is in North Darfur, where she visited a camp for displaced people, during which she met women residents and distributed hand mills for grinding cereals. WFP fed more than 2 million displaced people in Darfur last month.

The UN Mission in Sudan reports a number of security incidents in today’s bulletin, including an attempted rape of a female staff member of a compound housing a non-governmental organization in Nyala, South Darfur.

** Somalia

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes briefed journalists in Geneva today on the dangerous humanitarian situation in Somalia. He told them that international humanitarian law is being flouted by all sides in Mogadishu.

Mr. Holmes noted that the recent fighting in Mogadishu is the worst the city has seen in the last 15 years, with even hospitals being shelled. He also pointed out that roughly 350,000 people, or a third of the city’s population, are now displaced, making this the largest displacement of people in the world this year. Since you had the opportunity to listen to Mr. Holmes two days ago here and in Geneva, I won’t give any more details.

**Security Council

Here at Headquarters there are no scheduled Security Council meetings or consultations.

But the Council’s mission to the Balkans is still continuing its work. Today the mission was in Belgrade, where it met with Serbian President Boris Tadić and Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica.

This evening, the mission will head to Pristina in Kosovo.

**UNCTAD

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) announced that its Deputy Secretary-General, Dirk Jan Bruinsma, passed away in The Hague on Sunday, following a brief illness. He was 56 years old.

Mr. Bruinsma had served as Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD since January 2006, after a long and distinguished career working for the Dutch Government.

Here at Headquarters, the Secretary-General was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Mr. Bruinsma. He extends his condolences to Mr. Bruinsma’s family, friends and colleagues.

** Haiti

Brazilian peacekeepers with the UN Mission in Haiti have handed over to the local authorities a school that was seized from drug gangs earlier this year.

The École Nationale de Cité Soleil will now be rehabilitated with funds from the International Organization for Migration.

Also yesterday, elected officials returned to the bullet-scarred Town Hall of Cité Soleil, which is now, once again, operational.

**Press Encounters

As you may know, the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States, H.E. Mr. Adel al-Jubair, is meeting the Secretary-General today, at 3 p.m. He has agreed to speak to you after the meeting, at the Security Council stakeout.

And, at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference with the President of the European Commission, H.E. José Manuel Barroso. He will be briefing you on topics such as EU-UN relations, climate change, the Middle East and Africa, including Darfur.

Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Before the former Portuguese President was chosen as the High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, were there other candidates? Was there a short list? And second, where would he operate from? From Portugal? From New York? Or somewhere else?

Spokesperson: How was he selected? Well, there was a list, of course, of candidates. And they consulted with the two co-sponsoring countries of the Alliance of Civilizations, Spain and Turkey. So there were consultations before on several names.

Question: Where will he operate from?

Spokesperson: I do not know at this point. I will find out for you.

[The correspondent was later informed that Mr. Sampaio would not have a permanent base, given that he would be contracted on a “when-actually-employed” basis. He would, however, occasionally work in New York, where the Alliance has a small secretariat.]

Question: On the Iraq report, what is the difficulty in getting the figures from the Iraqi Government? And have you still been able to secure the figures and to convey whatever sentiments the United Nations has about the constant killing over there?

Spokesperson: Well, this was expressed, including the regret that we could not have the numbers available every year for the report, because we could not get them from Government ministries.

Question: Did you get any ballpark figure or anything like that? 100,000? 200,000?

Spokesperson: No. We did not. We always based our reports on what we get from the different ministries on the ground.

Question: You must have some idea?

Spokesperson: It’s not for me to say.

Question: An OIOS-related question. It was about three months ago I think that Ms. Ahlenius said that she would talk to the new Secretary-General at the time about the case of the WMO auditor who reported on wrongdoing, the $3 million scandal within that department. Has the Secretary-General in fact spoken with the auditor? And, if not, when will he be speaking with the auditor? And where are we with that whole investigation?

Spokesperson: I don’t have that information at this point.

Question: Will you please get it?

Spokesperson: We will try to find it.

Question: Today, Russia, together with six other countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States, expressed deep concern over the plans of the Government of Estonia to remove the bronze soldier monument in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. This monument commemorates Soviet Union soldiers fallen in battle during the liberation of the city from the Nazi occupation during the Second World War. These countries regard this decision as an attempt to rewrite the history during the Second World War. As the head of the Organization that emerged as a result of this victory over Nazism, doesn’t the Secretary-General think that this decision by the Estonian Government contradicts not only the principles of humanism, but also relevant resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly, including the one on the denial of the Holocaust?

Spokesperson: I don’t have anything on that at this point. We discussed it. I’m aware of the situation.

Question: To follow up Masood’s question, the Iraqi numbers were collected from a variety of sources by the UN. Can you check if they will try doing it anyway through another means, and what the US position is on that? Is the US going to help, or are they behind this Iraqi decision?

Spokesperson: I don’t have the position. I cannot give you the position of the US. All I can say is that the UN…

Question: Did the US try to help? Let’s put it that way. Did the US help persuade the Iraqis?

Spokesperson: I can try to get you more on that. But I can tell you that this time around they went over to the same ministries that were giving them the numbers before. And this time around they did not get the numbers. That’s all I can say at this point. Was there a process initiated to get numbers from other sources? That was the most reliable source they could find.

Question: NGO, doctors, nothing? Because that was the one official thing that everyone relied on that the UN was doing. And, unfortunately, the Secretary-General avoided all answers to questions on that.

Spokesperson: On this issue, there is no doubt that the human rights report was a very strong one, as you can tell. And what was missing were those numbers. And you had their regrets that they could not get them. And there was no way that they can force the Iraqis to give the numbers.


Question: Two quick questions. One, it’s reported that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights either was barred from entering Uzbekistan or that the officials there would not meet with her during this trip that you announced that she’s making. Is that the case, and does the United Nations system or the Secretary-General have any comment on a Member State refusing to meet with the Human Rights Commissioner?

Spokesperson: What she said is not that she was barred from getting into the country. What she said was that essentially, from what I heard from them, that they were not ready to receive her at the time. That’s the official answer that she got.

Question: Yesterday, the Staff Council passed a resolution calling on Mr. Ban to immediately suspend his plan for mandatory mobility of staff. I’m wondering, is the Secretary-General aware of that? Does he have a response? It was a pretty overwhelming vote.

Spokesperson: He’s aware of it. As you know, mobility was decided by the General Assembly in 2002. And it will be implemented gradually and comprehensively. I understand that there is a town hall meeting tomorrow with the staff, specifically on the issue of mobility. So I’m sure that this issue is not over now. It is continuing. And the Secretary-General’s view, he has expressed it, is that management mobility is a necessity for a strong and efficient UN. The programme, as far as I know, is starting next month, with about a little more than 130 staff members: 60 at the P-3 level and some 90 staff at the G-7 level. These staff have been in their posts for a minimum of five years. So, that’s what I understand is happening. But I will be happy to get more for you from someone in management, after of course, they have met the staff here. But you have had some very mixed reactions about this. There’s the staff in New York and Geneva expressing reservations. And you have staff from other duty stations, the most difficult ones, actually welcoming the mobility measures. So you have different points of view.

Question: Just one follow-up. One thing that was said in the meeting yesterday was that, why did the mobility start at the relatively lower levels and not at the top? That was something that people said. It got a lot of laughter, but is there some thought of D-1, D-2 [inaudible]?

Spokesperson: The process is going to go up to the D-2 level. This is what is envisioned, yes.

Question: Secretary-General Ban mentioned that he will be meeting Khalilzad on Monday. Is that going to be just to receive credentials, or is there going to be also a substantial discussion, do you think? Is time being allotted for that?

Spokesperson: As far as I know, he’s just going to receive credentials.

Question: So, it’s not like an hour allotted in his schedule or something like that.

Spokesperson: At this point, no, not really. And maybe we’ll find out more. Maybe there will be more.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007
http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070426.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis Apr 29 2007, 02:48 AM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon.

**Secretary-General Meets with European Commission President

The Secretary-General just met with the European Commission President, Jose Manuel Barroso, with whom he discussed the UN reform process, climate change, Darfur and Kosovo.

The two of them then had a press appearance, which is available to you on our live webcast, from the UN News Centre web page.

During that briefing, the Secretary-General was asked about his meeting earlier today with former US Vice-President Al Gore, and he said that he was encouraged by Gore’s firm commitment and strong support regarding climate change efforts. We’ll have the transcript of the press briefing for you shortly.

**Secretary-General Travels

The Secretary-General will travel next week to Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, where he will co-chair, on the 3rd of May, the launching of the International Compact with Iraq.

The Secretary-General will also attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of expanded Iraq neighbours, representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council and members of the G-8 countries.

** Iraq

Ibrahim Gambari, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Compact and Other Political Issues, continued his meetings in various capitals to widen support for the International Compact with Iraq and discuss commitments of Member States before the launch event next week in Sharm el-Sheikh.

He met in Brussels today with Javier Solana, the European Union’s High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, who confirmed his attendance at the launch event, as well as that of several ministers of the European Union.

Earlier in the week, Gambari, who is travelling with Dr. Sinan Mohammed Rida al-Shabibi, the Governor of the Central Bank of Iraq, held high-level meetings in London, Kuwait City and Sofia, Bulgaria.

** Lebanon

On Lebanon, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) received a report yesterday that an Israeli foot patrol allegedly crossed the Blue Line into Lebanese territory, in the general area of Kafar Chouba.

UNIFIL immediately deployed peacekeepers, followed by reinforcements, to the area, to ensure that there was no violation of the Blue Line, and technical experts were also sent to the area. The team established that the Israeli foot patrol did not violate the Blue Line and did not cross into Lebanese territory.

Today, UNIFIL peacekeepers continued to patrol and monitor the area, and the situation on the ground has been generally calm.

We also have a press release from UNIFIL saying that its full strength has risen to 13,308 peacekeepers.

**Security Council

At 3 this afternoon, the Security Council has scheduled a formal meeting to consider a resolution concerning the lifting of diamond sanctions on Liberia.

Afterwards, Council members expect to attend an informal meeting with the Foreign Minister of Ethiopia in Conference Room 8.

The Secretary-General informed the Security Council in a letter this week that he intends to extend the mandate of his Special Representative for Somalia, François Lonseny Fall, by a year, until 8 May 2008.

** Nepal

The Secretary-General, in his report to the Security Council, released today, said Nepal has advanced considerably in a very short period of time, and congratulates all the parties to the peace process for their hard work to achieve consensus on difficult issues.

The Secretary-General, however, added that much remains to be done in terms of the monitoring of arms and armed personnel which has been entrusted to the United Nations.

** Fiji

On Fiji, the UN inter-agency fact-finding mission to Fiji wrapped up its work today. The mission held a wide range of discussions with various Fijian interlocutors on elections, human rights, the rule of law and related issues pertaining to the restoration of democracy, peace and stability.

The mission will submit its confidential recommendations to the Secretary-General upon its return. That report will form the basis of continued consultations between the UN and Fiji. We have more information on that in my office.

** Sri Lanka

On Sri Lanka, UNICEF today said that one of Sri Lanka’s warring groups, the so-called Karuna faction, is not taking seriously its commitment to the UN to end the recruitment of child soldiers. The statement followed a UN mission undertaken last week to one of Sri Lanka’s conflict zones.

UNICEF is part of a Security Council-established task force that was charged with monitoring the serious violations of children’s rights in Sri Lanka. We have a press release on that upstairs.

** Sudan

The Group of Experts on Darfur, which was established last year by the Human Rights Council, today announced that it will meet with high-level representatives of the Sudanese Government in May to identify practical steps to improve the human rights situation in Darfur.

The Group of Experts on Darfur is to report at the Human Rights Council’s fifth session, which takes place this June. The Group is chaired by Sima Samar, the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Sudan. We have a press release in my office with more information.

**Chemical Weapons Convention

This Sunday will be the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of the Chemical Weapons Convention. And I have a message to mark the occasion.

The Secretary-General calls upon all States that have chemical weapons to destroy their stockpiles according to the agreed deadlines. He also urges all Governments that have not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Convention without delay.

The Secretary-General says we should redouble our efforts to ensure that no one’s life will ever be lost again through the use of chemical weapons. We have the full statement in my office.

** Estonia Statement

I have a statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on the events in Tallinn, Estonia.

The Secretary-General regrets the violence and the loss of life in Tallinn, Estonia. He appeals to all concerned to deal with the issues at hand in a spirit of respect and conciliation.

** Rwanda Exhibit

The previously postponed exhibit entitled “Lessons from the Rwanda Genocide” is scheduled to open here at Headquarters on Monday.

The Secretary-General will open the exhibit at 6 p.m. in the South Gallery of the Visitors’ Lobby. It will be on display here for three weeks.

We have copies of a note to correspondents on this upstairs in my office.

**Week Ahead

And then we have, of course, other events in “The Week Ahead” available in my office.

**Press Conference

At 11 a.m. on Monday, 30 April, there will be a press conference by the Minister of Energy and Industry of Qatar, H.E. Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, on the opening of the fifteenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

This is all I have for you. Questions?

**Questions and Answers

Question: On Darfur, the Secretary-General said yesterday that he talked with Americans about having more time for diplomatic solutions for the problem. How much time was given by the Americans? And where do we stand now on the heavy [support] package agreement?

Spokesperson: Well, there is no time given. It was not a contract. What the Secretary-General had wanted was, since he had just that same week had the meeting with Chairman [Alpha Oumar] Konaré of the AU on the issue of Darfur, and that they had had a commitment by President [Omer al-]Bashir, he wanted a little more time for the political solutions to move ahead. There was no question of how much time ever discussed.

Question: On the heavy package agreement, where do we stand now? Is there an update?

Spokesperson: On the heavy package agreement, I can have an update for you later on. You can come to my office. I will have it for you.

Question: In Somalia, the Prime Minister in an interview had said that the UN aid agencies are used to running the country like it’s their own fiefdom and that they’re basically disagreeing with Mr. [John] Holmes in terms of humanitarian access. So I’m wondering if anyone in the UN system has some response to those statements or what the status is of humanitarian access in Somalia.

Spokesperson: Well, according to what I got today, the discussions were good and they were given access. And the tone was positive on the part of WFP.

Question: You said Mr. Fall has been reappointed. In this interim between talks, what is he doing?

Spokesperson: He is still continuing what he was doing.

Question: Ok, so he is based in Kenya?

Spokesperson: Yes.

Question: I wanted to ask, it’s a UN question but it follows up on yesterday’s noon briefing about UNDP. They’ve said that their guy remains the Resident Coordinator even though he’s out of the country. Since then, I’ve learned that the Resident Coordinator is also the designated officer for security. Meaning that all the UN agencies have one person, that is the security officer, and it’s always the Resident Coordinator. So how can the designated security officer for DPRK not be in the country? If there is some distinction, if in this case some other agency has been designated or some other individual, who is the UN’s designated officer for security in North Korea?

Spokesperson: Well you can ask that question to Mr. Morrison.

Question: What I’m asking here is that it’s beyond coordinator. It’s someone for all the UN agencies together. So I asked WFP about something and they said you have to ask UNDP. That was about the Resident Coordinator. This is a security thing. I heard it’s DSS. So that’s a Secretariat agency. So I’m just wondering, just to confirm that the Security Officer for North Korea is in fact not in the country. From what we’ve heard, the visas actually now have to be returned.

Spokesperson: As far as I know, Mr. Morrison told you yesterday about the people being withdrawn. And if all the UNDP operations have been suspended I guess that’s probably the issue. That’s probably why.

[The Spokesperson later said that the designated Security Officer in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is Jean-Pierre de Margerie.]

Question: (inaudible) and we’ve since learned that the visas have been withdrawn or have been requested. Anyway my question is simply, who is the designated security officer for the UN system, not for UNDP, since they’re not there anymore? It seems strange that they would answer for North Korea if they’re not there.

Spokesperson: We can find an answer for you. And about Somalia, as far as I know, and I see the information I got there, there was a meeting about the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia. The meeting was positive. WFP was given the green light to begin deliveries, which was done. And basically everything is working now between WFP and TFG. According to OCHA, the UN has some 200 national and international staff in south central Somalia whose sole aim is to assist the people of that country, including in delivering urgently needed life-saving assistance. So, the UN humanitarian agencies, which are non-political, do not aspire to enjoy power in Somalia or elsewhere, as was said in an article today.

Question: Beyond the Secretary-General following the events in Nigeria, what is his view about the opinions of the monitors of the elections in Nigeria? Most of the election monitors have been very critical. What sense can we get of the Secretary-General regarding those developments that have been documented? And secondly, will the Secretary-General be sending a congratulatory message to the President-elect anytime soon?

Spokesperson: With regard to congratulations, the UN practice is that we send a formal letter of congratulations to the Head of State at the time of the inauguration. So that’s the situation. As for the question about developments in terms of the elections in Nigeria, the Secretary-General continues to urge those with grievances to use legal and constitutional means to address their complaints. However, he has been following the situation very closely.

Question: There have been indications that the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston might be released soon. At this stage, can you tell what concrete role the Secretary-General has been playing for his release?

Spokesperson: Well, before we have any comment, we’ll wait until Mr. Johnston is free.

Any other questions? Thank you very much.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007

http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070427.doc.htm


Posted by: mynameis May 1 2007, 02:53 AM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, and Frehiwot Bekele, Special Assistant to the Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

Good afternoon.

**Security Council

The Security Council has decided to extend the mandates of two peacekeeping missions -– for Sudan and Western Sahara -– which had been otherwise set to expire by the end of the day. Both missions will now be extended by six months, until the end of October.

The Council has also adopted a presidential statement on Somalia, which, among other things, demands that the relevant authorities there do all they can to facilitate the free movement of aid and humanitarian workers throughout Somalia.

Today is the last day of the United Kingdom presidency of the Security Council. The United States will assume the Council’s rotating presidency for the month of May.

Meanwhile, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Liberia, Alan Doss, welcomed the Council’s decision last Friday to lift the sanctions on the export of rough diamonds from Liberia. We have that statement upstairs.

**Sanctions

The Secretary-General this morning addressed a symposium here at Headquarters on enhancing the implementation of Security Council sanctions.

He said that, to strengthen compliance and increase effectiveness, sanctions must be understood to show the international community’s strong and unified political will. Moreover, sanctions should include carrots along with sticks -- not only threats, but inducements to elicit compliance. We have the full text of his remarks in my office.

** Sudan

On Sudan, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Darfur, Jan Eliasson, attended a meeting hosted by Libya on the situation in Darfur over the weekend, which was attended by Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Libya, China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, the African Union (AU), the European Union and the League of Arab States.

The meeting reconfirmed support for the Addis Ababa conclusions of 16 November 2006, subsequently endorsed by the AU Peace and Security Council and the UN Security Council.

The participants also underlined the urgency of finding a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Darfur crisis.

They also expressed grave concern over continued violence and insecurity in Darfur and urged all parties to immediately cease hostilities and act upon their commitment to uphold a ceasefire without delay.

The full text of the so-called “Tripoli Consensus on the Political Process for Darfur” is available upstairs.

Meanwhile, World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Josette Sheeran says WFP has made dramatic progress in reducing malnutrition in Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad, but the achievements risk being diminished by constantly shifting security conditions.

**Kosovo

On Kosovo, the Security Council has wrapped up its mission to the Balkans. After visiting Brussels and Belgrade, the mission arrived in Kosovo, where its head, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke, spoke to the press.

In that encounter, Verbeke said that the Security Council delegation saw in Kosovo a willingness to build a strong multi-ethnic society. Asked about divisions in the Council over Kosovo, he said there was enough potential for mutual confidence and cooperation to move towards the international community’s collective aim for Kosovo -– namely, a multi-ethnic society where everybody is at ease. Verbeke also said that there were no firm deadlines in the status process. We have the full transcript of that encounter in my office.

Following its visit to Kosovo, the team went to Vienna, where it met with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the Kosovo status process, Martti Ahtisaari.

** Iraq

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be travelling to Egypt this week where he and the Prime Minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, will co-chair the launch of the International Compact with Iraq (ICI) on 3 May 2007 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The International Compact is an Iraqi initiative co-sponsored by the United Nations. It seeks to consolidate peace in the conflict-torn country and pursue political, economic and social development over the next five years.

The Secretary-General attaches great importance to the ICI and considers this process to be one of the most critical means of helping Iraq to build a “secure, unified, federal and democratic nation, founded on the principles of freedom and equality, capable of providing peace and prosperity for its entire people”.

The Secretary-General will also attend a meeting of the foreign ministers of the expanded Iraq neighbours, representatives of the permanent members of the Security Council and members of the G-8 countries.

Meanwhile, Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said today that the process of selecting new Iraqi electoral commissioners complied with the relevant legal process and allowed Iraqis from all over the country and the diaspora to submit applications. We have his statement upstairs.

** Somalia

On Somalia, Eric Laroche, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, has written an open letter to Somali leaders, military commanders, elders and community representatives, in which he expressed grave concern at reports of abuse, harassment, theft and rape perpetrated on civilians displaced by the latest round of violence in Mogadishu.

Laroche deplored the fact that, while the country is in the middle of a major human tragedy, military activity continues to hamper the provision of humanitarian assistance to those in critical need. He appealed to the Somali leaders to ensure the safe passage of relief goods and workers through the regions under their control, and urged them, and the Ethiopian forces backing the Government, to respect the provisions of international humanitarian law. Copies of the letter are available upstairs.

** Haiti

From Haiti, the Special Representative of the Secretary General for Haiti, Edmond Mullet, has expressed his satisfaction at the successful conduct of the rerun of the local, municipal and legislative elections held this weekend in Haiti.

The UN Mission in that country says that more than 300,000 voters in 25 communities cast their ballots in 69 voting centres and 770 polling stations to choose their representatives.

The elections were organized with logistical and security support provided by the UN Mission to the Haitian Provisional Electoral Council and the National Police. We have a press release from the mission upstairs.

**Timor-Leste

The United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) said in a statement today that, while it recognizes that the first round of elections was not perfect, the consensus assessment was that they were free and fair, reflecting the will of the voters.

In response to the sixth report of the Electoral Certification Team, UNMIT also said this first national election conducted by Timorese authorities should be seen as a significant achievement.

The UN Mission adds it will continue to encourage calm and respect for the outcome of the elections, as announced by the national electoral authorities.

**Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The Secretary-General, in a message to the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2010 NPT Review Conference, said the NPT review process offers an appropriate forum for creative responses to development, and expressed encouragement that the meeting will help in establishing regional nuclear-weapon-free zones.

** Nepal

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Nepal reports that in many parts of the country, Maoist local cadres are not complying with the Party’s formal commitments to allow displaced persons to return to their homes in safety.

In a statement released today, the United Nations Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called on the Maoists to support the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and to ensure that they allow unconditional, dignified and safe return of all persons recognized as IDPs. The Mission also urges that local cadres return all land and property confiscated from IDPs.

** Cambodia

On Cambodia, the international judges of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, in a statement we have upstairs, expressed their pleasure at the recent decision of the Cambodian Bar Council to institute a flat registration fee of $500 US dollars for all international lawyers appearing before the court.

The international judges are confident that this fee will not hinder international lawyers, particularly those working in a pro bono capacity, from registering with the Cambodian Bar and taking part in the historic work of the Extraordinary Chambers.

With this decision, the international judges believe that a successful plenary can now be called to adopt the internal rules of the Extraordinary Chambers.

**Forests

The Secretariat of the UN Forum on Forests announced that, after 15 years of negotiations on a global approach to protect the world’s forests, representatives of Member States adopted a landmark agreement just after dawn on Saturday.

The agreement, copies of which will become public in the course of today, is described as a milestone in international forest policy and cooperation for sustainable forest management. And we will alert you to the publication of the document as soon as it is available.

**Sustainable Development - Climate Change

The Commission on Sustainable Development began its current session this morning at Headquarters.

For the next two weeks, more than 2,000 representatives and experts will discuss long-term energy solutions that can fuel development while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Meanwhile, the third working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is meeting all this week in Bangkok.

On Friday, it is expected to issue its report on mitigating climate change through preventing and limiting greenhouse gas emissions.

**Exhibit on Rwanda Genocide

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will open the travelling exhibit entitled, “Lessons from the Rwanda genocide” at 6 p.m. this afternoon in the South Gallery of the Visitors’ Lobby here at Headquarters.

The exhibit, which will first be shown at UN Headquarters over a period of three weeks, highlights the role of States in preventing genocide, educates viewers on the warning signs and examines the genocide in Rwanda. It also emphasizes the plight of victims and the needs of survivors of sexual violence.

**Press Conferences

At 11:15 a.m. tomorrow, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro will brief you on her recent trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.

The guest at the noon briefing tomorrow will be UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who will brief you on the results of the International Conference on Displacement of Iraqis and his recent mission to Sudan.

This is all I have for you. Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Is this Rwanda genocide exhibition going to be only a one-time event or is it going to be some kind of regular collaboration for such kind of occurrences in history, if I can say?

Spokesperson: This exhibit, as I said, will last three weeks, but there will be other events around this. As you know, it was a decision by the General Assembly to commemorate these events on a regular basis. So there will be more events of that kind.

Question: And if I can only ask one technical question. It seems to be a conflict of schedule again. I have a paper saying that the Bosnian Foreign Minister is coming and that he is a participant of the event organized by the World Jewish Committee, saying that Mr. Ban Ki-moon is participating also, and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. I am not sure whether this is tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. Is that possible?

Spokesperson: I will check for you on the schedule.

Question: One follow-up on the Rwanda exhibit. Now that its’ opening today, is it possible to say what the process was? We know that it was postponed, and then reconsideration of the language was given. Was the reconsideration totally in-house of the UN? Were any Member States consulted? If you can say something about this for stories about the exhibit, what the process between postponement and opening was about?

Spokesperson: As you know, when the exhibit was assembled, DPI had noticed problems with some of the references in the text and it realized that it has not been sufficiently reviewed by the relevant experts in the Secretariat. So the process was that it be reviewed by a group of experts in the Secretariat, legal experts as well as political ones. No Member State was involved in the review. The exhibit is part of DPI’s -– as you know –- one of their outreach programmes. The review process included contributions from, as I said, the Legal Office, the Department of Political Affairs, the Office of the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for the Prevention of Genocide, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Department of Public Information. And they also consulted DPI’s partner in this exhibit, which is the AEGIS, as you now.

Question: Does the reopening of the exhibit make any reference to Turkey and Armenia, or not?

Spokesperson : It does make a reference to the mass killings of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire during World War I and other events in history. I’m quoting.

Question: A couple of questions about the audit of the North Korean office by the UNDP. First of all, it’s been now a little longer after the 90 days expiration. Is there any idea, when will the audit be completed?

Spokesperson: I don’t have that answer for you. I don’t have an answer on the date for you.

Question: Have the auditors been admitted into North Korea? Do they have access to the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea]? Have they asked for a visa?

Spokesperson: Ok, we’ll have an update on you for that. As you know, you were fully briefed on that by David Morrison, on some aspects of it. But on the time, I will get back to you on this.

Question: But the auditors are not meant to be UNDP guys, they’re meant to be Secretariat.

Spokesperson: No, they are not. But he did say that they were through consulting all the elements that they had here at Headquarters. And that they were heading toward… I will find out for you if there was no problem. I will get that.

Question: Is there any visa issue? Have the North Koreans been hospitable?

Spokesperson: We’ll check on that for you.

Question: You said there was a mass killing of the Armenians and genocide too?

Spokesperson: Well, the text that they used is “mass killings”, the wording for the exhibit –- mass killings of Armenians.

Question: Today, only technical questions for me. It became almost tradition that the new President of the Security Council gives us a briefing. It seems to me that we are not having that tomorrow from Mr. Khalilzad.

Spokesperson: Well, we asked and they told us that there would not be one. But you can ask all the questions that you want to him at the stakeout.

Any other questions? Ok, please. Freh is going to brief you on the General Assembly.

Briefing by Spokesperson for the General Assembly

Good afternoon. I have a few items.

**Security Council Reform

On Security Council reform, the Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa will chair a meeting this Thursday afternoon -- an informal meeting of the General Assembly Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform. This will be the first opportunity for Member States to express their views on the facilitators’ report, which was circulated earlier in the month, on 20 April. In the lead-up to the meeting, the President is having consultations with all key players, including representatives of the G-4, Uniting for Consensus, the P-5 and the African Group.

**Thematic Debate

Another item, as we announced in an e-mail circular on Friday, the Assembly President will convene next week, on Thursday and Friday, 10 and 11 May, an informal thematic debate of the Assembly, which will focus on “Civilizations and the Challenge for Peace: Obstacles and Opportunities”.

The main objective of the debate is to explore the reasons behind the growing level of mistrust between people of different religions and cultures; and to examine how and why cultural and religious differences increasingly fuel and are used to justify conflicts. A number of prominent commentators, academics and political figures will be participating over the two days in four separate panel discussions on the following themes: Respect for Cultural Diversity as a Prerequisite for Dialogue; Religion in Contemporary Society; the Responsibility of the Media; and Civilizations and the Challenge for Global Peace and Security.

Panellists and moderators will include: Turkey’s Minister of State and Religious Affairs, H.E. Dr. Mehmet Aydin; the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Amre Moussa; Mr. Riz Khan, news reporter/interviewer of Al Jazeera –- English; Ms. Karen Armstrong, author on religion and television broadcaster. And moderators include the former UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Mr. Shashi Tharoor; and Robert Thurman of the Department of Religious Studies at Columbia University.

Detailed lists of the panellists and the concept paper for the debate are available on the web site of the General Assembly.

Question: When is that again?

Spokesperson: Next week, Thursday and Friday, the 10th and 11th.

Question: What is the full title of this conference?

Spokesperson: Civilizations and the Challenge for Peace: Obstacles and Opportunities.

There will also be two side events. On Thursday evening there will be a concert by a Lebanese pianist and composer, Abdel Rahman El Bacha, in the General Assembly Hall. And on Friday the 11th there will be a lunch time round table discussion on the arts as a tool for bridging gaps between cultures.

**Secretary-General briefing

One more item, this afternoon, the Secretary-General will brief an informal plenary meeting of the General Assembly on his recent trip to the Middle East and on his meeting with the UN system Chief Executives Board.

That’s all I have. Yes?

**Questions and Answers

Question: There was a town hall meeting by Under-Secretary-General Bárcena and the staff on Friday about mobility, at the end of which she said we have to go forward with mobility starting 1 May because the General Assembly has mandated it. So, I’m wondering, is that set in stone that it has to go forward? Is in fact 1 May going to be the date, or as Ms. Bárcena sort of indicated, might it be a little bit later?

GA Spokesperson: I’ll have to find out.

Question: And do you know if the mobility is starting 1 May?

SG Spokesperson: Yes, it’s starting 1 May. It’s a very small group, as Ms. Bárcena indicated.

Question: But she said something about publishing a rule first, that some rule has to be put out. That’s what she seemed to indicate.

SG Spokesperson: We will get the information for you on what will be put out.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007
http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070430.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis May 2 2007, 10:29 AM
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 Michèle Montas, Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon all.

**Guest at Noon

The guest today at the noon briefing is UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, who will brief you on the results of the International Conference on Displacement of Iraqis and his recent mission to Sudan.

**Climate Change Envoys

As part of his efforts to address the major global challenges posed by climate change, the Secretary-General this morning announced the appointment of three Special Envoys on Climate Change.

They are Gro Harlem Brundtland, the former Prime Minister of Norway and former Chair of the World Commission of Environment and Development; Han Seung-soo, the former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea, who also served as President of the General Assembly five years ago; and former Chilean President Ricardo Lagos Escobar, who currently is President of the Foundation for Democracy and Development, which he created.

The three envoys will meet with heads of Government and other key actors in climate change negotiations to solicit their views. The Secretary-General says he “looks forward to working with these three highly respected international figures on a matter which is of highest importance to the future of the planet.” We have copies of the announcement upstairs, as well as the bios of the three envoys.

** Sudan

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Manuel Aranda da Silva strongly condemns the temporary abduction of six staff members of the [Office of the United Nations] High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the hijacking of the refugee agency’s vehicles by unknown armed men in West Darfur.

Six UNHCR staff members in a two-vehicle convoy, clearly marked with the UN refugee agency’s logo, were attacked yesterday morning while they were on their way for a routine visit to a refugee camp, located approximately 80 kilometres southwest of El Geneina.

The attackers drove away with the UNHCR staff members and dropped them off later. After several hours of search carried out by the UN with the assistance of the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) and the Government authorities, the staff members were located near Saraf Omra, which is located East of Geneina, near the border between West Darfur and North Darfur state, where they were brought by truck by the local population. None of the staff members was hurt.

** C ôte d’Ivoire

On Côte d’Ivoire, with the integration of former rebels into the National Army now well underway, the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire has welcomed the willingness of the parties to fully implement the Ouagadougou Agreement.

Yesterday, in the western town of Bangolo, the UN Deputy Force Commander, General Mouhamadou Kandji, and Police Commissioner Cristian Gérardo Chaumont, attended the installation of two new mixed brigades in a bid to stress the UN’s commitment to support the gradual dismantling of the Zone of Confidence, one of the key provisions of the Ouagadougou Agreement. And yesterday’s event comes on the heels of the 16 April official launching by President Laurent Gbagbo of the abolition of the Zone of Confidence and last Friday’s inauguration of the Integrated Command Centre in the capital Yamoussoukro. There is more on this upstairs.

** Nepal

On Nepal, Ian Martin, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Nepal, gave a press conference today in Kathmandu, saying that although the United Nations would have been delighted if it had proved possible to hold elections before this year’s monsoon, postponement should not be viewed as a disaster.

He expressed his hope that a new date will soon be decided upon by the Interim Government, in consultation with the Election Commission, and that the time available will then be used to address the several critical issues that pose risks to the peace process.

Martin said that the postponement of the Constituent Assembly election may prolong the period during which Maoist army personnel remain in cantonment sites. This makes it urgent, he added, to improve cantonment conditions, which have repeatedly proved to be unsatisfactory for current weather conditions, and certainly cannot withstand the fast-approaching monsoon.

** Afghanistan

On Afghanistan, the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, bringing together the UN Mission in Afghanistan and the Afghan Government, met today to examine progress in implementation of the Afghanistan Compact. Overall, the Compact was found to be on track with momentum on both early and longer-term benchmarks.

The Board also highlighted further work that needs to be done to implement the Compact. And we have more details in a press release upstairs.

**Security Council

The United States today replaces the United Kingdom as the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of May. US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad is holding bilateral consultations with other Council members on the Council’s programme of work for this month.

The Council is expected to hold consultations tomorrow to approve the programme of work for May.

**Budget

Today, we have an update on Member State contributions to the UN regular budget.

As of the end of April, a total of 73 countries have paid in full their assessments to the UN regular budget for 2007. We have more details upstairs.

**Press Conference Tomorrow

At 11 a.m. tomorrow, there will be a press conference by Robert Mahoney, Deputy Director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, and Joel Campagna, the Committee’s Senior Middle East Program Coordinator, who will brief you on a new report released to mark World Press Freedom Day, which is on Thursday, as you know, 3 May.

This is all I have for you. Thank you.

**Questions and Answers

Question: Just with regard to the climate change envoys, once again, why is it not possible to get this information before to help those of us that need to pitch stories before midday, unless you did and I missed it?

Spokesperson: I’m sorry, Mark. The information went on the “lid list” to all of you at 9 a.m. You should all have received it.

Question: But just to follow up, can we have any kind of briefing on what they’re going to do, these people, and from them?

Spokesperson: Yes, we’re hoping to have them come. We don’t know yet when because, as you know, they are in different capitals. But we are hoping that they will come and talk to you.

Question: Can you explain a little about what their job is going to be and what they’re going to do?

Spokesperson: Well, the job was described in what I said earlier, the fact that they’re going to be discussing the way forward on climate change issues.

Question: Are they going to travel around the world?

Spokesperson: As you know, there are several steps which are envisaged. There is going to be a conference in Bali on climate change. There is going to be, most probably, an informal high-level meeting during the General Assembly on climate change. This is being worked on by Member States and by the Secretary-General. And, of course, there is the objective of going even further, which we have not determined yet where it will go. So, they all have very important credentials as international figures, and we can certainly get more. You have their biographies, and we have all the information you need upstairs. But, of course, we can give you more.

Question: Michèle, I want to register an official complaint about what happened yesterday after the Security Council meeting, regarding United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara and the Western Sahara. The representative of the Frente Polisario went to the stakeout and, at some point, I was asking him questions. I wasn’t able to tape it. The tape was bad. So I rely on the professionalism of UNTV, who is always very professional, in recording this so that I can go downstairs and get a tape. There were a lot of people around and there was a lot of interference. Somebody turned off the image and then they eventually turned off the sound. And when I went to ask about this, I was told that somebody went up to the cameraman and said that somebody from the Department of Political Affairs went and complained, and said that the representative should not be at the stakeout. So first of all, what are the guidelines about this because I’ve never heard of this before? Number two, I was told that whatever was recorded, even if there was not a TV image, that it would be on the website. It was not on the website at 4 p.m., and this was done by, I think, 12:30 p.m. /1 p.m. So I don’t understand what the huge delay was. This is very suspect and I’m very upset. And this is an issue that comes up once every six months in the Security Council. This is something that is not before the Security Council every week. And I’m very upset about this. And I want to know what the reasoning is behind cutting the video feed.

Spokesperson: Well I have to say we’re sorry it happened. We talked to the Department of Public Information about this. They said that what happened is a mistake, and they’re sorry about it. We also talked to DPA. There was no order from them for anything to be cut off. Apparently, there was confusion about the identity of the speaker. When Mr. Ahmed Boukhari approached the mic, staff did not recognize him and were unable to identify him. The judgement was made that the TV feed should be cut short. And for this, we are sorry. There is no policy of that sort. Of course, Mr. Boukhari had the right to speak at the stakeout. And the majority of his press encounter is now on the website.

Question: But the question that I have for you is that, there were journalists -- myself and others -- who were asking questions. So who made the decision to cut off the feed while questions were being asked? It’s not that somebody was at the stakeout. There was nobody there except UNTV. There’s a difference between cutting something off and cutting something off for a reason. And he was answering my questions and others. And that is the part that upsets me.

Spokesperson: It was a mistake. They took whoever told them to stop it as being someone who was authorized.

Question: Who told them?

Spokesperson: We don’t know at this point. We have been trying to find out who said it. We can tell you that no one was authorized to do it. No one.

Question: If you can just update us on the situation concerning the meeting between Mr. Ban Ki-moon and Mr. Nicholas Michel on Lebanon, and what would be the next step, because the Secretary-General made a speech in front of the General Assembly yesterday. And he said, probably, that Mr. Michel did not make much success.

Spokesperson: Mr. Michel is going to be meeting with the Security Council, most probably, tomorrow. And he will definitely accept to come and brief you as soon as the Security Council consultations are over.

Question: What is the next step from Mr. Ban Ki-moon’s perspective? Is he going to send him to Lebanon again? He’s meeting today with the Siniora, I think, advisor. So what does he think? Where are we going with this?

Spokesperson: Well, the best person to answer those questions would be Mr. Michel. As you know, he’s the point man on this tribunal issue. And I’m sure he will be very willing to answer your questions.

Question: With reference to this appearance of Mr. Boukhari yesterday, I was present when he spoke to us at the stakeout on two, somewhat separated, occasions some minutes apart. On the second occasion, he identified himself orally as Mr. Bouhkhari. At all times, even on the first occasion, he had his ID card with his name clearly written on it and visible. I know because I knew what Frente Polisario was, but I did not know who he was personally. And I was able to identify him by that means. If this was really done on the idea that they did not know who he was, then God help them they should have asked.

Spokesperson: You’re quite right. And we’re really sorry about the incident. It should have never happened.

Question: Are we going to be getting a briefing by Ambassador Khalilzad on the plan of work for the month of May?

Spokesperson: No, we’re not.

Question: Have they given any reason?

Spokesperson: No. They just said he would rather answer your questions at the stakeout.

Question: I wanted to ask you about the Chief Executive Boards meeting in Geneva. I know it’s getting a little in the past, but we just heard from Deputy Secretary General Asha-Rose Migiro that the issue of United Nations funds and programmes making their internal audits available to Member States did come up. I’ve heard actually that Ban Ki-moon himself said to the heads of funds and programmes that they should each recommend to their executive boards to make this change, as soon as possible. Is that accurate?

Spokesperson: That he has recommended that? Yes. That’s all I can say at this point. I was not at the meeting in Geneva. And the Deputy Secretary-General is the best person to inform you on that. You asked a question about that, right?

Any other questions…because Mr. Guterres is here? OK, I invite him to come to the podium.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/spbrief.asp?DateD=2/1/2007
http://www.un.org/News/briefings/docs/2007/db070501.doc.htm

Posted by: mynameis May 4 2007, 01:32 AM
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 Marie Okabe, Deputy Spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Good afternoon. I’m going to start the briefing, but if Nicolas Michel, the United Nations Legal Counsel, walks in, I may have to turn the floor to him. He is our guest, but I promised him that he would be in and out quickly. So I will start, but I warn that I may have to abbreviate this a bit.

**Secretary-General’s Travels

The Secretary-General is in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, today, where, tomorrow, he will launch, along with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the International Compact with Iraq.

The Secretary-General just met tête-à-tête with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. They discussed Darfur, the Iraq Compact, the work of the Middle East Quartet, the meeting on the Arab Peace Initiative that will take place later this week, Kosovo and Lebanon.

In about half an hour, the Secretary-General will meet with Prime Minister al-Maliki. And he is also scheduled to meet, this evening, with the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Amre Moussa.

** Sudan

Turning to Sudan, the judges of the International Criminal Court today issued warrants for the arrest of Sudan’s Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and a Janjaweed militia leader in connection with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Darfur.

In a public decision, the ICC judges ruled that there is sufficient evidence on the merits of the Prosecutor’s case and reasonable grounds to believe that the two individuals are responsible for murder, rape, torture, the forced displacement of entire villages and other war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The Prosecutor’s case not only highlights the connection between a senior minister in the Sudanese Government and a militia leader, it also shows the underlying operational system that enabled massive crimes against innocent civilians in Darfur. And all of this is contained in a press release from the International Criminal Court, available upstairs.

Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the Sudan (UNMIS) reports that, despite recent numerous attacks against humanitarian workers in Darfur, the humanitarian community is still exploring how to increase its access and resume activities in hard-to-reach areas.

In West Darfur, for example, a key road has been reopened for humanitarian traffic after being declared a “no go” zone in October 2006. Efforts are also under way for the resumption of humanitarian operations in o