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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-11-03

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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

ARCHIVES

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MICHELE

MONTAS

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, November 3, 2008

BAN KI-MOON, ON RETURN FROM ASIA, NOMINATES OLUSEGUN OBASANJO AS D.R. CONGO ENVOY

[The following are Secretary-General Ban Ki-moons opening remarks at a press briefing after the noon briefing::

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am happy be back in New York.

As you know, I just came back from a week-long Asian trip this morning. I visited the Philippines to attend the Second Forum on Migration for Development. Then, thereafter, I had paid bilateral visits to India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

I was very encouraged to see the progress we have made in helping to build democracy in Nepal.

Of course, Bangladesh will hold critical Parliamentary elections on 18 December, and I have met both Government leaders and political party leaders, and I urged them that they should make this Parliamentary election in December a most credible and fair and transparent one. And I told them that the United Nations will do all in its power to provide technical assistance to aid their efforts.

It is crucial that the vote take place without violence and that it be free, fair and credible. I am going to dispatch a team of highly qualified and experienced people who will stay there before and during the election and report to me their assessment of the election.

During these travels, I spent, as you may expect, a great deal of time on the telephone discussing the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I spoke with dozens of leaders and UN officials working to manage the crisis.

In all these conversations I emphasized that there can be no military solution to the crisis in eastern Congo. Our efforts must focus on political negotiation.

To that end, I have held repeated conversations with Presidents (Joseph) Kabila (of the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and (Paul) Kagame (of Rwanda), directly and through my envoys. I am also working closely with world leaders, including the Chairman of the African Union, the Chairman of the African Union Commission, the President of the European Union and other EU leaders, and the U.S. Secretary of State.

Though they have not yet sat down face-to-face, Presidents Kagame and Kabila have begun a direct dialogue, along with their high-level technical teams.

This is a promising development. I urge again all parties to stick to the current cease-fire and devote their best efforts to this nascent political process.

Presidents Kagame and Kabila have also expressed their willingness and readiness to meet with me, possibly this week or early next week. I understand that the AU President will also convene an urgent regional summit on this issue, in Nairobi or elsewhere in Africa, sometime soon this month. Details of these meetings are being worked out as we speak now.

To ensure sustained United Nations engagement, I intend to nominate Olusegun Obasanjo, the former President of Nigeria, as my special envoy. He will work with the leaders of the region and the international community to bring about a lasting political solution.

I expect all those with a stake in the regions future the Security Council, the African Union and the European Union to support him to the fullest. In fact, I have spoken with all the leaders. This morning, I have spoken with the President of the Security Council and important Member States, and also the African Union Chairman. All the concerned parties have agreed to the nomination of Mr. Obasanjo.

The conflict along the Rwandan and Congolese border has gone on too long, with catastrophic consequences.

We need peace an end to fighting so that the regions people can enjoy a measure of stability and prosperity.

With a cease-fire now in place, I have mobilized UN agencies to provide assistance. It is essential that they be granted unhindered access to the populations in need.

I am relieved that earlier this morning peacekeepers were able to escort a UN aid convoy into the rebel-held zone. The humanitarian workers are bringing health supplies, water and sanitation to areas cut off by the fighting.

Under-Secretary-General Alain Le Roy is now in the DRC to assess the situation and take all necessary measures. He spoke to me earlier this morning.

Also today, I reinstated the former Force Commander of MONUC, Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal, as the new Interim Force Commander. He will oversee this crucial mission for the next months.

Once again, I wish to express my gratitude to MONUCs peacekeepers for holding steadfast in Goma a thin blue line against chaos.

I am doing my best to reinforce our peacekeepers and humanitarian teams, and I call on world leaders to support us in every way possible.

A final point: I look forward to attending the Quartet meeting, to be held soon in the region. We expect to be briefed by the parties on the progress of their negotiations. If all goes as planned, it would mark the first such event. I hope this would contribute to sustaining the momentum towards a comprehensive and lasting solution to the Middle East conflict.

Thank you very much.]

BAN KI-MOON RE-APPOINTS INTERIM FORCE COMMANDER FOR U.N. MISSION IN D.R. CONGO

The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to re-appoint Lieutenant-General Babacar Gaye of Senegal as Interim force Commander for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). The re-appointment of General Gaye is intended for a period of six months and is in response to events currently unfolding in the mission area. General Gaye served as MONUC Force Commander between March 2005 and October 2008.

Meanwhile, on the ground, a UN aid convoy dispatched from Goma has reached Rutshuru, one of the towns now under rebel control. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that the convoy, which was escorted by UN peacekeepers, carried health supplies to local health centers. Those included supplies of drinking water and other goods to help local civilians deal with possible epidemics during the approaching rainy season.

OCHA, meanwhile, has confirmed that armed actors have been circulating at two UN camps for the internally displaced. The camps, located some 10 kilometres north of Goma, were largely deserted last week in a panic by its residents. Meanwhile, the World Food Programme says that camps visited by its staff in the town of Rutshuru were almost empty of their residents, and many shelters burned to the ground. The agency adds that it remains unclear where all the camp residents have gone, but some are believed to have returned to their original villages.

As other IDPs have been returning to camps near Goma, the food aid they have received has included high energy biscuits, water and medical supplies. But there remain serious concerns about their health, as some 70 cases of cholera have already been recorded in camps near both Goma and Rutshuru.

In a bid to prepare for any outflux of refugees from North Kivu to Uganda, World Food Programme Uganda is pre-positioning 500 tonnes of food enough to feed 30,000 people for a month at key spots along their likely path. The same is being done at the Nkamira transit centre in Gisenyi, just across the border with Rwanda.

BAN KI-MOON ANNOUNCES THAT U.N. ELECTION EXPERTS WILL GO TO BANGLADESH

The Secretary-General is back in New York today. He returned just this morning from a four-nation Asia visit, which ended with a trip to Bangladesh, where he met with officials of the caretaker Government and with the political leaders of the two main parties.

He

told reporters in Dhaka on Sunday that he has informed the Government authorities and the political parties that the UN will dispatch a small team of highly capable and prominent individuals, who will visit in the coming weeks to assess the conduct of the election and report to him.

He asserted the importance of Bangladeshs democratic development through free and credible elections. The December ballot, he said, is a historic opportunity. Now is the moment to stand against the polarization and violence that have characterized past elections.

Earlier on Sunday, the Secretary-General visited the Grameen Bank Projects, where he was extremely moved by the tremendous efforts by the people of Bangladesh to attain self-sustainability, and he also saw firsthand some projects to deal with natural disasters.

On Saturday, the Secretary-General finished a visit to Nepal, where he met with senior Government officials and

addressed the Constituent Assembly. He

told reporters in Kathmandu on Saturday that the immediate challenge ahead is to integrate and rehabilitate the Maoist combatants. He emphasized that it would be especially inspiring for the entire world to see Nepal overcome its own conflict and achieve lasting peace at home.

HUMANITARIAN OPERATIONS IN EASTERN CHAD SUSPENDED IN WAKE OF WORSENING SECURITY SITUATION

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is

warning of worsening insecurity and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in eastern Chad, affecting more than 26,000 internally displaced persons in the area of Dogdoré.

Humanitarian operations there have been suspended, except for urgent activities such as responding to medical emergencies and the provision of drinking water, OCHA reports.

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes is calling on the Government of Chad to work closely with humanitarian agencies to improve security conditions so that full-scale humanitarian operations may resume. He also calls on all belligerent parties to allow humanitarian activities to continue without hindrance.

U.N. MIDDLE EAST COORDINATOR EXPRESSES ALARM OVER HOUSE DEMOLITIONS BY ISRAEL IN WEST BANK

The UN

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, issued a statement over the weekend in Jerusalem, saying that he was alarmed at the recent resumption of house demolitions by Israel in the West Bank, after a freeze dating back to April of this year. He added that the UN would be raising its humanitarian concerns with the Israeli authorities directly, as some of the most vulnerable populations in the West Bank had been hit hard and many poor families left destitute.

Serry also said that Israels actions were a political step backwards from its commitments and sent a discouraging signal. He called on Israel to adhere to its commitments by reinstituting a moratorium on house demolitions and protecting vulnerable civilians from displacement and loss of livelihoods.

UNITED NATIONS HELPS YEMEN RESPOND TO RECENT FLOODING

UN agencies are working with the Yemeni authorities to respond to recent severe flooding, which the Government there estimates has left between 20,000 and 25,000 people in need of assistance. A three-member United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination team is in Yemen to assist the UN Resident Coordinator in coordinating response activities.

The UN Refugee Agency has been working on the ground in close collaboration with the Government of Yemen. UNHCR last week

brought in non-food items for approximately 3,500 people, including tents, mattresses, jerry cans and blankets, mosquito nets, soap, plastic sheets and kitchen sets.

UNICEF has been

distributing relief items to an estimated 2,500 families, and it is also planning a measles and polio vaccination campaign in the Hadramout Governorate, the most affected region.

The

World Food Programme, meanwhile, will distribute food to 20,000 beneficiaries in southern Yemen.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF CONDEMNS ABDUCTION OF AID WORKER IN AFGHANISTAN

John Holmes, the

Emergency Relief Coordinator, strongly condemned the abduction today of an aid worker in Kabul, Afghanistan, who serves as a consultant for Amitié Franco-Afghane (AFRANE), a non-governmental organization active in education and development. Holmes called for the immediate and unconditional release of the staff member.

Holmes is deeply concerned about the worsening trend of killings and abductions of both civilians and aid workers in Afghanistan, and reminds the Government of Afghanistan and all parties to the conflict of their obligation to protect civilians, including all aid workers.

Also today, the

UN Refugee Agency provided details about the returns this year of more than 276,000 Afghans to their home country.

U.N. CONVOY HEADS TO SRI LANKAS VANNI REGION

The Office of the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka

reports that a U.N. food convoy is on its way to the Vanni region.

Twenty-nine World Food Programme trucks, carrying 438 tonnes of food, will make deliveries to three locations before returning to government-controlled territory tomorrow.

This is the fourth such convoy since fighting forced the UN to temporarily withdraw from the Vanni region in mid-September. Since the beginning of October, the UN has delivered 2,300 tonnes of food to the region, as part of a continuing effort to reach an estimated 230,000 civilians displaced by fighting.

TOP HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL WARNS COLOMBIAN AUTHORITIES AGAINST ARBITRARY DETENTIONS/ARRESTS

Over the weekend, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay

wrapped up a six-day visit to Colombia, where her Office has a large presence. The High Commissioner met with President Alvaro Uribe and other senior officials, as well as civil society representatives.

Pillay heard testimonies from people whose relatives had been arrested and detained, often for periods of two years or more, on the basis of accusations that were not always well-founded. In response, Pillay cautioned the relevant authorities against arbitrary detentions and arrests.

Pillay urged the Government to avoid de facto amnesties for past and current serious human rights abuses and to ensure that respect of the rights of victims remain at the core of any demobilization policy. She also conveyed her alarm that illegal armed groups continue to victimize and target the civilian population.

The High Commissioner applauded the brave work of the Supreme Court and the Attorney Generals Office in investigating and bringing to trial public officials linked to mafias and drug trafficking. At the same time, however, she expressed concern at the vulnerability of human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists and public officials who are stigmatized and often targeted or threatened for their work.

TWO THIRDS OF WORLDS POPULATION WILL LIVE IN CITIES BY 2030

In a

message to the

World Urban Forum, which started today in Nanjing, China, the Secretary-General says the world has never before witnessed such rapid urbanization. By the year 2030, cities will be home to two-thirds of the global population, he adds.

Speaking at the related World Urban Youth Forum, the Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Anna Tibaijuka, said that the creativity and innovation of youth is crucial to overcoming the challenges of poverty and urbanization.

The World Urban Forum was established by the United Nations to examine one of the most pressing issues facing the world today: rapid urbanization and its impact on communities, cities, economies and policies.

COSTA RICA ASSUMES SECURITY COUNCIL PRESIDENCY FOR NOVEMBER

With the start of a new month, Costa Rica has replaced China in the rotating Presidency of the Security Council.

Ambassador Jorge Urbina of Costa Rica has been conducting bilateral discussions with other Council members today on the programme of work for the coming month.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN MAKING INTERFAITH DIALOGUE MEETING A SUCCESS: Asked about the interfaith dialogue promoted by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General had actively engaged with the King and others to make the high level meeting of the General Assembly a success. Terje Roed-Larsen, she noted, was in Riyadh on Sunday, on behalf of the Secretary General, and is in Rome today to help prepare for a successful dialogue.

WORLD BANK NEGOTIATING REDUCTION OF HAITIS DEBT: Asked about

World Bank efforts in Haiti, the Spokeswoman noted accounts suggesting that half of Haitis debt with the Bank might be eliminated, with the other half still being negotiated.

ENFORCEMENT OF SMOKING BAN AT U.N. HEADQUARTERS UP TO MEMBER STATES: Asked about smoking at UN Headquarters, the Spokeswoman said that a ban on smoking is in place throughout the building, although it is up to Member States to determine how that ban is enforced. She added, in response to a question, that the Secretary-General does not smoke.

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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