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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-09
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MICHELE MONTAS
FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Friday, January 9, 2009
SECURITY COUNCIL CALLS FOR IMMEDIATE, DURABLE, AND FULLY RESPECTED CEASEFIRE IN GAZA
Security Council voted last night to
adopt a resolution that called for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from
Gaza. In a resolution adopted by 14 votes to none, with the United States abstaining, the Council also called for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, and it condemned all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.
Speaking after the vote, the Secretary-General
said that he was heartened and relieved at the Councils adoption of the resolution, telling Council members, Your decision signals the will of the international community. It must be fully respected by all parties to this conflict.
He said that a ceasefire would open the way for the United Nations to resume urgently the delivery of humanitarian aid, food and medical supplies.
The Secretary-General added that his visit to the region next week will focus on helping to ensure that the ceasefire is implemented and that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches those in need. The visit would also encourage the diplomatic efforts currently underway.
Asked whether the Secretary-General is disappointed that a ceasefire has not yet been established, as the Council had called for, the Spokeswoman pointed out that the resolution was only passed last night. Discussions on implementing a ceasefire, she said, are not only continuing but are intensifying. Asked about the Secretary-Generals diplomatic contacts, Montas said that he continues to work through diplomatic channels as he tries to ensure that a ceasefire will be implemented.
The Spokeswoman later said the Secretary-General spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by phone this afternoon and expressed his disappointment that the violence is continuing on the ground in disregard of yesterday's Security Council resolution.
BAN KI-MOON TO HOLD FIRST PRESS CONFERENCE OF 2009
The Secretary-General will provide more details about his forthcoming trip to the Middle East when he holds his first press conference of the year next Tuesday.
That will happen in room S-226 at 10:30 a.m. and, as usual, will take the place of that days noon briefing.
THREE UNITED NATIONS WORKERS KILLED THIS WEEK IN GAZA
The Spokeswoman clarified some of the facts in yesterdays shooting incident involving drivers contracted by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) near the Erez Checkpoint in Gaza. After the convoy was fired upon, UNRWA says, the driver of one of the vehicles had been killed; another sustained severe injuries to the stomach; and a third was shot in the arm.
UNRWA suspended movement of staff with immediate effect. UNRWA will resume operations once security can be guaranteed.
In a separate incident, UNRWAs head mechanic of the Gaza Field Office had been killed in his home on Monday. The family had been evacuated on Wednesday, but the body could not be evacuated. UNRWA had some staff that tried to approach the house yesterday to evacuate the body, but they also had come under fire.
At the same time, the Relief and Works Agency has made clear that it is not pulling out of Gaza, with core international staff and the network of 9,000 local staff remaining there. Emergency shelters are open and continue to host people. There are still distribution centres where people could if they could manage to get there receive food.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) noted that, despite the restrictions owing to a lack of trucks, actual services are continuing. WFP has not suspended operations at all. WFP Executive Director Josette Sheeran today arrived at the Rafah crossing at the border with Egypt, to get firsthand information and discuss the situation there.
GAZA: IN WAKE OF FIRING INCIDENTS, ISRAEL PLEDGES RESPECT FOR U.N. PROPERTIES AND OPERATIONS
In a high-level meeting today at Israeli Ministry of Defense Headquarters in Tel Aviv, the U.N. was informed that the incidents which led to a temporary suspension of U.N. staff movements are deeply regretted and do not reflect official government policy.
The U.N. received credible assurances that the security of U.N. personnel, installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected, including undertakings of improved liaison and more effective internal coordination within the IDF.
On this basis, U.N. staff movements suspended yesterday will resume as soon as possible. The U.N. will keep the safety and security of its staff under constant review.
The U.N. urges the parties to respect United Nations Security Council
Resolution 1860, in particular its call for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, and for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire.
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES VIOLATIONS IN GAZA CONFLICT
High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay
told a special session of the Human Rights Council, which met today to discuss the grave violations of human rights in the
Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip, that the violence must stop. She said that the ceasefire called for by the Security Council must be implemented immediately.
In her address to the special session, Pillay stressed unequivocally that international human rights law must apply in all circumstances and at all times. She strongly urged the parties to the conflict to fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law to collect, care for and evacuate the wounded and to protect and respect health workers, hospitals, and medical units and ambulances.
The High Commissioner suggested that the Human Rights Council should consider authorizing a mission to assess violations committed by both sides in the conflict in order to establish the relevant facts and ensure accountability.
I remind this Council that violations of international humanitarian law may constitute war crimes for which individual criminal responsibility may be invoked, she said.
The special session takes place following a request by Egypt, on behalf of the Arab Group and the African Group; Pakistan, on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference; and Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement.
PEACEKEEPERS UNCOVER WEAPONS CACHE IN SOUTHERN LEBANON
U.N. Special Coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, met today with Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, to discuss regional events and the Secretary-Generals forthcoming visit to the region.
He said after meeting Berri that he and the Speaker had agreed that utmost vigilance was required during this period to avoid any tension from spreading to Lebanon.
He said his talks had focused on the incident that took place yesterday along the south Lebanon border. The United Nations is encouraged by the immediate measures taken by the Lebanese Army, in very close cooperation with the
U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, to control the situation and to prevent further incidents from taking place.
Also today, a UNIFIL patrol found an old weapons cache inside two disused bunkers in south Lebanon. The cache includes 34 rockets and some boxes of ammunition that were placed in two old bunkers covered by camouflage nets. There is no sign of any recent use of the bunkers, and the weapons appear to date from the period of the 2006 conflict.
SOMALIA: TECHNICAL TEAM TO VISIT REGION
A U.N. technical team will visit Nairobi and Addis Ababa next week to look into how the Organization can support the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The
Political Office for Somalia, and the Departments of Peacekeeping Operations, Field Support and Political Affairs will be represented in the team.
The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said that AMISOM must get material and financial support from the U.N. that would make it possible for its troops to remain effective on the ground in Somalia. He thanked Burundi and Uganda, whose troops make up most of the AMISOM forces.
Next weeks visit, Ould-Abdallah said, follows the partial withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia. He added that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also in discussions with regional leaders to ensure that AMISOM receives the necessary support.
SOMALIA: GUNMEN MURDER U.N. WORKER
The World Food Programme reports that
gunmen shot and killed one of its staff members yesterday near Mogadishu. This is the second killing of a WFP humanitarian worker in Somalia in three days.
Food monitor Mohamud Omar Moallim, 49, was killed during a distribution to displaced people, about ten kilometers northwest of Mogadishu, the agency says. The gunmen then put his body in a WFP vehicle and started to drive away. A short time later, they pushed the body from the vehicle and drove off.
Despite the challenging security circumstances in Somalia, WFP has managed to provide food aid to more than 1.5 million needy people in the country each month. WFP shipped 260,000 metric tons of food to Somalia in 2008, almost four times what it provided in 2007.
MISSION IN SUDAN CONGRATULATES GOVERNMENT ON FOUR YEARS OF NORTH-SOUTH PEACE
The U.N. Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) today congratulated the Government of National Unity and the people of Sudan on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
In a statement, the mission commended the Parties to the Agreement for their achievements to date, including the maintenance of the ceasefire.
Now, as implementation of the agreement enters another year, the milestones ahead, ranging from elections and border demarcation to the launch of the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, will require the redoubled commitment of both the Parties and the international community.
DR CONGO: SECURITY MAIN TOPIC ON THIRD DAY OF NAIROBI TALKS
Security matters, including possible cease-fire and cessation of hostilities agreements, have dominated the third day of the Nairobi talks between the Congolese and the CNDP rebel group. Thats according to the co-mediator, former Tanzanian leader Benjamin Mkapa, who was speaking after the adjournment of the talks.
Mkapa later met and briefed his co-mediator Olusegun Obasanjo, the Secretary-Generals Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region. Obasanjo was returning from three days of consultations with key players in Kinshasa, Kigali and eastern DRC.
The talks will resume tomorrow under the chairmanship of the Kenyan foreign minister, representing President Mwai Kibaki.
SRI LANKA: REFUGEE AGENCY DEPLORES WORSENING SECURITY CONDITIONS
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is
concerned over the deteriorating situation in Sri Lankas east following a significant increase in the number of killings, abductions and injuries in areas of return during the last few months. In November alone, the U.N. recorded 24 civilian deaths in Batticaloa district.
UNHCR is also concerned about the negative impact these security incidents may have on the sustainability of the return process for internally displaced people.
Most of the more than 200,000 people displaced during fighting between government forces and the Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam in the eastern districts have returned home over the past two years.
UNHCR is also closely monitoring the rapidly developing situation in Sri Lankas north, where some 250,000 people remain displaced due to the ongoing conflict.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA IS ASYLUM ROUTE FOR WOULD-BE MIGRANTS
The U.N. Refugee Agency
says the Mediterranean Sea has become an asylum route for tens of thousands of people fleeing violence and persecution. According to UNHCR estimates, more than 67,000 people crossed to Europe by sea in 2008. Over half of them arrived in Italy and Malta, mostly after transiting through Libya. The vast majority applied for asylum, and more than half of them were found to be in need of international protection.
Since those fleeing persecution have few opportunities to enter the EU by regular means, UNHCR is stressing that border-tightening measures and state agreements must not block access to safety for those seeking protection. It is also urging states to provide fair procedures for examining asylum claims.
major route for those fleeing violence and persecution is across the Gulf of Aden from Somalia. Final 2008 statistics from the UNHCR office in Yemen show that more than 50,000 people made the crossing in smugglers boats last year, a 70 per cent increase from 2007.
At least 590 drowned; more than 350 were reported missing. Most of the deaths were attributed to smugglers forcing passengers overboard far from shore, in order to avoid detection by the Yemeni authorities. UNHCR has improved reception conditions in Yemen, and has also carried out information campaigns in the Horn of Africa to warn people about the dangers of using smugglers.
EUROPEAN COLD WAVE DOES NOT NEGATE CONCERNS ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has issued a statement in response to circulating hypotheses that the current cold wave in Europe is a sign that climate change is not a reality.
In fact, taking global temperatures cumulatively, 2008 is likely to rank as the tenth warmest year since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data compiled by WMO. The temporary cooling that Europe is experiencing right now is due to the La Niña phenomenon, WMO says.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
10 January 16 January 2009
Monday, January 12
In Geneva, the Human Rights Council is expected to take action on a draft resolution during its resumed Special Session on the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip.
From today through 30 January in Geneva, the Committee on the Rights of the Child holds its 50th session.
Greek Cypriot leader Demetris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat are scheduled to meet in the U.N. Protected Area of Nicosia.
From today through Thursday at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the confirmation of charges hearing takes place in the case of The Prosecutor v. Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo.
Tuesday, January 13
At 10.30 a.m. in Room S-226, the Secretary-General holds his first press conference of the year. There will be no noon briefing by the Spokesperson today.
Wednesday, January 14
The Secretary-General is scheduled to begin a weeklong visit to the Middle East.
This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hold an open debate on the protection of civilians.
Thursday, January 15
This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to receive a briefing by the Special Envoy on the Great Lakes Region, which will be followed by consultations on the Great Lakes Region.
At 10 a.m., the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) is scheduled to meet in the ECOSOC Chamber to elect the President and other members of the Bureau for 2009.
At 10.15 a.m. in Room S-226, Under-Secretary-General for Public Information Kiyotaka Akasaka; Amir
Dossal, Executive Director of the
U.N. Office for Partnerships; and French filmmaker Romuald Sciora hold a press conference on tonights world premiere of Planet UN, a documentary highlighting the challenges faced by the U.N. in the 21st century.
The worldwide launch of the full World Economic Situation and Prospects 2009 report takes place at the U.N. Regional Commissions, and in Beijing and Moscow. [Only the Global Outlook chapter was released last month.]
In Johannesburg, UNICEF launches its flagship 2009 State of the Worlds Children report on maternal and newborn health.
Today and tomorrow in Paris, UNESCO launches The International Year of Astronomy.
In London, at the Natural History Museum Ice Rink, the U.N. Environment Programme organizes Gorillas on Ice, a fund-raiser in which skaters dressed as primates raise awareness and funds for threatened gorillas in Africa.
Friday, January 16
This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to receive an open briefing, followed by consultations, on the U.N. Mission in Nepal.
From today through 18 January in Doha, Qatar, the U.N. Alliance of Civilizations co-organizes the 2009 Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow Conference.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
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