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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-22

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 BRIEFING

BY MICHELE MONTAS

SPOKESPERSON

FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Thursday, January 22, 2009

TOP HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIAL WELCOMES ORDER TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO PRISON

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has welcomed todays decision by the new U.S. administration to close the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, as well as the decision to ban methods of interrogation that contravene international law.

Pillay also called for a review of the U.S. approach to detaining individuals abroad, in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the practice of rendition, in order to ensure conformity with international law.

The fact that President Obama has placed such a high priority on closing Guantanamo and set in motion a system to safeguard the fundamental rights of the detainees there is extremely encouraging, she said.

The High Commissioner also welcomed the fact that President Obamas Executive Order issued today sets a framework for regularizing the situation of the remaining detainees in Guantanamo.

She also raised the issue of compensation for those judged to be innocent and called for a thorough investigation into allegations of torture at the Guantanamo centre.

GAZA: U.N. ASSESSMENT TEAM STRUCK BY SCALE & URGENCY OF CIVILIAN NEEDS

At the Secretary-Generals request, the UNs Emergency Relief Coordinator, John Holmes, and the UNs Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, visited Gaza today.

This marked the launch of the international humanitarian needs assessment of the civilian population in Gaza.

The mission was struck by the scale and urgency of the needs of the people of Gaza, and the heavy and multi-faceted impact that this conflict has had on the civilian population.

The UN and its partners will focus first on meeting life-saving needs, restoring basic social services, such as water, health and education, and supporting emergency repairs of critical infrastructure.

The assessment will be concluded with a flash appeal for Gaza, which will be launched in early February. Work has also begun on assessing early recovery needs.

During the course of the mission, Holmes and Serry will meet with Israeli authorities to underscore that Israel must fully facilitate meeting the needs of the people of Gaza. This includes the need for full, timely, and unrestricted access for all goods and humanitarian actors required for the well-being of the Palestinian civilian population. Holmes and Serry are also meeting the Palestinian Authority regarding the best way to scale up humanitarian assistance in Gaza.

The World Food Programme (WFP) today began emergency distributions of vitamin A-fortified date bars and high-energy biscuits to thousands of displaced people in Gaza City. The distributions also include ready-to-eat meals for hospitals and milk for children. They are part of WFPs recently launched Operation Lifeline Gaza. At the same time, WFP is scaling up its regular distributions of wheat flour, vegetable oil, chick peas and sugar.

BAN KI-MOON STRESSES NEED FOR BROAD POLITICAL ACTION IN WAKE OF GAZA CEASEFIRE

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefed the

Security Council on his trip to the

Middle East to push for the implementation of resolution 1860, in an open meeting yesterday afternoon.

In

remarks read out by Under-Secretary-General B. Lynn Pascoe, the Secretary-General said that the declarations of unilateral ceasefires and the withdrawal of Israeli troops were important achievements that offered a much-needed respite for suffering civilians, especially in the Gaza Strip. But conditions are still fragile, he warned, and much more remains to be done on both the humanitarian and diplomatic fronts.

Noting the attacks on UN facilities, the Secretary-General said that he had demanded a thorough investigation by Israel into every single one of these incidents. He expects to receive a full explanation of each incident and that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. Prime Minister Olmert, he said, had promised to provide the results of their inquiry on an urgent basis. The Secretary-General will then decide on appropriate follow up action.

He emphasized to the Council that, if the past weeks of violence are not followed quickly by broad political action, we face the real risk of greater polarization and frustration in the region. A true end to violence, and lasting security for both Palestinians and Israelis, will only come through a just and comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

In a

press statement read out afterward by Council President Jean-Maurice Ripert of France, Council members welcomed the ceasefire in Gaza and emphasized the need for full implementation of resolution 1860. The members of the Security Council restated their grave concern at the humanitarian situation in Gaza and stressed the need for unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.

Asked where the money to rebuild damaged UN facilities would come from, the Spokeswoman said that the United Nations was currently undertaking assessment and fact-finding on the ground. The extent of the damage had to be evaluated first. As for the larger issue of Gaza, the Secretary General would announce the Flash Appeal for Gaza in Davos at a joint press conference with humanitarian Coordinator John Holmes, presently in Gaza. A formal launch will follow two days later in Geneva.

Asked about a timeframe for investigation, Montas said that the Secretary-General would follow up, including during todays luncheon with Security Council members.

COUPS DETAT, FOOD CRISIS & ORGANIZED CRIME THREATEN STABILITY IN WEST AFRICA

The members of the

Security Council will have their monthly luncheon with the Secretary-General today.

Yesterday afternoon, following the briefing on the Middle East, the Council also heard from Said Djinnit, the head of the UN Office for West Africa, on that Offices work. He described the impact of the food crisis and of cross-border organized crime and drug trafficking in that region, as well as the major setbacks to regional democracy posed by the coups in Mauritania and Guinea.

D.R. CONGO MISSION ASSESSES HUMANITARIAN NEEDS AFTER DEADLY REBEL ATTACKS

The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) and its partner agencies are

closely assessing the consequences of recent atrocities on Congolese civilians by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA). The LRA crimes were committed in the Haut Uélé area of Province Orientale over the past months.

A multidisciplinary UN team visited the area just last week with a view to devise a humanitarian response to the attacks. The team checked and registered damage to property; and collected eye-witness accounts from survivors. It also took note of the civilians need for protection and psychosocial assistance. Survivors also described their acute need for shelter, food and other aid.

Noting that the risk of new LRA attacks remains high, the Mission cites figures from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), which placed at 900 the number of people killed by the LRA in the region. OCHA also says that more than 130,000 were displaced, 8,000 of whom fled to South Sudan.

Asked whether the UN Mission has access to the area of fighting in the DRC, the Spokeswoman said that it does not, and it has been protesting the lack of access.

SOMALIA: WORD FOOD PROGRAMME DEMANDS SAFE AND SECURE ACCESS TO THE HUNGRY

The World Food Programme (WFP)

says it is in talks with local authorities and armed groups in South and Central Somalia to establish a secure work environment for the delivery of humanitarian aid to Somali civilians. The agencys initiative comes in response to increased violence targeting its staff, two members of which were killed by still unidentified gunmen earlier this month. Five WFP-contracted transportation workers were also killed in 2008.

Our only goal in Somalia as an impartial international organization is to alleviate the suffering of the Somali people, said WFP Deputy Chief Operating Officer Ramiro Lopes da Silva. "We cannot do that when our courageous staff are being targeted.

The agency notes that even after its two staff members were murdered in the line of duty it still chose to proceed with food distribution in South and Central Somalia. That said, it now demands concrete commitments from community leaders and local parties that WFP staff will be protected to be able deliver aid in coming months.

SRI LANKA: REBELS BLOCK ACCESS TO VANNI REGION FOR U.N STAFF AND DEPENDENTS

The Office of the Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka has issued its strongest possible protest to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, or LTTE, for their refusal to allow UN national staff and dependents to return from the Vanni region with the present UN convoy.

The staff were part of a UN convoy which traveled to the Vanni on 16 January, delivering urgent food and emergency supplies to displaced populations trapped in the midst of fighting in the Vanni. Due to fighting between the LTTE and Government forces, the convoy has only been able to move safely today.

The United Nations calls on the LTTE to meet their responsibilities and immediately permit all UN staff and dependents to freely move from this area, as its denial of safe passage is a clear abrogation of their responsibility under international humanitarian law.

Asked whether staff members in the Vanni region are regarded by the United Nations as hostages, the Spokeswoman said that they are not. For now, she said, the United Nations is appealing for the free movement of staff, who went to Vanni on a humanitarian mission.

BAN KI-MOON COMMENDS WORK OF SECURITY GOVERNANCE BODY

The UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute conference on "Innovative Policies to Advance Security Governance" opened this morning with a

message from the Secretary-General, who commended the Institute for focusing on a range of critical challenges relating to security governance. He stressed that it is important to bring in new partners and find innovative ways to build a culture of anti-terrorism.

The conference showcases the recent activities of the Institutes UN Security Governance and Counter-Terrorism Laboratory.

DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL ADDRESSES FRANCOPHONIE PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY

Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly of the

Francophonie yesterday at its opening meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro praised the cooperation between the French-speaking countries and the UN in prevention and settlement of conflicts as well as promotion of human rights, democracy and development.

She also applauded the Francophonies active role in helping to resolve the political crises in the French-speaking world.

In addition, the UN Democracy Fund is working with the organization in projects designed to promote democracy worldwide, in such countries as Cambodia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Niger. Ms. Migiro emphasized the Francophonies role as a bridge between governments and citizens and between the local and global.

IRAQ: U.N. SUPPORTS WOMEN PARTICIPATION IN ELECTIONS

Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for

Iraq, today emphasized the importance of women's full participation in the upcoming elections. He said that the United Nations strongly supports the rightful aspiration of Iraqi women to see the law regarding the women's quota interpreted in a fair and appropriate way that leads to greater representation of women on the Governorate Councils.

He said that a regulation on seat allocation for women is consistent with international best practice and, if properly applied, should ensure that women will have a central and important place on the newly elected councils.

THREE TIMES MORE PEOPLE DIED IN NATURAL DISASTER IN 2008

The International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (ISDR) took part in todays release of the 2008 natural disaster statistics by the Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters.

The death toll from natural disasters in 2008 was three times the annual average of the previous eight years. Cyclone Nargis, which killed more than 138,000 people, topped the list. That was followed by the Sichuan earthquake in China, which caused the deaths of more than 87,000 people.

The ISDR stressed that these losses could have been substantially reduced if buildings in China, particularly schools and hospitals, had been built to be more earthquake-resilient. In Myanmar, an effective early warning system could have saved many lives if it had been implemented before Cyclone Nargis struck, the ISDR said.

LIBERIA: INSECTS DESTROY CROPS, POSING REGIONAL FOOD & HEALTH THREAT

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is warning that a plague of caterpillars destroying crops and vegetation in northern Liberia could spread across West Africa, creating a region-wide food, health and environmental emergency.

An FAO entomologist recently visited the region. He reports that tens of millions of the caterpillars suspected to be African armyworms are devouring everything in their path. In some cases, theyve overrun entire buildings, forcing terrified villagers to flee their homes.

FAO has assembled a task force to assess the situation and prepare an immediate response. Specimens of the caterpillars are currently being examined to determine the most appropriate pesticide to use.

REGIONAL CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE OPENS IN BANGKOK

A major

regional conference closed in Bangkok today with an urgent call for businesses and governments in Asia and the Pacific to make climate change adaptation central to their core operations.

Titled Asia-Pacific Business Forum 2009/Climate Game Change, the forum brought together nearly 300 representatives from government, private sector, civil society and international organizations, with the aim of promoting new partnerships, ideas and resolve for combating climate change.

In the meeting which sets out key proposals for Asia-Pacific regions response, the UN and participating officials concluded that the forum provides first steps, but action is needed urgently, as the Asia-Pacific business sector will face serious risks as a result of climate change, with South and Southeast Asia considered to be climate change hotspots, at particular risk from cyclones, flooding, and drought.

Co-organized by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the outcome from the forum will be fed into preparations for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, due to take place in Copenhagen in December this year.

BAN KI-MOON TO ATTEND CONFERENCES, SUMMITS IN MADRID, DAVOS AND ADDIS ABABA

Beginning early next week, the Secretary-General plans to travel to Madrid for a meeting to tackle the global food crisis, then to Davos for the World Economic Forum and to Addis Ababa for a summit of the African Union (AU).

United Nations officials and representatives of international agencies belonging to the High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis will be at the 26-27 January meeting, which opens with technical discussions and concludes with a ministerial session. The Secretary-General and Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero will be chairing the ministerial meeting.

From Madrid, the Secretary-General travels to Davos. In addition to a series of bilaterals with world leaders and chief business executives, he will deliver remarks on subjects ranging from climate change and water scarcity to the global financial crisis. He is expected to call for a new phase of corporate engagement on critical issues of the future. He will also hold a press conference on development and the Millennium Development Goals as well as participate in a special session on Gaza.

From Davos, he is scheduled to travel to Addis Ababa to take part in the AU summit.

TODAY IS THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF BIRTH OF THE LATE U THANT

Today marks the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of U Thant, who served as the third U.N. Secretary-General from 1961 to 1971.

In a

message on of the current Secretary-General, delivered at an event in Yangon, the U.N. Resident Coordinator in Myanmar said that U Thant put forth a vision of a truly global society and stressed throughout his life the importance of learning about the world.

Thant focused the worlds attention on the perilous state of the environment, and, under his leadership, the U.N. embarked on its first development decade. The U.N. Development Programme, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, and the U.N. Industrial and Development Organization all came into being during his tenure.

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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