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14 March 1996

Press Briefing



Sylvana Foa, the Spokesman for Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, began the noon briefing by telling correspondents that the Secretary-General was in Cairo today. He would fly to Geneva tomorrow, where, at about 4 p.m., he would participate in the launch of the United Nations System-wide Initiative on Africa, a $25 billion initiative that aimed at providing better health, education and food security throughout Africa. The official event at Headquarters would take place in the Economic and Social Council Chamber at 9:45 a.m. and would begin with a statement by the Secretary-General, to be broadcast live by satellite from Geneva.

Ms. Foa said that the Secretary-General had decided to appoint Thomas Hammarberg of Sweden as his Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia. Mr. Hammarberg would replace Justice Michael Kirby, who had been appointed to the High Court of Australia. Mr. Hammarberg's appointment was effective 1 May. Mr. Hammarberg had in-depth experience in the fields of human rights and development, as well as first-hand experience of human rights issues in South-East Asia. He had been Secretary-General of Amnesty International and was Chairman of Amnesty International's executive committee when that organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. The Office of the Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia was created pursuant to the Paris Peace Agreement on Cambodia and is charged with monitoring closely the human rights situation in Cambodia.

The Secretary-General had sent a message to Brigadier Julius Bio, the Chairman of the National Provisional Ruling Council of Sierra Leone, the Spokesman continued. He said that he was encouraged by the first round of elections that took place on 26 and 27 February and was pleased to note that the second round of presidential elections would take place on 15 March as scheduled. (Ms. Foa told correspondents that no one got the 55 per cent of the votes required to be elected, so a run-off was being organized.) He said, however, that he was concerned about continued armed attacks against innocent civilians and "I appeal to your excellency and to your Administration to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of the civilian population from intimidation and attacks by elements hostile to the democratic process so that the electoral process can be completed in a free and fair manner".

Ms. Foa said that the United Nations would send a small electoral team of six persons who would support and coordinate the activities of the joint international observer group during the elections. The two leading presidential contenders were Ahmed Tejan-Kabba and John Karefa-Smart. The victor would now require a simple majority.

The Spokesman drew correspondents' attention to a letter from the Secretary-General addressed to the President of the General Assembly, which was on the racks. It expressed the Secretary-General's deep concern over two draft resolutions that were in the General Assembly at the moment. One of the drafts concerned the International Civilian Mission to Haiti (MICIVIH) and the other concerned the United Nations Human Rights Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA). The two draft resolutions asked the Secretary-General to fund the extended mandates of MICIVIH and MINUGUA "within existing resources". That was coming at a time when the Secretary-General was scrambling to identify ways to make the reductions necessary to bring United Nations expenditures down to $1.3 billion a year, as approved by the General Assembly in the last budget. That budget was a "zero growth" budget which had meant significant reduction in staff and other costs at Headquarters. It was not going to be easy to make ends meet.

In his letter, she continued, the Secretary-General referred to those budget reductions and said that such reductions gave almost no flexibility. He said that he was worried he would only be able to implement the additional mandates if the General Assembly decided which existing programmes he should curtail, postpone or terminate.

Asked by a correspondent if the Secretary-General carried out any feasibility study before making those recommendations, Ms. Foa said that in the recommendations it was made clear that the operations were outside the regular budget. They were not quite peace-keeping, but were peace-making and preventive operations.

She said the Secretary-General referred to MICIVIH and MINUGUA as operations that went to the heart of the purposes for which the Organisation was created. "The human rights missions whose futures are at stake have been established to bring to an end long-standing conflicts and create conditions for a lasting peace for the people concerned. These missions respond to the wish of Member States that the highest priority be given to preventive and peacemaking activities, which are less costly remedies than peace-keeping operations. I believe it will be a grievous setback for the Organization if, because of the current financial debate, it became impossible to retain MICIVIH whose presence is essential to consolidate the Organization's and Member States' remarkable achievements in Haiti and also MINUGUA whose presence is fundamental to the realization of the best prospects that have ever existed to bring an end to the armed confrontation which has afflicted the people of Guatemala for 35 years" and cost an estimated 100,000 lives.

Another correspondent asked why the Secretary-General did not recommend which programmes could be cut. Ms. Foa said that it was not up to the Secretary-General to recommend which programmes should be cut. He was just a servant of the Member States. They told him to implement this programme or that programme. Sometimes, the United Nations found itself strapped to find the cash.

Daily Press Briefing - 3 - 14 March 1996

On the correspondent's insistence that the Secretary-General must have views on which programmes to cut, Ms. Foa responded that just about every person in the United Nations Secretariat had views on which programmes could be reduced, terminated or postponed. So did Member States, but there was not very much consensus. "What he is asking the General Assembly to do is to take the ball back into their court and decide", she said.

Everybody had favourite programmes, she continued. Every single country had programmes that were close to their hearts and not close to the hearts of others. The MINUGUA was a very, very frugal operation. There were 282 international staff working on that operation and 106 of them were volunteers. Those were human rights monitors, legal experts, civilian police observers. "As we speak, the Government of Guatemala and the Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca (URNG) are meeting right now in Mexico. We are at a very, very important crossroads in Guatemala and it will be important to keep this mission moving."

She added that the situation went right to the heart of the financial crisis and the meaning of the Organization.

A correspondent said that this morning they had been informed that, at the insistence of the Secretary-General, there was a $10 billion initiative for the development of Africa. Where was that money coming from? Ms. Foa responded that the initiative was actually for $25 billion, but the money would come from reallocating international and national resources. The funding was going to be arranged by the World Bank and was not going to come from the existing resources of the United Nations. The World Bank would find the funds.

Asked if, when the Secretary-General made that initiative, he made it on his own or operated within the mandate of a General Assembly resolution, Ms. Foa said that when the Secretary-General asked for the extension of the MINUGUA mandate for nine months and 13 days until the end of the year, he made it clear that he did not have the funds and that the funds would have to be found. There were several other operations in the same situation. Those included both the Commissions of Inquiry for Rwanda and Burundi, the situation in Burundi, the United Nations political presence in Rwanda, the Special Mission in Afghanistan, the Mission of the United Nations in El Salvador (MINUSAL) and the Central American peace process. Those were operations that would require additional financing should the political mandates be authorized and/or extended beyond their current period. If all the operations that fit into that category were totalled, it would cost about $90 million to keep them going over the biennium. There was no way that the United Nations was going to be able to find a savings of $90 million.

"Right now there is a rumour going around the corridors that we have a secret stash of cash", she went on. Her office spent most of last night

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searching the house for the secret stash, but did not find a penny, not even between the cushions of the couches.

In response to a follow-up question, she said that MINUSAL had been one of the most highlighted successes of the United Nations over the years. She said that special funding had always been provided for the operations that fell into the category within which MICIVIH and MINUGUA fell. The MICIVIH and MINUGUA, together, would cost an estimated $24 million through 1996. If their mandates were extended through 1997, they would cost another $28 million. If the other operations, which were smaller ones, were included, the costs over the two years would come to a total of about $90 million. Such an amount would be very difficult to finance within existing resources, as the United Nations was already trying to cut $154 million.

Ms. Foa then reminded correspondents that at 3 p.m. in Conference Room 1, there would be the panel discussion on "Women in the Media". It was being organized by the Committee on the Status of Women.

A correspondent said that although the house rule was that press conferences were for half an hour, many people holding press conferences came with the impression that they had between 45 minutes and one hour. Juan Carlos Brandt, of the Office of the Spokesman, said that people booking press conferences were always informed that such conferences would last no more than 30 minutes. They were also told to limit their introductory statements to allow for questions. Ms. Foa added that it was should be up to United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA) to "say thank you very much" (when the time was up). Her office would put it back in the note saying that press conferences were for half an hour.

Another correspondent asked the Spokesman why she was not in Cairo. She responded that she had an enormous amount of work to get through. Right now, she was trying to organize her office to get to the point where she felt comfortable. Also, she would be travelling with the Secretary-General later in the month on a lengthy trip.

Returning to MICIVIH and MINUGUA, a correspondent asked why the Secretary-General did not call for voluntary funds. Ms. Foa said that what the Secretary-General was saying was, "We have some problems here. I want to bring these problems to your attention. I don't have any flexibility anymore."

She said that he was also saying that another look had to be taken at how those operations were financed. The tradition had been that they had been financed by allotting additional funds. The last thing the Secretary-General wanted was to see operations shut down that were really making gains and progress and which were saving the world money.

Daily Press Briefing - 5 - 14 March 1996

Asked for an update on the looting incidents in the suburbs of Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia, she said that it seemed to have calmed down a bit. Gas and water had had to be cut off for security reasons because of vandalism and the leakage of gas. There was still concern about the security of the remaining elderly. There were still burglaries, rampant arson and intimidations, but it seemed to be a little better than yesterday, which had been a "horror show."

Asked if Judge Richard Goldstone was in the building, the Spokesman said, "We'll put out an all points bulletin for him". [It was later confirmed that he was in the building.]

On reports that United Nations inspectors in Iraq were kept outside while documents were burned, Ms. Foa said that she saw the wire reports that smoke had been seen coming out of the buildings, but did not see anything on it in the cable traffic. She would check to see if a full report could be obtained.

Asked into which category of crime the situation in the Sarajevo suburbs would be classified, Ms. Foa said, "This is thuggery. This is the worst kind of thuggery. When strong young bullies from both ethnic groups threaten old people, that is probably the sickest kind of thuggery there is."

"Can we now expect the international community to stop the rhetoric about multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Sarajevo and Bosnia now when this ethnic cleansing is happening in front of the eyes of the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Implementation Force (IFOR) and everybody there", a correspondent asked.

Ms. Foa responded, "It will be a very, very sad thing if we allowed a few hundred crooks and thugs and bullies to prevent us from talking about multi-ethnicity. We should continue to talk about it. We should talk about it very, very loudly. We should join forces with the majority of the people of Sarajevo and the suburbs who want to talk of multi-ethnicity and who had it for years and were happy with it for years. This is why we have a peace agreement and we are going to try and restore it as best we can. Slowly but surely, we are getting security conditions under control."

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For information media. Not an official record.