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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-02-19

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Friday, 19 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.


  • Secretary-General recommends six-month extension of UN force in former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
  • Kurdish protestors continue to demonstrate at UN offices around the world.
  • UN refugee agency reports small signs of normalization in Kosovo.
  • UN reforms continue to gain momentum: Deputy Secretary- General.
  • UN food agency approves $270 million to feed the hungry in the Great Lakes region of Africa.
  • Head of UN drug control agency announces funding commitments to help fight illicit drugs.
  • UN epidemiologists fly to remote Afghanistan region to probe mysterious disease affecting thousands.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended an extension of the mandate of the UN Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for another six months until 31 August.

UNPREDEP troops monitor strategic locations and sensitive points along the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's borders with Albania and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The peacekeeping mission is also involved in a wide range of programmes to promote good governance, the rule of law and social stability.

In a report to the Security Council, the Secretary-General says that the potentially serious repercussions of the violence in Kosovo on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's external and internal security cannot be ignored, given the large proportion of ethnic Albanians in the country.

The Secretary-General notes that UNPREDEP has helped prevent spillover of conflicts in the region and defuse potential tensions. It also had a stabilizing effect by helping to promote dialogue among various political forces and ethnic communities in the country.

Citing arguments by the Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia for the mandate extension, the report notes that there is concern at increased tensions on the Albanian-Yugoslav border, the unstable situation in Albania and the lack of progress in the demarcation of the country's border with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

The UN mission has 1,050 troops, 35 military observers and 26 civilian police, supported by 203 local and international civilian staff.

Kurdish demonstrations in support of Abdullah Ocalan continued to have an impact on United Nations offices around the world on Friday, according to a UN spokesman.

Spokesman Fred Eckhard said New York City had authorized a demonstration by Kurds outside the UN Headquarters building. Earlier in the day, about 20 Kurds had forced their way into an office of the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) in Stockholm and were continuing a peaceful occupation of part of the premises.

Also on Friday, a group of 37 demonstrators entered the Paris headquarters of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said Mr. Eckhard. They left quietly after meeting with UNESCO's Deputy Secretary-General of External Relations and making their demands known. Outside the building there was a 400-strong protest.

Meanwhile, the Kurdish demonstration outside the UN office in Armenia has entered its fourth day, said Mr. Eckhard. The protestors include a group of 18 hunger-strikers, who are being visited for checkups every three hours by health officials. So far, the hunger-strikers have refused medical help.

In Geneva, the spokesman for Mary Robinson, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, announced that she backed a recent statement by UN Special Rapporteur's on the rights of Abdullah Ocalan.

The Special Rapporteur on torture, Sir Nigel Rodley, on Tuesday called on the Turkish Government to ensure that Mr. ™calan was granted immediate access to legal counsel and that an independent monitoring system be put in place.

In a related development, the UN Deputy-High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bertie Ramcharan, met with the Permanent Representative of Turkey in Geneva and requested additional information on the conditions of Mr. Ocalan's arrest and detention, as well as any other information relevant to that case.

As the clock ticks towards Saturday's noon deadline in the Rambouillet talks, there are small signs of normalization in Kosovo amid the general atmosphere of suspense and anxiety, says the UN High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR).

In one example cited by the agency, a commercial bus company has begun a twice-daily service between Pec and Giodjane, a distance of 25 kilometres, covering 14 villages. The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) is keeping a close watch on the service. Staff from the Mission were on the bus, when the service started on Monday.

The UNHCR has urged local authorities to reopen bus lines from major towns and let KVM staff monitor the buses to see passengers are not harassed.

According to UNHCR, heavy snowfalls have created difficulties for humanitarian aid deliveries but agencies continue to operate three convoys a day. Agencies have also begun considering possible scenarios for the post- Rambouillet period in Kosovo.

From enhancement of system-wide coordination to institution of advanced management practices, the UN reform process is continuing to gain momentum, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louis Frechette said on Friday.

Ms. Frechette was speaking at a UN press conference about progress in implementing a series of wide-ranging reforms proposed by Secretary- General Kofi Annan in 1997. Ms. Frechette said that for the first time in 50 years basic and simple mechanisms were in place to make everyone feel part of the same team.

Ms. Frechette said as Deputy Secretary-General -- a post which was created as part of the reform proposals -- she was very much involved in day-to-day management and coordination, particularly in the area of economic and social development in the UN.

Other structural changes, such as the creation of the Department of Disarmament and the rationalization in the economic areas, had proved very useful, said Ms. Frechette. The Advisory Committee on Coordination, which involves UN funds and programmes, the specialized agencies and the Bretton Woods institutions, was much more active as it engaged the leaders in discussions on policy issues of fundamental importance across the system, she noted.

The Deputy Secretary-General stressed that the United Nations had also embarked on a multi-year reorganization of its human resources management system to meet current and future challenges and ensure satisfactory career opportunities for UN staff.

The World Food Programme today announced a $270 million emergency food aid programme for the volatile Great Lakes region in Africa. The two-year operation will be one of WFP's largest in the world, and the second largest in Africa, after the massive food distribution programme that it ran in the Sudan.

The operation, which starts in August 1999, will provide a total of 422,000 metric tons of food aid to a monthly average of 1.25 million war- affected persons in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda.

"The ongoing problems in this region continue to shatter the lives of thousands of people everyday," said Allen Jones, the UN agency's Regional Manager for the Great Lakes. "Insecurity is driving many families from their homes, devastating the region's agricultural productivity and leaving large groups of people dependent on food aid for their survival."

The major beneficiaries of WFP's aid programme will be some 770,000 refugees and displaced persons based in Burundi, Rwanda and Tanzania. Assistance will also be provided to 280,000 former refugees and displaced persons that have returned to their home areas, but are not yet fully self- sufficient. Another 200,000 persons will receive food assistance, since new population displacements in the region are constantly creating additional needs.

Countries have committed $270 million to fund a Peruvian plan to eliminate illicit coca cultivation in 10 years, the head of the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) said on Friday.

UNDCP Executive Director, Pino Arlacchi, was speaking at a press conference at UN headquarters about progress since last June's special session of the General Assembly on the world drug problem. He said another important follow-up to the session was an agreement between UNDCP and the European Space Agency to have satellite monitoring of illicit crops around the world. This would provide the UNDCP with important data about opium, coca and cannabis cultivation in most countries affected. The UN and the countries observed would co-own the data.

Mr. Arlacchi said UNDCP had also elaborated a global project on demand reduction help Member States fulfill their commitments to substantially reduce demand for narcotics within 10 years. The project would be discussed at a donor conference next month in Vienna. Another UNDCP initiative was a business plan for Latin American countries to help them eliminate illicit coca cultivation.

The UN World Health Organization (WHO) is sending two epidemiologists to remote region of northeastern Afghanistan where a mystery disease has reportedly affected 2,000 people and killed 150 others.

The epidemiologists will travel to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Saturday and then take a helicopter into four affected villages in Darwaz, an extremely remote area located in narrow valleys between high mountains. Normal access is by foot from Faizabad in Pakistan, a trip which usually takes about 10 days.

WHO offices in Afghanistan first received reports of the mystery outbreak from Darwaz authorities a week ago. Symptoms of the disease which has the most serious affects no the elderly women and children, include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, cough and pain.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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