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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-02-10

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org

ARCHIVES

.

PRESS CONFERENCE

BY

U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to see you again.

As you know, I have been traveling for much of the past month. I have been to Gaza and seen, with my own eyes, the human suffering there. I have been to Kabul, Islamabad and Baghdad, Davos and New Delhi, and some other places. Wherever I went I spoke for ordinary people people at risk from climate change, people living in fear or war, people who have lost their homes, their livelihoods, their children and families.

Let me begin with a brief overview of my most recent trip. It began, two weeks ago, with the high-level meeting on Food Security for All in Madrid, Spain. We do not see many references these days to the food crisis in the news. It has been eclipsed by economic fears. But we are still not out of the woods. I call it our forgotten crisis because it has not gone away.

Kenya recently warned of a state of food emergency, affecting one quarter of its population some 25 million people. Kenya is not alone. That is why, with Spanish Prime Minister Rodriguez Zapatero, I called on the international community to keep its priorities straight.

We called, loudly, for a sharp increase in agricultural assistance to the most vulnerable nations. Spain led by example with 1 billion euros over 5 years. A time of economic hardship, I told the delegates in Madrid, is a time to get back to basics. No human right is more basic than the right to eat.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos, I spoke again for ordinary people people too easily forgotten amid the sturm und drang of economic troubles. Despite the hard times, we must not waver in our commitment to the worlds poor. We reminded wealthy nations of their pledges under the Millennium Development Goals.

In Davos, I urged donors to be more forthcoming. I sought new partnerships and allies political leaders, business executives and philanthropists. Now, more than ever, it is time to deliver. During periods of crisis, it is essential to keep our eye on the big picture. That, too, is why I went to the Davos Forum to speak out on climate change.

The negotiations to be completed in Copenhagen by the end of this year require global leadership of the highest order. We have no time to lose. The United States, China, India and the European Union and many other countries all must show the way. we must provide for those least able to adapt.

I repeated this call at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, even as discussions turned to issues of peace and security. I am encouraged by developments in Somalia and was pleased to learn that additional African contingents are ready to reinforce the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM). The election of a new president is a direct result of my representatives efforts. We will do everything we can to assure that the African force has what it needs to act.

Darfur was a topic of intense discussion. I urged President Bashir of Sudan to cooperate fully with the UN missions and ensure the safety and security of our staff and premises. He agreed to do so. Publicly and privately, I pressed both the government and rebel forces around the city of Muhajeria to withdraw and to safeguard civilians. Both sides have largely complied. I told everyone I spoke to, bluntly and categorically, that the UN would stand its ground.

The situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has improved dramatically. We agreed, however, that the ceasefire is fragile and that UN peacekeeping forces must be reinforced in order to consolidate this progress.

I welcomed Zimbabwes progress in forming a unity government. But I told President Mugabe, very frankly, that they still have far to go. I emphasized to the President that the government must protect the human rights and democratic freedoms of all Zimbabweans. I urged him to release all those arrested or secretly detained in recent months.

I remain especially concerned about the humanitarian situation. According to the latest figures from WHO, an estimated 3400 people have died of cholera. More than 69,000 have been infected. On Friday, next week, I will send a high-level UN humanitarian assessment mission to Zimbabwe, led by Assistant Secretary General of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Catherine Bragg.

From Addis, I went to Afghanistan to meet with President Karzai. This is the critical year for addressing that countrys security challenges and strengthening its democratic institutions.

That presupposes a better coordinated and better financed humanitarian and development effort. It requires good governance, free of corruption.

It is impossible to come away from Kabul without a strong feeling that we need a stronger, more concerted, more strategic approach in Afghanistan, if our work over the past seven years is to succeed. Regional cooperation is essential.

I have discussed this with many international leaders in recent months, including U.S. Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke. I raised all these issues, as well, in Islamabad with President Zadari, Prime Minister Gilani and others.

I emphasized the importance of good relations with India and stressed the need for a full investigation into the Mumbai attacks. I also announced the creation of an independent UN commission to investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to be headed by Ambassador Heraldo Munoz of Chile.

In India, I addressed the Delhi Sustainable Development Summit. I argued forcefully for green growth a Green New Deal that stimulates economic growth and fights climate change by investing in renewable energy. This is a theme I will carry forward at the up-coming G20 summit meeting in London on April 2nd.

We face a global financial crisis. We therefore need a well-coordinated, synchronized global stimulus package that protects the worlds poor as well as the rich. Piecemeal, nationalist, protectionist policies will only hurt us all.

I concluded my trip with a stop in Baghdad, where I met President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, and other parliamentary leaders. I wanted to show solidarity with Iraqs people. I wanted to congratulate them on such a resoundingly successful election, conducted democratically and without violence. I am very proud of the UNs role. For the people of Iraq, it is an immense step forward toward participatory democracy.

Visiting Baghdad, I found a new sense of confidence and optimism. If current trends continue, I can foresee a much greater role for UN agencies throughout Iraq during the coming months.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Let me close with a few remarks on two other crises.

I am gravely concerned at the plight of the tens of thousands of people caught by fighting in Sri Lanka. I telephoned President Mahinda Rajapaksa from India and expressed my deep concern over the high number of civilian casualties. He assured me that he would take all measures to safeguard the civilian population. I stressed that all actions must be consistent with the principles of international humanitarian law.

I remain no less concerned about the situation in Gaza. I saw, with my own eyes, how difficult life has become for ordinary people. These difficulties have not diminished since my visit. All but one border crossing remains closed. Nearly 1 million refugees depend on daily UN aid. Yet we are getting in supplies for only 30,000.

Meanwhile, Hamas militants on two occasions seized UN aid. The materiel has since been returned but I have demanded that it not happen again. Who pays the price? It is ordinary people people without homes, without food or medicine.

That is why, in Davos, I launched a Flash Appeal worth $613 million to respond to emergency humanitarian needs in Gaza. That is why I am going to take part in the Cairo Conference on March 2nd, co-sponsored by the governments of Egypt and Norway with the United Nations and the European Union. And that is why I returned to New York determined to work harder than ever for peace in the Middle East.

It is critical that we consolidate the ceasefire, promote Palestinian unity and revive the peace process. I welcome the speed with which the new U.S. President has engaged on this issue, particularly with the appointment of George Mitchell as Special Envoy to the Middle East. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, I will devote every effort to helping push the peace process forward.

Lastly, I should say that I have initiated steps to establish a UN Board of Inquiry into incidents involving death and damage at UN premises in Gaza. The Board will be headed by Ian Martin of the United Kingdom and will include legal advisers and a military expert. It should start work immediately and report to me within a month.

Thank you. And now your questions.

[Q & A to follow]

HUMANITARIAN SITUATION DETERIORATES IN SRI LANKA

The situation in the Vanni region of Sri Lanka continues to deteriorate further due to intensified military operations and severe shortages of food and other basic supplies.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs says the number of people who have left the area and who are in camps for internally displaced people has now risen to 19,800, an increase of almost 4,000 since yesterday. Another 15,000 people are waiting to leave, but the great majority of those in the area still remain, concentrated in the so-called safe area where UN staff and their dependents are staying.

Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency is assisting the Sri Lankan Government with emergency response in the countrys north, while continuing to visit newly established transit sites for the displaced people in Vavuniya. UNHCR and its partners are prepared to meet the immediate needs of up to 150,000 civilians fleeing from the conflict zones of Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts into government-controlled areas.

So far, more than 13,000 people displaced from conflict areas are being accommodated in several sites in the district of Vavuniya, and another 5,000 people on the move are expected to reach Vavuniya during the next 24 to 48 hours.

UNHCR expressed its outrage by the unnecessary loss of hundreds of lives and the continued suffering of innocent civilians inside the LTTE-controlled areas, and called upon both the government and the LTTE to halt indiscriminate fighting in close proximity to large concentrations of innocent people in the so-called safe zone. The safe zone is not consensual and does not meet any of the necessary international prerequisites. This has inevitably led to violations by both sides, putting the safety of the trapped civilians at even greater risk. Without respect for international humanitarian law by both parties, the bloodshed will continue.

JOINT AFRICAN UNION-UNITED NATIONS MEDIATOR CONVENES DARFUR TALKS IN DOHA

Joint AU-UN Chief Mediator for Darfur, Djibril Yipènè Bassolé, welcomed the Sudanese government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) to Doha, Qatar for preliminary talks and congratulated them on this important step forward.

Bassolé underlined the importance of developing an inclusive process involving all stakeholders moving forward. He expressed his hope for a cessation of hostilities. He thanked Qatar and the international community for their support.

The Government of Sudan and representatives from the Justice and Equality Movement met in Doha this morning under the auspices of the Joint Chief Mediator. This is the first time the two parties have met since the Abuja talks in 2007.It is a preliminary step toward a cessation of hostilities and establishing the framework for a future peace agreement.

EMERGENCY RELIEF COORDINATOR URGES CONGOLESE LEADERS TO DO MORE TO PROTECT CIVILIANS

Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes has completed his mission to the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was in Kinshasa earlier today where for meetings with Alan Doss, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative, the Mission (MONUC)s Force Commander and the UN Country Team.

He also met with representatives of the donor and diplomatic communities as well with the Congolese President Joseph Kabila, his prime minister and his foreign minister. In meetings with the Congolese leadership, Holmes asked the Congolese leaders do more to protect civilians in the east of the country.

He conveyed the same message to the Ugandan and Congolese army commanders now leading a military campaign aimed at rooting out the Lords Resistance Army in northeastern DRC. Holmes visited that region yesterday.

DR CONGO: FORMER RWANDAN FIGHTERS VANISH FROM DISARMAMENT SITE

The Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) says that a group of 150 Rwandan ethnic Hutu fighters and their dependents have vanished from a cantonment site in Kasiki, a town some 200 kilometers north of Goma. The Rwandans had agreed to voluntary repatriation and were apparently awaiting their effective return to Rwanda.

That trip was planned for February 8th. The former fighters, who were formally disarmed by the UN Mission in July 2008, were previously associated with two dissident factions of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda (FDLR).

A disarmament team from the UN Mission is now in the region in an attempt to locate and persuade them to make good on their previously stated desire to return to Rwanda. The Mission urges this and other groups of Rwandan ex-combatants and their dependents to integrate the disarmament and repatriation process. It says it stands ready to assist all and any of them to consider the option of a safe, voluntary return to Rwanda.

ABUSE OF CHILDREN CONTINUES UNCHECKED IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

In his latest report on children and armed conflict in the Central African Republic, the Secretary-General says that children have been consistently recruited and used by armed groups, including government-backed self-defence militias. Rape and other grave sexual violence against children and young girls are being perpetrated by all parties to the conflict throughout the country.

The report also describes the systematic and widespread abductions of children armed groups, especially in the north-west. And the Secretary-General deplores the security vacuum in the Central African Republic, the lack of protection for civilians and the deadlock in the peace negotiations, and the resumption of active hostilities in October and November 2008.

UNRWA SEEKS PAPER FOR TEXTBOOKS IN GAZA

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the near East (UNRWA) has distributed notebooks over the past week to eleven schools in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, but it says that further distribution has been halted, as UNRWA has not been able to import any additional notebooks. UNRWA has still not received permission to import the necessary paper to print the remainder of its textbooks, leaving 60 percent of children without textbooks.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization estimates that 25,000 to 50,000 new people are likely to be in need of psychological intervention for longer term effects of the hostilities.

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS IN THE U.N. SYSTEM

SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSSES U.N. MISSION IN GEORGIA: The Security Council this morning held consultations to receive a briefing from the Secretary-Generals Special Representative, Johan Verbeke, on the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), whose current mandate expires in 15 February.

ZIMBABWE EDUCATION CRISIS WORSENS: As the world focuses on the inauguration of Zimbabwes Prime Minister and the commencement of a government of national unity, UNICEF today released data revealing that 94% of schools in rural Zimbabwe remain closed and called for a prioritisation of the education sector by the new government.

DEMOBILIZATION BEGINS IN SUDAN: Demobilization of adult combatants under the Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Sudan kicked off today in Ed Damazin, Blue Nile State, according to the UN mission in Sudan (UNMIS). Fifteen combatants from the north-south war ended with the 2005 signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) were demobilized during an official ceremony attended by senior governmental officials, donor countries and UN representatives. The DDR programme in Blue Nile State alone aims at demobilizing about 5,000 combatants out of an overall figure of 180,000 combatants.

U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY CONCERNED ABOUT REPORTED MURDERS OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN COLOMBIA: The U.N. refugee agency is

calling for a thorough investigation into the reported murders last week of 17 Awá indigenous people on their collective territory in a remote area of south-western Colombia. According to unverified initial reports, they were killed in a retaliatory attack by an irregular armed group against the civilian population following the arrival of Colombian armed forces. UNHCR is strongly urging all parties involved to respect international humanitarian law and asking the Colombian government to fulfill its obligations to protect civilians and take special measures for the preservation of indigenous people.

FORMER YUGOSLAVIA: TRIBUNAL ORDERS EARLY RELEASE OF FORMER KOSOVO OFFICIAL: The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has ordered the provisional release from prison of Bajrush Morina. He is a former Kosovo government political and part-time editor of the Kosovo newspaper Bota Sot. The Tribunal says the decision will be effected at the earliest practical moment. Morina began serving a three-month sentence for contempt of court in April 2008. he was convicted of attempting to intimidate a prosecution witness against testifying at former the trial of Kosovo Albanian military leader Ramush Haradinaj. Morinas co-accused in that offense, former government official Astrit Haraqija, was sentenced to five months in prison. Both the Prosecution and the defense have appealed todays decision.

NEW HEAD OF UNAIDS OUTLINES PRIORITIES: Michel Sidibé, the new executive director of the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), calls universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support his top priority for UNAIDS. While in the township of Khayelitsha, South Africa, during his first country visit, Mr. Sidibé

called on the world community not to let the economic crisis paralyze efforts to follow through on commitments to meet next years targets for universal access. According to a new

report released by UNAIDS today, an estimated investment of US$ 25 billion will be required for the global AIDS response in 2010 for low- and middle-income countries. Thats at least $11 million more than is currently available, UNAIDS says.

HUNGER IS NOT AN OPTION CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED IN KENYA: The UNs headquarters in Kenya have launched a charity drive to fight starvation in the country. As part of the Hunger is not an option campaign, Director General of the UN Office in Nairobi (UNON) Anna Tibaijuka appealed to some 3,000 staff members to buy food vouchers, so that the Red Cross can help to feed as many people as possible. She said that the famine in Kenya was unprecedented because of drought, post-election violence and displacement.

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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