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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-23

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

Friday, January 23, 2009

BAN KI-MOON AND U.S. PRESIDENT OBAMA DISCUSS ISSUES OF COMMON CONCERN AND INTEREST

[Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon received a call early this afternoon from U.S. President Barack Obama. The two leaders discussed a range of issues of common concern and interest. The Secretary-General underlined the importance of the U.S.-U.N. partnership and stressed the need for the two to work closely together on major issues like the global economic crisis, climate change, food security and in the resolution of regional crises, particularly those in the Middle East and Africa.

The Secretary-General and the U.S. President discussed ongoing efforts at UN reforms and the organizations need for adequate political support and funding. The Secretary General was encouraged by the US Presidents assurance of strong support as the Organization makes further progress in this direction. They also looked forward to mutual visits.

Later in the afternoon, the Secretary-General also had a very cordial conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton at which they discussed issues of multilateral interest and importance such as food security, the Darfur peace process, climate change and management reform in the United Nations. The Secretary of State emphasized the importance of working together with the UN in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq. The two leaders discussed greater cooperation in UN reform and budgetary issues as well as mutual visits. ]

BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES U.S. DECISION TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO BAY DETENTION FACILITY

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joins the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms. Navi Pillay, in

welcoming yesterday's executive orders by the President Barack Obama of the United States initiating a process for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, a review of U.S. detention policies and the introduction of measures to ensure lawful interrogations. The Secretary-General also welcomes the US Administrations ban on certain methods of interrogation.

The United Nations has previously called for the closure of the Guantánamo detention facility, and is encouraged that President Obama has given the highest priority to ensuring respect for fundamental rights.

The Secretary-General looks forward to working with all Member States of the United Nations in fighting the scourge of terrorism while fully respecting international human rights obligations.

U.N. ENVOY HOPES REBEL FORCE WILL HELP ENSURE PEACE IN EASTERN D.R. CONGO

In a

statement released today in Kinshasa, Alan Doss, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), said We have learnt of the arrest of General Nkunda, which, according to the communiqué of the Joint Operational Command, took place in Rwanda. We have no further details at this point.

The UN Security Council on several occasions has called on General Nkunda and the Congrès National pour la Défense du Peuple (CNDP) to pursue the path of peace, Doss said.

We hope that all CNDP forces will now take this opportunity to enter the integration process and in doing so help to ensure the return of lasting peace to the Kivus.

Meanwhile, the next Session of the Dialogue on the Crises in the Eastern DRC has been postponed, taking into consideration the recent developments. The Co-Mediators of the peace talks, former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Benjamin Mkapa, will consult with regional leaders of the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, during the upcoming AU Summit in Addis Ababa. The next session of the Dialogue will be convened after the consultations.

The Co-Mediators, in a statement, said they do not see the current situation on the ground as a set back to the mediation.

The Co-Mediators also called on the Parties to take further steps to improve conditions for humanitarian access in order to improve the quality of lives of those affected by the crisis.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

views with some concern the latest developments and the military build-up in the troubled North Kivu province of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). UNHCR says that it fears that these operations could create new and massive displacement of the civilian population. The humanitarian situation in North Kivu is already dramatic, with some 850,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). Of them, some 250,000 were forced to flee just since last August, and many of them have already been displaced multiple times.

Asked about reports that Jean-Bosco Ntaganda, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC), had participated in the DRC-Rwanda military offensive, the Spokeswoman noted that the International Criminal Court unsealed an arrest warrant for Bosco Ntaganda, also know as Terminator, in April 2008. Bosco Ntaganda, she said, is accused of war crimes, including the conscription of children under the age of 15, among other charges.

Montas clarified that UN peacekeepers in the DRC do not have any arresting powers in this particular case. The responsibility to detain Bosco Ntaganda for his crimes and deliver him into ICC custody rests with the Congolese or Rwandan authorities.

Asked whether the United Nations was involved in the talks between the DRC and Rwandan authorities that led to the military operation, the Spokeswoman said that it did not, and that this was a bilateral initiative.

LEVEL OF HUMAN SUFFERING & DESTRUCTION IN GAZA IS HEARTBREAKING

Today is the third day of the visit by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel.

Holmes met today with donors in Jerusalem. In the discussions, he alerted them about the upcoming flash appeal for Gaza. Last night, Holmes met with Israels Social Affairs Minister and other Israeli officials. In that meeting, Holmes underscored the need for regular and unimpeded movement of humanitarian aid workers and relief supplies into Gaza.

Holmes was in Gaza yesterday as part of a humanitarian assessment mission. He was accompanied by the UNs Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry.

At a school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Holmes and Serry met displaced families who had sought refuge in the UN premises. They also visited Shifa Hospital, where they were briefed on the situation in the health sector, which has been overwhelmed by the influx of injured people over the past three weeks. They met victims of the latest violence, as well as medical teams who were at the forefront of the humanitarian response.

Holmes and Serry also drove through the area of Tel Al-Hawa and saw firsthand the level of the destruction of homes and community infrastructure. South of Tel Al-Hawa, where sewage has been flooding the streets for days, they saw the serious damage that has been done to the water and sanitation networks, and were briefed on the increasing health hazards for the population. They also met with students at the American International School, which was entirely destroyed in the first days of the Israeli military operation.

Holmes said, The level of human suffering and destruction I saw today is, from any angle, heartbreaking. It is shocking that civilians suffered so disproportionately in this military operation, he added, We need a swift, full and sustained access of goods and staff into Gaza. We cannot go back to the unacceptable situation which prevailed before the latest hostilities.

On Sunday, Holmes is due to make a one-day visit to Egypt to meet with representatives of the Egyptian Government, the League of Arab States, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and other humanitarian agencies.

Asked about the push for investigations and reparations regarding the Israeli attacks on Gaza, the Spokeswoman said that the Human Rights Council has approved of an investigation. At the same time, she said, UNRWA is assessing damages to buildings, including schools that had been used as shelters for displaced Palestinians, as well as the destruction of food, medicine and other key supplies. The Secretary-General will look at that information as he considers future action.

She added that the Secretary-General had spoken with the Security Council about steps to be taken for an inquiry, but no decision has been taken yet.

Asked why Israeli cannot simply be asked to pay for damages, Montas said that facts and the evaluation of damages need to be established first.

NUMBER OF HUMANITARIAN TRUCKS GOING INTO GAZA NEEDS TO INCREASE

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO)

report that a mine action assessment team involving the UN Mine Action Service arrived in Gaza today to look at the scope and scale of the unexploded ordnance problem. The goal is to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, all schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza are scheduled to open tomorrow. The schools will focus on the childrens psychosocial needs in the first weeks of operation, before resuming the teaching of core subjects. The current school semester was supposed to have started on 17 January.

In terms of ongoing concerns, UNSCO and OCHA say the number of trucks allowed into the Gaza Strip needs to be increased. It is key that the Sufa crossing be opened for basic construction materials to allow for the repair of public infrastructure and private homes. In addition, chronically ill patients who were receiving care outside of the Gaza Strip prior to the conflict urgently need to resume their treatment.

UNSCO and OCHA also note that cash has still not entered the Gaza Strip -- except for the staff of a few international organizations. Cash is urgently needed to reactivate the private sector and prevent increasing dependence on aid, UNSCO and OCHA say.

The Executive Board of the World Health Organization (WHO) has adopted a resolution requesting that WHOs Director-General send a specialized health mission to Gaza. That mission would identify urgent health and humanitarian needs and assess the destruction of medical facilities.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC CRISES THREATEN TO UNDO PROGRESS TOWARD DEVELOPMENT GOALS

The Secretary-General this morning attended the handover of the chairmanship -- from Antigua and Barbuda to Sudan -- of the Group of 77 bloc of developing nations.

In

remarks read out by Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, he told the G-77 that the crises that erupted last year highlighted the interdependence of economies and countries. They also showed that the United Nations and its multilateral framework are indispensable.

As we move into 2009, he said, these global challenges remain. They threaten to undo the progress made towards the development goals of the last decade. He identified four key challenges that Member States and the United Nations must confront together: the global financial crisis; climate change; achieving the Millennium Development Goals; and global health.

SECURITY COUNCIL EXTENDS NEPAL MISSION, DEBATES PEACEKEEPING

The

Security Council began its work today by voting unanimously to

extend the mandate of the UN Mission in Nepal until 23 July, and it endorsed the Secretary-Generals recommendations for a phased, gradual drawdown of that Missions staff.

The Council then began an

open debate about UN peacekeeping. Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said that the past decade has been a time of resurgent thinking on UN peacekeeping, which has seen many improvements and clarified thinking on modern UN peace operations. He said that he believes the coming year is a pivotal one, with major challenges in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan, in particular. He stressed that 2009 will need to be a year of cooperation and problem-solving, at a time when UN peace operations are overstretched.

Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, discussed the challenges the United Nations faces on the support side, saying that UN peace operations are under great strain. She said that a support strategy is being developed that will explore such issues as greater delegation of authority to managers in the field, the use of support hubs, a smarter approach to technology and providing goods and services from diversified sources.

KILLING OF CIVILIANS AT DARFUR CAMP WAS UNLAWFUL

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United NationsAfrican Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) have jointly issued a

report into the killing of 33 civilians and wounding of 108 others in a camp for displaced people in Darfur last August.

The report concludes that Sudanese Government security forces violated international human rights law by using lethal force in an unnecessary, disproportionate and therefore unlawful manner.

The report was issued as the result of an investigation into a law enforcement operation that ended disastrously on 25 August 2008 at the Kalma camp for internally displaced persons in South Darfur.

Sudanese security forces attempting to execute a search warrant authorizing them to look for arms, drugs and other forms of organized crime in Kalma were confronted by a group of camp residents who had gathered to stop them entering the camp. The security forces fired shots in the air, before opening fire on the crowd.

The 33 people killed included 14 men, ten women and nine children. The casualties include one 75-year-old woman who drowned in a pool of water as she attempted to flee the shooting. The 108 people injured during the incident included 38 children and 25 women.

The report notes unconfirmed reports by credible independent sources that light and heavy arms had been situated in Kalma, one of the largest camps in Darfur with a population of around 80,000 internally displaced people (IDPs). However, UN investigators could not verify Government claims that security forces had responded in a purely defensive manner after armed elements within the camp opened fire on them, allegedly injuring seven army personnel.

Witness testimonies confirmed that security forces shot arbitrarily at a large crowd of IDPs including women and children, the UN report says. Furthermore, it did not appear that the crowd posed any imminent threat to the security forces before they opened fire.

Government security forces also failed to protect the right to life according to their obligations under international human rights law, according to the report.

ZIMBABWE: NUMBER OF REPORTED CHOLERA CASES RISES ABOVE 50,000

The cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe has still not yet been brought under control, as the number of cases continued to rise.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says that the

number of reported cases of cholera has risen above 50,000, including 2,773 deaths.

In the week of 11 to 17 January, there were more cases and more deaths reported than at any time since the beginning of the epidemic, according to WHO.

Given meteorological forecasts of more rain to come, concerns are mounting over the risks of flooding and the effect this would likely have to exacerbate the current cholera crisis.

Hygiene promotion continues by various partners in cholera-affected districts, but many of the centres have shortages of medication, food and staff. UN agencies and NGOs report difficulties in providing support, due to logistical difficulties. The continuing rise in the number of cases and fatalities indicate that public health and hygiene messages are not being broadly taken up by the population.

BAN KI-MOON TO ADDRESS SYNAGOGUE ON HOLOCAUST REMEMBRANCE DAY

The Secretary-General will address a special Sabbath service at a Manhattan synagogue tomorrow.

The ceremony is taking place in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, which is next Tuesday. Services at the Park East Synagogue, at 163 East 67th Street, will begin at 8:45 a.m.

The Secretary-General will address the memorial portion, which starts at 11:00 a.m.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

UNICEF DEPLORES SCHOOL ATTACKS IN PAKISTAN: UNICEF has

condemned continued attacks on schools in north-western Pakistan. UNICEF is deeply concerned that these attacks are robbing children of their basic right to education and have a devastating impact on their lives. UNICEF calls the attacks unacceptable and says that they must cease immediately. In a recent assault, five schools were blown up in Pakistans Swat district. Since 2007, more than 170 government and private schools, particularly girls schools, have been blown up or burned down in the Federally Administered Tribal Area and the North West Frontier Province, reportedly by illegal armed groups.

KYRGYSTAN NEEDS MORE HUMANITARIAN SUPPORT: The Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs

says that, despite the best efforts of the Government and a relatively mild winter, vulnerable individuals and critical social infrastructure in Kyrgyzstan remain under severe stress from continued power cuts during the cold season and a precarious food security environment. In December 2008, the United Nations and its partners issued a Humanitarian Flash Appeal for $21 million to meet the basic humanitarian needs of the 800,000 most vulnerable people in the country for a six-month period. Unfortunately, only 11% of the request has been funded, critically undermining the original plan to assist 580,000 severely food insecure people in their nutritional needs and 210,000 people - of whom 10,000 are children - in their basic shelter needs.

SERBIA LETTER RECEIVED: The Spokeswoman, in response to a question, confirmed that the Secretary-General has received a letter from Serbia about Kosovo, as has the Secretary-General of NATO. The letter is currently being studied.

RECORD AMOUNT OF FOOD BOUGHT IN SOUTHERN AFRICA: The World Food Programme (WFP)

purchased a record amount of food in southern Africa last year. The agency bought more than 550,000 metric tons, or enough to feed almost three million people for an entire year. WFP made the bulk of its purchases in South Africa, followed by Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia. Most of the food was distributed within southern Africa, but significant amounts were also used in emergencies elsewhere in Africa.

HUMANITARIAN APPEAL LAUNCHED FOR COTE DIVOIRE: Eight UN agencies and 4 UN partner organizations are

appealing for some $37 million for humanitarian aid to some 305,000 people in Cote dIvoire. The money is expected to fund 17 projects among the strategic humanitarian priorities identified for 2009. Those include community reinsertion for the internally displaced and improvement of nutritional status for vulnerable populations in the north of the country.

HUMANITARIAN FUND TO HELP COLOMBIAN FLOOD SURVIVORS: The Central Emergency Response Fund is helping more than a thousand families who were left homeless by recent flooding in Colombia. The Fund is allocating nearly half a million dollars to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). IOM will use the funds to build shelters for 5,500 people in the Chocó Department, on the Pacific coast. The money will also help provide kitchen sets, stoves, hammocks, mattresses, blankets, and other items.

  • *The guest at noon was John Ging, Director of Operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, who provided an update (via video link) on the situation in Gaza.

    THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS

    Saturday, January 24

    This morning at the Park East Synagogue, 163 East 67th Street, Manhattan, the Secretary-General attends a special Sabbath service in observance of the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust (27 January). Services begin at 8:45 a.m.; the Secretary-General will address the memorial portion, which begins at 11 a.m.

    Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy begins a four-day working visit to Haiti.

    Sunday, January 25

    Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes is scheduled to make a one-day visit to Egypt, where he will meet with U.N. officials and representatives of the Egyptian Government, the League of Arab States, and humanitarian agencies.

    Monday, January 26

    The Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council meets all day in the Trusteeship Council Chamber.

    From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, an open meeting of the Burundi configuration of the Peacebuilding Commission takes place.

    From today through 22 March, an exhibit on the Nazi regime called Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race will be on display in the Visitors Lobby.

    All this week in Geneva, the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee holds its second session.

    Tuesday, January 27

    Today and tomorrow, the Secretary-General is in Madrid, Spain, where he will attend a high-level meeting organized by the Spanish Government on Food Security for All.

    This afternoon, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the Middle East (U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs).

    Today is the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. From 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., a memorial ceremony takes place in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. From 1.15 to 2.30 p.m. in Conference Room 5, there will be a panel discussion on The Holocaust The rescued and the rescuers. A reading of the play Irenas Vow takes place at 5 p.m. in the Dag Hammarskjöld Library Auditorium.

    In Geneva, UNICEF launches its Humanitarian Action Report.

    Wednesday, January 28

    From tonight through Friday, the Secretary-General attends the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

    From 1 to 1.30 p.m., a Holocaust Survivors Memoirs Project Book Signing takes place at the U.N. Bookshop.

    At 2 p.m. in Room S-226, the Institute for Global Policy launches a global civil society coalition for the Responsibility to Protect.

    In Turin, Italy, the U.N. Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute co-organizes a stakeholders meeting on maritime piracy off the Somali Coast.

    Thursday, January 29

    This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a private meeting on the maintenance of international peace and security: respect for international humanitarian law.

    From 10.15 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Conference Room 1, there will be a DPI/NGO briefing on The Sephardic Jews in Greece: The untold story.

    The guest at the noon briefing is Daly Belgasmi, the World Food Programmes (WFP) Regional Director for the Middle East, who will brief on WFPs work in the occupied Palestinian territory.

    Friday, January 30

    No major events are scheduled at this time.

    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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