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United Nations Daily Highlights, 98-05-06

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 6 April, 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.


  • Secretary-General's representative for children welcomes two days of tranquillity in Sri Lanka.
  • Relief workers continue their efforts in Afghanistan as fighting rages on in certain parts of the country.
  • Many provinces of Indonesia face food shortages as a result of severe drought.
  • Over 500 leaders and experts gather in Washington D.C. to discuss girls' education.
  • UN Secretary-General continues his African tour with visit to Dar es Salaam.
  • Namibian Prime Minister says his country is looking for foreign investments.
  • Head of UN peacekeeping operations visits Haiti.
  • UN Development Programme helps 50,000 displaced Liberians return home.
  • UN Information Committee told of need to close information gap between developing and developed world.

The United Nations Secretary-General's Special Representative on Children in Armed Conflict has welcomed the commitment of the parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka to observe two days of tranquillity during his visit.

Mr. Olara Otunnu who is visiting the conflict-affected areas in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, expressed the hope that this commitment will be fully observed by all parties.

Mr. Otunnu is in Sri Lanka to assess, first hand, the plight of children affected by armed conflict and to call for action by all parties to promote and protect the rights and welfare of children. His call includes protecting children from the effects of armed conflict, promoting the rights of children not to be used in conflict in any way, and promoting the right of children to special assistance and care in the post-conflict phase.

The Special Representative has visited Jaffna Peninsula, a district emerging from active conflict. He also visited Vavuniya and Madhu now engaged in conflict. He had the opportunity to exchange views with government officials, members of the armed forces and parliamentarians as well as members of the academic community, religious and civic leaders, and international and local non-governmental organizations.

Relief workers continue their efforts to provide humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan as fighting continues in certain parts of the country.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), fighting continued north of Kabul, Kunduz and Baghlan. OCHA also said there were unconfirmed reports of fighting around Takhar.

Meanwhile, a high-level United Nations mission is in Afghanistan to discuss with Afghan authorities the safety and security of United Nations personnel in the country. The team, which arrived in Afghanistan on Monday, will also discuss the effects of the recent edict restricting foreign Muslim women's travel and its impact on the United Nations ability to deliver assistance in Taliban-controlled areas. The meetings will also address the issues of women's access to health and education as well as access to populations in blockaded areas.

Initial meetings were reported to have been cordial, with both sides accepting the need to agree on a relationship that will allow the United Nations to deliver assistance to the people in need, said OCHA.

In the area of health care, the United Nations Children's fund and the World Health Organization have been working with non-governmental organizations on the first round of immunization. The immunization took place from 3 to 5 May. There were advocacy workshops for district administrators, mullahs, imams, community leaders and teachers to promote the campaign. The message on the value of immunization was also spread by local radio networks, newspapers, as well as banners, placards and broadcast messages in mass rallies. A special programme has been broadcast to encourage husbands to ensure that women of childbearing age are vaccinated against tetanus to protect newborn babies.

Many provinces of Indonesia are facing food shortages as a result of a severe drought caused by the strongest El Nino phenomenon in fifty years.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the Indonesian Government's ability to mount relief operations at required levels is seriously hampered. OCHA says that ongoing poverty alleviation programmes are being curtailed.

OCHA also points out that large areas of central Irian Jaya Province continue to be severely affected by the drought that is creating major food shortages. The annual dry season which is usually during June and July began in May 1997 and continued until the end of 1997. Although some rainfall occurred at the end of 1997 and beginning of 1998, encouraging the local population to plant, crops will not be ready for six months from the date of planting, says OCHA.

Citing government sources, OCHA reports that in the four districts of Jayawijaya, Puncak Jaya, Mimika and Merauke, more than 670 people have died of drought related diseases. OCHA adds that unofficial sources put the death toll at more than 1,000.

In March 1998, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization undertook an assessment mission to Indonesia. WFP estimates that 7.5 million people will likely experience household food insecurity as a result of the drought and the deterioration of the economy unless food aid is provided.

Over 500 leaders and experts from around the world on Wednesday began a three-day international conference to discuss education for girls.

The conference, "Educating Girls: A Development Imperative" has been convened at the International Trade Centre by the United Nation Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United States Agency for International Development and the Inter-American Development Bank. Other sponsors are the World Bank, the Delegation of the European Commission and the Lewis T. Preston Education Programme for Girls.

UNICEF says that a key strategy for sustaining girls' education over the long term is also to strengthen and stimulate partnerships within the countries and the conference plays a crucial role in bringing together leaders from the different sectors who can work together for girls' education.

"In the final analysis, it is what happens in villages and hamlets, districts and cities that will make a difference in the lives of girls, women and their families," said Carol Bellamy, UNICEF's Executive Director. She added that education for girls is the key to the health and nutrition of populations, overall improvements in the standard of living, better agricultural and environmental practices, higher Gross National Product, and greater involvement and gender balance in decision- making at all levels of society.

United States First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton will give a keynote address on Thursday afternoon. Other dignitaries participating in the conference include Dr. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, First Lady of Ghana and Keiko Sofia Fujimuri, First Lady of Peru.

A number of young people are participating in the conference including five girls from girls' education programmes in Guatemala.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan arrived on Wednesday in Dar es Salaam, on the next leg of his eight-nation African tour.

On his ninth day on the road, the Secretary-General met with over 50 heads of diplomatic missions in Dar es Salaam. He briefed them on the status of his UN reform efforts and asked them to resist the tendency to micro-manage the world body.

In response to questions, the Secretary-General described plans by the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) to further enhance Africa's peace-keeping capacity; his hopes for the forthcoming conference in Kampala on refugees, which he will attend; and current efforts to resolve the Middle East problem.

In a meeting with UN heads of agencies, the Secretary-General heard from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme about development and investment work with the Government of Dar es Salaam. He was also briefed by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) on the country's agricultural needs and by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on refugee problems between Tanzania and Burundi.

At a meeting with UN staff, Mr. Annan encouraged them to work together and to make an effort to reach out to civil society. He also met with Members of the Tanzanian Parliament, including members of the Opposition.

The Secretary-General ended his day by meeting with President Benjamin William Mkapa who later hosted a dinner for Mr. Annan.

The Prime Minister of Namibia, Hage Geingob on Wednesday said that his country was looking for new sources of direct foreign investments.

Mr. Geingob, who chaired a Meeting of Experts on the United Nations Programme in Public Administration and Finance, taking place from 4 to 8 May, took time off to talk to the press.

He said that everybody was reforming and downsizing in order to achieve good governance. According to Mr. Geingob, good governance in most parts of Africa has been brought about by democratization and market oriented economies. After that, he added "comes accountability and transparency."

The Namibian Prime Minister told reporters that during his stay in the United States, he had met with business and political leaders to discuss investments in his country. He said that the Government of Namibia is providing incentives for foreign and local investors to develop the country. "But we are looking for investors from Asia where the money is these days, and also from Europe and America."

Mr. Geingob said his country was not prescribing to potential investors but was encouraging them to go to his country "to look and choose the areas in which they want to invest." He identified diamond mining and tourism as potential sectors for investments. "And we are also definitely telling people to invest in infrastructure" such as tourism which, he added, was the fastest growing industry.

The Under-Secretary-General for United Nations Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, arrived in Haiti on Wednesday.

Mr. Miyet will meet with local authorities and Haitian political leaders. He will also assess the functioning of the United Nations Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH).

According to UN spokesman, Juan Carlos Brandt, Mr. Miyet will gather first- hand information on the current situation in Haiti. The UN had put a lot of time, effort and energy into solving the situation there, the spokesman said. Ultimately, he continued, it would be up to the Haitian people to reach the agreements necessary to form a new government. The United Nations, the Member States and the international community, he said, would continue to be there to help.

The UN is helping about 50,000 Liberians who were displaced during the country's civil war to return home or resettle in new communities.

A project supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), will give families basic tools and materials to construct new shelters or repair their homes damaged by war, as well as implements for small-scale agriculture. Most of the people have been living in makeshift shelters or squatting in government buildings in the capital, Monrovia.

The UNDP is working with other UN and private aid agencies to complete the resettlement before June, when the next rainy season begins. It has also provided $1.5 million to help Liberia set up an Office for the Promotion of Good Governance. Former United States President, Jimmy Carter, participated in the inauguration of the new Office in April. It will be responsible for increasing transparency and accountability throughout the government.

On the second day of the current session of the UN Committee on Information, several government representatives said the growing "information gap" between developing and developed countries should be narrowed by broadening access to new communications technology.

During the two-week session, the Committee will continue its ongoing examination of UN public information policies and activities. It will also examine proposals by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to reorientate the UN's communications strategy and strengthen its capacity to use the latest information technology.

At Tuesday's meeting, the representative of the Philippines, Felipe Mabilangan, said that the fruits of the information revolution were mainly enjoyed by countries which could afford costly infrastructure and the developing world was in danger of further marginalization.

Other speakers said that since modern communications technology was not available in much of the world, UN programmes in developing countries should still utilize traditional print and radio media while helping governments to introduce the new technology.

Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), the representative of Jamaica, Patricia Durant, said the United Nations could not lag behind on the so-called "information superhighway". Rather, it must harness the new information tools to advance its mandate. Everyone, she said, benefitted when the public understood the relevance of the UN's ambitious agenda for peace, security, development and human rights.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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