TRANSCRIPT OF PRESS CONFERENCE BY SECRETARY-GENERAL
The Secretary-General: I would like to announce to you this morning the appointment of Catherine Bertini as the new Under-Secretary-General for Management, succeeding Joseph Connor, who will be leaving us after eight years of outstanding service as head of the Department of Management.
Catherine Bertini is no stranger to you. As you know, she worked for the World Food Programme (WFP) over a period of 10 years, where she instituted major reform programmes and did a great job as head of that organization. Prior to that, she came to us with quite a lot of experience in Government, at both the State and federal levels. She had also had some private-sector experience. She, therefore, brings a wealth of experience, which is going to be needed in this Building.
Before I open up the floor for questions, let me also pay tribute to Joe Connor, who has made a wonderful contribution to this Building. He brought modern management practices to the United Nations. His previous experience as Chairman of Price Waterhouse came in handy at a time when we were going through a very difficult financial crisis. He has been here working with me to spearhead the reform programmes we instituted in 1997. Prior to that, he worked with my predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, to try to make the United Nations what it ought to be.
Catherine, we welcome you here. I know you are going to do great things in this house.
Ms. Bertini: It is a great privilege and an honour to return to work for the United Nations, and particularly to work for Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He has a second ambitious reform agenda, which I will be pleased to do my best to try to help make successful. It will also be an honour to help to work on all issues relative to the administration of the United Nations to help to ensure the Secretary-General’s success in that area. He has had so many other successes around the world. I am pleased and honoured.
The Secretary-General: We will now take your questions, if you have any, particularly on this issue.
Question: I would think that Ms. Bertini is probably the first woman to hold this post. Is that correct?
The Secretary-General: We had a woman in the post for a very brief period, Ms. Melissa Wells. Catherine is, therefore, the second woman to hold this top management position.
Question: Then I shall ask my real question. What do you want her top priorities to be in terms of continuing United Nations reform?
The Secretary-General: We have had discussions. Obviously, she is going to focus quite a lot on implementing the reforms that are ongoing at the moment. She will spend quite a bit of time on communication and information technologies and strengthening the personnel area. I have also asked her to help us to intensify our efforts at attaining gender balance. We are also going to be working on greater coordination between the United Nations family -- the funds and programmes and other areas. We are also on the verge of revamping our budgetary processes and human resources management. There are, therefore, many issues for her to get busy with.
Also, do not forget that we are also pressing ahead with the capital master plan, which will mean complete renovation of this Building.
Question: Is this a pay raise or a pay cut from the World Food Programme? In the history of the Organization, does this post always go to an American? It has for at least as long as I have been here.
The Secretary-General: I think the level is the same. I do not know; I think Catherine will have to tell us whether it is going to be more exciting to live in New York or if it was better in Rome.
On the question of who holds the post, it has not always been in the hands of a United States national. I can give you two other nationalities to have held the post: Martti Ahtisari of Finland was once in the post, as was Helmut Debating of Germany. At the moment, it happens to be held by a United States national, but it has not always been that way, and it need not always be that way.
Question: What is your opinion on changing the United Nations Building in the capital master plan? You have been in this Building a lot of times, is this something that you have an early view on -- the necessity of building a whole new building and destroying this one? There is talk about the United Nations moving down to Ground Zero. Perhaps the Secretary-General would like to respond to all the reports on this issue. One gossip columnist said that you were responsible for blocking the idea.
The Secretary-General: I do not know if it is not a bit too early for Catherine to get into those details. Let me go first, and then she will decide if she wants to add something.
It is true that there was a suggestion that it may be a good idea to build a headquarters for the United Nations at Ground Zero. That was one of the ideas that was floated. Of course, there was also the suggestion that we build a building as a swing space to move people out into as we renovate this Building.
We are not going to destroy the Building, we are going to undertake major renovations. It looks fine, but it is a pretty inefficient building in terms of electricity and other utilities. Besides, I do not think we meet all the standards set by the city. It will be part of the objective to try to bring it up to modern-day standards and make sure that it does not fall apart. I think we will also be making lots of savings on electricity and other utilities in the process.
Is there anything you want to add? Not yet? Some day she will talk to you about the capital master plan. Now we can move on to other topics.
Question: The Iraqi Parliament has just recommended a rejection of the United Nations Security Council resolution. I am just wondering what your comment is on this?
The Secretary-General: I have written to the Iraqi Government, and I am waiting for a formal response from the Government. I do not think the Iraqi Parliament was talking to me. I think it was addressed to the people of Iraq.
Question: I just wonder, now as the Revolutionary Council and Saddam himself consider this, what message do you have to the Government as they consider this resolution?
The Secretary-General: I think that the Security Council requirements are very clear, and Iraq is expected to comply. The decision was unanimous. It has also been endorsed by the Arab League, and I hope the message will get through.
Question: Two things. First of all, there is increased talk about the possibility of the Israeli Government deporting President Yasser Arafat. The situation is rather horrible out there, so I was wondering what you think of this talk about deportation?
Secondly, on the issue of Iraq, is it your understanding that substantive inspections would have to wait for the declaration’s arrival, or could they go ahead of the declarations that Iraq is supposed to give within 30 days?
The Secretary-General: On the first question, of course, I have also read the reports, and I hope this does not happen. I think many governments around the world have indicated that it would be unwise to exile Chairman Arafat. I hope this will not happen.
To answer your second question, I think that the inspectors have indicated the timetable. Iraq should respond formally that it accepts the resolution by the 15th. I am expecting that letter. Then, within 30 days, Iraq will have to declare its holdings of weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors have up to 45 to 60 days to go to Iraq in order to do re-baselining, check the equipment, make sure the cameras are in place and whatever else they have to do. They will come back to report to the Council, and then they will go back to get their work done. The advance team with Mr. Blix and Mr. ElBaradei are going to be in Iraq on the 18th. I think the way I would say it is that, during that period, it is the re-baselining that they will have to do, and a full-fledged disarmament programme will begin when they go back in the next phase. But I think you may want to talk to Mr. Blix, and not me -- I am not the expert.
Question: This looks like the indication of a sequence, the way you see it. The sequence being that, after the Iraqis accept, they will give the declarations. And then the inspections would resume. Did I understand you correctly?
The Secretary-General: No, let me put it this way. First of all, the Security Council resolution becomes effective from day one, from the moment it is adopted. The seven days have been requested, but even without the seven days, we have to be clear that the resolution is in force.
Mr. Blix and his team are making their preparations to get there on the 18th and to make the assessment on the ground. Iraq, we would hope, would also produce a 30-day document, as has been required. And they would get on with their work. But I would suggest that you discuss the details with Mr. Blix.
Question: I have one question on timing. There seems to be a great debate in the press about exactly when this seven days ends on the 15th. Is it at the time the resolution was adopted? Is it at the time that you informed the Iraqis? I just wondered whether you had a comment on that.
My real question, however, is that, throughout these eight weeks, the United Nations was under intense pressure, and President Bush kept saying that it faced irrelevancy. I wonder if you could comment on those remarks, in light of what happened, and in light of your upcoming discussions today and tomorrow with Secretary of State Powell and the President?
The Secretary-General: Yes, to answer your first question, I think that we have not fixed any precise time, but I think everybody will be satisfied if we got the letter by the end of the day on the 15th.
On the question of the United Nations and irrelevance, I think we need to be careful not to overstate a case. I think the United Nations did what it had to do. I noticed that there was some impatience at our not moving fast enough. But, as I indicated, this is the way democracy works. People have to discuss these issues seriously -- it was a grave decision -- and I am happy they took their time to discuss it and, in the end, come up with the best possible decision. I think the outcome and how this issue evolves can strengthen the United Nations and multilateralism. I do not accept the statement that it was "do or die" for the United Nations. Quite a lot of you in this room remember Kosovo. I do not think that destroyed the United Nations or that this would necessarily have destroyed the United Nations, but I am happy we came out the way we did.
Thank you very much.
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