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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-04

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Thursday, 4 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.


  • Members of Security Council, Secretary-General call on parties in Guinea- Bissau to stop fighting.
  • Security Council members support urgent diplomatic efforts to reverse worsening situation in Angola.
  • World Food Programme launches massive aid operation for earthquake victims in Colombia.
  • UN food agency warns of dire food shortages for civilians trapped in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
  • Secretary-General says extra effort needed to end Africa's wars and unleash its potential.
  • Senegal becomes first State to ratify Rome statute of International Criminal Court.
  • Laws to promote women's equality not always translated into everyday life, says top UN official.
  • Millions of couples in developing world still lack access to reproductive health services, says World Bank.

Members of the Security Council on Thursday called on the warring parties to stop fighting in Guinea-Bissau.

In a press statement of the President of the Security Council on Guinea- Bissau, Council members expressed concern over the sporadic renewal of fighting in the country. They called on all parties to halt military operations, respect international humanitarian law and facilitate the free flow of humanitarian assistance to the affected populations.

The members of the Council, who had been briefed on the situation in Guinea- Bissau by Kieran Prendergast, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, urged the parties to renew their commitment to the Abuja Agreement of November 1, 1998, "both in letter and spirit," and to respect the new ceasefire accord signed yesterday.

The statement said that there was also wide support in the Council for all of the international efforts to help bring peace to Guinea- Bissau, especially by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Council members specifically noted the efforts of the President of Togo, in his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS, and urged those who could to assist ECOWAS in these efforts.

The situation in Guinea-Bissau also drew a response from UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan who said he was "dismayed" at the resumption of fighting between government forces and forces of the self-proclaimed military junta. In a statement issued on Thursday by his Spokesman, the Secretary-General said that the fighting had already resulted in the loss of a high number of innocent lives and a new exodus of the civilians population from Bissau. He too called on the parties to stop fighting, abide by the Abuja agreement, and respect the new ceasefire accord they had signed.

Concerned about the deteriorating military, political, security and humanitarian situation in Angola, members of the Security Council on Thursday expressed their support for renewed and urgent diplomatic efforts to reverse this situation.

In a press statement issued by the President of the Security Council following a briefing on Angola by two high-ranking officials of the United Nations, Council members expressed concern over the numerous examples of the worsening situation described by the United Nations officials.

The members of the Council expressed their condolences to the Government of Namibia on the killing of a member of the Namibian contingent of the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA). They also voiced concern over the safety of United Nations personnel in the country.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) on Thursday announced the launch of a major emergency operation to assist the victims of a powerful earthquake which struck near the western city of Armenia in Colombia on 25 January 1999.

WFP said that the aid from the $2.98 million operation would dramatically widen its current food distribution programme to reach the most vulnerable victims of the disaster, such as pregnant women and nursing mothers. The UN food agency added that the food rations were tailored to local eating habits and comprised cereals such as rice or maize, raw sugar cane, vegetable oil, canned fish and beans, and high- protein biscuits accompanied by a glass of milk for the children.

The emergency operation included a rehabilitation component based on "food- for-work" strategies employed by WFP in successful recovery operations around the world. These activities would be directed at clearing away rubble and rebuilding homes and rural infrastructure.

"The devastation to the lives of the people is terrible," said WFP's Country Director in Colombia, Guillermina Segura, who visited the stricken area on 27 and 28 January. The UN agency's official added that thousands of the victims were living in makeshift homes, totally dependent on external assistance to survive.

The earthquake, which registered 6.0 on the Richter scale (9.0 is the highest recorded so far), killed 922 people, injured 4,000 and caused $500 million in damages, according to official records. It was Colombia's worst earthquake in the last 16 years.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday that as continued fighting impelled shopkeepers and food importers to flee Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, the city's population would potentially face grave food shortages in just two to three months.

WFP Country Representative for Sierra Leone, Patrick Buckley, who had returned from a one-day mission to Freetown earlier this week, said that if commercial food was not replenished, there could be a full-blown food crisis in the city. He said many businesses had been severely hit by the fighting and subsequent looting and that many food retailers might never return to the city even when the situation stabilized.

In an immediate response to the problems, WFP, in partnership with World Vision International, began distributing food to 110,000 people ten days ago. Fighting had displaced almost all of these people their homes throughout Sierra Leone.

Meanwhile, WFP said that it was coordinating the food aid component of an overall humanitarian contingency plan prepared by all the UN agencies and non-governmental organizations working in Sierra Leone. The UN food agency said that it would supply food to the most vulnerable, the maimed and mutilated, and those who lost all their possessions in the fighting. WFP estimated that existing stocks could feed these people for two to three months.

For too long, conflict in Africa had been seen as inevitable or intractable or both when it was neither, Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the Associated Black Charities in New York on Wednesday night.

In an address upon receiving the 1999 Black History Makers Award, the Secretary-General said he had made peace and progress in Africa a priority of his tenure.

Conflict in Africa, as everywhere, was caused by human action, and could be ended by human action, he said. "This is the reality that shames us for every conflict we allow to persist. It is the reality that must make us go the extra mile to end Africa's wars, so the rich potential of its peoples can be unleashed."

The 1999 Black History Makers Award was shared by Jackie Joyner- Kersee and Gordon Parks. Past winners include Justice Thurgood Marshall, Jessye Norman, Arthur Ashe and General Colin Powell.

Senegal has become the first State to ratify the Statute establishing a permanent International Criminal Court, according to the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs (OLA). OLA announced that the West African nation had lodged the instrument of ratification with the Secretariat on 2 February, two weeks before a Preparatory Commission meeting at UN Headquarters in New York to discuss the operation of the court once the Statute comes into force. The Statute will come into force when 60 States have ratified it. So far it has been signed by 74 countries.

The Statute, which was adopted by the United Nations Diplomatic Conference held in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998, provides for the trial of individuals accused of such crimes of global concern as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The Conference also adopted a resolution establishing the Preparatory Commission.

At its upcoming inaugural meeting, the Preparatory Commission will take up such issues as the elements of crimes and the rules of procedure and evidence. The Commission also has the task of preparing proposals for a provision on aggression, including the definition and the elements of the crime of aggression and the conditions under which the International Criminal Court shall exercise its jurisdiction with regard to this crime. Participation in the Preparatory Commission is open to all States. Non- governmental organizations may also participate in the plenary and other open meetings of the Commission.

Despite tremendous strides, there was often a great gap between national laws to promote women's equality and the reality of their daily lives, according to Angela King, the Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.

At a UN press conference on Thursday about the work of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Ms. King said good legislation was often not translated in ways that changed the real situation affecting women in areas such as employment.

The Committee, which monitors compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, will wrap up its current session on Friday after hearing reports by Algeria, China, Colombia, Greece, Kyrgystan, Liechtenstein and Thailand.

Ms. King said the Convention was having a great impact and was being increasingly used to change national laws and the lives of ordinary women. For example, a woman in Botswana had won the right for a child to inherit property from its mother. However, stereotypical attitudes still impeded women and people still had not fully agreed that women's rights were human rights, Ms. King added.

Governments could no longer afford not to invest in population and reproductive health programmes -- the most cost-effective public health initiatives developing countries could undertake, the World Bank said on Thursday.

In a statement on the eve of a meeting in the Hague to review progress since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, the World Bank said such investments were inexorably linked to economic growth.

However, population growth remained a persistent problem, according to the Bank. More than a 120 million poor couples -- mainly in sub- Saharan Africa and in several countries in Asia and the Middle East -- were still denied access to good reproductive health services and counselling.

Despite strides by many countries, high child and maternal death rates, unwanted pregnancies, and malnutrition, were far too common in the developing world, where one in 48 women died from pregnancy-related causes each year, compared to one in 4,000 in developed countries, said the Bank.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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