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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-08-12
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY FARHAN HAQ
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
FIRST U.N. HUMANITARIAN FLIGHT REACHES GEORGIA FOLLOWING ERUPTION OF VIOLENCE
Catherine Bragg, the UNs Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator and Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, says she is
deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the thousands of civilians that have been caught up in the present conflict. In light of the recent announcement of a cessation of hostilities, she reiterates the call to all parties to the conflict to take appropriate steps to protect the civilian population, in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.
Bragg also calls for concrete steps from parties to the conflict to facilitate immediate access for international aid agencies to areas that have been out of contact since the start of the hostilities. In that regard, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes that, because of security reasons, no UN agency has yet been able to carry out an assessment mission or aid operations in South Ossetia. UN agencies have, however, been able to get access to Gori, in central Georgia.
For its part, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
says its first humanitarian flight arrived in Georgias capital, Tbilisi, this morning, with relief supplies, as the estimated number of people uprooted by the fighting approached 100,000. The flight was carrying 34 tons of tents, jerry cans, blankets and kitchen sets. This was the first UN humanitarian flight to reach Georgia since the fighting in South Ossetia erupted on Friday.
Meanwhile, the UNs Resident Coordinator in the Russian Federation notes that the UN agencies in that country are in touch with the Russian Federal Government and local authorities in North Ossetia, into which thousands of people have fled from South Ossetia. UN agencies present in the area confirm that the Russian authorities are providing adequate assistance to those in distress. In addition, the UN Resident Coordinator has notified the Russian authorities that the UN stands ready to provide humanitarian aid should they request it.
And yesterday afternoon, the
Security Council held consultations and a private debate on the situation in Georgia. Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe and Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed during the closed meeting in the formal chamber.
Asked whether the Secretary-General had called any Russian or Georgian officials, the Spokesman said that the Secretary-General was trying today to arrange a call with the Russian President. His most recent call on Georgia, Haq noted, was with the Foreign Minister of Finland, in its role dealing with Georgia in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), on Monday night.
Asked whether the United Nations could determine whether the announced ceasefire was holding on the ground, the Spokesman said that the United Nations was monitoring the situation but had no definitive conclusion yet about the ceasefire.
Asked about an international presence in Georgia, Haq said that matter would be in the hands of the Security Council.
He noted, in response to questions, that Council members had received the draft text of a resolution, circulated by France, concerning the situation in South Ossetia, and that they were discussing that text at the expert level. He added that no Council meeting had been scheduled so far for Tuesday, although that could change.
SECRETARY-GENERAL CONCERNED BY UNFOLDING CRISIS IN PHILIPPINES
The Secretary-General is concerned about the unfolding humanitarian crisis as a result of fighting in central Mindanao, an area which has already been affected by conflict for several decades. Nearly 130,000 civilians have reportedly been displaced in the past days, and many of them are at risk of losing their lives and livelihoods.
The Secretary-General appeals for restraint, protection of all civilians as well as access for the provision of speedy humanitarian assistance to the affected population. The United Nations stands ready to support the efforts of the Government of the Philippines in addressing the needs of the affected population.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that it will begin providing food aid to communities in the southern Philippines, where ongoing clashes between Muslim rebels and government troops have forced about 130,000 people to flee their homes.
WFP will provide an initial 400 metric tonnes of rice to assist 96,000 people for at least one month in the conflict-affected communities in North Cotabato, including in Mindanao, which has witnessed continued fighting between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and government troops.
WFP understands that the situation remains fluid, and it says that it will continue to work closely with all concerned to further assess the total number of affected persons and adjust its response accordingly.
BAN KI-MOON TROUBLED BY EVIDENCE AGAINST U.N. PEACEKEEPERS
The Secretary-General is deeply troubled by the outcome of an investigation by the Office of the Internal Oversight Services, which has revealed prima facie evidence that members of one of the peacekeeping units of the Indian contingent previously assigned to the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) may have engaged in sexual exploitation and abuse. He reiterates, in the strongest possible terms, that such behaviour, if substantiated, is wholly unacceptable and that disciplinary action to the maximum degree permitted by Indian law should be taken as soon as possible against those found to be involved in such misconduct.
The Government of India has assured the UN that the allegations will be promptly and thoroughly investigated and, if proven, strict and exemplary action would be taken as per the law.
The Secretary-General highly values Indias long-standing and valuable support for United Nations peacekeeping. He expresses his respect for all those peacekeepers from India and other troop contributing countries who serve with honour and commitment, and stresses that the misconduct of a few should not diminish the enormous contribution and sacrifice of the large number of blue helmets who serve the cause of peace.
WEST AFRICA REPRESENTATIVE CALLS FOR RETURN TO CONSTITUTIONAL RULE IN MAURITANIA
The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for
West Africa, Said Djinnit, returned to Dakar yesterday following a three-day visit to Mauritania in which he met with the military junta leadership and urged an immediate return to constitutional rule.
During a meeting with military junta leader Gen. Abdelaziz, who now heads the High State Council, Djinnit expressed his regret that the 6 August coup had been perpetrated, and he emphasized its unanimous condemnation by the international community. He called for the return to constitutional rule and also called on authorities to respect international obligations, including on human rights. He appealed to the General to release President Ould Cheikh Abdallahi, who remains under arrest, as well as several other detained persons, who have subsequently been released.
Djinnit held a series of consultations with members of the Mauritanian Government, and various political parties, as well as representatives of civil society and labor unions. He also held consultations with visiting officials of the African Union and the League of Arab League States, who were also in Mauritania.
MORE EGYPTIAN TROOPS ARRIVE IN DARFUR TO BEEF UP PEACEKEEPING FORCE
The UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says that 129 Egyptian engineering personnel arrived today at El Fasher airport. Their arrival has completed the full deployment of the Egyptian Engineering Company, which consists of 335 personnel in all; the next major deployment is of the Ethiopian battalion, which is expected to take place over the weekend.
Now that it is at full strength, the Egyptian Company is capable of efficient performance under extremely tough conditions. With more self-sustaining troops deploying, it is hoped the UNAMID will soon reach the capacity it needs to meet its mandate and live up to the expectations of the people of Darfur and the international community.
Meanwhile, on the humanitarian front, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that life-saving activities continue to be delivered in all accessible areas of Darfur. However, armed conflicts, including aerial bombings by the Government, have been reported in all three Darfurs, and targeted attacks against aid workers and restrictions by the Sudanese Government are restricting the humanitarian response.
In July, targeted attacks against humanitarian groups and their assets reached alarming levels, with one NGO guard being killed, six humanitarian workers wounded and 21 humanitarian vehicles hijacked or stolen. Armed men broke into 33 humanitarian premises during that month.
CHAD: CONDITIONS FOR CHILDREN WORSEN AMID CONTINUED ARMED CONFLICT
In his latest
report on children and armed conflict in Chad, the Secretary-General blames continued and worsening instability in the central African region for a sharp deterioration in conditions for children. All warring parties continue to recruit and use children in Chad, a country where only 10 percent of all births are recorded. Meanwhile, girls remain victims of rape and other sexual violence. The situation is noticeably worse for girls employed as household aides outside of camps for the internally displaced.
In conclusion, the Secretary-General urges all parties to the conflict in Chad to comply without delay with relevant Security Council resolutions and to halt grave child rights abuses. He also appeals to the Government of Chad to fully cooperate with the UN Task Force on children and armed conflict. He advises the government to criminalize the recruitment and use of children under domestic laws and prosecute those responsible of such practices.
ENVOY TO HOLD SEPARATE TALKS WITH GREECE AND FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA TOMORROW
The Secretary-Generals Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Matthew Nimetz, will hold separate meetings tomorrow, Wednesday, in New York with representatives of both sides.
The meeting with the FYROM side will take place in the morning. The delegation will include Martin Protoger, the Prime Ministers Chief of Staff, and Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov, FYROMs principal negotiator for the name issue.
The meeting with the Greek side will take place during the afternoon and include Greeces main negotiator, Ambassador Adamantios Vassilakis.
AFRICAS HUNGER HOTSPOTS TO RECEIVE LIFE-SAVING FOOD RATIONS
The World Food Programme (WFP) today
announced a 214-million dollar package aimed at 16 hunger hotspots in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The funds will be used to provide life-saving food rations to the most vulnerable, including pregnant women and children. Food aid will also be scaled up in urban areas hardest-hit by high food prices, including through the use of cash and vouchers.
Food prices are not abating, and the worlds most vulnerable have exhausted their coping strategies, says WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran. She notes that families spending more than 60 per cent of their income on food are eating less, buying less nutritious foods, cutting out education and healthcare, and taking on more debt.
More than half of the funds in this new initiative are targeted for the Horn of Africa, where drought, insecurity and high prices have created an especially urgent situation.
BAN KI-MOON EXHORTS YOUTH TO JOIN SEARCH FOR RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE
Today is International Youth Day, and the theme for this years Youth Day is Youth and climate change: time for action. In a
message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says that todays young people will bear the consequences of climate change, thanks to the unfortunate legacy of their elders.
Yet young people, he says, are also well placed to contribute to the fight even now. They are adept at spreading new habits and technologies. They are adaptable and can quickly make low-carbon lifestyles and career choices a part of their daily lives.
Youth should therefore be given a chance to take an active part in the decision-making of local, national and global levels, he contends.
HIGHLY DANGEROUS BIRD FLU STRAIN DETECTED IN NIGERIA
A strain of avian influenza thats considered highly pathogenic was recently detected in Nigeria,
according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO says that this avian flu strain had previously not been recorded in sub-Saharan Africa. It is genetically more similar to strains identified last year in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. So far, the outbreak is limited to the Nigerian states of Katsina and Kano, in the northern part of the country.
FAO believes the new strain could have been carried to West Africa through international trade or illegal and unreported movement of poultry. The agency excludes migratory birds as possible carriers as the birds last trip was in September and this years southerly migration has not yet begun.
POSTAL UNION WRAPS UP UNIVERSAL CONGRESS
The Universal Postal Union (UPU) is wrapping up its twenty-fourth Universal Postal Congress today, after three weeks of discussions.
Among other decisions, the Congress re-elected, by acclamation, Frances Edouard Dayan and Chinas Guozhong Huang, respectively, to the positions of Director General and Deputy Director General of the UPUs International Bureau, for the period 2009 to 2012.
Kenya will take the Chairmanship of the Council of Administration, and Greece has been elected Chair of the Postal Operations Council.
The next Universal Postal Congress will be held in 2012 in Doha, Qatar.
ENVOY TO RAISE CASE OF POLITICAL DETAINEES DURING NEXT TRIP: Asked about the reported arrest of two opposition activists in Myanmar, the Spokesman noted that Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari had called for the release of political detainees during his previous visits to Myanmar and would be expected to take up that issue again when he visits the country in the coming weeks.
U.N. COMMITTED TO IMPROVING ACCESS TO SECRETARIAT BUILDING FOR THE DISABLED: Asked about complaints that new doors installed at UN Headquarters impede access for people with disabilities, the Spokesman said that the United Nations was aware of those concerns. He stressed that the doors had been installed as an urgent measure to improve fire safety at Headquarters, as part of a continuing dialogue between the UN Secretariat and the City of New York to improve the buildings safety standards.
UNITED NATIONS REFORM CONTINUES: Asked about comments made in the media by former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali concerning the need for UN reform, the Spokesman noted that reform efforts continue at the United Nations.
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