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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-28

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 MARIE OKABE

DEPUTY

SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

DR CONGO: UNITED NATIONS AGREES TO SUPPORT JOINT MILITARY OPERATION AGAINST REBELS

Alan Doss, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has formally accepted an invitation by the Congolese government to contribute a planning and liaison team to a joint DRC/Rwanda military operation. The operation targets ethnic Rwandan Hutu militias based in the eastern DRC. The decision was made yesterday as Doss toured eastern Congo to assess the impact of the military operation on local civilians.

The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) says it will soon dispatch a group of staff military officers to the headquarters of the operation in Goma. Their mandate is strictly confined to planning and liaison. The goal of their assignment is to help increase the presence and gradual inclusion of UN civilian staff in the planning of the military operation. These civilian staff members will work on issues affecting humanitarian co-ordination, general civilian affairs and the

demobilization, resettlement or repatriation of former Congolese or ethnic Rwandan Hutu fighters.

"Our main task there is to make sure that international humanitarian laws are respected," Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet told reporters about the UN involvement following his briefing on the DRC to the Security Council.

Noting that there has been a marked increase in the number of Rwandan Hutu fighters willing to be repatriated to Rwanda with the Missions support, UN officials say that the support for repatriation remains available. So far 39 combatants have agreed to be repatriated to Rwanda and another 57 have recently registered for repatriation.

HUMANITARIAN OFFICIALS WARN AGAINST COMPLACENCY IN THE FACE OF GAZA SUFFERING

Yesterday afternoon, the Security Council held a meeting and consultations on the Middle East. It heard

briefings from Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, and also, for the first time ever, a Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Addressing Council members, UNRWA chief Karen AbuZayd spoke of shock and sorrow among the people of Gaza. She noted their rage against the attackers for often failing to distinguish between military targets and civilians. But she also noted their resentment against the international community for having allowed first the siege and then the war to go on for so long. AbuZayd said Palestinians and Palestine refugees are assured of UNRWAs help, but their greater need is to have the demonstrated support of the Security Council.

For his part, John Holmes said that the people of Gaza have continued to exist in what is effectively a giant open-air prison, without normality or dignity. That can only lead to more despair, suffering, death and destruction in the coming years, and perhaps fatally undermine the two-State solution.

In that regard, he stressed that it must be in the long-term interests of all parties, including Israel, to ease conditions for the people of Gaza, by opening the crossings, facilitating the provision of aid, and allowing Gazans to live, work and hope again.

Holmes noted that he will launch a flash appeal for Gaza on 2 February.

In response to a question, the Spokeswoman noted that, prior to the 2 February launch of the flash appeal for Gaza in Geneva, the Secretary-General intended to discuss needs in Gaza this Thursday in Davos.

CLOSE TO 1 MILLION GAZA RESIDENTS IN NEED OF FOOD AID

The Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) reports that the Kerem Shalom crossing, the Karni grain conveyor belt and the Nahal Oz fuel pipeline, all of which run between Israel and Gaza, were reopened today.

But John Ging, the Director of Operations in Gaza for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), stressed today that access remains a problem with thousands of tons of generously donated aid sitting in Egypt, Jordan and the ports of Israel. "That aid should be right here, right now, helping the people who need it," Ging said.

He also noted that the number of people receiving UN food aid in Gaza has now gone up to 900,000. The growing number of aid-dependent Palestinians is due to the lack of an economy in Gaza, as well as the recent damage and destruction, he said.

Ging added that UNRWA is distributing millions of dollars of cash assistance to those who have had their houses damaged and need temporary shelters.

DARFUR MISSION TO KEEP UP WORK DESPITE GROWING INSECURITY

Also today Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet briefed the Security Council on the recent clashes in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that the security situation in Darfur remains tense.

And two UNAMID camps in South Darfur continue to face an increase in the number of civilians seeking refuge as a result of recent clashes.

Joint Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, told UN staff at mission headquarters in El Fasher following the recent fighting that took place in North and South Darfur that UNAMID will remain in Darfur. UNAMID will continue its mandated operations of protecting civilians, ensuring that humanitarian assistance is provided to those in need and finding a political solution to the crisis.

Asked about comments from Sudanese officials suggesting that UN offices in Sudan may be endangered if the International Criminal Court were to indict President Omar al-Bashir, the Spokeswoman noted that the United Nations constantly monitors security conditions in the areas where it operates.

SRI LANKA: NEW ATTEMPT TO EVACUATE WAR WOUNDED IS PLANNED

The United Nations in Sri Lanka will attempt for the second time in three days to help evacuate by convoy hundreds of critically wounded civilians from the war-torn north of the country, including at least 50 seriously injured children.

The convoy has been trapped for days in the town which lies just across the lines of confrontation in Tamil Tiger-controlled territory.

If permission is granted by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, and if a lull in fighting permits, the United Nations convoy will cross the frontline at midday Thursday. The injured will then be transported to Ministry of Health hospitals in Vavuniya to help treat their injuries and wounds.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for all parties to allow and facilitate the movement of 250,000 civilians currently in the area of fighting to safe areas.

IRAQIS TO CAST VOTES IN U.N.-BACKED PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS

This Saturday, Iraq will hold Governorate Council elections in 14 of its 18 provinces, with elections for the Kurdistan Region and the Kirkuk governorate to take place at a later stage.

Today the 2009 Governorate Council Elections commenced with voting by Iraqi police, the military, detainees and those in hospitals. Polling took place at all 372 Special Voting polling centers and 1669 polling stations across 15 governorates of Iraq. Early reports indicate that turnout was high, and polling across the country was orderly and peaceful.

The

UN Mission in Iraq has provided electoral experts who work within Iraqs High Electoral Commission, providing their Iraqi counterparts with technical support and advice, as required, on a day-to-day basis.

Ahead of the latest elections, the UN Mission has provided the Commission with advice and assistance on a broad range of electoral issues, including its nationwide revamping of the voter registry in order to increase accuracy and reduce the potential for multiple voting.

BAN KI-MOON, SPAIN SIGN AGREEMENT ON LOCATION FOR NEW PEACEKEEPING LOGISTICAL HUB

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrapped up his visit to Spain today, where he signed an agreement with the Spanish Government on the establishment of a new global telecommunications facility for peacekeeping operations, to be built in Valencia. That facility, he said, will complement the existing UN communications infrastructure in Brindisi, Italy, and will reduce the very real risks associated with depending on a single hub.

At the signing ceremony, the Secretary-General

said that, for a global organization such as the United Nations, the ability to communicate clearly, quickly and around the clock is crucial. For our peacekeeping operations, communications can be the difference between life and death. He thanked the Government of Spain for its generosity.

He also had a working luncheon with the Global Compact network for Spain, before heading on to Switzerland, where he will attend this years World Economic Forum in Davos. Tomorrow, he will speak at a number of events at the Davos Forum.

CYPRIOT LEADERS BEGIN NEGOTIATIONS ON PROPERTY ISSUES

The Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitris Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, met today under UN auspices in Nicosia. Speaking to the press afterwards, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayť-Brook Zerihoun, noted that the leaders had started negotiations on the issue of property.

The leaders also agreed to implement an agreement on cultural heritage, which had been reached earlier in a technical committee. That agreement deals with the establishment of an advisory board on the preservation, physical protection and restoration of immovable cultural heritage in Cyprus.

The leaders have agreed to meet again a week from today, on the 4th of February.

BAN KI-MOON APPLAUDS PEACEFUL RUN OF REFERENDUM ON BOLIVIAS CONSTITUTION

The Secretary-General has

followed with great interest Bolivias referendum on its new Constitution, which was held on 25 January. In a statement issued Tuesdsay afternoon, he applauded the peaceful climate that prevailed during the voting as well as the high level of participation, and congratulates the people of Bolivia for this demonstration of civic responsibility.

He also recognized the valuable work of the National Electoral Court of Bolivia in the organization of this important exercise in democracy.

The Secretary-General exhorts all political leaders in Bolivia to work together henceforth to build a prosperous and inclusive future for their country. The UN system will continue to assist the Government and the people of Bolivia to face the challenges ahead.

ZIMBABWE CHOLERA DEATH TOLL CONTINUES TO RISE

In its latest update on the cholera situation in

Zimbabwe, the World Health Organization (WHO) says the death toll has now topped three thousand. As of yesterday, 3,028 deaths had been reported, with the total number of cholera cases at nearly 58,000. Both the reported number of cases and the death toll have increased by nearly 50 per cent in the past two weeks.

In response, WHO has helped to establish a cholera control and command centre. It is stepping up efforts to improve case reporting and response, including through improved access to health care, and ensuring safe isolation and infection control. WHO has also deployed additional experts in public health, water, sanitation, logistics and other areas.

MYANMAR FOOD PRODUCTION SATISFACTORY DESPITE CYCLONE

Despite extensive damage from the May 2008 Cyclone Nargis that destroyed most of the rice harvest in the Ayeyarwaddy Delta area, Myanmars overall food production was satisfactory in 2008 due to increases in crop harvests in other regions.

Thats according to a report issued today by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

It states that due to favorable weather conditions and increasing use of better rice seeds, the 2008/09 cereal output is forecast at 21 million metric tonnes, 3 percent below the previous year but 10 percent above the average of the last 5 years.

Although aggregate food production is expected to be satisfactory for the upcoming 2009 season, access to available food still remains a critical challenge for Myanmars poorest people and for the vulnerable populations. This especially for the Cylone Nargis affected, who are engaged in rebuilding their lives, the limited delta harvest forces them to continue to rely on assistance to meet their food needs.

Pockets of food insecurity remain throughout the delta region as well as other regions, while high levels of malnutrition persist in northern and more remote states.

Altogether, more than 5 million people fall below the food poverty line in Myanmar, with the report indicating that emergency food assistance continues to be required in the cyclone-affected areas.

RISING GLOBAL UNEMPLOYMENT COULD PUSH MILLIONS INTO EXTREME POVERTY

There will be a dramatic increase in the number of unemployed people throughout the world.

This is due to the global economic crisis, says the International Labor Organization (ILO) in its

annual report on global unemployment trends.

Some 200 million workers, mostly in developing countries, could be pushed into extreme poverty in 2009.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said: The ILO message is realistic, not alarmist. We are now facing a global jobs crisis. Many governments are aware and acting, but more decisive and coordinated international action is needed to avert a global social recession, said.

HIGH-LEVEL ANTI-PIRACY MEETING UNDERWAY IN DJIBOUTI

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is currently convening a

high-level meeting to address the problem of piracy and armed robbery against ships off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden. The meeting is taking place in Djibouti. A regional agreement to assist the countries involved in this issue is expected at the end of the meeting.

In his opening address, IMO Secretary-General Efthimios Mitropoulos stressed that it was now time for the states in the region to add their own contribution to the concerted efforts of the international community. More importantly, he said, it was time for Somalia itself to act. One can have few hopes that the situation at sea will improve dramatically unless and until there is significant improvement on the political front on land.

GLOBAL ECONOMIC GROWTH TO GRIND TO VIRTUAL HALT

The International Monetary Fund

today revised its global growth forecast steeply downward, to its lowest level since World War Two. The IMF now expects the global economy to come to a virtual standstill in 2009, growing by just one half of one per cent. In November, it had predicted growth of slightly more than two per cent.

Advanced economies will experience sharp contractions, with declines of 1.5 per cent in the United States, 2 percent in the euro area, and 2.5 percent in Japan. Emerging and developing economies are expected to fare better, but will still see significant slowdowns in growth.

According to the IMF, financial markets remain under stress and are pulling down the rest of the economy. Only by restructuring the banking sector and unclogging credit markets will a sustained economic recovery be possible, according to the IMF.

BAN KI-MOON TO APPOINT NEW HEADS OF MISSION FOR GUINEA-BISSAU AND NEPAL

The Secretary-General has informed the Security Council of his intention to appoint Joseph Mutaboba of Rwanda as his Representative in Guinea-Bissau and Head of the United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office in that country (UNOGBIS) and Karin Landgren of Sweden as his Representative in Nepal and Head of

UNMIN.

Mr. Mutaboba will replace Mr. Shola Omoregie who retired on 31 December 2008 after more than 30 years of continuous service with the United Nations.

Ms. Landgren will head the Mission after the departure of Mr. Ian Martin and the adoption of Security Council resolution 1864 (2009).

Mr. Mutaboba has had a long career in diplomacy and foreign affairs, and is currently serving as the Rwandan Presidents Special Envoy to the Great Lakes Region. He has managed reforms in government ministries and services in Rwanda to improve efficiency. He has also played an active role in the countrys security sector reform process, and served as the Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations from 1999 to 2001.

He previously served as Secretary-General for the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs in Rwanda, Deputy National Coordinator for Rwanda and Head of the Peace and Security thematic group in the International Conference on the Great Lakes region, senior diplomat in Addis Ababa and Washington D.C. He has a Master of Philosophy in Librarian and Information Science from the North London University. He speaks English and French, and has working knowledge in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. Born on 21 December 1949, he is married with three children

Ms. Landgren has served as Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Nepal since September 2008 and has had many years of political, managerial, and international law experience with the United Nations.

She was the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) country representative to Eritrea, Singapore and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her service with UNHCR also included postings in India and the Philippines, and as the Chief of Standards and Legal Advice. She was UNICEFs Head of Child Protection for many years. Ms. Landgren has a Bachelor of Science (Economics) in international relations and a Master of Laws in international law from the London School of Economics. Born on 13 October 1957, she has two children.

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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