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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-12-03

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

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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MICHELE

MONTAS

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED ON INVESTIGATON INTO DARFUR

The

Security Council this morning heard an update from Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the prosecutor for the

International Criminal Court, about his investigation into alleged crimes in

Darfur. He said that genocide is continuing there, as are rapes in and around camps for displaced people; yet key suspects, including Ali Kushayb and Ahmed Harun, remain at large. When it comes to justice, Moreno-Ocampo said, only words have been offered, but no concrete steps have been taken.

The prosecutor noted that the decision on his request for an arrest warrant against Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir is now in the hands of ICC judges, and he said that the Security Council must be prepared for their decision. He warned, The international community cannot be part of any cover-up of genocide or crimes against humanity.

The Security Council will also hear an update this afternoon, in another open meeting, from Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, who recently completed visits to Sudan and Chad.

The Security Council also held consultations this morning to discuss a request from Libya for an open meeting on the

Middle East. Council members will hold that meeting this afternoon, following the briefing by John Holmes.

UNITED NATIONS LAUNCHES SIGNING OF TREATY BANNING CLUSTER MUNITIONS

Representatives of some 100 governments gathered in Oslo, Norway, today to sign a historic disarmament convention aimed at closing the chapter on cluster munitions, an insidious weapon that kills innocent civilians and cripples communities for decades after hostilities have ceased.

In his

message to the signing conference, the Secretary- General urged all governments to sign and ratify the Convention without delay, adding that the Convention indicates a significant and fundamental change in the position of many governments.

Adopted at a diplomatic conference in Dublin this May, the Convention on Cluster Munitions offers an unprecedented prohibition on the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster bombs and commits States to the clearance of areas contaminated with unexploded cluster munitions and to the provision of assistance for victims and their communities.

The Oslo Signing Conference is the culmination of diplomatic efforts that began in Oslo in February 2007, representing the most significant humanitarian and disarmament treaty of the decade.

This Convention negotiated by States that represent past and current producers, stockpilers and victims of cluster munitions represents a new milestone in humanitarian disarmament and establishes important commitments regarding assistance to victims, clearance of contaminated areas and destruction of stockpiles.

It is the first successfully negotiated international treaty to ban an entire category of conventional weapons and is a significant strengthening of international humanitarian law.

Asked about Israeli cluster bombs dropped in Lebanon, the Spokeswoman noted that, in their meeting last weekend in Doha, the Secretary-General and Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora had discussed the issue of cluster bombs.

UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon Michael Williams today reiterated that the United Nations has been calling on Israel to provide the strike data of the cluster bombs dropped over south Lebanon, in line with the implementation of Security Council Resolution 1701.

MORE THAN 500 CHOLERA DEATHS REPORTED IN ZIMBABWE

The World Health Organization issued a press release

updating information on the cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe, following a meeting called by the Zimbabwean Minister of Health and Child Welfare with WHO, UNICEF and other agencies on the ground.

WHO reports that according to its latest statistics, there were 12,546 "suspected" cases of cholera and 565 deaths since August in Zimbabwe. WHO also says that South African health authorities have reported this week that there had been more than 400 cholera cases and eight deaths.

WHO is procuring emergency stocks of supplies to meet identified gaps and is deploying a full outbreak investigation and response team, including epidemiologists, water and sanitation engineers and social mobilization specialists.

UNICEF says that Zimbabwean children are already bearing the brunt of a shattered economy, severe food shortages, HIV/AIDS and failing social services, as well as suffering the acute effects of a lack of food, water and health care. Now, UNICEF adds, they are now succumbing to cholera and are not likely to return to school even after their Christmas break.

Asked about reported criticism of the Secretary-Generals meeting in Doha with President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the Spokeswoman confirmed that they had a one-on-one meeting last weekend. She noted that the meeting included discussion of humanitarian and power-sharing issues, and that the Secretary-General had raised concerns expressed in his earlier

statement on Zimbabwe. Montas emphasized that it is normal for the Secretary-General to hold meetings when it is necessary to discuss ways to help people in dire humanitarian circumstances

EASTERN D.R. CONGO REMAINS CALM, SAYS U.N. MISSION

The security situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo remains calm today, says the UN Mission there (MONUC).

The World Food Programme, meanwhile, is ramping up its humanitarian operation in the North Kivu province and expanding into Orientale Province, where civilians have been attacked by the Lords Resistance Army.

During November, the agency increased food aid to some 564,000 people across eastern DRC, with more than half of these displaced in North Kivu alone. But widespread insecurity and bad roads have also hampered access to some 70,000 displaced people in North Kivu.

SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES GLOBAL ASSISTANCE TO HELP STABILIZE SOMALIA

Asked about Ethiopias presence in Somalia, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General has received a letter from Ethiopia stating their intentions regarding that presence.

The Secretary-General, she said, has been strongly advocating international assistance to help stabilize Somalia. He has been urging nations who are in the position to help Somalia to come forward with support for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and has worked to line up international forces who can take part in a multinational stabilization force.

Such commitments are not yet in place, Montas said, and we are concerned now about a vacuum being created, should Ethiopia withdraw along the timeline they have indicated. She added, in response to further questions, that Ethiopia came into the country with the agreement of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.

UNHCR: DEAD MIGRANTS WASH UP ASHORE IN YEMEN

The

UN Refugee Agency said that the bodies of 20 dead would-be migrants washed up ashore in Yemen earlier this week after smugglers forced them overboard in the Gulf of Aden. Another 2 migrants are reported missing.

The boat was reportedly carrying around 115 passengers, mostly Ethiopian nationals. UNHCR said the other 93 passengers on the boat made it to shore on Monday. The agency has helped bury the dead and is now helping to care for the survivors.

More than 43,500 people in over 850 smuggling boats have arrived in Yemen so far this year after taking the dangerous trip across the Gulf of Aden. At least 380 people have died and some 360 remain missing.

U.N. MISSION SEES PROGRESS IN LIBERIAS HUMAN RIGHTS

The U.N. Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), in its bi-annual report on human rights in that country, finds progress in several areas, but notes that Liberias criminal justice system is still facing serious challenges. These include the absence of key personnel and inadequate resources for essential rule of law institutions.

Rape and gender-based violence also remain prevalent, while harmful traditional practices, including ritual killings and female genital mutilation, are practiced almost with impunity, the report said.

UNMIL recommends continued international technical assistance and other measures to strengthen the criminal judicial system. It also calls for a nationwide awareness campaign against harmful traditional practices, and for making the Independent National Commission on Human Rights operational.

RWANDAN MUSICIAN SENTENCED FOR INCITEMENT TO GENOCIDE

Rwanda composer and performing artist Simon Bikindi was

sentenced to 15 years in prison for incitement to genocide.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which pronounced the verdict yesterday in Arusha, noted that through his songs and speeches and in stage shows with the Interahamwe militia, Bikindi was active in the anti-Tutsi campaign of 1994, which led to the genocide. Prosecutors also blamed him for specific attacks and killings in Gisenyi prefecture.

The Tribunal says that Bikindi will receive credit for time served since his arrest in 2001.

ALL CROSSINGS FOR GOODS GOING INTO GAZA STILL CLOSED

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reports that the Gaza crossings situation remains unchanged today. All crossings for goods going into Gaza are still closed.

No fuel, humanitarian supplies or commercial commodities are being allowed in.

Asked about the UNs efforts to deal with the closures, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General had recently spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to call for humanitarian access and the movement of necessary goods into Gaza. Humanitarian agencies have also pressed that case.

AIDS CONTINUES TO BE AFRICAS LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH

The AIDS epidemic is not over in any part of Africa, according to UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot. He was speaking in advance of the 15th International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections, which

opens today in Dakar, Senegal.

According to UNAIDS, sub-Saharan Africa remains the region in the world most heavily affected by HIV, with about 22 million people living with the virus.

In 2007, the region accounted for two thirds of all people living with HIV and for three quarters of AIDS deaths globally. AIDS continues to be the leading cause of death in Africa.

SECRETARY-GENERAL NOT TO VISIT MYANMAR WITHOUT SUBSTANTIVE PROGRESS BY GOVERNMENT

Asked about a letter from more than 100 Heads of State or Government about Myanmar, the Spokeswoman confirmed that the Secretary-General received that letter. The Secretary-General also received a phone call this morning from former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik of Norway, the coordinator of that initiative, Montas added. They discussed the letter, which asks the Secretary-General to visit Myanmar and to urge the release of all political prisoners by the end of this year.

The Secretary-General, the Spokeswoman said, reiterated his pledge to remain fully engaged, both personally and through his Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari. He said he would like to visit Myanmar again to discuss a broad range of issues but that he will not be able to do so without reasonable expectations of a meaningful outcome.

The Secretary General has consistently said that the primary responsibility lies with the Government to deliver substantive results, including freeing political prisoners and holding a dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, she added.

Asked about Gambaris travels, the Spokeswoman noted that he would not travel to Myanmar unless there was a real possibility of moving forward there.

W.F.P. COMMITS $15 MILLION TO HELP IMPROVE NUTRITION IN ASIA

With a goal to improve nutrition for one million hungry people in Asia, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced a $15 million commitment to improve the nutritional status of hungry children and their families in 7 countries across Asia.

The announcement was made at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in Hong Kong today, where business leaders and philanthropists also committed to raising more than $4 million in support of WFPs work.

WFP will provide one million undernourished children and mothers with improved, locally-fortified food products over the next three years to improve their nutrition. In Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Timor Leste, WFP will target at-risk children under two, moderately malnourished individuals, pregnant and lactating women and populations suffering from micronutrient deficiencies and chronic illness.

WFP is developing a comprehensive strategy to improve the overall nutritional status of the people that WFP assists in Asian countries.

In a video message for the opening of the conference, the Secretary-General urged the Asia-Pacific region to play a leading role in averting a prolonged slowdown and a human catastrophe.

Adding that Asia has achieved remarkable gains in economic growth and development in recent decades, he commended the Clinton Global Initiative, saying that it will contribute to the progress and give a valuable lessons to the rest of the world.

UNITED NATIONS ALLOCATES $3 MILLION FOR RURAL COMMUNITIES IN NEPAL

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has

allocated about $3 million to assist rural communities in Nepal suffering from serious flood insecurity caused by rapidly increasing food and fuel prices, the destruction of food stocks and crops by the recent floods, and the effects of long-term conflict.

The United Nations in Nepal says that nearly 1.5 million people in the remote regions need urgent assistance to meet their basic food needs and the levels of acute malnutrition are extremely high, especially among poor, landless and marginalized populations.

The CERF funding will ensure that vulnerable families continue to receive the critical food assistance being provided by the World Food Programme and partners as well as creating quick-impact opportunities to help restore family livelihoods through community construction and infrastructure projects.

U.N. MARKS INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

Today is the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In

remarks to this mornings commemoration, the Secretary-General noted that this years entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was a cause for celebration.

He stressed that the UN remains committed to promoting accessibility in all aspects of society and development. This means political access, access to the internet and communications technologies, and the inclusion of persons with disabilities in all international goals, from development and human rights to peace and security.

It also means physical access, he said. That includes at Headquarters, where the UN is working hard to make it easier to navigate the building, he said.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS LEADERS ON MUMBAI ATTACKS: Asked about international response to the Mumbai attacks, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General had spoken on Tuesday by phone with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about that matter, and had also discussed the issue with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari today.

U.N., PAKISTAN CONTINUE TO DISCUSS COMMISSION ON BHUTTO ASSASSINATION: Asked about the progress of the inquiry into former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhuttos assassination, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General had discussed the issue today in his phone call with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Montas said that UN officials and the Pakistani authorities continue to discuss the format and funding of a fact-finding commission to deal with the Bhutto assassination.

UGANDAS LRA LEADER FAILS TO SIGN AGREEMENT: Asked about the activities of the Lords Resistance Army, the Spokeswoman noted that LRA leader Joseph Kony once more had failed to sign an agreement, despite the very extensive efforts by the mediation, by the Secretary-Generals Special Envoy, Joachim Chissano, and by the many community leaders of northern Uganda. The Secretary-General will be getting a full briefing from President Chissano in the coming days.

U.N.-NATO AGREEMENT IN LINE WITH SIMILAR UNDERSTANDINGS: Asked about the recent UN-NATO agreement, the Spokeswoman recalled that it concerned cooperation on issues of mutual interest, adding that it does not imply agreement with all NATO policies. The United Nations, she noted, has similar agreements with other regional organizations on practical arrangements for cooperation.

ENVOY FOR WESTERN SAHARA STILL BEING DISCUSSED: Asked whether a new Western Sahara envoy would be named, the Spokeswoman said that no appointment had yet been made, with consultations continuing among concerned parties.

  • The guest at todays briefing was Mark Bowden, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia.

    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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