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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-01-27

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:



Tuesday, 27 January 1998

This daily news round-up is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information. The latest update is posted at approximately 6:00 PM New York time.


    Latest developments
  • Gro Harlem Brundtland of Norway nominated as new Director-General of World Health Organization.
  • World Food Programme says lack of funding may force halt in emergency aid to flood victims in Kenya and Somalia.
  • Human Rights Commissioner warns against tampering with Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, a medical doctor and former Prime Minister of Norway, has been nominated as the next head of the World Health Organization (WHO). Established in 1978, this United Nations agency helps countries to reinforce their and sanitation health systems; promotes research on new technologies; and leads the worldwide campaign to immunize children.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan welcomed Dr. Brundtland's nomination by the WHO Executive Board. In a statement issued through his Spokesman, the Secretary-General expressed admiration for her "as a person of vision with a strong personal commitment to the international system".

Interviewed by UN Radio following her nomination in Geneva, Dr. Brundtland said she was preparing ideas for how to reform WHO and improve its capability to "do its job". She said that if appointed, she would address a wide range of important health matters centred on the WHO's "ability to reach people all over the world at least with basic health services, with clean water and humane conditions which can lead to a healthy and productive lives".

The Executive Board of the World Health Organization nominated Dr. Brundtland from a short list of five candidates for the post of Director- General. Dr. Brundtland's nomination is expected to be approved by the World Health Assembly when it meets in May. The new Director-General will take office on 21 July.

Dr. Brundtland received her M.D. from the University of Oslo in 1963. She received a Master of Public Health degree from Harvard University in 1965.

From 1965 to 1967, Dr. Brundtland served as medical officer at the Norwegian Directorate of Health. She was Assistant Medical Director at the Oslo Board of Health from 1968 to 1974, when she was appointed Minister of the Environment, a position she held for five years.

Appointed Prime Minister for the first time in 1981, Dr. Brundtland held this position three times, most recently from 1990 to October, 1996. In all, she headed Norway's Government for more than 10 years.

In the international arena, Dr. Brundtland is perhaps best known internationally for chairing the 1983 World Commission on Environment and Development, the precursor to the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

Born on 20 April 1939 in Oslo, Dr. Brundtland is married with four children and seven grandchildren.

The World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Tuesday that unless donors provide new funding it will be forced to halt emergency airlifts and airdrops of food and other vital supplies to 1.1 million people cut off by floodwaters in remote areas of Kenya and Somalia.

An estimated $12 million is needed to fly some 16,000 metric tons of assistance to sustain the area through the end of March, according to WFP. The agency is appealing to donors to make immediate pledges in order to avert the suspension of the air operations at the end of January.

The flooding has killed 1,980 people, and affected hundreds of thousands of others. 33,500 head of livestock were also killed by the floods, which devastated foodstocks and crops.

Donations have already been received from the European Community Humanitarian Office, the United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia and the Netherlands. But unusually heavy rains through mid- January left a growing number of flood victims urgently in need of additional assistance through March.

WFP has been airlifting food to flood-affected regions since mid- November. In many regions, refugees are totally dependent on airlift deliveries because roads are impassable.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has warned against tampering with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speaking at a regional seminar on human rights, organized by the United Nations University in Tokyo, Ms. Robinson said that the Declaration embodied the legal, moral, and philosophical beliefs held true by all peoples and this is what gave it strength, her Spokesman told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations Assembly on 10 December 1948.

The Human Rights Commissioner is scheduled to leave Japan on 29 January and to spend a weekend at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland, before proceeding to New York early next week.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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