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United Nations Daily Highlights, 99-03-01
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 1 March, 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.
With the ringing of the peace bell at UN Headquarters in New York and similar ceremonies around the world, the international community marked on Monday the entry into force of the Ottawa Treaty to ban the use of anti- personnel mines.
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction adopted on 18 September 1997 has received 133 signatures and 66 ratifications.
At the ceremony at UN Headquarters, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the entry into force of the convention was a result of the effort of the UN, governments, non-governmental organizations, individuals, and grassroots organizations. He stressed that the event symbolized the international community's determination not to let anti-personnel mines lie in wait "to maim and kill innocent women and children long after the conflicts have ended."
Heads of UN agencies added their voices to welcoming the entry into force of the convention. The Executive Director of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), Carol Bellamy, said that a "giant step has been taken, which shows that the world is more and more reluctant to use these hidden killers." Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, the head of the UN World Health Organization said that the process to ban anti-personnel landmines must be an example "to make a difference in people's lives." UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Sadako Ogata said that eliminating the threat of land mines was vital to her agency's work. She vowed to work with other UN agencies, governments and organizations to "wipe the scourge of land mines off the face of the earth."
The Security Council has welcomed the acceptance by Eritrea of a regional agreement to resolve the border dispute which had led to an armed confrontation between that country and Ethiopia.
In a presidential statement on Saturday, which recalled prior acceptance of the agreement by Ethiopia, the Council once again called on Ethiopia and Eritrea to refrain from armed conflict and to accept and implement the Framework Agreement. The agreement was approved by the Central Organ Summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution on 17 December 1998. The Council said that the agreement remained a viable and sound basis for a peaceful resolution to the conflict. It demanded an immediate halt to all hostilities and called on the parties to refrain from the further use of force.
Reaffirming the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ethiopia and Eritrea, the Security Council expressed its willingness to consider all appropriate support to implement a peace agreement between the two parties.
The Council expressed its continuing support for the efforts of the OAU, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and his Special Envoy, Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun, as well as concerned Member States, to find a peaceful resolution to the border dispute.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday called for wide dissemination of the findings and recommendations of a commission that looked into human rights violations and other acts of violence during the 36-year internal conflict in Guatemala.
Secretary-General's comments came after he met today with two members of the Guatemalan Historical Clarification Commission, which had unveiled its report last Thursday. According to Secretary-General's spokesman, the UN leader felt that the Commission's report would help to further lasting peace and national reconciliation in Guatemala based on truth about the conflict, justice for the worst crimes and reparation to the victims.
Speaking at a news conference after the meeting with the Secretary- General, one of the members of the Commission, Professor Christian Tomuschat, said the atrocious nature of some massacres and the particular brutality directed against women and babies could only be explained by an intent to exterminate an ethnic group. The systematic way in which entire villages were wiped out led to the finding that genocide had been committed during the Guatemalan conflict, he added.
The Commission's findings were based mainly on the testimony of victims, including some 9,000 witnesses, Professor Tomuschat said. The Government and the army provided little information, although they had not blocked the Commission's work.
Professor Tomuschat said the Commission did not claim the US bore direct responsibility for any act of genocide. However, he noted that while the American Government knew what was going on in the Guatemala countryside, it raised no objection and continued its support for the army.
Commissioner Otilia Lux Citi said the truth would allow people to realize "what point we reached in Guatemala". The report's recital of pain and suffering would help the country to examine what happened, find ways to work together and the best strategies to reconcile people.
The Commission on the Status of Women opened its forty-third session in New York today with women's health and institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women expected to be the main focus for discussions from 1 to 12 March.
In an opening statement, Patricia Flor of Germany, the Chairperson of the 45-member Commission, said that women's health, which presented a challenge on several counts, was an essential prerequisite for women's rights. She questioned how a woman could overcome poverty, start a professional career, or achieve her full potential if she was denied a healthy life.
Angela King, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, said that the new millennium presented the Commission with a challenge to envision and create a world community based on equality of women and men. The most compelling issue emerging from the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women in September 1995, was whether the world would be able to challenge successfully old paradigms and institutions perpetuating gender discrimination, and to make gender equality a reality.
The Executive Director of United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Noeleen Heyzer, said that ending violence against women and girls remained the greatest challenge facing humanity on the eve of the twenty- first century. Violence against women devastated lives, fractured communities, and was a barrier to development in every nation, she pointed out.
The Commission also heard statements from representatives of regional groups at the United Nations. The Commission, which is a subsidiary body of the Economic and Social Council, is also scheduled to meet from 15 to 19 March as the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century." The special session from 5 to 9 June 2000 will review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action to empower women.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Monday that he attached the "highest" importance to Nigeria's return to civilian rule and hoped that the presidential elections held on Saturday would be a major contribution to the country's transition to democracy.
A statement issued by his spokesman said that the Secretary-General had been informed of the provisional results of the elections as published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). According to the results, Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo received a majority of the votes cast.
Spokesman Fred Eckhard noted that the UN had been providing technical assistance to the INEC throughout the electoral process and coordinated and supported international observers who had not yet reported on their observations.
He said that the Secretary-General had closely followed the ongoing process of democratization in Nigeria, particularly following Mr. Annan's visit to Abuja last year.
There has been "a certain shrinking" in the freedom of United Nations humanitarian operations in Iraq to move goods and people, according to Hans Von Sponeck, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the country.
Speaking at a UN press conference on Monday about the impact of airstrikes in the no-fly zone over Iraq, Mr. Von Sponeck said UN operations would have to be rethought if the frequency of the airstrikes and the civilian damages continued to increase.
The Humanitarian Coordinator said he had taken several measures in response to the deteriorating security situation, but he did not think he would pull humanitarian staff out of Iraq. Even during the critical period from mid- November to mid-December 1998, people were pulled out only as last resort. A balance had to be struck between staff security and assurances that observation and humanitarian activities for the Iraqi people would continue, Mr. Von Sponeck said.
Mr. Von Sponeck is in New York to brief a Security Council panel set up to review humanitarian issues in Iraq. He said he was giving the panel a very broad overview of how the humanitarian programme was influenced by the increasingly volatile security situation in the country. Mr. Von Sponeck said the Secretary-General's own assessment of the humanitarian situation in Iraq would review how well the oil-for-food programme was doing with increasingly precarious resources.
Two United Nations peacekeeping missions, one in Europe and another in Africa, ended their operations within the last week.
The mandate of the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia known as (UNPREDEP), the first UN operation of its kind, began closing down at midnight Sunday. Last week, China used its veto in the Security Council to prevent an extension of UNPREDEP's mandate.
On Friday, the Security Council endorsed the technical liquidation of the United Nations Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA).
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