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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-02-17

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES AGREEMENT ON DARFUR

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

welcomes the "Agreement of goodwill and confidence-building for the settlement of the problem in Darfur" signed in Doha, Qatar, today by the Government of Sudan and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) under the auspices of the Government of Qatar and the African Union-United Nations Joint Chief Mediator Djibrill Bassolé.

The Agreement represents a constructive step in the ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful conclusion to this long-running conflict.

The Secretary-General calls on the Government of Sudan and JEM to move expeditiously to a cessation of hostilities and to a detailed and explicit agreement on the scope of comprehensive and inclusive talks.

The Secretary-General underscores that until the parties renounce hostilities, the situation in Darfur cannot improve. The Secretary-General further reiterates the determination of the United Nations to continue its mediation, peacekeeping and humanitarian work impartially, and to support the efforts of the parties to reach a political solution to the conflict in Darfur.

A.U./U.N. MISSION DISPATCHES TEAM TO INVESTIGATE CLASHES IN NORTH DARFUR

Following reports of several days of clashes involving forces of the Government of Sudan and armed groups, the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID)

dispatched a fact-finding and assessment team to the locality of Wadaah in North Darfur. The team was led by Force Commander General Martin Luther Agwai.

The UNAMID team witnessed the extent of the damage suffered by the town. Numerous buildings and equipment, houses, shops, huts, and generators were burnt to the ground, and the market place was allegedly looted. Granaries set on fire were still smoldering. The team was taken to a site on the outskirts of Wadaah. In two different locations nearby, the UNAMID team was shown fresh mounds of earth which, according to the local residents, were the recently-dug mass graves where they buried 45 of their own people. The same sources indicated that a large number of people, many reported as having fled the fighting, were still unaccounted for.

Neither a precise casualty toll nor the number of possible wounded could be obtained and verified.

The UNAMID Force Commander expressed the grave concerns of the Mission for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Wadaah and for the lives and welfare of its civilian population. He also strongly condemned the fighting and called on all parties to refrain from further violence and destruction, urging all involved to commit themselves to a peaceful resolution.

RECRUITMENT OF CHILDREN, RAPE AND SEXUAL VIOLENCE SYSTEMATIC AND WIDESPREAD IN SUDAN CONFLICT

The latest

report of Secretary-General to the Security Council on children and armed conflict in the Sudan highlights that children continued to be recruited and used by all parties to the conflict, that rape and sexual violence continue to be systematic and widespread and that children and women in and around refugee camps and internally displaced persons settlements are especially vulnerable.

It also shows alarming levels of attacks against humanitarian personnel and assets, particularly in Darfur, the denial of humanitarian access to affected populations, mainly due to acute insecurity.

SECURITY COUNCIL MEETS ON DARFUR AND DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

The

Security Council this morning held consultations on

Darfur. They received a briefing on recent developments by Under-Secretaries-General for Peacekeeping Operations Alain Le Roy and for Field Support Susana Malcorra.

At 3:00 this afternoon, the Council has scheduled an open briefing on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, by Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes, who recently visited that country. That meeting will be followed by consultations, also on the DRC.

CAMBODIA: TRIBUNAL OPENS FIRST CASE ON CRIMES COMMITTED DURING KHMER ROUGE REGIME

In Phnom Penh, efforts at bringing justice and accountability for crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge regime of 1975-1979 took a major step forward today, with the start of the initial hearing in the first case of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia.

The

ECCC a United Nations-backed, independent hybrid tribunal today began proceedings in the trial of Kaing Guek Eav, also known by the alias Duch.

He faces charges of crimes against humanity and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, in addition to the offences of homicide and torture under Cambodian criminal law.

Tony Kranh, the ECCCs acting Director of Administration, said the Cambodian people have waited 30 years for this day, to find justice for the suffering in which over a third of the population perished.

PAKISTAN: U.N. REFUGEE AGENCY REITERATES CALL FOR RELEASE OF HEAD OF QUETTA OFFICE

In a statement issued earlier today in Pakistan, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reiterated its appeal to those holding John Solecki for his immediate and safe release. UNHCR encouraged the Balochistan community leaders continued engagement and once more asked those keeping John Solecki to initiate direct contact so that dialogue can be started for his immediate safe recovery.

The Secretary-General spoke over the weekend with President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan, and they agreed on the need to secure the safe and immediate release of Mr. Solecki.

In a

statement we issued on Saturday, the Secretary-General underscored the importance of the humanitarian work being undertaken by Mr. Solecki and stressed that no cause can be served by prolonging his abduction.

Asked about reports concerning the disappearance and rape of men and women in the province of Balochistan, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General was aware of the reports.

SRI LANKA: UNITED NATIONS EXPRESSES HEIGHTENED CONCERN FOR CIVILIANS CAUGHT UP IN FIGHTING

The United Nations in Sri Lanka yesterday

expressed heightened concern for the welfare of the civilian population caught up in the fighting, based on reports received in the last few days.

While the designation of the new safe zone has provided some respite for the tens of thousands of civilians trapped for weeks by heavy fighting, reports from the weekend indicate some fighting inside the zone, leading to deaths and injuries to yet more civilians.

The United Nations calls for the Sri Lankan forces and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to refrain from fighting in areas of civilian concentration.

The LTTE continues to actively prevent people leaving, and reports indicate that a growing number of people trying to leave have been shot and sometimes killed.

There are also indications that children as young as 14, are being recruited into the ranks of the LTTE.

Meanwhile, 15 United Nations staff and 75 of their dependents remain in the same area, having also been prevented from leaving by the LTTE. 15 of the dependent children have contracted respiratory diseases, and now are in dire need of humanitarian assistance. The UN is especially concerned that one staff member was reported forcibly recruited into the LTTE yesterday.

The UN calls on the LTTE to immediately release him, to desist from further recruitment of civilians, and to permit passage for people who wish to leave, especially the women and children.

Tens of thousands of civilians remain in the Vanni Pocket, including a large number of children, experiencing serious shortages of food, medicine, and clean water. Efforts to bring in more food and medicines have not yet been successful.

The UN calls on both sides to find an orderly and humane solution so that civilians and children in particular - can be spared further bloodshed and loss of life due to both disease and the fighting.

Asked about the number of civilian casualties in Sri Lanka, the Spokeswoman said that the United Nations did not have a precise count. In response to a further question on whether the United Nations had an estimate that it was refusing to disclose, Montas said that what the United Nations had was an estimate that it was not in a position to verify on the ground.

She emphasized that the United Nations was focusing on avoiding further civilian casualties, and, in that regard, had called for civilians to be allowed to leave the area of conflict.

Asked about a visit by the Secretary-General to visit Sri Lanka, the Spokeswoman confirmed that the Secretary-General had received an invitation to visit the country, but she added that he had not decided on a visit.

AFGHANISTAN: U.N. MISSION REPORTS MORE THAN 2,100 CIVILIANS KILLED IN FIGHTING LAST YEAR

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in a

report it published today, said that more than 2,100 civilians had been killed in fighting in Afghanistan last year. That represents an increase of almost 40 percent since 2007, UNAMA says. Of that amount, 55 percent of the death toll was attributed to anti-Government elements and 39 percent to Afghan security and international military forces.

The armed opposition was responsible for 1,160 civilian deaths, an increase of 65 percent from 2007, with most of those killings coming from suicide attacks and improvised explosive devices. Meanwhile, air strikes were responsible for 64 percent of the killings that were attributed to the pro-Government forces.

Asked about civilian casualties caused by military operations in Afghanistan, the Spokeswoman recalled that the Secretary-General has repeatedly addressed the issue and warned that civilian casualties were too high.

LORDS RESISTANCE ARMY ATTACKS FORCE MORE THAN 15,000 CONGOLESE TO FLEE INTO SOUTH SUDAN

The UN Refugee Agency

said today that repeated attacks by the Lords Resistance Army have forced more than 15,000 Congolese across the border into south Sudan. UNHCR says that a military operation by the Congolese and Rwandan armies against the FDLR, a DRC-based Rwandan rebel group, was also adding to the number of Congolese civilians fleeing the country.

It says that most of these refugees came from the Congolese town of Aba, just across the border, which was attacked several times since January, and at least once just this past week.

Congolese civilians reaching the southern Sudanese town of Lasu told UNHCR that Aba, once the home of some 100,000 people, had been deserted. The refugees in Lasu, while generally in good health, remain in need of aid.

Meanwhile, Congolese civilians who fled LRA attacks in the north-western Dungu area passed the 9,000 mark in January.

And further south, as a joint operation by the Congolese and Rwandan armies against DRC-based Rwandan rebels continues, UNHCR

says it has helped some 3,000 Rwandan refugees return to their country in recent weeks.

Asked about the Secretary-Generals position regarding casualties during the recent DRC-Rwanda offensive against the FDLR, the Spokeswoman noted that the United Nations had previously expressed its strong concern about civilian lives. The United Nations, she said, had not provided support to the DRC-Rwanda offensive, which was a bilateral operation.

CÔTE DIVOIRE: ENVOY CALLS FOR PUBLICATION OF A VIABLE ELECTORAL TIMETABLE

The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Côte dIvoire, Choi Young-jin, has called for the publication of a viable electoral timetable with precise stages and targets. Choi was speaking earlier today in Ouagadougou at a meeting of the Monitoring and Evaluation Committee of the Ivorian peace agreement.

He briefed the gathering on the UN-assisted process, especially as it relates to preparations for a presidential election expected to take place this year. He said that some 4,600,000 people have received identification papers and that this development was a strong signal of Côte dIvoires desire to end the political and security crisis.

Choi congratulated the Ivorian people and their leaders for the progress and urged them to press ahead in this effort. He pledged continued UN support for the redeployment of state administration and the disarmament of rebels and militias. So far, he said, the UN Mission was able to reinsert some 1,200 former fighters into civilian life through its Operation 1000 microprojets.

NEW PERSONAL ENVOY FOR WESTERN SAHARA TO MAKE FIRST OFFICIAL VISIT TO THE REGION

Following meetings in New York last week, including with the Secretary-General, Security Council members and the parties, Morocco and the Frente Polisario, the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, is on his way to the region for consultations, beginning tomorrow in Rabat. This will be his first visit to the area in his capacity as the Secretary-General's Personal Envoy.

Mr. Ross will be in the region from tomorrow through 25 February, visiting Rabat, followed by Tindouf and Algiers, and will then travel to Madrid and Paris (capitals of two of the members of the Group of Friends) from 25-27 February.

He is expected to return to New York following this trip for further consultations at Headquarters.

NON-SCHOOL EMERGENCY SHELTERS IN GAZA REMAIN OPEN

The office of the UNs Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory reports that three non-school emergency shelters, run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), remain open in Gaza. They host around 360 people, but the total number of displaced persons remains unknown.

Meanwhile, UNRWA is helping to run a vaccination campaign against measles, mumps and rubella, which is targeting 120,000 students in Gaza. The campaign includes awareness sessions about infectious diseases, and each student is to receive a dose of Vitamin A.

For its part, the

UN Population Fund has expressed concern that miscarriages and neonatal deaths increased in Gaza during the recent conflict.

Regarding food security, the World Food Programme notes that, while vegetables are available, access to red meat, poultry meat and eggs is being affected by high prices resulting from shortages of animal feed.

The Humanitarian Coordinators office also reports that 50,000 Gazans still do not have access to running water. And an additional 100,000 receive water every seven to ten days. There is also a continued shortage of drinking water in schools.

Asked about UN investigations into the Gaza conflict, the Spokeswoman said that the UN Board of Inquiry that had been set up to look into the killings and damage that resulted from attacks on UN facilities would go to the region in the coming days. That was different, she said, from a separate and larger investigation called for by the

Human Rights Council. The Council is still searching for an eminent personality to head that board of inquiry, Montas said.

BAN KI-MOON AND AL GORE CALL FOR GOVERNMENT STIMULUS PACKAGES TO CREATE A GREEN ECONOMY

In an

op-ed in todays Financial Times, the Secretary-General and former U.S. Vice President Al Gore call on governments to make sure that planned stimulus packages not only address immediate economic and social needs but also launch a new green global economy.

They urge governments to expand investments in energy efficiency, renewables, mass transit, reforestation and other projects, rather than pouring trillions of dollars into carbon-based infrastructure and fossil-fuel subsidies. They also call for pro-poor policies, including increased development assistance and investments in agriculture in developing countries.

Lastly, they call for a robust climate deal in Copenhagen in December. Starting today,

climate negotiations need to be dramatically accelerated and given attention at the highest levels, they say.

U.N. ENVIRONMENT PROGRAMME HOSTS ANNUAL GATHERING OF ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS

The 25th session of the U.N. Environment Programmes (UNEP) Governing Council is taking place all this week in Nairobi. In a message to those gathered, the Secretary-General notes that an environmental thread runs through the worlds recent crises, from the recent surge in food and fuel prices to the current financial turmoil This creates a tremendous opportunity to increase the momentum for sustainable development.

UNEP has also issued press releases on the following topics: the

launch of the UNEP Yearbook 2009, which focuses on the importance of realizing a Global Green New Deal and the urgent need for a transition to a low-carbon and resource efficient Green Economy; a

call for one third of the roughly US$2.5 trillion in planned stimulus packages to be invested in greening the world economy; a new report outlining a plan to reduce the risk of hunger and rising food insecurity in the 21st century by changing the ways in which food is produced, handled and disposed of; and the announcement of a partnership between UNEP and Microsoft to address environmental issues through technology.

BAN KI-MOON WELCOMES U.S. DECISION TO TAKE PART IN PRELIMINARY NEGOTIATIONS ON RACISM CONFERENCE

The Secretary-General

welcomes the United States decision to send a delegation to engage in the preliminary negotiations to finalize the draft outcome document of the

Durban Review Conference, scheduled for 20-24 April 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Secretary-General urges all Member States to engage constructively on all the outstanding issues of the outcome document to ensure a successful outcome of the Conference.

The Secretary-General condemns racism in all its forms and manifestations.

Combating and eliminating discrimination and inequality require active engagement by all.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICE ENCOURAGES NEPAL'S GOVERNMENT TO BRING KILLERS OF TEENAGER TO JUSTICE: Marking five years since the torture and killing of 15-year-old Maina Sunuwar by members of the former Royal Nepal Army, the United Nations Human Rights Office in Nepal

encourages the Government, once again, to ensure that the Nepal Army cooperates fully with the Nepal Police and the District Court in Kavre so that those responsible for the killing of Maina Sunuwar can be brought to justice. This includes turning over court-martial documents and making two of the alleged perpetrators, who continue to serve with the army, available for investigation and arrest by the relevant authorities.

LATEST DISCUSSIONS ON GEORGIA OPEN IN GENEVA: The latest round of the international discussions on Georgia opened today at the UNs Palais des Nations in Geneva. The co-Presidents include Johan Verbeke, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative and Head of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), as well as representatives of the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

DETENTION OF ACTIVISTS NOT CONSISTENT WITH MYANMARS INTERNATIONAL COMMITMENTS: Asked whether the detention of political activists in Myanmar was consistent with Myanmars international commitments, the Spokeswoman said it was not consistent.

SECRETARY-GENERAL ALWAYS WELCOMES THE EMPOWERMENT OF WOMEN: Asked about the appointment of a female Cabinet minister in Saudi Arabia, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General always welcomes the empowerment of women in all walks of life and congratulates a situation in which women are given their proper place.

RECOMMENDATIONS OFFERED TO HELP TELECOMMUNICATION COMPANIES SURVIVE ECONOMIC CRISIS: A new

report by The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has offered several suggestions to help telecommunication companies survive the current economic crisis. For example, it says that now is a good time to focus on low-cost products. At the same time, the report notes that demand for cell phones is still strong in developing countries, with record new subscribers in emerging markets like Brazil, India and Nigeria at the end of 2008.

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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