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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-02-06

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, February 6, 2009

ON UNANNOUNCED VISIT TO BAGHDAD, BAN KI-MOON CONGRATULATES IRAQIS ON VOTE & RECONCILIATION DRIVE

The Secretary-General made a previously unannounced, eight-hour visit today to

Iraq.

He met upon arrival with President Jalal Talabani. Following that, he held meetings with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and later with the countrys two Vice Presidents (Adil Abd al-Mahdi and Tariq al-Hashemi). He also held a meeting with UN staff in Iraq.

The Secretary-General and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki held a joint

press conference after their meeting, in which the Secretary-General congratulated the people and the Iraqi government on last Saturdays provincial elections, and said he was in Iraq to show the support of the international community during this momentous time.

He said the elections mark an important event, these being the first polls to affect the day-to-day lives of Iraqi voters. The success of the Election Day, he added, augurs well for the transition process and the solidifying of Iraqs national reconciliation.

The Secretary-General added that, in support of Iraqs leaders, the United Nations will spare no efforts to meet the expectations of the Iraqi people in this next crucial phase.

COLOMBIA: BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES RELEASE OF LONG-HELD HOSTAGES

The

release this week of six hostages held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is welcome news which the Secretary-General hopes will lead to further releases. He commends the governmental and non-governmental efforts that enabled these developments to take place. The Secretary-General is relieved that among those released is the former Governor of the Department of Meta, Alan Jara, who was kidnapped by the FARC in 2001 when traveling in a UN vehicle.

The Secretary-General is pleased to know that they are now enjoying their freedom after so much time in captivity. He expresses his solidarity with the many people still being held against their will in Colombia.

Kidnapping is an inhumane and unjustifiable crime, as well as a gross violation of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Secretary-General calls on the FARC and other groups to release all hostages immediately.

TOP RIGHTS OFFICIAL APPLAUDS COOPERATION LEADING TO COLOMBIA HOSTAGE RELEASE

High

Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, in a statement that was issued today, expressed relief and satisfaction at the release this week of the six kidnapped Colombians by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The hostages had been held captive for between two and eight years.

The High Commissioner applauded the key role played by various actors including the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Government of Brazil, and a Colombian senator in making the hostages release possible.

Pillay stressed that illegal armed groups are required, under international law, to release everyone they have kidnapped immediately and unconditionally, including those they have captured from opposing forces during a conflict.

GAZA: SECRETARY-GENERAL DEMANDS THAT HAMAS RELEASE SEIZED U.N. HUMANITARIAN GOODS

The Secretary-General

demands that Hamas immediately release the UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) consignment of humanitarian goods it seized last night, in the second such incident this week, and to refrain from interference with the provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance in Gaza. UNRWA has suspended the import of humanitarian goods in Gaza until the aid is returned and guarantees of no future such occurrences are provided.

The Secretary-General reiterates the Security Councils call, in its resolution 1860, for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including food, fuel and medical treatment. All parties must refrain from interfering with or hampering the provision and distribution of urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the civilian population in Gaza.

Asked about the resumption of UN aid, the Spokeswoman said that the United Nations is committed to providing assistance to all those in Gaza who need it, but that aid is suspended until a response is received from Hamas.

Asked about complaints from Hamas that aid had gone to members of Fatah, Montas said that the United Nations provides assistance to all the people who need it, regardless of political affiliation. Any effort to impede such assistance, she emphasized, is unacceptable.

Asked why the United Nations has not yet named an inquiry panel looking into the attacks on UN facilities in Gaza, the Spokeswoman aid that it takes time to obtain the agreement of people who would serve on that body and on their mandates. An announcement on the inquiry is expected soon, she said.

In response to a question, she said that the plastic pellets needed to carry the food aid that is to be distributed in Gaza continue to be blocked from entry there.

U.N. AGENCY HALTS AID IMPORTS AFTER HAMAS SEIZURE OF HUNDREDS OF TONS OF FOOD AID

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has suspended all imports of aid into the Gaza Strip following the confiscation last night of hundreds of tons of food aid.

The food was taken away by trucks contracted by the Hamas-run Ministry of Social Affairs. It was seized from the Palestinian side of the Kerem Shalom crossing. The ten truckloads were carrying 200 tons of rice and one hundred tons of flour.

UNRWAs suspension of imports will remain in effect until the aid is returned and the Agency is given credible assurances from Hamas officials in Gaza that there will be no repeat of these thefts. This is the second such incident in 3 days.

Meanwhile, the Office of the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory reports that, because of the difficulties in obtaining food, 88 percent of Gazans are now registered to receive food aid from the World Food Programme and from UNRWA.

For its part, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) notes that, because of sustained damage, the

Gaza City Wastewater Treatment Plant continues to discharge 60 million liters of raw sewage into the sea every day.

Regarding the UNs $613 million flash appeal that was recently launched for Gaza, more than $90 million has been pledged or contributed so far. This represents only 15 percent of the appeal.

U.N. OFFICIAL HEARS HORRIFIC STORIES FROM CHILDREN IN OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORY & ISRAEL

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, has wrapped up a

mission to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

Coomaraswamy told UN Radio that children in Gaza told her horrific stories of witnessing their family members being killed. The experience was shocking, she said. Meanwhile, in Ashkelon, in southern Israel, she saw firsthand how children live under fear of missile attacks, which leads to psycho-social issues.

Coomaraswamy also met with a youth group in the West Bank, who openly expressed their despair and anger -- not only against Israel but against the international community, who they accused of not acting.

PEACEKEEPING MISSION FACILITATES HANDOVER OF ACTIVISTS TO LEBANESE GOVERNMENT

Yesterday, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was notified by the Israel Defence Forces that 10 Lebanese citizens who were on board the ship Tali would be handed over through the UNIFIL position at the Ras Naqoura crossing on the Blue Line.

UNIFIL notified the Lebanese authorities and worked in close coordination with the Lebanese Armed Forces to facilitate the transfer. In the early hours of this morning, UNIFIL received the 10 civilians and in turn handed them over to the Lebanese authorities.

Whereas this particular case of the ship was not related to UNIFILs mandate, the Mission provided its good offices to facilitate the return as a humanitarian gesture.

BAN KI-MOON CONVEYED CONCERNS OVER WELFARE OF CIVILIANS IN BATTLE ZONE TO SRI LANKA PRESIDENT

The Secretary-General spoke to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa by telephone yesterday about the ongoing fighting in northern Sri Lanka and the dire humanitarian situation for the civilian population trapped in the conflict zone. He conveyed his strong concern about the heavy casualties being inflicted on civilians, including children.

The Secretary-General reiterates the responsibility of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam to allow people to move to wherever they feel safe and the obligation of the Government to conduct its military operations with due regard to the need to safeguard civilian lives.

Meanwhile, the World Food Programme (WFP) reports that the entire population of the northern Vanni region is facing a food crisis, due to continuous displacement as well as crop failure and recent floods.

Livelihoods have been almost completely lost, exacerbating food insecurity, and peoples coping mechanisms have been exhausted. WFP notes that the areas people are completely dependent on humanitarian food aid for survival.

Since September 2008, WFP has sent 11 convoys into the region to keep some 230,000 people alive. The agency also wanted to get a food convoy into the area yesterday but was unable to get clearance to do so. The authorities had previously promised that there would be a four-hour humanitarian window yesterday.

The last UN convoy sent in was on 16 January and carried 820 tons of food. That food would have been enough to feed the intended 230,000 beneficiaries in Sri Lanka for only about one week.

Asked why the Secretary-General hasnt called for a ceasefire in Sri Lanka, the Spokeswoman noted that he has called for restraint. The focus of the United Nations, she stressed, was on the protection of civilians, which the Secretary-General has stressed; the United Nations, she added, continues to try to reach people who need assistance.

AID GROUPS FINALLY GAIN ACCESS TO FLASHPOINT TOWN IN SOUTH DARFUR

Aid workers from Medecins Sans Frontieres, Solidarites, UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs today reached the town of Muhajariya, South Darfur, for the first time in three weeks. The rapid assessment found people in urgent need of food, medicine, and water.

"There are at least 5,000 people in the town and we are doing everything possible to re-start operations immediately," said the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Darfur, Toby Lanzer. "We are grateful for the access to Muhajariya today, and count on continued access and security so that aid can reach civilians in the days and weeks to come," he added.

At least 30,000 people have fled from their homes in the Muhajariya and Shearia localities of South Darfur over the past days because of hostilities in the region.

The UN-African Union Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that the situation is now calm in the area, with military observers having returned to locations in Muhajariya locations. UNAMID still has 190 peacekeepers there, and the military observers conducted their first patrol today after the events around the Muhajariya market area.

Approximately 5,000 people are still gathered around the UNAMID camp, apparently seeking protection.

SOMALIA HUMANITARIAN APPEAL REMAINS UNDERFUNDED

More than three million people in Somalia will remain dependent on humanitarian assistance this year. That is according to a food security assessment by the UN

Food Security Analysis Unit. The Unit says that despite widespread insecurity, humanitarian work is proceeding with local implementing partners. So far this year, the World Food Programme has handed out some 34,000 tons of food to some 3.4 million people every month. UNICEF, for its part, is helping to create a permanent sustainable water system.

UNICEF and the World Health Organization are helping to protect some 1.5 million children aged 5 or less against preventable and water-borne diseases.

Meanwhile, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that only 18% of funds needed for humanitarian work in Somalia has been disbursed. It says providing consistent to aid to Somalia will remain a major challenge, a situation certain to worsen now that the European Commission has pulled out from among the top donors.

MISSION IN COTE DIVOIRE HELPS RESETTLE FORMER COMBATANTS

The UN Mission in Cote dIvoire (ONUCI), UNDP and the International Office for Migration (IOM) are carrying out a joint programme to help ease former combatants and members of self-defence forces back into civilian life. Supported by the Peacebuilding Fund, the programme will offer vocational training and in-kind assistance for projects for some 1,300 individuals. It will last for six months.

So far some 10,000 ex-combatants have been disarmed throughout the country, with a further 35,000 combatants and 20,000 members of self-defence groups awaiting their turn. A total of 9,000 of them will be brought into the national army, police and gendarmerie.

Self-defence groups operated mainly in central Côte d'Ivoire during the civil war when their members numbered in the tens of thousands.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN ASSESSMENT TEAM TO VISIT ZIMBABWE; CHOLERA CASES CONTINUE TO RISE

The World Health Organization (WHO) notes an increase in the number of reported cases of cholera in Zimbabwe. As of 5 February, nearly 68,000 cases of cholera had been reported since August, and of those, 3,371 people had died.

The Spokeswoman also confirmed that a humanitarian mission led by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs will be going to Zimbabwe on 21-25 Feb. Three other UN agencies (WHO, UNICEF, and the World Food Programme) will be participating in the mission.

ZIMBABWE TOPS LIST OF NEW RECIPIENTS OF EMERGENCY FUNDS

Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes today

allocated US$75 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund for chronically neglected emergencies in 14 countries.

The largest single allocation of US$11 million goes to humanitarian actors in Zimbabwe, followed by those working in the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Ethiopia, and Somalia.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL AFFAIRS CHIEF TO VISIT NAMIBIA: Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang is travelling to Namibia next week to open the High-level Meeting on African Agriculture in the 21st Century: Meeting the Challenges, Making a Sustainable Green Revolution. The meeting is co-organized by the UNs Department of Economic and Social Affairs and the Government of Namibia, as a critical input to the next session of the

Commission on Sustainable Development in May. It will discuss the numerous challenges facing Africa in the midst of multiple crises, and how to increase the participation of African countries in global agricultural markets and advance sustainable development in the region.

OVER-EXPLOITATION, CLIMATE CHANGE THREATEN WATER SUPPLY FOR MILLIONS IN SOUTH ASIA: In a report released today, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Asian Institute of Technology warn that hundreds of millions of people in South Asia are facing threats to their supply of fresh water. The regions river basins, which sustain close to 750 million people, are under siege from over-exploitation, and climate change, including the melting of Himalayan glaciers and declining ground water levels. The report also notes inadequate cooperation among countries.

U.N. & OLYMPIC COMMITTEE AGREE TO PROMOTE SPORTS FOR CHILDREN IN SLUMS: UN-HABITAT and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) yesterday

signed an agreement to encourage development through sport for young slum-dwellers world-wide. UN-HABITAT Executive Director Anna Tibaijuka and IOC President Jacques Rogge signed the agreement at the IOC Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. Young people account for over 50 percent of slum populations world-wide. Both Tibaijuka and Rogge stressed that sport could motivate and bring hope to urban poor children.

TODAY IS INTERNATIONAL AGAINST FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION: UNICEF today called for more efforts to end female genital cutting, as the world marks the International Day against Female Genital Mutilation. Some 70 million women alive today have been subjected to this practice. Although it is in decline, female genital cutting remains common in many countries, particularly in Africa and the Middle East. It can result in bleeding, infection, infertility and even death.

BAN KI-MOON HAS CALLED FOR A BALANCED RIGHTS COUNCIL: Asked whether the Human Rights Council is functioning effectively in its Universal Periodic Review, including of Saudi Arabia, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General has repeatedly called for the Council to perform a balanced and fair review of all of its member countries.

SELECTION OF THIRD BHUTTO PANEL MEMBER IS UNDERWAY: Asked about the formation of a Commission to determine the facts of the 2007 assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the Spokeswoman said that the third and final member of that Commission has yet to be confirmed.

WESTERN SAHARA ENVOY IN CONSULTATIONS: Asked about UN efforts in Western Sahara, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-Generals new Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross, is consulting with the parties.

THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS

7 February 13 February

Saturday, 7 February

From today through Thursday, Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs Haile Menkerios is on an official visit to Madagascar, to assess the situation there and explore what the U.N. can do to help avert further violence and contribute towards peace and stability.

From today through Tuesday, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes continues his official visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which began 6 February.

Monday, 9 February

This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hold a debate on the U.N. Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Sierra Leone.

Today and tomorrow, the U.N. and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) hold their Fifth General Meeting. Todays opening session, which the Secretary-General will address, takes place at 10.30 a.m. in Conference Room 3.

At 1.30 p.m. in Room S-226, Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy briefs on her recent visit to the occupied Palestinian territory and southern Israel.

In Windhoek, Namibia, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Sha Zukang opens the High-level Meeting on African Agriculture in the 21st Century: Meeting the Challenges, Making a Sustainable Green Revolution, which runs through tomorrow.

Tuesday, 10 February

This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to hold consultations on the follow-up to resolution 1839 (Georgia/Abkhazia).

At 10 a.m., the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) holds the second meeting of its organizational session for 2009.

From 10 a.m. to 12 noon in Conference Room 4, the official launch of the World Day for Social Justice (which is 20 February) takes place.

In South Africa, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, Michel Sidibé, announces his plans for the future direction of his agency. He will also speak to the press in a teleconference. (Journalists wishing to participate should send an email to bartonknotts@unaids.org)

Wednesday, 11 February

The guest at the noon briefing is Sylvie Lucas, President of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and Permanent Representative of Luxembourg, who will brief on ECOSOCs work in 2009.

In New York, Matthew Nimetz, the Secretary General's Personal Envoy for the talks between Greece and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, resumes talks on the name issue with representatives from both parties.

UNICEF is scheduled to announce the official appointment of a new Goodwill Ambassador.

From today through Friday in New York, UNICEF hosts the 5th annual Web4Dev conference, aimed at promoting the use of new media to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

Thursday, 12 February

At 11 a.m. in Room S-226, Richard Barrett, Coordinator of the Al-Qaida/Taliban Monitoring Team, briefs on the work of the Security Council's 1267 Committee (Al-Qaida/Taliban Sanctions Committee) and the Monitoring Team, including listing and de-listing practices.

The guest at the noon briefing is Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), who will issue a Global Report on Human Trafficking.

From 3 to 5 p.m. in the Economic and Social Council Chamber, there will be a panel discussion on trafficking in persons, during which UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa will appoint actress Mira Sorvino UNODC Goodwill Ambassador to Combat Human Trafficking.

The Greek Cypriot leader, Dimitris Christofias, and the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mehmet Ali Talat, meet today under UN auspices in Nicosia. The Secretary-Generals Special Adviser on Cyprus, Alexander Downer, will attend.

Friday, 13 February

This morning, the Security Council is scheduled to adopt a resolution on the follow-up to resolution 1839 (Georgia/Abkhazia).

At 10 a.m. in Room S-226, Joaquín Antuña, President of Peace and Cooperation, launches the Peace and Cooperation School Award 2009: Peace and the United Nations.

At 1.15 p.m. in Room S-226, Christian Wenaweser, Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein and President of the States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, briefs on the conclusion of the Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression.

In Buenos Aires, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura presides over the inauguration of the International Centre for the Promotion of Human Rights.

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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