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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-09-18

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MARIE OKABE

DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON

FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, September 18, 2008

SECRETARY GENERAL APPOINTS TWO NEW SPECIAL ENVOYS ON CLIMATE CHANGE

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed two new Special Envoys on Climate Change: H.E. Mr. Festus Mogae, former President of Botswana, and H.E. Mr. Srgjan Kerim, former President of UN General Assembly (62nd Session) and former Foreign Minister of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Climate change is one of the Secretary-Generals top priorities. He is determined to stay pro-actively engaged in this global process and continuously urge the international community to intensify its efforts.

Mr. Mogae, as the third President of Botswana, provided exemplary service to his country. Serving as Minister of Finance and Development Planning and then as Vice-President during 1989-1998, Mr. Mogae played a critical role in shaping Botswanas economy and development planning, including environmental programme. He has vast experience in development and international finance issues due to his working experience in the banking system of Botswana as well as within the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Mr. Kerim brings with him a wealth of experience in the international political and economic affairs and knowledge of the United Nations system, including as former Foreign Minister of The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. As President of the 62nd General Assembly, he chaired three thematic debates and a number of side events on specific aspects of climate change. As his countrys Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2001 to 2003, he served as vice-chairman both of the International Conference on Financing for Development (Monterrey, 2002) and of the World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002).

The Secretary-Generals new Special Envoys, together with the other two already appointed Special Envoys - H.E. Mrs. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and former chair of the World Commissions on Environment and Development and H.E. Mr. Ricardo Lagos Escobar, former President of Chile - will support the Secretary-General in his consultations with Heads of States and of Governments, as well as other key stakeholders, to facilitate progress in the ongoing UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations in Poznan, Poland with a view to reaching an ambitious, comprehensive, inclusive and ratifiable post-2012 agreement in December 2009 in Copenhagen.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS AT A CROSSROADS

The Security Council held an open meeting and consultations this morning on the Middle East.

In his

remarks during the open meeting, the UNs Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, said that ten months after negotiations were re-launched at Annapolis, the Middle East peace process stands at a crossroads.

He said that the largely unsung success story in the region is the gradual but systematic process of Palestinian self-empowerment that has taken place in the West Bank under the leadership of President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. The Palestinian Authority continues to make real strides in the implementation of its security plan, he added. In that context, he noted that the casualty rate from violent clashes this past month is one of the lowest in recent years.

Serry said he was pleased to note that Israel had released 198 Palestinian prisoners last month as a goodwill gesture to President Abbas. But over 600 obstacles to movement remain across the West Bank, he added. Serry also noted intensified settler violence this month, stressing that credible action to bring perpetrators of such crimes to justice has been lacking, and is essential.

On Gaza, Serry said the humanitarian situation remains extremely grim, with movement into and out of the Strip still largely restricted. UN priority projects in Gaza, which the Secretary-General has raised with Prime Minister Olmert, remain stalled as a result of the shortage of materials in the Strip, he added.

In the coming days, the Secretary-General will be hosting a number of important meetings to review the peace process and chart the way ahead: the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for assistance to Palestinians meets next Monday, the Quartet meets on 26 September, and Quartet members will also attend an iftar with Arab partners.

Today, the Secretary-General will be attending the monthly Security Councils luncheon this afternoon.

SHELLING OF GAZA TOWN POSSIBLY A WAR CRIME, RIGHTS BODY TOLD

The Human Rights Council this morning

discussed the report of its High-Level Fact-Finding Mission to Beit Hanoun in Gaza. The Mission was established by the Human Rights Council at its 3rd special session of 15 November 2006 which focused on the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a member of the Mission, presented the report, saying there was a possibility that the shelling of Beit Hanoun constituted a war crime. The Archbishop and Christine Chinkin, who was also on the mission, gave a press conference on the report today in Geneva.

ZIMBABWE: HUMANITARIAN COMMUNITY MOVING QUICKLY TO HELP THOSE IN NEED

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has issued a statement on Zimbabwe. In it, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes says that the humanitarian community there is moving quickly to provide assistance to those in need, particularly the most vulnerable.

This is a critical moment, coming immediately after the peaceful political resolution and the lifting of restrictions on field operations of non-governmental organizations, Holmes says. Already, non-governmental organizations and UN agencies are re-establishing life-saving operations; they expect to reach nearly three million people across Zimbabwe by next month.

Holmes adds that the 2008 Consolidated Humanitarian Appeal is currently funded at 60 per cent of the US$394 million required. Critically under-funded sectors include emergency agriculture and emergency education. Funding for health, water and sanitation also remains low. Holmes calls on the donor community to step up its funding, adding that the Government of Zimbabwe must also ensure safe, unfettered access by the international community.

GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY NEEDED TO BOOST WOMEN'S RIGHTS

Stronger accountability measures are needed to track progress governments and multilateral organizations have made in implementing their commitments to enhancing womens rights, according to a

new report by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

The publication Progress of the Worlds Women 2008/2009, Who Answers to Women? Gender and Accountability says that there is a long way to go to ensuring that pledges to womens rights are translated into changes in their lives.

FIGHTING IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO CAUSING CHILDREN TO SUFFER

The overall disengagement plan envisaged by the Goma Acts of Engagement, prepared by the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), has been approved by the Congolese Government in a meeting that took place this week in Goma.

Alan Doss, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative in the country,

said he was satisfied that this big step was taken. What counts now is action, he said. Time is passing for the thousands of displaced people who must return home in full security.

Meanwhile, UNICEF reports that increased fighting over the last two and a half weeks is causing more suffering to children in North Kivu province. Clashes between different armed groups have forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes, social services to close, and humanitarian organizations to suspend assistance. In response, UNICEF is scaling up its existing emergency programmes.

DJIBOUTI-ERITREA BORDER DISPUTE COULD HAVE MAJOR NEGATIVE IMPACT ON ENTIRE REGION

Available as a document today is a

report, transmitted by the Secretary-General to the Security Council, of a fact-finding mission that visited Djibouti and Ethiopia recently in an effort to deal with the recent crisis between the two countries. The team notes that Eritrea refused to receive the UN fact-finding mission, meaning that only Djiboutis version of events was made available to the mission.

The fact-finding team says that Djibouti and Eritrea had maintained fairly good bilateral relations until this past June, when a border dispute broke out. The mission says that, if not addressed in a timely and comprehensive manner, the Djibouti-Eritrea issue could have a major negative impact on the entire region and the wider international community.

It recommends UN action, and says that the Secretary-Generals offer of good offices to defuse the tension between the two countries should be renewed as a matter of the utmost priority.

PIRACY OFF SOMALI COAST: BAN KI-MOON HOPES FOR CONTINUATION OF NAVAL ESCORTS

Asked about piracy off the coast of Somalia, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General has said that this is an issue on which he has paid a great amount of attention, discussing it with Security Council members.

On the Secretary-Generals strong recommendation, and to strengthen peace and stability in Somalia, the Security Council has

arranged a naval escort for World Food Programme (WFP) deliveries, currently led by Canada, which the Secretary-General hopes will continue so that WFP can take care of 2 million refugees as well as displaced persons.

AFGHANISTAN: PARTIES TO CONFLICT URGED TO LAY DOWN ARMS ON PEACE DAY

UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) jointly called on all parties to the conflict in

Afghanistan to take a pause on the International Day of Peace, which will be observed on 21 September.

Those three agencies said that the pause is needed to allow safe access so that polio immunization of children can take place, and so that the sanctity of schools will be respected.

They note that so far this year, a total of 199 school attacks have taken place, resulting in 37 deaths and 33 injured. Meanwhile, peace is needed so that polio immunizations can be conducted from 21-23 September, to vaccinate 1.8 million newborns and children under the age of five.

Asked whether the Secretary-General would convene another high-level meeting on Afghanistan, the Spokeswoman said he was not convening a specific meeting but would raise that subject, as well as other key concerns, in his forthcoming meetings with world leaders. She noted that he continues to be very focused on the issue of Afghanistan.

CYPRUS NEGOTIATIONS CONTINUE IN U.N. PROTECTED AREA

Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat today continued their negotiations in the UN Protected Area in Nicosia -- on the questions of governance and power-sharing.

They have agreed to resume negotiations on these questions on 8 October 2008.

U.N. AGENCY CONCERNED BY SAFETY OF REPORTERS IN CAUCASUS

The Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Koïchiro Matsuura, today voiced

concern over the safety of journalists in the Caucasus.

Saying that the killing of journalists is a crime against society as a whole, he called on all authorities in the region to do everything possible to improve the safety of media workers.

His comments came in reaction to reports about the killings of a reporter from the Republic of Dagestan and the owner of an independent news website in the Republic of Ingushetia. Both republics are in the Russian Federation.

MALARIA DEATHS DROP IN A NUMBER OF COUNTRIES

The global malaria burden remains enormous, according to a new

report from the World Health Organization (WHO). But at the same time, access to malaria control interventions, especially bednets in Africa, increased sharply between 2004 and 2006.

For the first time, three African countries reported dramatic reductions in malaria deaths by 50% or more. Eritrea, Rwanda and Sao Tome and Principe achieved this through a mix of bednet distribution, indoor spraying, improved access to treatment and advances in disease surveillance.

Outside of Africa, a fall in malaria deaths was also reported in Cambodia, the Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, the Philippines, Suriname, Thailand and Viet Nam.

RISING FOOD PRICES LED TO 75 MILLION MORE PEOPLE GOING HUNGRY IN 2007

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today

warned that an additional 75 million people went hungry in 2007, as a result of rising food prices.

Global hunger rolls grew to more than 900 million, even as the world became richer and produced more food than ever, FAO says. It adds that hunger has a direct effect on productivity and income, which in turn perpetuates the cycle of poverty.

FAO is calling for urgent action to make food accessible to the most vulnerable, and help small producers raise their output and earn more.

FEAR OVER GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS AFFECTING PROGRESS ON DEVELOPMENT GOALS

Asked about the Secretary-Generals reaction to the global financial crisis, the Spokeswoman noted his concerns that the crisis will have a very serious negative impact for the overall capacity of the international community, particularly for the developed countries. The Secretary-General, Okabe said, is afraid that this may affect the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals.

The Secretary-General, she added, believes that it would be highly important and appropriate at this time to look seriously at the stalled multilateral trade negotiations. He hopes that the Doha round will resume.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

WORLD BANK INCREASES SUPPORT TO DEVELOPING WORLD: In response to mounting global challenges, the World Bank Group has this year

increased its support to the developing world by 11 percent. In the fiscal year that ended in June, the Group provided nearly more than $38 billion to developing countries. That money was used to spearhead an effort to deliver funds rapidly to nations hit by food price shocks, to replenish the fund for the worlds poorest countries, and to encourage job growth and foreign direct investment.

BAN KI-MOONS POSITION ON CIVILIAN DEATHS NOTED: Asked about recent reports of U.S. attacks in Pakistani territory, the Spokeswoman had no specific comment, but noted the Secretary-Generals long-standing position on civilian casualties.

SECRETARY-GENERAL CONTINUES COMMUNICATION ON GEORGIA: The Spokeswoman, in response to a question, reiterated that the Secretary-General had spoken recently by phone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as part of his nearly daily communications with world leaders about Georgia.

TENNIS STAR LAUNCHES SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAMME FOR STUDENTS FROM CHERNOBYL-AFFECTED AREAS: Tennis star Maria Sharapova

announced today that she is launching a $210,000 scholarship programme for students from Chernobyl-affected areas of Belarus. The programme is a joint initiative of the Maria Sharapova Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), where she serves as Goodwill Ambassador.The scholarships will enable 12 talented young people from Chernobyl-affected regions to follow a full course of studies at two leading universities in Belarus.

Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General

United Nations, S-378

New York, NY 10017

Tel. 212-963-7162

Fax. 212-963-7055


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