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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-26
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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: email@example.comARCHIVES
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Monday, January 26, 2009
BAN KI-MOON STRONGLY CONDEMNS HOSTILITIES IN NORTH DARFUR
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly
condemns the hostilities which have taken place today between a rebel movement and the Sudanese Armed Forces on the outskirts of El Fasher, in North Darfur. This follows clashes earlier this month in South Darfur involving the Sudanese Armed Forces, the Justice and Equality Movement and the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi (SLA/MM).
The Secretary-General deplores these continued military actions which continue to put civilian lives at risk and to jeopardize the political process.
The Secretary-General calls on all parties to immediately cease ongoing hostilities and to abide by their obligations under international law.
As result of the clashes, local population and some combatants have taken refuge at camps operated by the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID), a move which could endanger the safety and security of the civilian population that take refuge in these camps as well as the UNAMID troops in these locations.
UNAMID today expressed its grave concern over the disturbing events that have taken place close to the city of El Fasher in North Darfur, where explosions, shelling, mortars and sounds of fighter jets alerted the inhabitants at early hours of the day. Reports of the possible attack sent an immediate wave of fear among the people and created a sense of uncertainty of what might come next. The market was closed, the traffic jammed and school children were sent back to their homes.
Banditry and factional clashes have also been increasing in several IDP camps, and it is likely that these events could cause wide displacements of civilians and humanitarian implications.
UNAMID recalls its mandate to protect civilians and voices caution that the humanitarian situation might further deteriorate because of the continued violence.
The Joint Special Representative (JSR), Rodolphe Adada, expressed grave concern over the safety and security of the people in North Darfur and the region at large, warning that such escalations of insecurity would impede delivery of humanitarian assistance to the population.
He called on all warring parties to instantly cease hostilities and end this cycle of violence that would only add to the suffering of the people of Darfur.
SRI LANKA: BAN KI-MOON CALLS ON PARTIES TO ENSURE PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS
The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of civilians caught in intensified fighting in the Vanni region of Sri Lanka between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government of Sri Lanka. He calls on the LTTE and the Government of Sri Lanka to accord immediate and absolute priority to ensuring the protection and well-being of civilians, including humanitarian aid workers.
The Government and the LTTE must ensure that all people, including the displaced, are treated in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.
The Secretary-General, in a statement issued after the noon briefing, calls on both parties to respect no fire zones, safe areas, and civilian infrastructure including schools, medical facilities and humanitarian facilities and assets.
He is deeply concerned that the civilian population in the area is in increasingly dire need of humanitarian aid, including food, water, sanitation, and shelter. The Secretary-General also calls for all parties to allow and facilitate the movement of 250,000 civilians currently in the area of fighting to safe areas.
The Secretary-General appreciates the cooperation of the Government of Sri Lanka in facilitating the relocation of UN staff and their dependents and trusts that all parties will further cooperate with their relocation to Vavuniya as soon as possible.
The Secretary-General is also very concerned about attacks on members of the media and urges all parties to demonstrate respect for the freedom of the press.
The United Nations, as well as other aid agencies, still has staff in the north of Sri Lanka, working desperately to provide humanitarian aid to some 250,000 civilians trapped in the areas in which fighting is continuing.
Nearly 5,000 people have managed to cross the zones held by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to Government-controlled areas since late November.
The UN Refugee Agency has taken the lead in formulating guidance for assistance to accommodate internally displaced persons fleeing from the Vanni region.
The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka has urged the Government to ensure timely and transparent registration of new arrivals. After that, the internally displaced persons should be allowed to stay with host families or move to existing Welfare Centers, where their freedom of movement would be guaranteed. We expect to have a statement later today by the Secretary-General on this subject.
FIRST TRIAL STARTS AT INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT
trial of Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo opened today before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. It is not only the first trial in the history of the ICC but also the first trial in the history of international law to see the active participation of victims in the proceedings. A total of 93 victims have been recognized by ICC judges to take part in the trial. They are represented by a team of 8 lawyers.
The accused, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, was the first suspect taken into ICC custody since the Court became effective in July 2002. He faces charges of war crimes including enlisting and conscripting children under the age of 15; and using them in active hostilities in the Ituri province of Democratic Republic of the Congo. He is alleged to have committed these crimes between September 2002 and August 2003. He pleaded not guilty today.
BAN KI-MOON WILL CHAIR MEETING ON GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS TOMORROW
A two-day meeting on the global food crisis opened today in Madrid, Spain. U.N. officials and the heads of international agencies are discussing a coordinated, effective response to food insecurity, focusing on both its immediate effects and its longer-term causes.
The meeting concludes tomorrow with a ministerial-level session, which will be co-chaired by the Secretary-General and Spains Prime Minister Zapatero.
Over the weekend, an op-ed co-authored by the Secretary-General and the Spanish Prime Minister ran in the International Herald Tribune. In it, they stressed that, although the food crisis is not as much in the news, nearly one billion people still go hungry every day. While prices on global markets may have fallen, they are still near their peak levels in many countries. Development assistance for agriculture, rural development, and social protection needs to be scaled up and made consistent, they said.
After Madrid, the Secretary-General plans to continue on to Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum and then to Addis Ababa for a summit of the African Union.
DETAILS STILL BEING WORKED OUT ON U.N. ENVOY'S NEXT VISIT TO MYANMAR
Asked about the terms of reference for Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambaris next visit to Myanmar, the Spokeswoman confirmed that the Secretary-General has asked Gambari to return soon and the Myanmar Government has extended an invitation for him to visit the country. At this point, however, discussions are ongoing about the details of his visit.
As for the Secretary-Generals expectations about the visit, Okabe said that the Secretary-General has expressed his expectation that more progress is necessary on the issues which Gambari raised with the Government during his last visit, including especially with regard to the need for dialogue between the Government and Aung San Suu Kyi, and he has therefore asked Gambari to return to continue his discussions and engagement with the Myanmar Government, opposition and other stakeholders as an integral part of this process in the implementation of the Secretary-Generals mandate.
BAN KI-MOON MEETS WITH NEW U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS
Asked about the Secretary-Generals meeting earlier today with new U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice, the Spokeswoman noted that Ambassador Rice had spoken to reporters after that meeting.
She added that the Secretary-General had spoken by phone last Friday with 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.-UN 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, Okabe said. The Secretary General was encouraged by the U.S. Presidents assurance of strong support as the Organization makes further progress in this direction. They also looked forward to mutual visits.
The Spokeswoman added that 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 UN. 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, she said.
NEEDS AND DAMAGE ASSESSMENTS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY IN GAZA
On Gaza, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that needs and damage assessments are currently taking place on the ground. At this stage, aid workers are focused on re-establishing basic services to Gazans.
OCHA adds that thousands of Gazans remain homeless. Fewer than 500 people remain in three emergency shelters run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). But thats because most displaced Gazans have been staying with host families, who are overstretched themselves.
For its part, the World Food Programme (WFP) restarted its school feeding program for Gaza today. Thirty thousand children will now be getting a meal five days a week. That meal will consist of canned meat, high-energy biscuits and milk.
In addition, all 10 UNRWA distribution centers are now open, feeding 25,000 people a day.
In terms of Gaza crossings, the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline, the Karni conveyor belt, and the Rafah, Kerem Shalom, and Erez crossings were all open today. OCHA stresses that these crossings need to be operational 24 hours a day. Among the items that are critically needed right now are spare parts and fuel for the power plant, hospitals and water and sewage treatment facilities. Also needed are cement, sand and other construction materials to rebuild destroyed schools, hospitals, clinics and homes.
Meanwhile, renowned musician Yusuf Islam, who was formerly known as Cat Stevens, today released a charity song from which all proceeds will be donated to UNRWA and Save the Children. UNRWA welcomes this generous donation, which will help it to continue its vital work in Gaza.
Asked about the progress of investigations into the attacks that took place in Gaza, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General has protested such attacks in the strongest possible terms, and has 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, she said. Prime Minister Olmert promised to provide the results of their inquiry on an urgent basis. The Secretary-General will then decide on appropriate other action, Okabe added.
An investigation into the damage to UNRWA and UNSCO facilities will be undertaken by the UN Secretariat, the Spokeswoman said. The precise format and the identity of the panel or members comprising the inquiry has not been determined as yet but is receiving close consideration.
As to an inquiry into the broader questions relating to the conduct of the parties to this conflict before and during hostilities, the Secretary-General says that he has raised the issue with the Security Council and has asked its members to give serious consideration to the question, and to advise him of their views, she added.
U.N. ENVOY FOR SOMALIA ENCOURAGED BY DECISION TO EXPAND SEATS IN PARLIAMENT
The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said he is extremely encouraged by the majority decision by Somali lawmakers to expand the Transitional Federal Parliament by 275 seats.
The decision, which was adopted in Djibouti this past weekend, creates up to 200 new seats in the Somali parliament, whose holders will be selected by the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia. They will be sworn in in Djibouti, where the Alliance is in reconciliation talks with the Transitional Federal Government. Another 75 seats have been set aside for civil society and opposition politicians who are not affiliated with the Alliance.
The expanded Parliament is expected to elect Somalias new head of state, who is in turn expected to take the oath of office later this month.
WORLD FOOD BODY LENDS HAND FOR HOUSEHOLDS IN BURUNDI
The World Food Programme (WFP) is helping households in Burundis northern province of Kirundo. Crops there have withered, after inadequate rainfall between September and November.
WFP distributed more than 650 metric tons of food there last week. This is in addition to more than 700 tons of food given out to nearly 200,000 students at schools in six other provinces. For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will provide seeds and tools to the most affected households. These include cassava, which is a lean-season crop.
SECRETARY-GENERAL HONOURS VICTIMS OF THE HOLOCAUST
Secretary-General on Saturday spoke at the Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, in advance of the International Day of Commemoration honouring the victims of the Holocaust. He
told the gathering there, including survivors of the Holocaust, that the United Nations is determined to tell its timeless lessons.
He noted that, two years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution condemning, without reservation, any denial of the Holocaust. Memory speaks, the Secretary-General said, adding that that is why it must be preserved and passed to future generations. He said the UN Holocaust Outreach Program sponsors exhibits, workshops and panel discussions, with the aim of confronting deniers or those who would minimize the importance of the Holocaust.
Tomorrow, well have several events to mark the official International Day of Commemoration.
ATTENTION DRAWN TO MATERNAL MORTALITY IN AFGHANISTAN
UNICEF, the World Health Organization and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) today held a joint press conference in
Afghanistan to draw attention to the high rate of maternal mortality in that country where Afghan women have a one in eight chance of dying from pregnancy-related complications in their lifetime.
WHO says that 1,600 women die for every 100,000 births in Afghanistan, with excessive bleeding the primary cause of death. The agencies stressed the importance of increasing the number of skilled midwives, providing better nutrition and allowing for adequate spacing between births, among other measures.
UN POPULATIONS FUND WELCOMES U.S. ANNOUNCEMENT TO RESTORE FINANCIAL SUPPORT
The U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA) has welcomed Fridays announcement by U.S. President Barack Obama that he will work with Congress to restore U.S. financial support to the agencys operations.
UNFPAs Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid said the decision sent a strong message and could not have come at a more critical time.
She noted that, more than halfway to the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the goal of addressing maternal and reproductive health has made the least progress and is the most underfunded. Globally, the rate of death from pregnancy and childbirth declined just one per cent between 1990 and 2005.
WORLD HEALTH BODY DISCOURAGES TRADITION OF CIGARETTE-GIFTS IN CHINA
On the occasion of the Chinese Lunar New Year, the World Health Organization (WHO) is urging an end to the tradition of giving cigarettes as gifts in China. WHO said: "Giving cigarettes is giving harm".
China's 350 million smokers make up one-third of the world's smokers.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
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