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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-21
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HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRIEFING
BY MICHELE MONTAS
FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
BAN KI-MOON CONGRATULATES U.S. PRESIDENT OBAMA
AND WELCOMES HIS COMMITMENT TO TACKLING GLOBAL CHALLENGES
statement issued today, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated Barack Obama on his inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, and expressed great optimism at the start of his Presidency.
According to the Secretary-General, more than ever before, the challenges we face as a community of nations are global in scope: economic uncertainty; climate change; pressing issues of peace and security, including disarmament and non-proliferation; and the multiple crises of food, energy and human development. By their nature, these are issues that require strong and collective responses.
President Obama, the Secretary-General said, was explicit in committing his administration to tackling all of these problems, urgently and decisively. He spoke of the need to "harness the sun, the winds and soil to fuel our cars and run our factories." He expressed his determination to "roll back the specter of a warming planet" with a more sustainable, responsible U.S. energy policy. He vowed to work with developing nations to "make farms flourish and let clean water flow, to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds."
This is also the work of the United Nations, the Secretary-General added. Our goals are shared. Together, he said, the United States of America and the United Nations can look forward to a new era of strong and effective partnership, delivering results and the change we need.
SECRETARY-GENERAL TO BRIEF SECURITY COUNCIL ON RECENT MIDDLE EAST TRIP
The Secretary-General returned to New York this morning from his just-concluded trip to the Middle East, which wrapped up yesterday with visits to Gaza and to the southern Israeli town of Sderot.
He intends to brief the
Security Council on his trip, in an open meeting, followed by consultations, at 3:00 this afternoon.
Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe, who accompanied him on the trip, will also participate in the Council briefing.
In response to further questions, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General had been feeling ill towards the end of his trip, and that even though the Secretary-General would attend the Security Council meeting, Pascoe would read a statement on the Secretary-Generals behalf at the start of the Council meeting.
Asked what the Secretary-General would like to see from an investigation, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-Generals position is very clear: international humanitarian law must be respected by all combatants. Allegations of violations should be thoroughly investigated in full. Where violations are found to have taken place, accountability must be ensured. That accountability, she added, may require determinations from judicial bodies.
She noted that the
Human Rights Council has its own independent mandate and has asked that the President of the Council appoint a fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Such a fact-finding mission will be appointed as soon as possible, and will receive administrative, technical and logistical support from the
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Secretary-General, she said, is determined that there will be an independent investigation. He believes, Montas added, that the investigation should deal with events in Gaza and in Sderot.
Asked who would be on the Human Rights Councils investigative body, the Spokeswoman was unable to confirm names that have been mentioned in the media. She said that the Secretary-General is following the Human Rights Council process with interest but will not comment until the report has been completed.
Asked who should pay for any damages, the Spokeswoman said that, first, a determination of fact would be needed concerning such damages.
Asked who determined the Secretary-Generals schedule in Gaza, Montas said that the Secretary-General decided how long he would stay there and with whom he would meet. He worked out with the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) the precise itinerary.
Asked why the Secretary-General had not met with Hamas officials in Gaza, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-Generals dealings are with the elected Palestinian Authority, and she noted that he had met with its President, Mahmoud Abbas.
UNRWA, she added, has working-level contacts with Hamas officials on the ground in Gaza.
Asked about the bombing of the main UNRWA compound in Gaza, she noted that Israel had said that it was acting in self defense.
In response to questions about criticisms of the Secretary-Generals positions regarding the fighting in Gaza, the Spokeswoman emphasized that the Secretary-General had spent more than a week traveling to a large number of cities and working with a range of leaders to obtain a cease-fire and that, thanks to the involvement of a number of actors, fighting has halted. The Secretary-General had spoken out strongly against the fighting and killing, and he continues to push to get crossing points into Gaza opened and for further negotiations to solidify the cease-fire.
The population of Gaza, she contended, was relieved by the Secretary-Generals efforts.
Asked about the
General Assembly Presidents criticism of UN participation in the Quartet, Montas said that, although the Secretary-General is aware of disagreements by some officials with UN involvement in the Quartet, he believes that such involvement has allowed him to push efforts that can help the Palestinian people.
U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF TO LEAD ASSESSMENT MISSION IN GAZA
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes has arrived in Jerusalem. He will lead a humanitarian needs assessment team in Gaza tomorrow -- together with the UNs
Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.
Meanwhile, OCHA reports that Gazans displaced during the military operation continue to make their way home. But with the extensive destruction of homes, many people have found they are now homeless. Thus, they remain with host families or in shelters run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). As of late yesterday, more than 18,000 people remained in 30 shelters.
OCHA also reports that the majority of mills and bakeries in Gaza remain closed due to a shortage of wheat flour and cooking gas. This has resulted in an acute shortage of bread.
The World Food Programme (WFP) is trying to solve this problem by delivering flour to bakeries, and WFP-contracted bakeries are now working to produce 5,000 three-kilogram bread parcels per day. WFP also reports that a first shipment of 10 tons of nutritious date bars -- supplied by Egypt under WFPs
Operation Lifeline Gaza -- made it into the Strip yesterday.
WFP remains concerned by security constraints, which are limiting access to its warehouses. Specifically, access to some 520 tons of food or 12 percent of WFPs current stocks in Gaza is not possible at this time.
UNICEF support, an important vaccine storage facility in Gaza is now functional, and routine vaccines will be available until March. In addition, two therapeutic centers, supported by UNICEF, are working at full capacity to provide services for 120 malnourished children per day.
UNICEF also reports that, yesterday, it managed to deliver six trucks of family hygiene kits to needy Gazans. It also managed to get more than 1,300 water purification tablets into Gaza. Thats enough to purify drinking water for 30,000 people for the next three months. The agency is also disbursing US$50,000 to support rapid repairs to the domestic water network.
In an attempt to get schools up and running again as soon as possible, UNICEF is working to repair windows, desks and chairs at schools, as well as to provide clean sanitation facilities for girls. It is also providing a first wave of 40,000 students with school supplies.
OCHA reports that the Gaza crossings at Erez, Karni, Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom and Rafah were all open today. OCHA also notes that funding needs for priority projects in Gaza amount to $117 million. Of that, only $63 million has been committed or pledged so far.
DR CONGO: U.N. ENVOY URGES PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS DURING LATEST MILITARY OPERATIONS
In a statement just released, the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) stressed that it has not been involved in the planning of military operations now underway against DRC-based Rwandan Hutu militias. These operations are the result of an agreement between Rwanda and the DRC. They are being conducted by the armies of the two countries, backed by certain Congolese armed groups.
In light of this, Alan Doss, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for the DRC, urges the parties to ensure the protection of civilians. The parties must also fully adhere to international humanitarian law. The Mission, for its part, will uphold its mandate requirement to assist the Congolese army in protecting civilians. It will continue to support the Congolese governments efforts to integrate armed groups into the army. The Mission says it will also continue to assist the political process, as well as humanitarian workers.
The Mission, meanwhile, said it was concerned by reports that Congolese troops have denied access to UN peacekeepers, Red Cross workers and journalists to the area of operation against the Hutu militias.
Asked whether MONUC has a role in the offensive against the Hutu militia, the Spokeswoman said that MONUC has nothing to do with it. MONUC, she added, was not involved in the bilateral agreement reached between the DRC and Rwandan Governments.
U.N./A.U. DARFUR MISSION TO DEPLOY HUNDREDS MORE TROOPS BY MARCH
The African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) says it will deploy hundreds more troops within the next two months as part of the Missions efforts to speed up deployment in Darfur to ensure better safety and protection of local civilians.
Additional troops are expected to arrive by March from Egypt, South Africa, Senegal and Bangladesh. Later this year, further troops will arrive from Nepal, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia. Tanzania has also announced it will send an entire infantry battalion of about 900 personnel and an advance party, including engineers.
The announcement of the arrival of new troops comes as UNAMID continues to expedite its deployment target.
Earlier this week in Addis Ababa, the United Nations, AU and the Government of Sudan met in the framework of the Tripartite Coordinating Mechanism to discuss ways of accelerating the deployment of UNAMID to reach its authorized strength of 26,000 military and police personnel.
At the end of the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding on air operations was signed by the Government of Sudan and UNAMID to enable the latter to make a more effective use of the infrastructure of Sudanese airports to speed up the deployment process.
CÔTE DIVOIRE: U.N. ENVOY NOTES ENCOURAGING PROGRESS IN IDENTIFICATION EFFORTS
This morning, the Security Council received a briefing on the work of the UN Office in Côte dIvoire (UNOCI) by the head of that peacekeeping mission, Choi Young-jin. Mr. Choi also briefed troop contributing countries earlier today.
He told the Council that the progress of the identification process in Côte dIvoire was encouraging, with more than 3.5 million people having been identified. The peaceful progress of identification efforts, and peace and stability in Côte dIvoire, have allowed the UN peacekeeping mission to propose a reduction in its military personnel by one battalion by this March.
This afternoon, following the briefing on the Middle East, the Security Council will also hear from Said Djinnit, head of the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA), about that offices work.
GREATER EFFORTS NEEDED TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS FOR WOMEN
The Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Rachel Mayanja, is today delivering a
message on the Secretary-Generals behalf to the second ministerial meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement on the Advancement of Women, which is taking place in Guatemala City.
In her message, Ms. Mayanja notes that there has been remarkable progress on the gender agenda, but there is still a long road ahead. Too many girls cannot get an education beyond primary school. Even if they do, they struggle to find a job, and those who do work are often stuck in low-paying jobs with little security.
She calls for the promotion of decent work principles and measures that allow both women and men to balance work and family. Above all, she calls for intensified action on
maternal health to provide universal access to reproductive health by 2015, and the stopping of violence against women.
U.N. CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT REPRESENTATIVE WELCOMES SUSPENSION OF GUANTANAMO TRIALS
Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-Generals
Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, today welcomed the decision of U.S. President Barack Obama that led to the suspension of ongoing trials at Guantanamo, including those of Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad.
Coomaraswamy had been especially concerned about the creation of an international precedent where individuals were tried for war crimes that were allegedly committed when they were children.
She hopes that these particular cases will be resolved in a manner that will respect the international standards that safeguard the rights of children. She will continue to follow these cases closely.
SRI LANKA: U.N. CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT REPRESENTATIVE
CONCERNED OVER FATE OF CIVILIANS IN CONFLICT AREAS
The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Radhika Coomaraswamy, today also
expressed concern for the fate of thousands of children caught in the ongoing confrontation between Sri Lankan Government forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
She expressed her worries about the children who are internally displaced, as well as for the child combatants used by the LTTE. The Special Representative urged the Tamil Tigers to allow all children and their families to move to safe areas away from the fighting. She called upon the Government to welcome these families and to create conditions that respect their fundamental rights and which offer a viable alternative to life in a war zone.
The Special Representative also urged the Tamil Tigers to immediately release these children and stressed that the Government should make necessary preparations to reintegrate them back into their families.
U.N. AGENCIES TO EXAMINE WAYS TO MAKE MEDICINES MORE CHILD-FRIENDLY
The World Health Organization (WHO) has received a $9.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. WHO and UNICEF will use the money to
conduct research on child size medicines, designed specifically for children.
The research will focus on developing doses and guidelines for treatment, testing and using medicines for children. More than 50 percent of medicines prescribed for children have not been developed specifically for them or have not been proven to be effective and safe for their use.
Children are suffering and dying from diseases we can treat, and yet we lack the critical evidence needed to deliver appropriate, effective, affordable medicines that might save them, says WHO.
PRECAUTIONS TAKEN AGAINST AVIAN INFLUENZA THREAT IN NEPAL: The World Health Organization (WHO) says the Government of Nepal has intensified precautionary measures and declared districts bordering India as a High Risk Zone, after receiving information of an Avian Influenza outbreak in West Bengal and Assam, two Indian states bordering the eastern region of Nepal.
LIBERIA NATIONAL POLICE TRAINING ACADEMY GRADUATES RECORD NUMBER OF FEMALE OFFICERS: The U.N. Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is
hailing the record number of women in the latest class to graduate from the Liberia National Police Training Academy. Women made up more than 100 of the 150 recruits who completed the one-year training, which was carried out with help from UNMIL. Women now make up nearly 13 per cent of the 3,800 officers trained for the new Liberian National Police force since March 2005.
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