DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICES OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL AND THE SPOKESWOMAN FOR THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY PRESIDENT
DAILY PRESS BRIEFING BY THE OFFICEs OF THE SPOKESMAN FOR THE SECRETARY-GENERAL
And the spokeswoman for the general assembly president
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, and Gail Bindley-Taylor Sainte, Spokeswoman for the General Assembly President.
Briefing by the Secretary-General’s Spokesman
**Human Rights Council
This morning in Geneva, the Human Rights Council’s Special Session on Darfur adopted by consensus a text on that region.
The Human Rights Council decided to send a high-level mission to Darfur, to assess the human rights situation there and the needs of Sudan in that regard. The mission will be composed of five persons, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, as well as the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan.
And we have the full text upstairs in my office.
**Secretary-General’s Statement on Human Rights Council
The Secretary-General is pleased that the Human Rights Council has taken robust action to address the grave human rights situation in Darfur.
He welcomes the Council’s resolution, adopted by consensus, to dispatch a high-level mission to Darfur, composed of highly qualified individuals to be appointed by the President of the Council.
The decision of the Human Rights Council sends a united message that the ongoing violence and killing in Darfur is unacceptable and must stop.
From the ground, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) condemns, in the strongest possible terms, this weekend’s hijacking of a vehicle belonging to the African Union force in Darfur with two AMIS military personnel on board and demanded their immediate release.
The Mission reiterates that all AMIS military personnel are in the Sudan as part of a peacekeeping mission to bring peace to the war-weary people of Darfur. Their presence is crucial to restoring order and stability to a critically important part of Sudan and to allow Darfuris to return to their homes.
The Mission also reports indications that there have been skirmishes between armed Chadian opposition groups and Arab militias south of El Fasher in North Darfur.
Meanwhile, in west Darfur, there has been a spate of armed hijacking of vehicles, including vehicles belonging to the aid community.
And for today’s update for the Mission, I would ask you to go to my office.
**International Criminal Court
Also related to Darfur, on Thursday afternoon, tomorrow afternoon at 3:00, the Security Council will hear a briefing from Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the Prosecutor for the International Criminal Court, on individuals allegedly responsible for war crimes, and crimes against humanity, in Darfur.
Moreno-Ocampo will report on his nearly-completed investigation and the admissibility of the case in relation to national judicial proceedings in the Sudan, and he will announce his next steps.
He intends to speak to you -– to the press -- following his briefing to the Council, and he’s also available for one-on-one interviews before and after that briefing.
If you’re interested in speaking to Mr. Moreno-Ocampo of the ICC, just contact Farhan Haq in my office. He will give you the numbers.
**Security Council –- Middle East
Meanwhile, back here this morning, the Security Council is holding consultations on the UN Disengagement Observer Force in the Golan Heights, known as UNDOF, and on the missing Kuwaiti and other third-country persons and property in Iraq.
First, Council members received a briefing on the latest report on UNDOF by Lisa Buttenheim, the Director of Asia and the Middle East from the Department for Peacekeeping Operations. In that report, the Secretary-General recommends a six-month extension of the UN peacekeeping mission, and a draft resolution on that extension has already been circulated.
Then, Ambassador Yuli Vorontsov, the High-Level Coordinator dealing with missing persons and property in Iraq, briefed Council members on the Secretary-General’s recent report on that topic, which expressed disappointment at the slow progress in obtaining information on missing Kuwaitis. The Council President may have a statement to make to the press about this after consultations end.
**Security Council -– Kosovo
And at 3:00, the Council will hold an open debate on Kosovo, with the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Kosovo, Mr. Joachim Rücker. And he will be briefing the Council.
Mr. Rücker is expected to stress the need for Kosovo’s status to be resolved as soon as possible, and for continued work towards implementing the internationally-agreed standards for Kosovo. He is also expected to brief the Council on arrangements being made for Kosovo after the UN Mission leaves.
Following the Council meeting, Mr. Rücker will head to the stakeout to take your questions. And he will be joined by Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Mr. Agim Çeku.
And we will have copies of Rücker’s statement shortly before his briefing starts.
**Security Council -- Yesterday
And just going back quickly yesterday, the Council adopted two Presidential Statements on the Middle East -- one on the Middle East, on the general situation in the region following the Secretary-General’s briefing to the Council –- his final briefing on the Middle East.
The Council expressed its deep concern over the situation and its serious ramifications for peace and security, and underlined the need to intensify efforts to achieve a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the region.
And later, the Council also adopted a Presidential Statement on Lebanon, in which it reiterated its full support for the legitimate and democratically-elected Government of Lebanon, and condemned any effort to destabilise the country. It also called for the full implementation of 1701 and the full cooperation of all parties to achieve that goal.
Turning to Somalia, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, Francois Lonseny Fall, today appealed for an end to the violence in that country following a meeting in Nairobi with members of the international community.
The meeting was called to discuss the worsening security and humanitarian situation in that country and a possible resumption of the Khartoum dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the Union of Islamic Courts.
In a message approved by the participants at the meeting, Fall also appealed to Somalia’s Government and Islamist leaders to facilitate assistance for the hundreds of thousand of Somalis who have been left homeless by the recent floods that have hit the area.
And we have a press release and Mr. Fall’s statement upstairs.
**James Morris in Africa
Meanwhile, James Morris, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa, is currently in that region, as we have been telling you. Speaking to reporters in Johannesburg today, he said the future of southern Africa is dependent upon governments in the region halting the effects of HIV/AIDS and ensuring that orphans receive good nutrition, education and care.
In the last seven days, Morris has been to Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe, where he met with government officials, as well as donors and representatives of UN agencies and non-governmental organisations.
Morris is scheduled to leave for Mozambique today, which will be the last leg of his mission. And we have a press release on that with more information.
And as Gail will tell you when she briefs, the General Assembly this morning adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
The Deputy Secretary-General, Mark Malloch Brown, delivered a message on the Secretary-General’s behalf after the adoption of the Convention, saying that, for the 650 million persons around the world living with disabilities, today promises to be the dawn of a new era -- an era in which disabled people will no longer have to endure the discriminatory practices and attitudes that have been permitted to prevail for too long.
He called the Convention a remarkable and forward-looking document that will offer a way forward to ensure that those with disabilities enjoy the same human rights as everyone else -- in education, employment, access to buildings and other facilities, as well as access to justice.
The Secretary-General urges all Governments to ratify, and then implement, the Convention, without delay.
And that statement is available upstairs.
And also on something Gail will tell you a bit more about, tomorrow morning, the General Assembly will meet to pay tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan and to administer the oath of office of the Secretary-General-designate, Mr. Ban Ki-moon. And as I said, Gail will have more details on that.
And then at noon, the Secretary-General-designate, Ban Ki-moon, will hold a press conference in Room 4, to which, of course, you are all invited. And therefore we will not have a noon briefing. I’m very sorry to tell you that. But we will have the highlights posted on the web as usual.
There are limited numbers of press tickets available for that event. They will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, next door in the Media Liaison Office starting at 2:00 p.m. this afternoon. And apparently, a note on media arrangements for the event has also been sent out to all of you and is also available at the MALU Office.
And at 1 p.m. this afternoon, Don MacKay, the Ambassador of New Zealand, who has been chairing the General Assembly’s working group on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, will be here to brief you on the next steps. And he will be joined by representatives of the International Disability Caucus.
And lastly, I think, Matthew, it was you yesterday that asked me about the case of Callixte Mbarushimana, who you may recall is the former UN staffer whose contract had not been renewed in 2001 following allegations relating to activities undertaken during the Rwandan genocide.
In July of this year, the UN Administrative Tribunal upheld its original decision in favour of Mr Mbarushimana’s demand for compensation, resulting from the non-extension of his contract with UNMIK [United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo], where he had been working in 2001.
While we very much regret this decision, in light of the decision taken by the Tribunal, the Secretariat has no choice but to pay Mr. Mbarushimana the one-year salary he had requested.
The Secretary-General had withheld compensation pending this very unusual appeal and was also pending any possible legal action for alleged crimes against humanity being taken against Mr. Mbarushimana by either the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, or judicial authorities in France, where he currently resides. The Secretary-General has now been forced by our justice system to make this very unfortunate settlement.
On Friday, Mr. Annan will meet with the actor George Clooney and a delegation comprising another actor, Don Cheadle, and two athletes, Joey Cheek (USA) and Tegla Loroupe ( Kenya). They are returning from a mission to China and Egypt, during which they met senior government officials to discuss the situation in Darfur and at 9.45 in this room on Friday morning, Mr. Clooney and the delegation will be here. Apparently, they are available for some one-on-one interviews. If you are interested, come to my Office, and we’ll tell you what to do.
With that, I will now take your questions.
**Questions and Answers
Question: We understand from the report from Mr. Brammertz that 10 countries have been reluctant to come forward with answers to the letters and we know how important these answers should be for the implementation of the resolution regarding justice in Lebanon. Are you going to name and shame these countries?
Spokesman: Indeed, cooperation with Mr. Brammertz and his investigation is very important. I will let Mr. Brammertz answer those questions. He’s scheduled to brief the Council, I believe, on Monday, if I’m not mistaken, and after which, he will no doubt stop by the stakeout, and he can answer those questions about his investigation.
Question: An important development took place yesterday in Uganda, and that is that President Musevni spoke for the first time ever to the head of the Lord’s Resistance Army and even had him meet his mother as a goodwill gesture. Has the Secretary-General encouraged this development in any way?
Spokesman: What the Secretary-General of the United Nations has encouraged is the search for peace and justice and bringing relief to the millions that have suffered in northern Uganda as a result of the activities of the Lord’s Resistance Army. And we have been very supportive, in fact, of the peace process being undertaken, I think, as Mr. Egeland had spoken to you quite at length about.
Question: On the Brammertz report again, do you have any official reaction from the Secretary-General on this report?
Spokesman: There is no reaction to be had from the Secretary-General. The Secretary-General is, of course, extremely supportive of the work of Mr. Brammertz and continues to support him. And Mr. Brammertz is doing his work according to the relevant Security Council resolutions.
Question: Did Mr. Annan call President Assad or Mr. Siniora on this report?
Spokesman: The Secretary-General has been in touch over the last few days a number of times with Prime Minister Siniora, as he has with Amre Moussa, who, as you know, is on behalf of the Arab League trying to resolve the situation. The Secretary-General has been kept updated on the situation, and has encouraged everyone to try to find a negotiated and political solution to the current crisis.
Question: Did he call President Assad?
Spokesman: I have no information on any recent calls to Mr. Assad.
Question: On Mr. Mbarushimana, is the decision of the Appeals Board available? Is it public?
Spokesman: Yes, indeed. It is quite lengthy. But we’ve -- in anticipation of your question, for once -- we have made a number of copies upstairs.
Question: Thank you. And also, do you know how much his one-year salary was?
Spokesman: I would have you read through the decision by the court.
Question: I have a follow-up question on the Guido Bertucci issue. But first of all, I have a question about Kofi Annan bringing the issue of Darfur to the Human Rights Council. Why did that come so late –- this sort of putting his foot down and saying, let’s get a team in there and really check this out. I mean, that conflict has been going on for many years.
Spokesman: You know, I think if you look at all the Secretary-General’s statements and speeches over the last two years, in fact, he has constantly been bringing up the issue of Darfur.
Correspondent: [Inaudible] but this is unacceptable conduct -–
Spokesman: I think I disagree with you on that. His message over the last few weeks to the Human Rights Council was clear: stop just focusing on one crisis. There are surely -– meaning the issue of Israel -- there are surely other issues that needed to be looked at, like Darfur. We obviously would have been happy if the Human Rights Council had spoken up loudly on Darfur earlier, but we are extremely happy that they did this morning.
Question: Just a couple of questions on the Guido Bertucci thing. When is the Department of Economic and Social Affairs going to issue their report? Because there is some confusion on the dates, and why is this --
Spokesman: Which report?
Correspondent: The rebuttal of the accusations against the Department and what’s happening.
Spokesman: OK. I think there are two things here. On the issue of the centre in Thessaloniki, OIOS is, as I understand it, trying to complete its audit. The audit is not yet completed, not yet finalized. Once that happens, it will follow its usual course, which means it will be available to Member States upon request. There have been allegations raised in the press this morning, and before, regarding certain programmes in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. At the request of the Secretary-General, OIOS has been asked to look into these allegations. And so at this point, I’m not going to comment further on those allegations that were raised, but OIOS has been asked to look into them.
Question: You know, you can interpret a delay in getting the report back, or the findings back, as an attempt of the Department to try to fix things or at least portray themselves and…
Spokesman: I understand. I will leave the interpretation to you, but clearly, as in any –- I don’t want to call it judicial process –- but in any sort of investigative process people have the right to rebut. Obviously that needs to be done within a certain amount of time. Whenever OIOS does an audit, I think you’ve seen OIOS audits, the department in question has a right to answer the issues that were raised.
The process for the Thessaloniki centre is not yet completed, but we do very much hope that it will be completed very soon.
Question: And safeguarding not only the documental evidence that would be used in the case against the individuals, or part of the fact-finding thing, what’s being done to safeguard all the information to ensure the documents aren’t destroyed? And also, the whistleblowers, the reports that raised this with OIOS. Who’s taking care of them and ensuring that there’s no –
Spokesman: There is a whistleblower protection policy in effect. As for documents, we would very much of course expect that no documents, in any department, be destroyed. And, as you know, there are rules and regulations regarding the destruction of documents that are public.
Question: Has Ms. Ahlenius given any sort of assurances or any message from her office on how she is going to protect whistleblowers?
Spokesman: The whistleblower policy was enacted a while ago. You can look at the policy itself. Whistleblowers, of course, are accorded some confidentiality, and we have full confidence that people who do blow the whistle, so to speak, will be fully protected.
Question: There were threats, apparently, made to certain staff, who did blow the whistle.
Spokesman: I can’t speak to allegations of certain threats, which may or not have been made, but, as we said, we expect all staff… All staff have due process and are protected, and those protections are in effect.
Question: Has there been any progress reported where the Secretary-General’s two special – I mean, one special interlocutor that he has appointed to get to those two Israeli soldiers in Lebanon?
Spokesman: I have nothing to announce on that.
Question: South Africa, through its Defence Minister, has offered to mediate between General Nkunda and the Congolese Government. Does MONUC [United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo] have any view of that? Has it been playing a role in such mediation?
[The Spokesman later added that South Africa’s mediation was a bilateral affair although MONUC was monitoring.]
Spokesman: I’d have to get some answers for you. I don’t have anything with me for you on that.
Question: And also the Gbagbo Government in Côte d’Ivoire said it had found a coup plot, and many diplomats in Abidjan say it’s probably not true, but has [inaudible] has had anything to say on that?
Spokesman: I have no official statement. Obviously, it’s something the Mission is looking at, but I have nothing in particular on that.
Question: I have a question about the [inaudible] case. It’s not clear to me whether the OIOS investigation is [inaudible] on the Thessaloniki case, or if there is another one [inaudible] by the US?
Spokesman: I don’t know about anything – you’d have to ask the US Mission if they have requested anything. All I can say is that the Secretary-General’s Office has asked the OIOS to look into the allegations that have been raised this morning in the press in the last couple of days.
Question: Just a quick clarification: do I understand correctly that to come to the SG-elect press conference after the swearing-in tomorrow, we need IDs plus a special ticket?
Spokesman: Negative. You need a special ticket for the swearing-in ceremony. At the press conference, the seating is free, and no tickets are required. It is in conference room 4.
Question: And where is the swearing-in?
Spokesman: The General Assembly.
Question: Apart from this 19 December press conference, has the Secretary-General scheduled any other important speech-making events, or encounters?
Spokesman: He will address an event relating to the Alliance of Civilizations on 18 December, and I will see if there is… There will be a gathering with the staff, as well, on the 19th, in the afternoon. If there are any other events, I don’t have them in my head at this point, but I can tell you afterwards.
Question: Is the Alliance of Civilizations meeting open?
Spokesman: I believe there is a concert, and there will be other events. You can check with Brenden in my Office – he will be able to give you all the necessary details.
Question: Do I understand correctly that the Secretary-General has asked the OIOS to look into allegations regarding DESA?
Question: Which allegations specifically?
Spokesman: Allegations raised in a press article that appeared this morning, I think written by you, Betsy.
Question: Thank you, but could you put on record what issues the Secretary-General is asking the OIOS to look into?
Spokesman: To look into allegations raised in the article. To take a look at the article and look at some of the allegations that were made in general in the article.
Question: OK, and this was sent by writing today?
Spokesman: It was done this morning.
Question: Is Ms. Ahlenius back in town?
Spokesman: Negative. She is scheduled to be back in town in the next couple of days. There is a promise from the OIOS to do a general briefing to the press after the General Assembly resolution on OIOS is passed. I don’t know when that will happen but they have repeatedly told me that they will come down here and give you a general briefing on their work after that resolution is passed.
Question: Does the Secretary-General support Tony Blair’s backing for a no-fly zone in Darfur?
Spokesman: Currently, the Secretary-General is working on a number of diplomatic initiatives to Darfur. If these end in failure, there are other options that will need to be looked at, but at this point, we are not ready to speak about those other options.
Question: To verify what Betsy said: the OIOS is now investigating the allegations concerning awarding of consultant contracts at DESA?
Spokesman: What I can tell you is that they are looking into allegations raised in a press report this morning. I can’t go any further.
On that note, thank you, and I will leave you to Gail.
Question: I just want to ask this question. For a period of time, there will be two Secretaries-General?
Spokesman: One at a time. The oath of office will be administered, but administered effective January 1. Kofi Annan is the Secretary-General until 31 December, Mr. Ban Ki-moon will become the Secretary-General on January 1.
Question: Is there any change in Mr. Ban’s status after the oath of office? Does he get a bigger office, a bigger staff, access to fresher cables?
Spokesman: I don’t think there is anything that changes. Mr. Ban Ki-moon and his staff will remain in the transition office until January 1. They will move into their new offices on January 1.
Question: After he is sworn in, will you in any way speak for him?
Spokesman: No, I will continue to speak for Kofi Annan until 31 December…
Question: Excuse me, that’s because he will be making announcements, presumably, before January 1 as to who his Chef de Cabinet and all this kind of staff. So who makes all those announcements?
Spokesman: I don’t want to prejudge and I honestly don’t know what announcements he will make tomorrow. Let’s try to take this one day at a time. You can ask Ms. Soung-ah Choi, who came with Mr. Ban Ki-moon a few weeks ago, and is, as you know, sitting in my office. You can refer to her any questions related to Mr. Ban Ki-moon until 31 December.
Spokesman: There will be no live briefings by the Spokesman for the Secretary-General-designate. I will continue to speak for Kofi Annan until 31 December. We will do briefings until 22 December.
Question: [inaudible} who will be sitting next to you for the next couple weeks -– it will just make things a little bit easier.
Spokesman: I don’t think so.
Spokesman: Yes, Sir.
Question: He was a UNDP employee in Rwanda during the genocide and is now widely seen as having participated in it. Do you have any statement as to whether the Secretary-General feels that the UNDP acted quickly enough in this case or is taking steps to…
Spokesman: In fact, UNDP and the Secretary-General’s Office were working very closely to try to avoid the situation where we are today.
Question: [inaudible] when he stopped working for the UN – how many years after that? During that time period?
Spokesman: The issue here is that it was unclear to us how he… You know, the case is being ruled on. There is nothing much more I can say at this point.
Question: Just one other thing. I don’t know who during the transition phase will be able to do this, but will it be possible to get us advance copies of Ban Ki-moon’s acceptance?
Spokesman: Yes, I will talk to Ms. Choi, and we’ll make sure they will be available, if that’s possible. I can ask – that’s what I can do.
Question: I heard you say that you will do briefings until 22 December. What happens after that?
Spokesman: Well, as usual, between Christmas and New Year, especially this year – there are only three working days – we do only virtual briefings.
Can I go? Thank you.
Briefing by Spokeswoman for President of General Assembly
The General Assembly adopted by consensus this morning the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities recommended by the Ad Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities, in its report. This is the first human rights convention to be adopted in the twenty-first century and will benefit some 650 million persons living with disabilities across the world. There were some four speakers before the vote, seven inscribed to speak after the vote and some 21 speakers who continue address after the adoption of the resolution and convention.
Addressing the Assembly this morning, the President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said: “from today all Member States have committed to promoting and protecting the human rights, freedom and dignity of all person with disabilities”. She noted that, with the adoption of the Convention by consensus, the international community would have reached a global consensus allowing the disabled to enjoy the full civil rights to which they are entitled. She warned, however, that to fully implement this historic agreement, would also require a change in cultural attitudes towards the disabled. She expressed the hope that the adoption of the Convention would send a clear message to the over 650 million disabled persons around the world, particularly those living in developing countries, that the international community reaffirms the rights and dignity of all people without discrimination. She said “the disabled do not see themselves as being limited in life by their circumstances, so neither should we”. She told the Assembly she looked forward to the full implementation of the Convention by Member States with the involvement of all concerned parties, in particular the NGOs and civil society groups, “whose energy, compassion and willingness to work in the spirit of cooperation greatly contributed to the final agreement”.
The Assembly will, this afternoon, discuss the question of revitalization of its own work. This is a subject on which the current President places great importance. In her statement, President Sheikha Haya will emphasize that, since the World Summit, the Assembly has been engaged in a very intense period of reform. Progress, she underscores, has been made at both the sixtieth and sixty-first sessions to strengthen the Organization, and this has been given a boost by the consensus resolution on the strengthening of the Economic and Social Council. She will highlight some of the many successes of the reform efforts to date, including the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council. She also points to successes in standard setting and codification of international law in, among other things, the passage this morning of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities.
The President also suggests that the Assembly will need to focus “more on enhancing the impact of our work on the everyday life of the peoples of the world. We must strive to be in the forefront of the global agenda, so that we can play a role in shaping -– not just reaching it”, she emphasized. She will also inform Member States that she intends to conduct consultations early in the New Year on the establishment of an ad hoc working group open to all Member States on the issue of revitalization of the Assembly.
Wrapping up the General Assembly’s two-day debate on Security Council reform yesterday, after having heard from over 70 speakers, Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa said that, while a consensus had emerged on the need for the Council membership to reflect twenty-first century geopolitical realities, delegations remained divided over the path that would lead to change, particularly regarding expansion of the Council.
She noted that delegates had also agreed on the necessity for improving the Council’s working methods as an element of overall reform efforts, but a divergence of views remained on whether the Council’s enlargement should take place in both the permanent and non-permanent membership, or only in the latter category. There was also a lack of agreement on whether potential new members should wield the veto. The debate had also evolved to consider the idea of transitional arrangements and it had become clear that the time was ripe for concrete action on Council reform.
The President proposed three possible options for that process, including: continuing the process within the framework of the General Assembly’s Open-ended Working Group on Security Council Reform; allowing Member States themselves to continue their efforts to untangle the knotty issue; or the President of the Assembly leading an inclusive consultation and negotiation process to reach the broadest possible agreement. She will present her views to delegates shortly.
As Stéph just mentioned, tomorrow morning there will be a ceremony in the General Assembly Hall at 10 a.m., where Member States will pay tribute to Secretary-General Kofi Annan, after which Secretary-General designate Ban Ki-moon will be sworn in. And just a reminder that Mr. Ban will hold a press conference, in conference room 4, from 12 to 12:30 p.m. And of course, the details of the scenario are available upstairs.
Also mentioned, I think, two days ago, in the context of the resumed tenth Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly, a meeting is scheduled to take place this Friday, 15 December, to consider the report of the Secretary-General (A/ES-10/361) concerning the register of damages by Israel’s construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
There is a new schedule of work for the General Assembly, and that is now out as a document. The Assembly is scheduled to take up the reports of the Third, Second, and Fifth Committees on the afternoons of Tuesday (19 December), Wednesday (20 December) and Thursday (21 December), respectively.
The Fifth Committee today is considering the budget outline for the biennium 2008-2009 and financing of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, among other things.
That’s my report for today.
Yesterday, I think, there were a number of questions, one on just the subject that we are talking about today, and that is the issue of streamlining [the work of the General Assembly.] In fact, streamlining comes in the context of two processes – one is General Assembly revitalization, which is being discussed this afternoon, and the other is in the context of the mandate review. I mentioned some of the things the President will say in her statement this afternoon, and she is presiding over the debate. As I mentioned, among the things that she will talk about is the consultations that she intends to organize early next year on this issue of revitalization.
Mandate review -– this is a different track, and this is a review of [some] 9,000 mandates, and, in fact, that process –- which is quite complicated -– is ongoing. It’s being led under the chairmanship of the Ambassadors of Ireland and Pakistan. As I understand it, they have completed one phase of their review, and they are now in the second phase. So, that basically is what’s happening with the whole question of streamlining, and there have been things that have been accomplished, actually, long before this session of the General Assembly. And those can be obtained in the Secretary-General’s report on revitalization of the work of the Assembly, document A/61/483. There he does, in fact, point to a number of things that the Assembly has been doing to revitalize its work.
There was another question yesterday about “stopping”, as it was put to me, “the endless international days”. What I have learnt is that there has been, in fact, discussion, particularly in the Second Committee, because a number of delegations have been concerned over the large number of international days and decades, etc. This year alone, there were requests for four more. So, there was a discussion in the Second Committee on this, and there was a decision, which was contained in a Second Committee resolution, [A/C.2/61/L.46/Rev. 1] to ask Member States to please look very closely at guidelines that were established some time ago -– back in 1980 -– [decision 35/424 of the General Assembly] on this subject, so that in the future we would not have just a large number of requests coming forward. I think, yesterday Mark asked whether there, in fact, is an effort to stop it. I think there is an effort to streamline the requests and to point Member States to these guidelines to make sure that when they put forward their requests, it will be in the context of making sure they are in conformity with these criteria.
Questions and Answers
Question: This Convention that was just passed -– does it still have this footnote? In article 12, there was a footnote to make it mean something different in Arabic, Chinese and Russian, for countries that speak those languages -– is it still there?
Spokeswoman: Yes, I would think it is still there, because many of the Arabic countries did speak after, in explanation of vote.
Question: Does the President of the General Assembly –- did she take a public position on whether having a Convention that is reportedly global, but has actually different rights in different parts of the world is appropriate?
Spokeswoman: I mean, it’s not a precedent. There have been many Conventions where States have, in fact, observed their right –- the Member States -– to come on board, but with reservations. More and more, I think, we have been trying over the years, to make sure that reservations don’t exist, but, I think in a large measure, a lot of effort went into making sure that this Convention passed, and I think, the feeling was that this was a small price to pay for getting this important Convention -– important to 650 million people -– I think, the feeling was that this was much more important, getting it passed by consensus, and getting the majority of the Convention accepted.
[The Spokeswoman would like to correct the information given above. In fact, after a day of negotiations on 5 December, the footnotes were removed from the Convention on Disabilities. The remarks made by several countries after the vote regarding the application of the Convention within their countries, on the issue of “Legal capacity”, do not detract from the universality of Treaty. The Chair of the Committee which negotiated the Convention at his press conference today stressed his hope that over time, as the Convention is implemented, national practices will eventually converge towards a more uniform standard.]
Question: I just wanted to follow up on this. You are always so good at getting to the bottom of these things. In terms of this being a precedent -– I understand countries can take a reservation when they pass a convention, but this one -– it is written right into it that means something different in countries that speak Arabic, Chinese or Russian. So maybe someone on your staff will have an answer if this has been done before.
Spokeswoman: Okay, whether there has been any other time when footnotes have been written into a convention? I will check on that.
Question: The wall between Israel and Palestine on the West Bank -– will the reports be available, or is it available right now?
Spokeswoman: The report is out, yes. I can give you the document numbers, so that you can look it up.
Anything else? Thank you very much.
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