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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-01-29

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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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

BAN KI-MOON ANNOUNCES $613 MILLION APPEAL FOR GAZA

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today announced in Davos an appeal for $613 million to cover the immediate recovery needs of the people of

Gaza for the next six to nine months. A formal appeal will be launched next week, on 2 February, in Geneva.

In a joint press conference with Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes, the Secretary-General said, Help is urgently needed, including food, clean water, shelter, medicine and the restoration of basic services. He told reporters, When I saw the people in Gaza, the destruction and severity of the challenges were beyond description. He urged the international community to contribute generously to the appeal.

He was asked about the violence reported over the past few days in Gaza, and replied, The incident which took place two days ago clearly shows us that this ceasefire is very fragile. Therefore this ceasefire must be translated into a durable and sustainable one, which can be respected by all the parties concerned. Later today, the Secretary-General also participated in a plenary session of the World Economic Forum on Gaza, where he stressed the need for a durable ceasefire and for a viable peace process.

In a separate event, he marked the tenth anniversary of the UN Global Compact. He said that, ten years on, it stands as the worlds largest corporate sustainability initiative, with more than 6,000 business participants in more than 130 countries. The Global Compact has become a byword for corporate responsibility, he noted.

At another private session in Davos, he pushed for a Climate Change communication initiative that will explain, educate and ask for global engagement, leading to success at the December summit in Copenhagen.

While in Davos, the Secretary-General also met, last night and today, with a number of leaders. He discussed climate change and the Middle East peace process with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. He discussed Haiti with former U.S. President Bill Clinton. And, in a bilateral meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, he talked about climate change, food security, the Millennium Development Goals and Haiti.

Asked about the flash appeal for Gaza, the Spokeswoman noted that John Holmes would formally launch the appeal in Geneva on 2 February.

Asked whether the United Nations would only investigate the attacks on UN facilities in Gaza, Okabe said that the Secretary-General, in his press conference today, had reiterated that he would set up an investigation that would look into the attacks on the UN compounds in Gaza.

HALF OF ALL INJURED GAZANS MAY SUFFER LIFE-LONG IMPAIRMENT

On Gaza, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that as many as half of the 5,000 men, women and children injured over the past three weeks may suffer life-long impairment. Such disabilities were brought on unnecessarily because rehabilitation workers were unable to respond immediately, according to OCHA.

At the same time, OCHA reports that the water situation in parts of Gaza has improved, with 70 percent of the water system functioning in certain areas. But this does not mean that everyone is getting water. Also, the sewage network in some parts remains damaged. For its part, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) recently provided more than 150,000 liters of fuel to municipalities so that they can cover all their solid waste management needs until mid-March.

UNRWA also provided 75,000 liters of fuel this week to the water utility so that they can operate their water and waste water assets on an emergency basis.

Also on Gaza, the UN Mine Action Service is working to verify that main roads are clear of unexploded ordnance so that essential goods can be transported. It has also worked with UNICEF to ensure that school buildings are clear.

Meanwhile, OCHA reports that the number of people receiving UN food aid in Gaza has now increased to 1.3 million.

SRI LANKA: HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF WORRIED BY SITUATION OF CIVIILANS IN CONFLICT ZONE

High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay today said that she is deeply concerned by reports of the rapidly deteriorating conditions facing a quarter of a million civilians trapped in northern Sri Lankas conflict zone. She also expressed concern over alleged human rights abuses and the significant number of civilian casualties, as well as the huge level of displacement.

Pillay is also worried by the highly restricted access to the Vanni region for aid agencies and impartial outside observers, including journalists and human rights monitors.

Pillay added that it seems there may have been very grave breaches of human rights by both sides in the conflict. She also stressed that it is the Government's duty to provide safety to all Sri Lanka's citizens, whatever their ethnic origin or political views.

Meanwhile, Gordon Weiss, a spokesman for the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Sri Lanka, reports that UN international staff members today accompanied a convoy of hundreds of wounded civilians away from the front lines in Sri Lanka.

He said that a quarter of a million people continue to be stuck in a pocket of land which is a third the size of London, where they are near the recent fighting. UN staff, he said, witnessed the injury and deaths of dozens of people over the weekend at close quarters, while the hospitals in the area are being overwhelmed by the numbers of wounded.

SOMALIA: INTL. COMMUNITY WORKING TO ENSURE THAT VOTE IS TRANSPARENT & FAIR

Somalias presidential election will take place tomorrow in Djibouti. Several candidates, including prominent members of both the Transitional Federal Government and the opposition Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, will vie for the post. That is according to Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative and head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS). He said that the Somali leadership and the international community are working to ensure that the vote is transparent and fair.

Once sworn in some 24 hours after the election, the new Somali President will head to Addis Ababa for the African Union Summit, after which he will appoint a new Prime Minister and cabinet.

Yesterday, some 150 new members of the Transitional Federal Parliament were sworn in at a ceremony in Djibouti, where reconciliation talks are ongoing between the government and the opposition.

Asked where the Government would be located, the Spokeswoman said that we had been informed that all members of Parliament and the new cabinet members are expected back in Mogadishu next week.

ARMYWORMS WREAKING HAVOC IN LIBERIA

Caterpillars destroying crops across northern and central Liberia have now been conclusively identified as armyworms, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO says the infestation has also spread into villages in neighbouring Guinea.

The agency warns that the situation may be about to get much worse. Many of the armyworms have bored into the ground where pesticides cant reach them and formed cocoons. In the next week or two, they will emerge as moths. Each moth can fly up to one thousand kilometers and lay one thousand eggs, says Winfred Hammond, an entomologist who is FAOs permanent representative in Liberia.

FAO is leading a team of experts that is doing all it can to help. One step under consideration is setting pheromone traps that use the mating scent of female moths to lure male moths to their doom.

MYANMAR: MORE FUNDS NEEDED FOR POST-CYCLONE AGRICULTURAL AID

Earlier this week, the UN in Myanmar organized a meeting and field visit for international donors helping with post-Cyclone Nargis relief efforts.

Areas hardest-hit by the storm still need substantial support if people are to resume their livelihoods, according to the UNs Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator there. The cyclone killed large amounts of livestock and destroyed boats, fishing nets, and farm tools.

While crops in Myanmar as a whole are expected to be satisfactory, rice production in the delta is down 50 per cent, according to the assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme.

Assistance for the agriculture sector, which makes up roughly one-eighth of the UN Revised Appeal for nearly 480 million dollars, is only 28 per cent funded.

BAN KI-MOON TO HEAD TO U.A.E., PAKISTAN AND INDIA

Following his attendance at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, the Secretary-General will travel to Abu Dhabi on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates.

Thereafter, he will travel to Islamabad on an official trip to Pakistan.

The Secretary-General will then travel to New Delhi, India, to attend the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2009.

During the course of his visit, he will meet with senior government officials in the various countries concerned.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

DARFUR MEDIATOR CALLS FOR CESSATION OF HOSTILITIES: The African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator for Darfur Djibril Bassole has issued a

press statement, in which he calls on the parties to cease hostile military actions to minimize the suffering of the people of Darfur and to create a conducive environment for a political dialogue to resolve the conflict peacefully.

SECURITY COUNCIL DEBATES INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW: The

Security Council today is holding a private debate on respect for international humanitarian law. UN Legal Counsel Patricia OBrien opened the discussion of the Security Councils effectiveness at ensuring respect for international humanitarian law. Senior officials from the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs also contributed to the discussion.

SERBIAN FOREIGN MINISTER MEETS PEACEKEEPING CHIEF: Asked who would meet with visiting Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic while he is at UN Headquarters, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General is in Europe, so he was unable to meet the Foreign Minister. The Foreign Minister, she said, is meeting today with Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy.

  • ** The guest at the noon briefing today was Daly Belgasmi, the World Food Programmes Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. He briefed on the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

    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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