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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-03-17

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

.HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON

BRIEFING

BY MARIE OKABE

DEPUTY SPOKESPERSON FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

UN

HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BAN KI-MOON IS GRAVELY CONCERNED BY DEVELOPMENTS IN MADAGASCAR

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is gravely

concerned about the evolving developments in Madagascar. He takes note of the resignation of President Ravalomanana.

He urges all parties concerned to act responsibly to ensure stability and a smooth transition through democratic means.This peaceful path can only be the result of transitional arrangements arrived at by consensus and enjoying wide support.

The Secretary-General calls on all concerned, particularly the police and the army, to ensure the security of the population and work together toward a non-violent resolution of the crisis.

The United Nations, along with all other partners, remains engaged through its Senior Political Adviser to help achieve a peaceful, consensual solution in Madagascar.

UNITED NATIONS CONDEMNS AMBUSH ON PEACEKEEPERS IN DARFUR

The Secretary-General is continuing to make telephone calls to leaders in Africa and the Middle East to address the humanitarian situation in Darfur.

[The Secretary-General , in a statement issued after the briefing, said he deeply regrets the death of one UNAMID [African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur] peacekeeper who died from a gunshot wound received during a deliberate attack on a UNAMID patrol today in Nyala, South Darfur.

The Secretary-General condemns this attack and is deeply concerned by the increased security threats faced by UNAMID in Darfur.

He calls on all parties to fulfill their responsibility to ensure the safety and security of UN and UN-associated personnel in Sudan. ]

The African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) today

reported just before the briefing that, at about 1:20 p.m. local time, UNAMID peacekeepers were ambushed by approximately eight unknown gunmen who opened fire on them while they were returning to their base in Nyala, South Darfur, after conducting an escort patrol.

The peacekeepers returned fire in self-defense and one of them was injured during the fire fight. The wounded soldier was immediately taken for medical treatment at the mission's hospital in Nyala and later died while being evacuated to Al Fasher for further medical treatment.

UNAMID strongly condemns these cowardly acts of violence against its peacekeepers and calls on all parties including the Government of Sudan to ensure the safety of UN personnel in the region.

"These ongoing attacks against UNAMID peacekeepers will not dissuade us from pursuing our mandate in Darfur," UNAMID quoted the AU-UN Joint Representative Rodolphe Adada as saying.

Adada strongly condemns the unprovoked attacks against peacekeepers who are here to help the people of Darfur. This is the second time this month that UNAMID peacekeepers have been ambushed by unknown armed men while conducting their duties in Darfur.

Asked whether more humanitarian aid groups had been expelled recently from Sudan, the Spokeswoman said she had nothing new to report, but added that the Secretary-General is concerned about the expulsions and was working the phones to address the humanitarian situation on the ground.

BAN KI-MOON EXPRESSES CONCERNS OVER CIVILIANS TRAPPED IN SRI LANKA

Asked about reports that hundreds of people have died from lack of medicine in Sri Lanka, the Spokeswoman said that humanitarian workers on the ground are doing their utmost to assist the most vulnerable people.

She also said that the Secretary-General spoke by phone earlier today with President Mahinda Rajapaksa and expressed his concern over the safety of the civilians trapped, especially in the Vanni region. In response to how the President responded, she noted, had said he would cooperate.

U.N. RELIEF AGENCY MAINTAINS PRIMARY BANKING RELATIONSHIPS WITH REPUTABLE BANKS

Asked about statements from members of the UN Congress criticizing the banking arrangements made by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the near East (UNRWA), the Spokeswoman clarified that UNRWA maintains its primary banking relationships and all donor contributions with reputable international banks, including JPMorgan Chase, BNP Paribas, and Bank Austria Vienna. The Agency, she said, distributes on a weekly basis to field offices operationally required funds to banks in the relevant area of operations.

In this context, Okabe said, UNRWA uses the Arab Bank for transactions in the West Bank and the Commercial Bank of Syria, which until recently held a state monopoly on all banking operations in Syria and remains the only bank to provide the full extent of services throughout the country, for local transactions, such as the payment of staff salary.

Asked about a letter from a U.S. Congresswoman concerning UNRWA, the Spokeswoman later said that the United Nations has received that letter and will be answering it soon. She added that UNRWAs activities are very closely followed by the international community and its donors including the United States. The agency is transparent about its activities and maintains strict control over contributions to ensure aid goes directly to civilians in need.

Asked about a letter sent to the Secretary-General and the members of the Security Council, asking for an investigation into abuses allegedly committed during the recent fighting in Gaza, the Spokeswoman later said that the letter has been received and is being studied. She reiterated that there is a separate UN inquiry underway, and the Secretary-General awaits its results.

Asked about humanitarian access to Gaza, she said that the Secretary-General continues to work very hard to ensure that the needed humanitarian aid can get to the area.

UNITED NATIONS IS WORKING TO HELP BRING PEACE AND STABILITY TO AFGHANISTAN

An article on the UN mission in Afghanistan that appears in the Times of London today characterizes the relationship between the United Nations and the United States concerning Afghanistan wrongly.

When the Secretary-General met with U.S. President Obama last week, the President spoke highly of the Secretary-General's Special Representative, Kai Eide, as well as of the UN's role in

Afghanistan. The President also thanked the United Nations for strengthening its international coordination efforts.

The article also is not only factually inaccurate but also counterproductive of the UNs efforts, together with the international community, to help bring peace and stability to the long suffering people of Afghanistan.

The Spokeswoman said, in response to questions on whether Peter Galbraith would be chosen as Deputy Special Representative in Afghanistan, that the appointment process for that post is ongoing.

SECURITY COUNCIL WELCOMES TRANSFER OF AUTHORITY TO U.N. IN CHAD & CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC

At UN Headquarters, the

Security Council held consultations today on the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), which over the weekend took over the military and security responsibilities of the European Union Force (EUFOR), in accordance with Security Council Resolution 1861 of 14 January 2009.

Council members received a briefing on the Mission from Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet.

In a press statement following the consultations, the members of the Security Council welcomed the successful transfer of authority on 15 March 2009 between EUFOR and MINURCAT.

U.N. ENVOY WELCOMES PROGRESS IN REPATRIATING FORMER REBELS BACK TO RWANDA

On the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Secretary-Generals Special Representative there, Alan Doss, has welcomed progress in the voluntary repatriation of former DRC-based Rwandan rebels and their dependents. These Rwandan nationals were associated with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).

The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) says that more than 1430 Rwandan rebels and their dependents were sent back home since January. This brings to more than 5700 the number of Rwandans (rebels and others) who have left northeastern DRC for Rwanda with UN assistance in recent months. The Mission is now working to register and repatriate foreign combatants who are disarming in the wake of a DRC/Uganda joint military campaign against the Lords Resistance Army in the area around the town of Dungu.

Meanwhile, earlier today in Geneva, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights

presented the High Commissioners report on the DRC. She said that armed groups and government forces continue to inflict a host of serious human rights abuses on civilians across the country. And while international focus has been on the conflict in the east, the publics right to protest and criticize government has been diminished in the rest of the country.

RETURN OF DISPLACED PERSONS PROCEEDING ACROSS UGANDA

In Uganda, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) is proceeding across northern Uganda, with only 30 percent of original IDPs remaining in camps as of February 2009. That is a 9 percent decrease since November 2008.

According to newly-released figures, some 79,000 more people returned to their villages of origin in the north in the three months since 1 December 2008 -- either from the IDP camps or from transit sites.

Meanwhile, in the northeastern Karamoja region, general food distributions under the largest emergency food distribution operation ever conducted in the region began within limited locations. This emergency operation aims to provide food rations to more than 80 percent of the regions population over the next nine months.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN AIR SERVICE IN WEST AFRICA FORCED TO SHUT DOWN

The World Food Programme is shutting down its Humanitarian Air Service due to serious lack of financial resources, the agency said earlier today. The Air Service will ground its fleet for good on 20th March. This will affect aid operations in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote dIvoire.

In 2008, the UNHAS carried more than 360,000 humanitarian passengers and 15,000 metric tons of humanitarian cargo in 16 countries, on 58 chartered aircrafts.

CYPRUS LEADERS DISCUSS EUROPEAN UNION MATTERS UNDER U.N. AUSPICES

On Cyprus, Greek Cypriot leader Dimitris Christofias and Turkish Cypriot leader Mehmet Ali Talat met under UN auspices in Nicosia today.

Speaking to the press after that meeting, the Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayť-Brook Zerihoun, noted that the focus of todays discussions was the European Union. Zerihoun characterized todays talks as good, thorough, and substantive.

The leaders will meet again next Tuesday, 24 March, to continue their discussions on EU matters.

HUMAN RIGHTS CHIEF TO VISIT NEPAL, INDIA

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, is to

visit Nepal and India this week on her first official visit to Asia since taking up the post of High Commissioner last September.

She is set to arrive in Nepal on 18 March for a five-day visit in the country, before continuing to India.

While in Nepal, the High Commissioner will see first-hand one of her organization's largest country operations, and assess the overall human rights situation in the country following a tumultuous period of its history that has encompassed a civil war and the transformation of the political system from monarchy to republic. She is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, President Ram Baran Yadav, and representatives of the National Human Rights Commission and human rights defenders, as well as other UN organizations working in Nepal.

During her two-day visit to India, the High Commissioner will hold discussions on a range of subjects of mutual interest at the local and international levels with the Foreign Secretary and the Minister of Home Affairs as well as with other senior Government officials and members of the judiciary. She will also give a key-note lecture, hosted by India's National Human Rights Commission.

SHORTER VERSION OF ANTI-RACISM DOCUMENT RELEASED

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has posted on their web site a significantly shorter

version of the draft outcome document that is being prepared for the upcoming anti-racism Durban Review Conference.

This shortened text has been prepared by the Chair of the working group established to negotiate a draft outcome document for the Conference -- after consultations at the expert level.

The working group Chair will continue to consult informally in different formats on this rolling document during the coming weeks.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights believes the shortened text represents a solid and meaningful basis for negotiations by Member States towards a positive outcome for the Conference.

The Durban Review Conference, which will be held in Geneva in April, will review and assess implementation of the wide-ranging commitments undertaken by Governments at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

U.N. AGENCIES REACH OUT TO WESTERN SAHARA REFUGEES IN ALGERIA

Representatives of donor countries and NGO partners, accompanied by Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and World Food Programme (WFP) staff, will start a three-day

mission to the Sahrawi refugee camps in western Algeria tomorrow. The aim is to see firsthand the situation in the sites and to assess the overall conditions of the refugees.

According to the last survey conducted in 2008 by Medecins du Monde and WFP in coordination with UNHCR, 61 percent of the children and 66 percent of pregnant women in the camps were suffering from anaemia.

In response, UNHCR has been providing complementary food commodities in addition to the 125,000 general food rations distributed by WFP. Among other efforts, WFP also has supplementary feeding and school feeding programmes distributing fortified, blended foods to malnourished children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

FORMER BOSNIAN SERB LEADER SENTENCED TO 20 YEARS IN JAIL

The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia has

sentenced Mom&#269;ilo Krajinik to 20 years in prison. This ruling upholds earlier guilty findings against the former Bosnian Serb leader for deportations, forcible transfer and persecution of non-Serb civilians. He committed these crimes during the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Chamber, however, rejected a number of Krajiniks earlier convictions, including the crime of extermination.

Krajinik was indicted in February 2000 and was arrested and transferred to the Tribunal two months later.

Since its inception 15 years ago the Tribunal has indicted 161 persons. Proceedings against 117 individuals have been completed, while 42 are ongoing, with 2 suspects (Ratko Mladi&#263; and Goran Hadi&#263;) still fugitive.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA JOINS U.N. IN DISCUSSION ON INTERNATIONAL THEMES

Tonight, the UN Department of Public Information and the Sci Fi Channel are co-hosting a panel

discussion in connection with the final episode of the television series Battlestar Galactica.

The discussion tonight will explore some of the themes that are of importance to both the United Nations and the show: human rights, terrorism, children and armed conflict, and reconciliation and dialogue among civilizations and faiths.

Two of the shows actors -- Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos -- as well as the shows creators and executive producers will participate in the panel, moderated by Whoopi Goldberg.

Also participating are Radhika Coomaraswamy, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict; Craig Mokhiber of the New York Office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; Robert Orr, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Planing; and Famatta Rose Osode, Minister and Deputy Permanent Representative of the Mission of Liberia to the United Nations.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

SOMALIA: ABDUCTED U.N. STAFF MEMBERS RELEASED: Yesterday afternoon, it was announced that the four UN staff members who were abducted early Monday morning were released unharmed late Monday night. The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Mark Bowden,

said that the United Nations is grateful for the efforts and intervention of the local authorities, who used their influence and reach to ensure that the staff was cared for and ultimately released safely and quickly. He said, This is an important affirmation that the UN presence and its activities in the surrounding areas is accepted and protected by the local communities and leaders. Bowden added that the quick and positive resolution of this incident will ensure the aid operation can go on unhindered.

SPOKESPERSON REITERATES CALLS FOR MYANMAR POLITICAL PRISONER RELEASES: Asked about reports of recent arrests in Myanmar, the Spokeswoman noted that the Secretary-General, as well as his Special Adviser Ibrahim Gambari, had previously called for the release of those held on political charges. She said that she had nothing to announce in terms of a visit by the Secretary-General to Myanmar and said that nothing has changed to meet the criteria for such a visit.

GUERNICA TAPESTRY MOVED IN ADVANCE OF U.N. RENOVATION: Asked about the absence of a tapestry of Pablo Picassos Guernica from UN Headquarters, the Spokeswoman said that the tapestry has been moved in advance of the Capital Master Plan renovation of the UN headquarters building. It was moved last week by the owners to a gallery in London.

COUNTRIES URGED TO SIGN ON TO CLUSTER MUNITIONS TREATY: Tomorrow, there will be a signing event for the

Convention on Cluster Munitions at UN Headquarters. The Secretary-General has called upon all Member States that have not yet done so to sign the Convention or deposit their instruments of ratification or accession. The Convention is a major step in global efforts to protect civilians and control the spread of these deadly, inhumane weapons. The event is organized by the United Nations Mine Action Team in coordination with the Cluster Munitions Coalition.

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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