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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-12-18
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Thursday, December 18, 2008
U.N. TRIBUNAL SENTENCES THREE SENIOR RWANDAN MILITARY OFFICERS FOR ROLE IN 1994 GENOCIDE
Three senior Rwandan military officers were today sentenced to life in prison by the International Criminal
Tribunal for Rwanda for their roles in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The Tribunal found Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and Major Aloys Ntabakuze guilty of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
Among other crimes, Bagosora, the highest official at the defence ministry during the genocide, was found guilty of the April 1994 murder of ten Belgian peacekeepers. He was also proven to be responsible for the April 1994 killings of the then prime minister, the head of the Constitutional Court and three leaders of the opposition.
In the same ruling, the Tribunal acquitted General Gratien Kabiligi of all charges against him and ordered his release.
Also today, the Tribunal convicted Protais Zigiranyirazo of genocide and extermination as a crime against humanity and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. Hell receive credit for time served since his arrest in July 2001. A brother-in-law of the late President Habyarimana, the accused was proven to have been one of the main advocates for the mass killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the months leading the genocide.
WE MUST ADVANCE ANNAPOLIS PROCESS, U.N. MIDDLE EAST ENVOY SAYS
The Security Council is holding an open
debate today on the Middle East. Thirty-four speakers were expected to make remarks.
Speaking this morning, the UNs Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, noted the
passage of resolution 1850 two days ago. Serry said the Secretary-General welcomed that timely and important resolution, which embodied the principles on which Israeli-Palestinian peace must rest.
Serry added that we must protect, preserve, and where possible advance, the three tracks of the Annapolis process -- negotiations, institution-building, and implementation of phase one of the roadmap. We must set the stage for a decisive push for peace in 2009, he said.
Serry noted that there were 30 rocket attacks in the past two days on Israeli towns and at the crossings through which civilians, UN workers and all goods entering the Gaza Strip must pass. He condemned those attacks and called for their immediate cessation.
Serry also urged any new Israeli government to decisively address the question of settlement expansion, which threatens the two-State solution itself. And Israel must refrain from unilateral actions in Jerusalem which alter the status quo or undermine trust, he added.
He also noted that, because of closures, half of Gaza Citys population receives water only once a week for a few hours. Also, UN projects in Gaza, worth over $150 million, remain suspended due to a lack of materials. Mr. Serry will speak to you at the stakeout later this afternoon.
In other news, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) reports that, due to irregular border access and a lack of wheat flour, it has been forced to suspend its food distribution activities as of today until further notice. A total of 750,000 refugees in Gaza depend on food aid from UNRWA. And on average, the Agency distributes food to about 20,000 refugees per day.
U.N. ENVOY MEETS WITH LEBANESE PRESIDENT
Michael Williams, the UN Special Coordinator for
Lebanon, met today with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and talked to the press afterward. He said that he and the President had discussed a number of issues, including the Lebanese national dialogue, which will resume on 22 December.
Williams relayed the support of the United Nations to this dialogue, which the President chairs, and stressed that it is very important for the Lebanese to continue with this process irrespective of any disagreements that may inevitably arise. The United Nations stands ready to assist when required.
Yesterday, the Security Council adopted resolution 1852, extending the mandate of the International Independent Investigation Commission dealing with Lebanon until 28 February 2009. After that, the Secretary-General announced in a
statement his decision that the Special Tribunal for Lebanon will commence functioning on 1 March 2009.
The Secretary-General underlined his firm commitment to ending impunity and to the need to bring to justice those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and related attacks.
NEARING END OF FIRST YEAR, U.N. DARFUR MISSION STILL FACES ENORMOUS CHALLENGES
Almost one year after the transfer of authority from the African Union force to the AU-UN operation, UNAMID, the joint operation, continues to face enormous challenges, the Secretary-General says in his latest
report to the Security Council on the missions deployment.
He says violence and displacement continue, humanitarian operations are at risk, clashes between the parties occur with regrettable regularity and the parties have not yet reached a negotiated peace agreement.
He also reiterates his appeal to those that are in a position to provide mission-critical capabilities to do so without delay, and he noted that pledges for a multi-role logistics unit, a medium transport unit, a heavy transport unit, an aerial reconnaissance unit, light tactical helicopters, and 18 medium-utility helicopters are all still outstanding.
The fighting in Darfur continues, innocent civilians still suffer, UNAMID and humanitarian personnel are under threat, and the parties have failed to seriously pursue a political solution.
The Secretary-General says he cannot overemphasize the need for the parties to demonstrate their commitment to a peaceful settlement of the Darfur conflict by undertaking concrete actions to reduce violence and ease human suffering. Ultimately, peace cannot be imposed. Both the Government of Sudan and the armed rebel movements must come to the realization that violence will not achieve the objectives they seek and that the crisis in Darfur can be resolved only through political negotiations and a comprehensive and inclusive peace agreement.
The Security Council is scheduled to discuss this report tomorrow.
Meanwhile, UNAMID today
reports that it received the third batch of Ethiopian Infantry Battalion troops, consisting of 105 personnel, to join the 313 who arrived earlier this week.
It also reports that two Nigerian formed police units consisting of 140 members each are expected to arrive in Darfur at the end of this month. They were previously scheduled to arrive in January 2009. The Nigerian units will be the fourth and fifth Formed Police Units to be deployed after the Bangladeshis, Nepalese and Indonesians. The units will be deployed in West Darfur.
ZIMBABWE CHOLERA EPIDEMIC SPREADS TO NEW AREAS
The serious cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe continues to spread to new areas of Harare, as well as other towns and cities, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The fatality rate is now 5.4%, but rates of 10% or higher have been reported in parts of Harare. Since September, more than 1,100 people have died from the crisis.
The UN is planning for a worst-case scenario of 60,000 cases before the end of the rainy season. Thats based on an estimate that half of the countrys population is potentially at risk of contracting cholera.
Where aid agencies are on the ground, cholera cases and fatalities have decreased substantially, OCHA notes.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has already flown in medical supplies to treat 50,000 people.
UNICEF is intensifying its support to cholera treatment centers across the country, and WHO is working with OCHA to coordinate the response through a donor-funded Cholera Command and Control Center.
ZIMBABWE: BAN KI-MOON FULLY SUPPORTIVE OF ELDERS HUMANITARIAN INITIATIVE
At the noon briefing today, the Deputy Spokesperson corrected a media report in Zimbabwe that suggested that the Secretary-General blocked The Elderss report on Zimbabwe from being discussed in the Security Council. This is not the case, she said.
The Secretary-General has been fully supportive of the humanitarian initiative on Zimbabwe offered by The Elders. He has consulted with former Secretary-General Kofi Annan frequently regarding the mission of The Elders to the region last month and offered the support of the United Nations.
The Secretary-General regretted the decision of the Government of Zimbabwe not to cooperate with their timely, well-intended effort to assist the people of Zimbabwe. The Secretary-General hopes that another mission can take place in the near future, given the grave and deteriorating situation in the country.
On 5 December, Mr. Annan sent the report of The Elders to the Secretary-General. The report contained recommendations to Zimbabwe's political leaders, Zimbabwe's authorities, leaders of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and donors.
The Elders did not request the Secretary-General to share the report with the Security Council. The Secretary-General often receives these types of reports and it is not customary for him to share the reports with the Security Council, unless the authors specifically request him to do so.
DR CONGO: TALKS RESUME IN NAIROBI
The Nairobi Dialogue on the crisis in the northeastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has resumed in the Kenyan capital.
The dialogue between the DRC government and Laurent Nkundas rebel CNDP are being facilitated by the Secretary-Generals special envoy for the Great Lakes, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, and his African Union counterpart, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa.
This round of talks is expected to last until December 20th.
And today, participants took up outstanding issues related to procedure and other preparatory work for the upcoming substantive talks.
INTERNATIONAL TALKS ON GEORGIA TAKE PLACE IN POSITIVE SPIRIT
Johan Verbeke, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for
Georgia, spoke to journalists at the UN Office in Geneva today -- after the conclusion of the latest round of international discussions on Georgia. He was joined by his co-chairs from the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
According to a statement by the co-chairs, the discussions took place in a positive spirit. One of the working groups focused on security and stability. Participants discussed proposals for joint incident prevention and such points as the free movement of people through crossing points and joint visits to sensitive areas.
A second working group discussed concrete steps to improve the living conditions of displaced persons. The parties agreed to quickly find ways to resume gas delivery to all affected populations. Long-term activities, related to registration, documentation and return of refugees, were also debated.
Participants agreed to hold the next round of international discussions on 17 and 18 February 2009.
MIGRANTS ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE IN CURRENT FINANCIAL DOWNTURN
International Migrants Day. In a message to mark the occasion, the Secretary-General says that the worlds more than 200 million migrants are especially vulnerable in the current financial downturn. They face greater risk of destitution, stigmatization, discrimination and abuse.
Migration policies are growing more restrictive, and there is a growing tendency to subject migrants to mandatory or prolonged detention. Migrants must be acknowledged as human beings whose rights deserve to be protected, the Secretary-General says, adding that Regardless of an individuals immigration status, fundamental rights are non-negotiable.
message, Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay noted that, in almost all societies, migrants are usually subject to working conditions and pay far below the standards enjoyed by citizens. They are also consistently denied entitlements to social security or housing, and excluded from employment and other opportunities.
Both she and the Secretary-General urged member states to become parties to the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. So far, only 40 states have ratified the Convention.
IRAQ: U.N. MISSION CONCERNED BY PLIGHT OF STRANDED FOREIGN WORKERS
The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq today
expressed its concern over the situation of over 1,000 foreign workers in the country, who were brought by international contractors to Iraq and kept without job guarantees in warehouses near Baghdads international airports, without a minimum of respect for international labor standards.
Special Representative Staffan de Mistura, marking the International Day for Migrants, said today that he is deeply troubled about the plight of those stranded in difficult conditions - some of whom are living in cardboard boxes in freezing night-time temperatures - and whose expectations, as they have been promised, for decent jobs have so far been shattered. He encouraged additional concrete measures to swiftly alleviate the adverse situation faced by the foreign workers.
EUROPE COMMISSION GETS NEW CHIEF
The Secretary-General has appointed Mr. Ján Kubi of Slovakia as the new Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Mr. Kubi will replace Mr. Marek Belka of Poland, and assume his functions in the middle of January 2009.
Mr. Kubi has served as his countrys Foreign Minister since 2006 and held the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Prior to that, he was Secretary-General of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
COUNTRIES URGED TO GET RID OF TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS ON THOSE WITH H.I.V.
The Programme Coordinating Board, which is the governing body of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), wrapped up a three-day meeting in Geneva yesterday, which was Dr. Peter Piots last board meeting as UNAIDS Executive Director.
The Board paid tribute to Dr Piots leadership and acknowledged his many accomplishments, including placing and maintaining AIDS on the global political agenda and mobilizing significant resources to fight the spread of AIDS.
In his remarks to the Board, Dr. Piot
said that, over the years, the fight against AIDS has placed human rights, gay rights, womens rights, workplace health and gender-based violence on the agenda.
The Board also welcomed the appointment of Michel Sidibé as the incoming UNAIDS Executive Director. The Board strongly encouraged all countries to eliminate HIV-specific restrictions on entry, stay and residence and ensure that people living with HIV are no longer excluded, detained or deported on the basis of their HIV status.
NO ONE SHOULD BE DENIED HUMAN RIGHTS BECAUSE OF THEIR SEXUAL ORIENTATION
This afternoon, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay addressed by video message a high-level panel discussion on Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity.
In her remarks, she said that no human being should be denied their human rights or be subject to discrimination, violence, criminal sanctions or abuse simply because of their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pillay noted that some ten countries still have laws making homosexual activity punishable by death. She stressed that those who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, and those who are transgender, transsexual or intersex, are full and equal members of the human family, and are entitled to be treated as such.
GLOBAL CEREAL PRODUCTION SET A RECORD IN 2008
In its latest estimates, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
confirms that global cereal production set a record in 2008. Most of the increase in production came in developed countries.
While cereal prices have continued to fall in recent months, rice still costs over 50 per cent more than it did a year ago. And food prices remain high in many developing countries, including Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.
FAO estimates that 33 countries need external assistance as a result of crop failures, conflict or insecurity, and high domestic food prices.
NIGER: BAN KI-MOON REMAINS CONCERNED OVER MISSING U.N. ENVOY
Asked about the Secretary-Generals Special Envoy for Niger, Robert Fowler, who has been reported missing in that country, the Deputy Spokesperson noted that the Niger authorities are in the lead in investigating that disappearance and that the United Nations appreciates their efforts.
Asked whether Fowler was on official business, Okabe confirmed that he was in the country on an official mission in his role as Special Envoy.
Asked about the Secretary-Generals contacts following the disappearance, she noted that the Secretary-General had expressed his grave concern and has been in touch with whoever can help. He hopes for a positive outcome of the situation.
CAMPAIGN TO END FISTULA RECEIVES AWARD: The U.N. Population Funds (UNFPA)
Campaign to End Fistula has received an award from the U.N. Development Programme. The Campaign was recognized as a model for championing collaboration between countries in the Global South. With the help of UNFPA, health providers and civil society organizations have travelled from Nigeria to Sudan, from Ethiopia to Niger, from Mali to Cameroon, and more, to exchange experiences and innovative models. Health ministries from different countries have worked towards common solutions, and fistula survivors have become influential advocates, raising awareness of the debilitating condition.
MEETING ENDS WITH CALL TO SCALE UP FUNDING FOR EDUCATION: A high-level meeting on education, organized in part by UNESCO, has wrapped up in Oslo, with an urgent
call on national governments to allocate a larger percentage of GNP and public spending to education. In the Oslo declaration, adopted at the close of the meeting, they urged national governments to allocate at least four to six percent of GNP and 15 to 20 per cent of public expenditure to education. They also urged development partners to increase official development assistance and give priority to investment in basic education.
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