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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-09-23

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




Tuesday, September 23, 2008

[The following substitutes for the noon briefing today. There will be no noon briefing today and tomorrow. The briefing resumes Thursday]


"Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to the opening of the general debate of the 63rd session of the General Assembly.

It is customary for the Secretary-General, on this occasion, to assess the state of the world and to present our vision for the coming year. We all recognize the perils of our current passage. We face a global financial crisis. A global energy crisis. A global food crisis. Trade talks have collapsed, yet again. We have seen new outbreaks of war and violence, new rhetoric of confrontation. Climate change ever more clearly threatens our planet.

We often say that global problems demand global solutions. And yet . Today, we also face a crisis of a different sort. Like these others, it knows no borders. It affects all nations. It complicates all other problems. I refer, here, to a challenge of global leadership.


We are on the eve of a great transition. Our world has changed, more than we may realize. We see new centers of power and leadership in Asia, Latin America and across the newly developed world. The problems we face have grown much, much more complex. In this new world, our challenges are increasingly those of collaboration rather than confrontation. Nations can no longer protect their interests, or advance the well-being of their people, without the partnership of the rest.

Yet I worry. There is, today, a danger of losing sight of this new reality. I see a danger of nations looking more inward, rather than toward a shared future. I see a danger of retreating from the progress we have made, particularly in the realm of development and more equitably sharing the fruits of global growth. This is tragic. For at this time one thing is clear. We must do more, not less.

We must do more to help our fellow human beings weather the gathering storm. Yes, global growth has raised billions of people out of poverty. However, if you are among the worlds poor, you have never felt poverty so sharply. Yes, international law and justice have never been so widely embraced as on this 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

However, those living in nations where human rights are abused have never been so vulnerable.

Yes, most of us live in peace and security. However, we see deepening violence in many nations that can least afford it. Afghanistan. Somalia. The Democratic Republic of the Congo. Iraq. Sudan. To name just a few.

This is not right. This is not just.

We can do something about it. And with strong global leadership, we will.

Distinguished delegates,

Let me speak about the three pillars of our work: human rights, peace and security, development. To put it bluntly, we face a development emergency. Over the past year, we watched with alarm as the price of fuel, food and commodities rose sharply. Wealthy countries worry about recession, while the poorest of the poor can no longer afford to eat.

That is why, two days from now, we will hold a High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals. We must galvanize global awareness and global action, with a special focus on Africa. As you know, progress has been uneven. Pledges have not been fully honoured. Yet we have achieved enough to know the goals are within reach. At this High-Level Event, I will bring together a new coalition to meet this challenge governments, NGOs, CEOs, faith groups and philanthropists. We know this approach will work. It already has with malaria a disease that kills a child every 30 seconds.

Since last year, I brought together a pioneering public-private partnership, with an agreed science-based strategy, funding and unified global management. On Thursday, I will announce new research showing it to be a striking success. We are nearing a time when we will eliminate deaths from malaria as one of the last great scourges of humankind. And now we will apply this new model of global partnership to other MDGs. I will ask you to be bold and specific.

I will ask you to say what you will do, and how you will do it to help us get on track for success by 2015. And I call for us to follow up these new commitments at a formal summit on the MDGs, to be held in 2010. Let us renew our leadership, starting here today. Let this call to action be heard, far and wide. The worlds poor deserve no less.

Distinguished delegates,

The United Nations is the champion of the most vulnerable. When disaster strikes, we act. We did so this year in Haiti and in other Caribbean nations hit by hurricanes. We did so in Myanmar after Cyclone Nargis. There, the challenge now is to push for political progress, including credible steps on human rights and democracy. We did so in Southeast Asia affected by severe flooding, and in the Horn of Africa afflicted by drought, where 17 million people need emergency help. Since taking office, I have called for more strenuous action in Somalia. Must we wait and see more children die in the sand? We at the United Nations are leaders. We at the United Nations are duty-bound to do what compassion and human decency demand of us.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The global food crisis has not gone away. It may have faded from the daily headlines. But note this fact: last year at this time, rice cost $330 a ton. Today it is $730. In a single year, the food staple that feeds half of the population more than doubled in price. People who used to buy rice by the bag now do so by the handful. Those who ate two meals a day now get by on one.

The United Nations has led the worlds response. Our UN High Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis set forth solutions. We focused on getting seeds and fertilizers into the hands of small farmers. We aim to create a new green revolution in Africa. But the truth is, we lack new resources. The international community has not matched words with deeds.


We are well-aware of the many challenges to peace and security around the world. In nations such as Burundi and Sierra Leone, Liberia and Timor Leste, more than 100,000 UN peacekeepers are helping people turn from conflict to peace. We should never underestimate the power of the UNs good offices, particularly in preventive diplomacy. We see the fruits in Nepal, Kenya and, we can hope, Zimbabwe. In Cyprus, there is a real chance to reunify this long-divided island. In Georgia, the UN can help bridge the tensions resulting from the recent conflict. In Côte dIvoire, we will help organize elections before years end a major stride toward recovery and democracy. In Darfur, we face a continuing challenge in meeting deployment deadlines. We still lack critical assets and personnel.

I would not be doing my job if I did not point out how dangerous it is to pretend that the United Nations can solve todays complex problems without the full backing of Member States. If not matched by resources, mandates are empty.

Ladies and gentlemen:

The global financial crisis endangers all our work financing for development, social spending in rich nations and poor, the Millennium Development Goals.

If ever there were a call to collective action a call for global leadership it is now. At the Doha Review Conference, later this year, we have an opportunity to address the critical issues of international economic cooperation and development. I urge all Members to engage, at the highest levels. We need to restore order to the international financial markets. We need a new understanding on business ethics and governance, with more compassion and less uncritical faith in the magic of markets. And we must think about how the world economic system should evolve to more fully reflect the changing realities of our time.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Other issues demand global leadership. I am thinking, here, of combating malaria and AIDS, and of reducing maternal and child mortality. I am thinking of global terrorism, and the enduring importance of disarmament and non-proliferation. I note the progress in the 6-party talks on the Korean Peninsula and urge that all agreements be implemented. And I call again on Iran to comply with Security Council resolutions and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Above all, I am thinking of human rights. It is essential to act upon the principle that justice is a pillar of peace, security and development. We must advance the Responsibility to Protect. We recognize that such issues are seldom black and white. We accept that politics can be complex and full of trade-offs. Yet we cannot let crimes against humanity go unpunished. We have it in our power to combat impunity. And therefore we must.

Finally, I am thinking of the defining issue of our era climate change. Last December, in Bali, world leaders agreed on a road-map toward 2012, which is as far as the Kyoto Protocol takes us. We must regain our momentum. Our first test comes three months from now in Poznan, Poland. By then we need a shared vision of what a global climate change agreement might look like. We have only 14 months until Copenhagen. I urge the governments of Poland and Denmark, and all UN Member States, to demonstrate their leadership their global leadership on this truly existential issue.


Ladies and gentlemen,

In closing, let me briefly return to the theme of my address to you last year a stronger United Nations for a better world. The foundation of all our work is accountability. The UN Secretariat, including myself, is accountable to you, the Member States. And that is why I push so hard, so strongly for UN reform.

We need to change the UN culture. We need to become faster, more flexible and more effective more modern. In the coming weeks, I will ask you, the Member States, to support my proposals for a new human resources framework. We need to replace our current system of contracts and conditions of service. It is dysfunctional. It is demoralizing. It discourages mobility between UN departments and the field. It promotes stagnation, rather than creativity. It undercuts our most precious resource the global, dedicated corps of international civil servants that is the backbone of the United Nations.

Whenever I travel, I go out of my way to meet these brave and committed men and women. They work in the most difficult circumstances, often at great personal sacrifice. I cannot fully express my admiration for them. The time has come to invest more in our staff. And that is why I am promoting mobility, matched with proper career training, as a way to create new professional opportunities to inject new flexibility and dynamism into the Organization.

Finally, Distinguished delegates, let us also remember:

You, the Member States, are accountable to each other and to the Organization, as well. You cannot continue to pass resolutions mandating ambitious peace operations without the necessary troops, money and materiel. We cannot send our brave UN staff around the world 25 of whom died this year without doing all we can to assure their security. We cannot reform this vital Organization without providing the required resources.

Distinguished Heads of State and Government, Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen:

It takes leadership to honour our pledges and our promises in the face of fiscal constraints and political opposition. It takes leadership to commit our soldiers to a cause of peace in faraway places. It takes leadership to speak out for justice; To act on climate change despite powerful voices against your leadership; To stand against protectionism and make trade concessions, even in our enlightened self-interest. Yet that is why we are here.

We have before us a great opportunity. We have ample reason to be optimistic. Todays uncertainties will pass. The challenges before us are our creation. Therefore we can solve them, together. By acting wisely and responsibly, we will set the stage for a new era of global prosperity, more widely and equitably shared.

I count on your leadership.

Thank you very much for your attention."


The Security Council, at 3:00 this afternoon, will hold a meeting on mediation.

On Monday afternoon, the Security Council on unanimously approved a resolution extending the mandate of the NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan by an additional twelve months, until 13 October 2009. The Council also adopted a Presidential Statement condemning in the strongest terms the terrorist attack that took place in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, on 20 September.


This first-ever UN Private Sector Forum, to be opened by the Secretary-General, will bring together some 100 chief executives, Heads of State and Government, civil society leaders, and heads of foundations and UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, to identify and discuss action needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, particularly with respect to the longer-term response to the global food crisis.

The event will provide a platform for business to highlight innovative practices, commit to new actions in support of the Goals, and to contribute to the High-Level Event on the Goals on 25 September. The Forum will further demonstrate the UNs commitment to exploring new ways of working with the private sector.


The Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) reports that Solomon Islands and Togo today will sign the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol while France will sign the Optional Protocol only in addition to ratifying the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

Other highlights of the day include Tunisia's ratification of the Convention Against Corruption and its accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Paraguay, meanwhile, will ratify the Migrant Workers Convention, while Spain and the Czech Republic will sign the International Tropical Timber Agreement.


UNICEF says it is appealing for urgent life-saving help to 300,000 children in Haiti affected by four successive hurricanes. The agency has provided over 120,000 liters of water, water purification tablets, hygiene kits, blankets, and other food assistance to the affected children and their families. Though relief operations are moving towards post-disaster recovery, pressing humanitarian needs are yet to be met, including an inter-agency appeal for $107 million.

As rainwater levels in Gonaives are going down, improving access to the town, the same is not true for many regions of the country which remain inaccessible due to collapsed bridges, flooded roads, and landslides. Some regions of Haiti remain inaccessible by road due to landslides and collapsed bridges and delivery of supplies relies on costly sea and air transportation.

And while more than 400 schools were damaged by the natural disaster, the Haitian authorities still expect children to resume school on October 6.

WFP, for its part, has distributed some 1800 tons of rice, beans, cooking oil and fresh water across the country. The agency has fed some 373,000 people since the relief operation was launched, 226,000 of these in Gonaives alone, the city most affected by the disaster. It has also chartered two helicopters now available to all humanitarian agencies working in Haiti.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is concerned that weather forecasts indicate a high probability of yet another storm hitting the island within the next few days. OCHA fears that this tropical depression would bring heavy rains on Haiti. It also voiced concerns that financial commitments to the Flash Appeal for Haiti are too slow to come by, with far less than 4 % funded.


The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Democratic of the Congo (MONUC) says that despite repeated call for a ceasefire in northeastern DRC, intense fighting continued in and around the towns of Kirotshe and Sake, near Goma.

The battle is pitting the regular Congolese army against rebels led by rogue general Laurent Nkunda.

The Mission says that the Congolese army took up positions some 1.5 miles from a UN peacekeepers base, which led to the peacekeepers coming under direct fire. Another UN base located atop a hill dominating the town of Sake also came under heavy fire. No UN staff was hurt in both cases.


HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DEBATES RACISM: In Geneva this morning, the Human Rights Council

continued its general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance. It also considered follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The Human Rights Councils ninth regular session will conclude its work either today or tomorrow, depending on progress made today.

SIERRA LEONEAN REFUGEES MOVE INTO NEW HOMES WITH HELP FROM U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY: A group of 118 refugees from Sierra Leone moved into 32 houses in the Liberian town of Bensonville over the weekend. The homes were

renovated with funding from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, as part of a process to integrate some 3,500 Sierra Leoneans who cannot or are unwilling to go home. An additional 110 houses are under construction in Bensonville and the nearby town of Memeh.


launching a partnership with the World Air League, a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, to use zeppelins and other skyships to promote world heritage. The key event will be a World Sky Race in 2010, in which Zeppelins and skyships will travel 48,000 kilometres, stopping at iconic sites such as the Coliseum in Rome, the Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, Mount Fuji, and the Golden Gate Bridge. The initiative is designed to showcase this mode of transportation and stimulate research and development. Skyships have the potential to reduce energy consumption and emissions by 90 per cent over long-haul jet planes and 75 per cent compared to road transportation, UNESCO says.


chosen as the host of next years celebrations to mark World Environment Day (5 June). The U.N. Environment Programme, which coordinates the day, has chosen as a theme Your Planet Needs You-Unite to Combat Climate Change.


HIGH-LEVEL EVENT TO FOCUS ON WATER AND SANITATION: A special high-level side event on Water and Sanitation for all is taking place at U.N. Headquarters tomorrow. The event, which the Secretary-General is scheduled to address, has been convened by the Governments of Tajikistan, Netherlands, Germany, and Japan. It will focus on strengthening political support, identifying key challenges and reviewing global progress toward the millennium target for water and sanitation, as well as examine improved monitoring processes and approaches for holding decision-makers to account. The event takes place in the Trusteeship Council from 1.15 to 3.30 p.m.

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO MEET WITH MEMBERS OF CLIMATE CHANGE TROIKA: The Secretary-General is meeting tomorrow with representatives from the three countries presiding over the current U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) conferences, where negotiations on a post-2012 agreement are taking place. His meeting tomorrow with Indonesias Minister for Foreign Affairs, the President of Poland, and the Prime Minister of Denmark will focus on considering steps to advance negotiations on a new global agreement that must be concluded next December in Copenhagen.

WORLD BUSINESS AND DEVELOPMENT AWARDS WILL BE HELD ON WEDNESDAY: On Wednesday at 6:00 p.m., the UN Development Programme will host the World Business and Development Awards at the Millennium UN Plaza Hotel. The ten winning companies will be recognized during the Awards ceremony, as part of the High-Level Event on the Millennium Development Goals convened by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. During the ceremony, the global consortium for the Business Call to Action will be presented and new business commitments will be announced by international companies in support of the MDGs.

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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