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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-10-07

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







Tuesday, October 7, 2008


"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

Before taking your questions, let me make some brief opening statement.

First, in the context of the global financial crisis, I would like to call your attention to the closing of the General Debate and the remarkable success of our two High-Level Events on the Millennium Development Goals and African Development Needs.

Everyone has felt the earthquake on Wall Street. But it has not shaken our resolve.

Banks may be failing. But the worlds bottom billion can bank on us.

We showed that last week.

The global financial crisis may have over-shadowed our work, but it did not dominate it.

Despite the market turmoil, we raised $16 billion.

The generosity of these commitments is most encouraging, given the economic climate.

It means the world is not forgetting the needs of the worlds poorest people, notwithstanding the prospect of harder times.

It means that, for all the obstacles, we have a good chance of meeting our Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

I urge world leaders to honour these pledges.

We saw genuinely fresh thinking and new approaches. Our new initiative on malaria, backed by a broad range of public and private partners, is a model of how a problem that we have lived with for too long can be overcome.

I also call your attention to WFPs truly innovative pilot programme for spurring agricultural development in Africa.

I urge you to remember both as you write about these issues over the coming months. As you know, they will be front-and-centre next month at the Doha conference on financing for development.

Second, a few words on issues of peace and security:

Next week, I fly to Geneva for talks with the European Union and OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) concerning the situation in Georgia and the future role of the United Nations.

As you know, I have called for a four-month technical extension of the UNOMIG mandate, which is going to expire by 15 October, next week. That should give us time to establish a firm framework for future cooperation among all the parties. My special envoy, Johan Verbeke, has just returned from his visits to Tblisi and Abkhazia and will remain fully and deeply engaged.

The situation in Darfur is deteriorating. We are seeing increasing attacks on UN and international staff.

The UNAMID mission is severely stretched.

Just yesterday, a Nigerian peacekeeper was killed in an ambush. He was the 9th UN soldier to die in Darfur in the last three months.

That is why I have sent our new head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, Alain Le Roy, to Sudan this week. The head of the UN Department of Field Services, Ms. Susana Malcorra, is also in Khartoum now. The purpose of their visit is to accelerate our deployment and push the political process, without which there can be no peace.

Despite the many obstacles, we aim to reach 65 percent deployment by the end of the year, and 85 percent by March 2009. I may have to adjust a little bit in view of the circumstances on the ground.

The first Egyptian and Ethiopian battalions will deploy by the end of October.

Yesterday I spoke with the Prime Minister of Thailand with a view toward securing the deployment of a Thai battalion in Darfur. I also discussed this matter with the Prime Minister of Nepal during the General debate. As you know, the government of Sudan has approved the deployment of both Thai and Nepalese military units. They were very positive conversations and I am assured that the Thai and Nepali governments will move ahead as soon as possible.

During the General Debate, President Viktor Yushchenko and I explored the possibility of deploying Ukrainian military helicopters and personnel to Darfur. We have had subsequent discussions with the Ukrainian Defense Minister in New York last week. These efforts are continuing.

The political and military situation in Afghanistan is precarious, at best. The multinational force is stretched to the limit of its current resources. In this context, I thank the Japanese government for its contributions, most recently the decision to extend its naval mission in the Indian Ocean.

In Somalia, three million people are in danger of starving. Nearly 90 percent of the food that feeds them arrives from the sea aboard WFP ships.

As you know, pirates are terrorizing Somalias coastal waters. Navy vessels from the Netherlands, France, Denmark and Canada have been escorting our ships safely into the ports.

Canadas tour of duty ends on October 23. As yet, no nation has volunteered to take Canadas place.

Without escorts, those ships will not arrive. Without that aid, more people will die.

The European Union and other nations are discussing solutions. I am going to discuss this matter with Javier Solana when I visit Geneva. I urge them to bear in mind the October 23 deadline as they consider longer-term solutions to the challenge of piracy on the Horn of Africa.

The political future of Somalia is uncertain again. Yet we need to set to work on a plan for deploying a viable multinational force to help secure a peace, or at the very least sustain its people. I have been discussing this issue with a number of leaders of potential troop contributing countries.

Amid the crises of the moment, we must not forget the plight of others.

Lastly, a word on climate change.

It remains the defining challenge of our era. The danger is that, as with the MDGs, the magnitude of the threat will be obscured by shorter-term problems, and in particular the deepening financial crisis.

If so, this would be a tragedy. We have no time to lose.

In December, negotiators gather in Poznan, Poland. At that point they will have less than a year to reach a successful climate change agreement in Copenhagen.

We need to come away from Poznan with a shared vision for international cooperation, a clear work-plan with specific goals, a serious commitment to a global Adaptation Fund, and above all a strong willingness to the part of developed and developing nations alike to lead on an issue that all agree is an existential threat to our planet.

Faced with immediate economic troubles, it would be natural for governments and the people everywhere to lose sight of this fact.

Our job is to not let that happen.

Our job is to keep science at the forefront. To keep public attention focused on the issue. And above all, to keep making progress.

For in truth, no challenge is as great as this.

Grave as it may be, todays financial crisis will be overcome. We must underline the need for crisis-proofing of the important priorities of the United Nations from international financial turbulence.

Thank you very much. I will be happy to answer your questions."

(Questions and Answers to follow)



The Secretary-General deplores yesterday's suicide attack in Anuradhpura, Sri Lanka, which wounded scores and killed a large number of people, including retired army General Janaka Perera. He sends his condolences to the Government and people of Sri Lanka and expresses his deepest sympathies to the victims and their families.

The Secretary-General strongly condemns acts of this kind that have caused death and injury of many civilians throughout Sri Lanka. He reiterates his consistent position that no cause or grievance can justify indiscriminate attacks against civilians.


The African Union, the United Nations and the Government of the Sudan today held their first tripartite meeting in Khartoum to discuss details concerning the deployment of the AU-UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) and actions required to this effect.

The meeting was attended by the African Union Peace and Security Commissioner, Amb. Ramtane Lamamra, the Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, Susana Malcorra and Maj. Gen. Magzub Rahama, the head of the Government of Sudan delegation.

UNAMID also reported that on Monday, a nine-vehicle, 50-strong UNAMID patrol, headed for Khor-Abeche from Nyala, South Darfur, was ambushed near the locality of Menawashi, approximately 75 kilometers north of Nyala, by 40 to 60 unknown attackers in civilian clothes.

A Nigerian UNAMID soldier was injured in the course of this attack, which lasted 5 minutes, and later died during his medical evacuation to Nyala.

UNAMID forces later captured one of the attackers and handed him over to Government of Sudan (GoS) police in Nyala.

UNAMID will investigate the circumstances and cause of this attack and will increase its patrols in the area.


Last night in Mogadishu, a UN-rented vehicle was hit in an explosion while traveling on a road between the Marka airstrip to Marka proper. Thats according to a statement by the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator for Somalia. The Coordinator says that the UN-contracted Somali driver was killed in the incident while two UN staff members on board the vehicle suffered minor injuries. They received preliminary medical care at the local hospital, and will flown to Nairobi as soon as possible. Pending a full and thorough investigation of the incident, the UN will temporarily relocate some of its staff from Marka.

The UN refugee agency, meanwhile, has said that torrential rains and strong winds have hit a string of makeshift shelters for the internally displaced along the Afgooye-Mogadishu road. Many of the shelters were destroyed, leaving many of the displaced homeless, and forcing some among them to attempt a return to Mogadishu despite dangers of life in the capital.

Also, a coalition of 52 aid agencies including UN partner organizations in Somalia today issued a joint statement expressing extreme concern at the devastating humanitarian situation in Somalia. The agencies say that there has been a 77% increase in the number of Somali in need of humanitarian assistance since the start of 2008. Noting that the international community has completely failed Somalia civilians, they call on all parties to the conflict to allow them unhindered access to those in need of assistance.


In an open meeting this morning, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council that the drug trafficking threat is a major challenge to Guinea-Bissau and to its neighbours, many of which are still recovering from long periods of civil conflicts.

He said that, although Guinea-Bissau has come a long way since the civil war of the late 1990s, all of the gains achieved to this point in establishing democratic governance and stability in the country will be at risk if this menace is not confronted head on. Pascoe also noted the uneasy calm in the country as elections approach.

Earlier, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling upon States to take part actively in the fight against piracy on the high seas off the coast of Somalia, and urging states that have the capacity to do so to cooperate with Somalias Transitional Federal Government in the fight against piracy and armed robbery at sea.


The Secretary-General is saddened by the loss of life, injuries and damage to property following the earthquake in Kyrgyzstan. He sends his condolences to those who have lost their loved ones.

The United Nations stands ready to support authorities in Kyrgyzstan in their efforts to respond to the tragedy.


In his report to the General Assembly on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, the Secretary-General registered serious concern at the lack of tangible progress on the part of the Government of the DPRK in addressing the range of serious human rights concerns mentioned in resolution 62/167.

However, the Secretary-General welcomes the efforts undertaken by the DPRK to engage external food aid and to address the populations need for sustainable access to food. He called on the Government allocate corresponding budget resources and to adopt policy measures to alleviate the impact of the food shortage and to ensure food security.

While calling on the DPRK to sustain cooperation with UN agencies and other humanitarian actors, he also urged the international community to continue to support humanitarian efforts there.

Stressing his serious concern at the lack of tangible progress made by the DPRK in other respects to safeguard fundamental rights and freedoms, the Secretary-General urged the Government to show visible signs of domestic legal reform so as to fulfill its treaty obligations and to comply with international standards.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights will continue to work with other UN agencies to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights for all people and will resume previous efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue with the authorities, with a view to establishing technical cooperation programmes in the filed of human rights. In the light of the benefits of such assistance, he appealed to the Government to positively consider this offer, which is made in good faith.

The Secretary-General urges the Government to allow access to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK and to other special procedures to observe the situation of human rights in the country at first hand, as part of its cooperation with the Human Rights Council.


High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today

condemned the murders of a Somali mother and her three children in South Africa and urged the authorities to take quick and effective measures to protect foreign migrants and refugees from any further attacks.

Xenophobic attacks unfortunately occur regularly in quite a few countries, but this is one of the most vicious examples we have heard of recently, outside of war zones, she said.


In its State of Food and Agriculture 2008

publication, released today, the Food and Agriculture Organization calls for an urgent review of biofuel subsidies and policies, in order to preserve world food security, protect poor farmers, promote rural development and ensure environmental sustainability. Biofuels present both opportunities and risks, said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf, who noted that current policies tend to favour producers in some developed countries over those in most developing countries.

If developing countries can reap the benefits of demand for biofuels, and if those benefits reach the poor in the form of income and employment, then this could contribute to rural development. Removing agricultural and biofuel subsidies and trade barriers would greatly enhance that possibility, Diouf said.

Biofuel production based on agricultural commodities more than tripled from 2000 to 2007 and now amounts to nearly two per cent of the worlds transport fuel consumption, the report says. While that growth is expected to continue, the use of liquid biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel, will likely remain limited. Nevertheless, demand for agricultural feedstocks, such as sugar, maize, and oilseeds, will continue to grow over at least the next decade, putting upward pressure on food prices.

The report also finds that expanded use and production of biofuels will not necessarily contribute as much to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as was previously assumed. The largest impact of biofuels on such emissions is determined by land-use change, such as deforestation. Internationally agreed sustainability criteria could help improve the environmental foot print of biofuels.

INSECURITY IN EASTERN CHAD FORCES TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF HUMANITARIAN WORK: The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) that growing insecurity in eastern Chad has caused several humanitarian organizations to temporarily suspend their work in the region. OCHA adds that several of these organizations have of late become victims of acts of banditry, with upward of 120 incidents reported since the start of the year.

OCHA says that some 37,000 internally displaced people in Dogdore and Ade could be without health care, food assistance, and water and sanitation services if the situation does not improve. Heavy rainfall in the region has also damaged roads and limited access to people in need. Meanwhile, in southern Chad, new floods have affected more than 40,000 people. UN agencies are helping the authorities' relief efforts and OCHA intends to send a mission there next week to study possible ways to set an early warning system

AFGHAN RETURNS SURPASS 250,000 FOR THE YEAR: The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) has assisted more than a quarter-million Afghans to return home so far this year from Pakistan and Iran, many of them reportedly due to economic and security uncertainties faced in exile. Since January, UNHCR has assisted a total of 251,880 registered Afghans to repatriate from neighbouring Pakistan (248,951) and Iran (2,929). Many said they returned to Afghanistan because they could not afford the high cost of living in exile amid the current food and fuel crisis. Others cited security uncertainties as a reason for leaving Pakistans North West Frontier Province.

ICJ TO TAKE UP CASE INVOLVING GEORGIA AND RUSSIA: The International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, will on Wednesday, October 15th, deliver an order on the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by Georgia against the Russian Federation. The case concerns allegations of racial discrimination by Russia toward Georgian minorities during the recent conflict between the two countries. The Court will consider the case under the International

Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.


UNICEF is drawing attention to a new tool that helps health experts, policymakers and communities save womens lives by analyzing the underlying medical and social reasons behind maternal death. The Maternal and Perinatal Death Inquiry and Response (MAPEDIR) is collecting data and analyzing the cases of 1,600 women across six states in India, the highest number of audited maternal deaths in the world. MAPEDIR is working to demystify maternal mortality by helping communities understand its root causes so they can take effective action and advocate for improved services to prevent future deaths. This new knowledge examines crucial factors beyond whats in the medical records, such as delays in decision-making at the household level, lack of transport, and delays at facilities. UNICEF is providing technical support to the initiative, which is funded by the UKs Department of International Development.

CONTRIBUTORS TO WOMENS HEALTH AND WOMENS RIGHTS TO BE HONOURED: This evening, the Secretary-General will attend the presentation of the 2008 International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women. Given out by Americans for the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), the prize honors exemplary contributions to womens health and the promotion of womens rights. This years recipients are four American women from the corporate sector and activists from Madagascar, Mexico and Nepal. The award is named for UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid.

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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