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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-03

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Wednesday, 3 February, 1999

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.


  • Security Council, Secretary-General urge parties to show good faith in peace talks on Kosovo.
  • Members of Security Council urge Haiti's political leaders to set up mechanism for free elections.
  • Secretary-General calls for greater coordination of UN system to meet challenges of globalization.
  • Foreign Minsters of Indonesia, Portugal to meet Secretary- General on East Timor next Monday.
  • United Nations directs its US and UK staff to leave Iraq.
  • UN food agency launches $21 million appeal to feed malnourished children of Iraq.
  • UN relief official paints grim picture of humanitarian conditions in three African countries torn by conflict.
  • UN food agency warns food aid alone not enough to stave off growing hunger in Somalia.
  • UN High Commissioner of Human Rights appeals to national and state authorities to stop execution in Oklahoma.
  • UN Environment Programme highlights impact of recent fire disasters.
  • UN forum explores ways to help developing countries manage globalization.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Contact Group comprising France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, to convene peace talks on Kosovo at Rambouillet, France.

In a statement issued by his spokesman, the Secretary-General said he was convinced that a peaceful settlement could only be reached through direct dialogue between the parties concerned. Mr. Annan urged the Yugoslav authorities and the Kosovo Albanian leadership to shoulder their responsibilities and to use the opportunity offered by the international community to settle the Kosovo crisis by committing themselves to the Rambouillet peace talks without preconditions or delays.

In a related development, the members of the Security Council reiterated their support for the political process launched by the Foreign Ministers of the Contact Group in London on 29 January. In a press statement by the Council President on Wednesday, the members of the Security Council once again expressed their view that there is an urgent need for a political settlement of the situation. They strongly urged the parties to participate actively, in good faith and without preconditions in this political process and to fulfill their obligations under relevant Security Council resolutions and agreements.

Expressing concern at the political and electoral impasse in Haiti, members of the Security Council on Wednesday urged all of country's political leaders to overcome their differences and create the basis for early, open, free and fair elections.

In a press statement of the President of the Security Council on Haiti, ready by Ambassador Michel Duval of Canada, the Council members stressed the need for the constitution of a credible Provisional Electoral Council and said that they were prepared to support a credible, fair and transparent electoral process leading to early legislative and local elections.

The members of the Council praised the professionalism of the Haitian National Police in keeping civil order in this period of political tension. They also reiterated their support for the efforts of the Friends and the Representative of the Secretary-General in Haiti.

Earlier, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hdi Annabi, had briefed the members of the Security Council on the situation in Haiti.

United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Wednesday called on the UN system and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to make a constructive contribution in the international effort to meet the challenge of globalization.

Addressing the organizational session of ECOSOC, the Secretary- General said that Council began its work this year as the international community kept pace with an ever more globalizing world. "Globalization draws us together. It expands markets and opens the world," Mr. Annan said.

The Secretary-General added, however, that globalization also compounded risks and uncertainties. One of the great challenges today was to manage and minimize these risks and uncertainties, Mr. Annan said.

The Secretary-General stressed the importance of coordination among the inter-governmental and inter-agency components of the UN system in order to make progress towards the goals of peace and development. Mr. Annan said that in addition to decisions and directives, coordination implied continuous dialogue and real engagement among all partners. He said that as Chairman of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), he had made it his priority to promote that process and reaffirmed his commitment to working with the President of ECOSOC towards that end.

Mr. Annan recalled that a focus of ACC discussion last autumn was a policy review of the implications of the global financial crisis and the response of the United Nations system. With the full involvement of the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, he added, the ACC members committed themselves to joint action and issued an urgent call for immediate help to those suffering acute hardship. They also pledged to work together to help countries carry out the necessary structural and institutional reforms and build basic social services and safety nets, Mr. Annan said.

The Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Portugal have accepted Secretary- General Kofi Annan's invitation and will meet with him in New York next Monday to discuss a number of crucial issues related to East Timor, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General announced on Wednesday.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said their discussions, among other things, will focus on a review of the United Nations plan for a wide-ranging autonomy for East Timor and also on the reported Indonesian proposal of independence for East Timor in case the autonomy proposal was rejected by the majority of East Timorese. The situation on the ground in East Timor will also be on the agenda of the meetings.

The Foreign Ministers were scheduled to have preliminary meetings on Sunday, 7 February, with the Personal Representative of the Secretary- General for East Timor, Ambassador Jamsheed Marker, according to the Spokesman.

Meanwhile, in his comments to the press Wednesday morning, the Secretary- General said that the current talks at the senior official level were going "quite well." He noted that up until now, the discussions were focusing on autonomy, but now that the independence issue was on the table, "we need to talk to the Foreign Ministers to see how this new development affects the current proceedings and where we go from here."

The United Nations Security Coordinator, Benon Sevan, has directed all United States and United Kingdom personnel serving with the United Nations in Iraq to leave the country.

UN spokesman, Fred Eckhard said on Wednesday that the decision follows an Iraqi aide-memoire of 4 January, saying that Iraq was unable to guarantee the security of American and British nationals serving with the UN in the country. The UN Office of Legal Affairs replied the next day reminding Iraq of its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of all UN personnel in the country.

Although Iraq had not responded in writing, Mr. Eckhard said, during meetings in Baghdad and New York there had been numerous verbal requests for US and UK nationals to leave. It was clear the Iraqi Government was not going to reverse its decision, but it did advise the UN that three Americans could remain in Baghdad.

Finding such selective application of security considerations unacceptable, Mr. Sevan recommended to the Secretary-General that all US and UK nationals should leave the country as a matter of principle. The Secretary-General accepted that recommendation, Mr. Eckhard said, noting that currently there were two US and no UK nationals in Iraq.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday appealed for $21 million to help more than one million people suffering from the effects of food shortages and poor water supply in Iraq, including 200,000 acutely malnourished children.

WFP's relief operation specifically targets children under five years of age who have been diagnosed for acute malnutrition and show problems related to poor nutrition such as stunting, wasting and infections. "These children have not had proper drinking water or sanitation since they were born," said Jean-Jacques Graisse, WFP's Assistant Executive Director.

In the year-long operation which runs through 31 January 2000, WFP will distribute a highly nutritional blend of wheat, soya and milk to a group of 50,000 children. The food will be supplemented by oil and sugar rations to give the children the caloric boost they need to recover. A total of four groups will participate with each group receiving the feeding for a period of three months after which another group will participate in the operation.

Meanwhile, 800,000 relatives of these malnourished children will also receive the blended food mix in a strategy to encourage participation in the programme and to benefit the children's mothers. These families will be given additional rations of vegetable oil, sugar and high-protein legumes as an incentive to take their children to a centre for medical monitoring and follow-up over the three months.

The UN's Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, on Wednesday painted a grim picture of humanitarian conditions in Angola and the Congo.

Speaking at a UN press conference about his recent two-week mission to three African countries, Mr. Griffiths said 1.5 million displaced people needed assistance in Angola and the situation in the Congo was "abysmal".

He noted, however, some progress on the humanitarian front in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. After discussions with the Government in Kinshasa and the rebel leadership in Goma, the UN was in a position to move assistance into rebel areas. There were nearly 200,000 refugees and possibly 500,000 displaced persons throughout the country, he added.

Mr. Griffiths described the Congo as a "forgotten emergency" that had received almost no press attention. In the capital, Brazzaville, residents had deserted two major districts, which had been completely looted. About 50,000 displaced persons in makeshift sites were receiving minimal assistance, but humanitarian agencies had lost track of roughly 120,000 others who had fled when fighting broke out.

In Angola, Mr. Griffiths said that though there was talk of the Organization pulling out, humanitarian agencies would stay although their task would be more difficult. Currently, 170 local and 92 international non- governmental organizations as well as UN agencies were operating in the country. However, there was no access to areas under the control of the Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) and, even in Government- controlled areas, access was limited and mainly by air to urban centres.

Hunger would become more severe and widespread in southern Somalia unless large quantities of seeds and tools are quickly supplied to destitute households, in addition to food aid, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Wednesday.

WFP's Country Director for Somalia, Burk Oberle, said that like most complex emergencies, there was no single solution to the crisis in Somalia. "The deadly combination of war, drought and an economy in shambles means that food aid is only one component of an overall humanitarian response," the WFP official added.

A recent report by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) attached to WFP's office in Somalia indicates that household and market seed supplies are at an all-time low due to multiple failed harvests.

The UN food agency said that there were many elements beyond its control which could cause this harvest to fail, such as poor rains and insecurity in farming areas. "What agencies can do to ward off greater food aid needs down the road it to make sure they quickly distribute sufficient stocks of seeds, tools and other items," said Oberle.

In November, WFP warned that more than 700,000 southern Somalis would face severe food shortages this year, of whom more than 300,000 were at greatest risk. Now there is concern that the country's largest cereal harvest, the Gu, which Somalis begin to plant in April for harvest in July is headed for failure unless adequate amounts of seeds and tools are provided in the weeks ahead.

The United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Mary Robinson, has appealed to authorities in the United States and the state of Oklahoma to stop the execution of Sean Sellers.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Ms. Robinson said Sean Sellers was sentenced to death in 1986 for a crime he had committed when he was 16 years old and suffering from various mental disorders. His execution, she said, would run counter to established international principles and to the international community's expressed desire for the abolition of the death penalty.

Ms. Robinson said she acknowledged the seriousness of Mr. Sellers' crimes and felt the deepest sympathy for the victims and their family.But, she said, she must reiterate her views on the death penalty, which were reflected in the opening declaration of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: "...abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and progressive development of human rights".

The killing of one or more individuals could not be used to justify the killing of another, the High Commissioner said.

A new report of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) says that many small- scale wildfires over the past two years have quickly escalated into large- scale uncontrolled disasters with enormous consequences to the environment and human life.

One of the most important findings of the Wildland Fires and the Environment: a Global Synthesis is that the emissions of gases and particulates from the 1997 fires in Kalimantan and Sumatra in Indonesia significantly exceeded the emissions from the Kuwaiti oil fires of 1991.

The report provides an overview of the causes, impacts and some potential means for the international response to widespread forest and other wildfires. It also gives decision-makers and the general public information on the environmental and health risks posed by the fires and the technology available to control them. Most of the fires analyzed were set by local populations for land clearing while many others were a consequence of extreme drought conditions related to the 1997 El Nino phenomenon.

Fire produces, among other things, carbon dioxide and methane which are greenhouse gases that lead to global warming and other gases which are chemically active and cause the photochemical production of ground- level ozone which is an irritant and pollutant and has a negative impact on all living systems.

Within the UN system, UNEP was asked to coordinate the international community's response to the forest fires emergency starting in Indonesia and then Brazil and Central America. Working very closely with the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN environment agency secured money for equipment, training and awareness raising from many major donor countries and the Global Environment Facility.

Economic and trade experts from around the world met in Geneva on Wednesday to identify a strategy to help developing countries better manage their integration into the global economy.

The three-day meeting will examine how developing countries can maximize the benefits globalization -- and minimize risks such as the Asian financial crisis. It will focus on the impact of direct foreign investment, short-term capital flows and trade liberalization and their affects on sustainable economic growth and development.

The event follows the launch of the $4 million Programme on Globalization, Liberalization and Sustainable Development by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Activities under the programme will soon begin in 10 countries, starting with Guatemala and Zimbabwe.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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