Press Releases

    SG/SM/9664
                5 January 2005

    Transcript of Press Conference by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at United Nations Headquarters, 3 January 2005

    The Secretary-General: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a holiday in the building; it is surprising to see so many of you here this morning.

    Let me start by saying that it gives me great pleasure to announce the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as my new Chief of Staff, or Chef de cabinet, effective 19 January. As most of you already know, Mark is an immensely capable leader and manager and, in his new role, will assist me and Louise Fréchette, my Deputy Secretary-General, in developing and implementing major initiatives to improve the performance and management of the United Nations. As some of you may also know, Mark and I go back a long way, almost 25 years, when we were working on another Asian crisis, the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis of the time. Of course, if trust is one quality in a Chief of Staff today, experience in policy and communication is another. These, combined with Mark’s strong track record at UNDP, means that I am very much looking forward to having him at my right hand.

    As I have said many times over the past few months, I believe 2005 offers us a critical opportunity to push through a new round of reforms and revitalize the United Nations system, and ensure it is better equipped to deal with the scale and complexity of 21st century challenges. This September’s five-year review of the Millennium Development Goals and the Millennium Declaration will be a key moment for heads of State and government to reach agreement on how best to do so.

    Mark’s leadership of the United Nations effort to meet the Millennium Development Goals means that there are strong synergies between this agenda and Mark’s current role. So, I have asked him to initially retain his UNDP position for a while, while taking on this challenge. More immediately, the UNDP and the United Nations Development Group, which Mark chairs, are going to play a very important role in our whole effort of pushing ahead the Millennium Development Goals. And it is important that we handle this well. At the same time, we are taking on the burden of dealing with the recovery phase of the tsunami crisis. There is clearly a need for continuity at this critical moment, and I would expect Mark to continue to oversee the operations of UNDP until such time that I make an appointment of a new Administrator. Given the crisis, he will be joining me in his capacity as UNDP Administrator when I go to Indonesia later tonight, where I will be launching the emergency appeal for aid and visiting many of the worst-affected areas in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

    Let me close by voicing a special word of thanks to another dear friend and trusted colleague of mine, Iqbal Riza, for his seven years as my Chef de Cabinet. He has offered wise counsel and advice throughout, through thick and thin, and he well deserves his long-deferred retirement. But of course, I am sure that I will continue to count on his advice.

    Mark, do you want to say a few words?

    Mr. Malloch Brown: Thank you very much, Secretary-General. Let me just say that it is a tremendous privilege to work with you in this role, and with Louise Fréchette.

    I share with Iqbal Riza an immense loyalty to you and an immense loyalty to this institution, and there is no hiding the fact that it is at a difficult moment. The tsunami just comes on top of a High-Level Panel which proposes a lot of very important reforms that I know you want to see through. You have mentioned the Millennium Development Goals, which offer the opportunity of some deal, if you like, between the security and development agendas. It has been a subject of wide commentary that staff morale is not at its highest at this time, and we face also, in the weeks ahead, recommendations that may come from Mr. Volcker.

    So it is an opportunity for great change and I remember, when we were colleagues at UNHCR, that in the same way, the Indo-Chinese refugee crisis provided a transformative moment for that organization to move from a European-centred institution dealing with individual refugee asylum-seekers to an extraordinarily effective humanitarian organization in a modern mould. And I suspect the crisis and the challenges we are facing offer you the same opportunity today.

    Obviously, I recognize that, as Chief of Staff, your agenda is my agenda.

    I have got to get used to a loss of a little of that independence that I have enjoyed at UNDP, but I hope to support you in carrying through this UN reform agenda and responding to these challenges together.

    Question: On behalf of the United Nations Correspondents Association, gentlemen, welcome to this briefing. I wish you all a happy new year and successful travels.

    Mr. Secretary-General, is this now the moment to be diverting the attention of the head of the UNDP away from the urgency of the tsunami relief?

     The Secretary-General: As I said earlier, first of all the announcement had been made and the decisions had been made before the tsunami crisis hit, and it is taking account of that, that I have asked Mark to oversee United Nations activities and in a way maintain the two responsibilities until a new administrator comes in. Obviously, timing is going to be extremely important. I need to make sure that we bring in the Administrator at the right time and make sure that what we are doing not only on the tsunami, but on the MDGs and the high-level event in September, the reform proposals –- that they all are lined up in a way that the new person coming in can also follow. But, obviously, it is going to take a while to settle the next appointment, so Mark will do both.

    But I think we have quite a bit of depth in UNDP. We are making arrangements to make sure that it does not interfere with the activities of UNDP, nor does it have negative impact on the crisis we are dealing with now.

    Question: Congratulations.

    The Secretary-General: To him or to me?

    Question: Can you tell me how it is possible to do two jobs, because they are both overwhelming, and how long you think you will be doing them? And secondly, is it true that Mr. [Kieran] Prendergast may be leaving his post and going to the Middle East?

    The Secretary-General: I think, as to how long Mark will do that, I have indicated that, obviously, we are in the middle not only of the tsunami crisis, but also preparations for the MDG+5, and I am out looking for people, but it will take some time. It is not going to be tomorrow, and the timing has to be optimal so that things do not fall between the cracks.

    As to your question on Kieran, Kieran is still the Under-Secretary-General for the Department of Political Affairs, but I must admit that I do intend to make further changes -– changes that would affect senior people already in the building and maybe some who are outside Headquarters. So this is the first in a series of changes or reshuffling that may happen.

    Question: About Mr. Prendergast, the New York Times mentioned that he would possibly be taking over Terje Roed-Larsen’s position. Is this one of the things that you have in mind, or can you tell us that this is off the table? And also about that particular article, it said that you had a secret meeting at [Richard] Holbrooke’s house. Do you not think that this might hurt you with the Bush Administration, given the fact that Holbrooke is really not a favourite son of this Administration, having been the closest to [John] Kerry?

    The Secretary-General: First of all, on your first question: Yes, I will be filling the vacancy that has been created by the departure of Terje Roed-Larsen, who did an extremely good job. And I must take this opportunity to pay a tribute to him for his contribution, dedication, energy. Really, he made a difference and we are going to miss him. I will be appointing a new representative to the region. I have not decided who it will be, but I think I should be able to make that decision in the next couple of weeks.

    Question: Is Kieran one of them?

    The Secretary-General: I have a long list of candidates.

    Let me say that, on the question of the meeting, as you also read in the press, I have been talking to lots of people here and abroad, academics. So it was part of the process of consultation. I have spoken to people of both parties and I do not think one should worry about whom I talk to. At the end of the day, it is the decision that I take which should be of concern.

    Question: A question both for the Secretary-General and for Mark. Secretary-General: now you have a plum job coming empty in UNDP, the biggest United Nations agency, are you going to give it back to the Americans? My question for Mark is: Is this not a demotion for you? Why would you give up being head of UNDP to become the paper-pusher-in-chief for the Secretary-General?

    The Secretary-General: The second one is very exciting. Let me say that, on your first question, the Americans held that post for over 40 years. Mark was the first non-American to hold that position. We have several agencies –- about four agencies –- and the Americans currently hold two and the other two, I think, should go to other regions and other nationalities. I do intend to appoint some other nationals and not an American.

    Mr. Malloch Brown: On the paper-pushing point, I did warn the Secretary-General that I did not push paper very well.

    The Secretary-General: He will learn.

    Mr. Malloch Brown: My friends thought that the title “Administrator” was inappropriate for my particular approach to management, and I am sure doubly so “paper-pushing”. I would like to think that the Secretary-General asked me to make a move –- which, as you rightly say, in a formal sense certainly is not a promotion –- because he wanted this particular set of what he described in his introduction as management, policy and communications skills at this difficult time available to him. So, you know, frankly, the one thing I satisfied myself with the Secretary-General before telling him that, of course, if this is what he wanted me to do, I would do it, as one who owes my whole United Nations career to him -– I just wanted to satisfy myself that he understood that he would not get a paper-pusher if he appointed me.

    The Secretary-General: And that is not what I wanted, anyway.

    Question: Mr. Secretary-General, the spokesman for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that, in other disasters, the governments did not deliver the same amount of money that they had promised. So, do you have any concern that, in this situation, this kind of situation could be repeated –- that the money that has been promised so far may not be delivered for the victims of the tsunami?

    The Secretary-General: If we go by past history, yes, I do have concerns. We have got lots of pledges -– over $2.5 billion –- but it is quite likely that, at the end of the day, we will not receive all of it. I think you heard about the example of the Bam earthquake in Iran. We got lots of pledges, but we did not receive all the money. And we have similar experiences.

    Of course, there is such energy behind this one, and the region itself is becoming very active. Asia is not without resources. They have certain capabilities, and they are determined, as a region, to play their role. The meeting I am going to attend in Jakarta brings together all the heads of State and government of the region, and so I think we stand a better chance of getting a substantial portion of the

    pledges and the contributions which have been made. But I will not be surprised if we do not get all the money. That is the history we live with.

    Question: Mr. Secretary-General, can you sort of explain to us why you are undertaking all of this, this sort of management shake-up, at this time? Usually it is done during a new term. Also, can you give us some indication whether you will be looking perhaps at some American individuals that are sort of closer ideologically to the Bush Administration? And on your trip to Jakarta: just last week, you were sort of indicating to us that maybe it was not a good idea for VIPs to start showing up in a lot of these disaster zones because it might impede relief efforts. Why are you changing your mind now?

    The Secretary-General: Let me say that, on the question of timing, changes and reshuffle in an administration can come at any time, and it also depends on what stage you are at. I have put forward two bold proposals: first, the reform proposal; and we are also working on some management proposals as well. And, of course, we have the Millennium Development Goals to push. For the next two years, I think that it is essential that we focus on this reform of the Organization, put development at the centre of our work, and ensure that, as we try to improve our collective security, we also pay attention to the other threats of poverty, health, AIDS and other issues. So I’m going to be driving these issues in the next two years, and I thought I needed a team that can work with me on that.

    As far as appointments are concerned, we have Americans who belong to either party, who are either Republicans or Democrats, and I am sure that, as we make appointments and we go forward, we will maintain that tradition of appointing people from both parties.

    On the question of my trip to the region, you may recall that I had announced that on 6 January I would do a flash appeal from here in New York. In my discussions with the leaders -- and I started talking to the leaders of the region, particularly those affected, the day immediately after the tsunami earthquake -– I have been in touch with them, and they indicated that they would also want to have a meeting in Jakarta on the 6th, and I did not think it was very sensible to have one meeting in New York and another one in Jakarta, and so we decided to join our efforts. So I will launch the appeal from Jakarta, and once I am there also take advantage of the opportunity to see how our operations are going; if there are gaps, what are these gaps, and how we can help them fill them; and also take advantage to see some of the disaster areas and offer my support and condolences to those who are going through it.

    Question: Mr. Secretary-General, you have mentioned that the United Nations will not let the people of the region down. What do you hope your visit does for the people who are suffering so much, if they are even aware of your visit? And to Mark Malloch Brown: many have criticized the United Nations on getting its message out regarding oil-for-food or anything. You have certainly not been shy with the camera or printed press. Will you be getting out there or perhaps dabbling in media efforts to fight unwarranted attacks on the United Nations view or just to get the message out?

    The Secretary-General: I think my presence in the region and the meeting I am going to have with the leaders of the region hopefully will send two messages: a message of determination by the leaders of the region and the international community to do whatever it can, whatever is necessary, to help give them relief and to help them put their lives back together; second, I hope it will give them a message of hope -- a message of hope that they are not alone, that their leaders are joined by the international community, and that we are all determined to pool our efforts to improve their situation and get them out of their misery.

    Mr. Malloch Brown: On the communications point, Mr. Secretary-General –- I am glad, Richard, that you have recognized that I am not shy. As you know, my frustration is that you never take advantage of me enough. Maybe now that I have politics to talk about, as well as development, you will greet me more routinely into your studio. I am usually banging on the door and you won’t let me in.

    But let me more seriously say that I think that a modern, global public organization of this kind has to understand that there are many news cycles a day, that to get your message out requires both a vigorous, rapid response and also a set of open and trusted relationships with the media who cover you. And while I believe we have a first-class group of people in Shashi Tharoor and Fred Eckhard and Stéphane and others, the fact is, I think I can be helpful and do look at a much more prominent role, if you like, as a spokesman on occasion for the Secretary-General and for the institution, and certainly as someone pushing for a quick response to issues –- a response of a substantive and open and forthcoming kind -- as very much part of what I have been tasked with.

    The Secretary-General: I know you will hold him to that. Thank you.

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