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United Nations Daily Highlights, 08-12-24
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
[Today was the last planned noon briefing for 2008. However, news highlights from across the UN system will continue to be posted at this site for the remainder of the year. The UN will be closed on Thursday, 25 December.]
BAN KI-MOON GRAVELY CONCERNED BY SITUATION IN GAZA AND SOUTHERN ISRAEL
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is gravely
concerned about the situation in Gaza and southern Israel and the potential for further violence and civilian suffering if calm is not restored.
He condemns todays rocket attacks on southern Israel and calls on Hamas to ensure that rocket attacks from Gaza cease immediately. He urges all parties to work to secure the immediate restoration of the calm and an urgent easing of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, including the continuous provision of humanitarian supplies. He calls for respect by all parties of international humanitarian law.
The Secretary-General reiterates, as the Quartet stated when it met on 15 December, that a lasting solution to the situation in Gaza can only be attained by peaceful means.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in a new
report on the occupied Palestinian territory, notes that Palestinian militants fired dozens of rockets and mortars today at Israeli cities and towns, which resulted in extensive property damage but no reported casualties. It also notes that the Gaza crossings have now been closed completely for eight consecutive days, including for humanitarian supplies. This is the second longest period the crossings have remained closed since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, according to OCHA.
The report adds that the ongoing closures have significantly reduced the capacity of UN humanitarian agencies to provide aid in the event of an escalation in violence. The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for example, has no flour or cash to distribute, affecting thousands of Gazans. And the World Food Programme has been unable to preposition stocks meaning that, in the event of an emergency, it has no food available within the Gaza Strip. OCHA also reports shortages of critical emergency surgical kits.
Due to the lack of fuel and spare parts, the power plant in Gaza has been shut down since 19 December. This is affecting all aspects of daily life, including sanitation and the supply of water and power to households, schools, and civilian institutions. OCHA says that 60% of the Gaza population is receiving running water only once every five to seven days.
In addition, the wastewater treatment plant, unable to operate regularly, has since Saturday doubled the amount of raw sewage it is dumping into the sea to 40 million litres per day.
The Deputy Spokesperson, in response to a question, reiterated that the Secretary-General remains concerned about humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Okabe added that UN humanitarian agencies are doing whatever possible to alleviate the suffering of Gazans. The Secretary-General, she stressed, is always in contact with the concerned parties on this issue.
ACTION ON U.N. BUDGET WILL ENHANCE U.N.S ABILITIES
The Secretary-General is deeply appreciative of the fact that Member States have adopted early this morning resolutions on additional resources as well as administrative matters for the 2008-2009 programme budget period that covers such areas as development and political affairs as well as human resources management, information technology and administration of justice.
The Member States also adopted a resolution to guide the Secretary-General in his preparation for the 2010-2011 programme budget proposals to be deliberated in the 64th session of General Assembly.
This morning's decision by the General Assembly enhances the United Nation's ability to better respond to the needs of the Organization.
BAN KI-MOON LAUDS DECISION TO CANCEL IRAQI DEBT
The Secretary-General welcomes the 22 December decision of the Paris Club members to cancel the remaining 20 per cent of Iraqs debt, amounting to US$ 7.8 billion, in the context of the International Compact with Iraq, co-chaired by the United Nations and the Government of Iraq. This is a major achievement and acknowledgement of the Iraqi Government's determination to implement necessary reforms despite overwhelming challenges.
The Secretary-General takes this opportunity to call on creditors, other than those of the Paris Club, to advance Iraqi debt relief to facilitate the countrys path to prosperity and reintegration into the regional and international economy.
FIJI: U.N. AGREES TO HELP MEDIATE POLITICAL DIALOGUE
The Secretary-General has
written to the interim-Government of Fiji to accept its request for the United Nations to work jointly with the Commonwealth in mediating a political dialogue aimed at reaching an agreement on the timing and modalities of a parliamentary election to return Fiji to full democracy.
This decision follows a recent mission of the Department of Political Affairs to Fiji which consulted broadly with the key political actors in the country and found a widely-shared willingness to engage as soon as possible in a dialogue to be mediated by the United Nations and the Commonwealth.
Working closely with the Commonwealth Secretariat, the United Nations plans to move as quickly as possible to put in place the necessary mechanisms for a political dialogue that is independent, inclusive, time-bound, and without prejudice as to its outcome.
The Secretary-General emphasizes that the primary responsibility for ensuring the countrys early return to parliamentary democracy rests with the interim-Government.
PAKISTANI CONTINGENT BOLSTERS DARFUR MISSION
The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) reports today that a contingent of 156 military personnel from Pakistan, including 29 doctors and specialists in paramedics, logistics and administration as well as medical equipment, have arrived in South Darfur to join UNAMID.
The contingent is with the Pakistani Level-III Hospital, which will provide advanced medical services for the entire mission, especially major operations and advanced treatment.
Immediately upon arrival this past weekend, the contingent started building the hospital buildings, which are expected to start operating soon.
SEX ABUSE ALLEGATIONS BEING INVESTIGATED IN D.R. CONGO
In keeping with the Secretary-Generas zero tolerance policy for sexual exploitation and abuse by UN personnel, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says that the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) is investigating allegations of misconduct by peacekeepers in North Kivu.
MONUC says the reported misconduct includes possible cases of sexual exploitation and abuse. It adds, however, that the information it has received so far is incomplete and not substantiated at this time. MONUC also urged all members of its staff to cooperate with OIOS investigators.
WORLD COURT HANDLING DISPUTE BETWEEN GERMANY AND ITALY
Germany yesterday filed a
complaint against Italy at the International Court of Justice. The case concerns the awarding of damages to victims of Nazi war crimes. In its filing, Germany says it has already paid reparations for Nazi crimes under international treaties with Italy.
Germany argues that, as a sovereign State, it has immunity in Italian courts, and that any decision rendered in the Italian judiciary is unenforceable. And yet, it says, the Italian legal system has infringed and continues to infringe on Germanys sovereignty by accepting new cases against the German State.
BAN KI-MOON TO BRIEF PRESS IN JANUARY: The Secretary-General will hold his first press conference of 2009 on January 15 at 12 p.m. at UN Headquarters.
U.N. FLAG AT HALF-MAST FOR PRESIDENT OF GUINEA: The UN flag at UN Headquarters is flying at half-mast today in observance of the official mourning for President Lansana Conté of the Republic of Guinea. The Secretary-General yesterday
extended his condolences and respect to the family of the late President and to the Government and people of Guinea as a whole.
PROGRESS HIGHLIGHTED IN TIMOR-LESTE: The Deputy Spokesperson, in response to a question, referred correspondents to a
statement issued by the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT), in which the Mission said it felt very good about the progress that has been made in Timor-Leste in 2008.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
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