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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-05-11

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

ARCHIVES

HIGHLIGHTS OF

THE NOON BRIEFING

BY MICHELE

MONTAS

SPOKESPERSON

FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON

U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK

Monday, May 11, 2009

SRI LANKA: BAN KI-MOON IS APPALLED AT CIVILIAN KILLINGS

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is

appalled at the killing of hundreds of civilians in Sri Lanka over the weekend. Thousands of Sri Lankans have already died in the past several months due to the conflict, and more still remain in grave danger.

The Secretary-General has repeatedly called upon the parties to the conflict to stop using heavy calibre weaponry, including mortars, in the areas with high civilian concentrations. The Secretary-General is deeply concerned by the continued use of heavy weapons in this situation. The reckless disrespect shown by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) for the safety of civilians has led to thousands of people remaining trapped in the area.

The Secretary-General once again calls on both sides, in the strongest terms possible, to adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law. The LTTE must immediately allow the remaining civilians in the conflict zone to leave. He reminds the parties that the world is watching events in Sri Lanka closely, and will not accept further violations of international law.

The Secretary-General urges the Government of Sri Lanka to explore all possible options to bring the conflict to an end without further bloodshed and to make public the terms under which that can be achieved without further loss of civilian life, and for the LTTE to give sober and positive consideration of those terms.

INTENSE FIGHTING CONTINUES IN SRI LANKAS CONFLICT ZONE

In Sri Lanka, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says government security forces continue operations in the conflict zone. Intense fighting has been reported over the weekend with a heavy toll on civilians, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives and more injuries.

Earlier today, a reported 900 civilians escaped from the conflict zone in Mullaitivu and most have reached Omanthai. So far, a total, 196,044 persons have crossed to the Government controlled areas from the conflict zone.

But the United Nations still estimates at least 50,000 and probably more - remain in the conflict zone.

Over the weekend, the International Committee of the Red Cross evacuated 515 patients and caregivers from the conflict zone to Pulmoddai, and transported 25 metric tons of food and some medicine provided by the World Food Programme for the civilians trapped in the conflict zone.

Family reunification is also a priority, and the United Nations stresses that efforts to reunite families without delay must be redoubled. In addition, every effort must be taken to avoid additional separations during transfers and decongestion efforts.

Asked about the Secretary-Generals contacts on Sri Lanka over the past few days, the Spokeswoman said that the Secretary-General was receiving daily briefings on the situation there. She noted that he had spoken with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa last week, and with the Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka this morning. She described the situation in that country as one of his top priorities.

Asked whether the Secretary-General intended to travel to Sri Lanka, Montas said that he is currently analyzing the information that he is getting before deciding on travel.

BAN KI-MOON POINTS TO DEEP CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE IN MIDDLE EAST

The Secretary-General this morning

addressed a ministerial meeting in the Security Council on the Middle East. In his remarks, he said that, after the inconclusive results of last years negotiations, and the bloodshed in Gaza, the last three months witnessed almost no progress on the two key resolutions recently adopted by the Security Council 1850 and 1860.

The Secretary-General also pointed to a deep crisis of confidence among ordinary people on the ground. He said Palestinians continue to see unacceptable unilateral actions in East Jerusalem and the remainder of the West Bank, including house demolitions, intensified settlement activity, settler violence, and oppressive restrictions on their movements. The time has come for Israel to fundamentally change its policies, he stressed.

At the same time, he added, ordinary Israelis continue to seek reassurance that a future Palestinian state will guarantee their right to live in peace and security. In that regard, indiscriminate rocket attacks are not only deeply unacceptable, but also totally counterproductive, and must cease, he said.

The Secretary-General added that the policy of the continued closure of Gaza does not weaken Israels adversaries, but instead does untold damage to the fabric of civilian life. In that context, he called on Israel to allow glass, cement and building materials into Gaza. He also voiced support for the convening of an international conference in Moscow.

Meanwhile, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes has written an op-ed on Gaza, which has now appeared in a number of Egyptian and European papers.

Holmes says that, humanity has taken a back seat to politics in Gaza, and a measly trickle of items has become the most the world can offer civilians trapped by a political stalemate not of their making.

He adds that protection, food, water, healthcare and shelter are basic human needs, not bargaining chips. And it is high time that fact is recognized by all the parties responsible for the immense suffering in Gaza today.

U.N. REFUGEE CHIEF APPEALS FOR INT'L SOLIDARITY FOR DISPLACED PAKISTANIS

UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres today appealed for international solidarity in support of hundreds of thousands of displaced Pakistani civilians and

announced a UNHCR airlift to rush tonnes of additional humanitarian supplies to the north-west of the country.

Guterres, whose agency already has a large operation in Pakistan, said the speed and scale of the latest displacement in the countrys north-west required an immediate international humanitarian response in support of the Pakistani people affected by the conflict.

He recalled that the total number of displaced Pakistanis registered by authorities with UNHCR help since May 2 has now reached more than 360,000 people. Guterres said much more needs to be done to assist the displaced and announced an airlift on Tuesday that will carry some 120 tonnes of urgently needed humanitarian supplies from UNHCR central emergency stockpiles in Dubai to Pakistan.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says that, in cooperation with the authorities in Pakistan, registration points have been established, and by today, 360,675 newly displaced persons have been registered. This figure is increasing by the day.

AFGHANISTAN: MORE WOMEN NOMINATED FOR PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS

The UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) says that it is encouraging that more women were nominated to stand for the provincial elections this summer than in the last elections.

The countrys Independent Election Commission informed UNAMA that 3,324 candidates, including 342 women, have been put forward for the provincial council elections, with the number of women candidates increasing by 20 from the previous elections. The UN Mission says that the increase demonstrates the strong desire of Afghan women to help decide the future of their country.

The Mission adds that it will follow the elections closely and monitor the campaign to help ensure that the fundamental political rights of the Afghan people are respected.

U.N. HUMANITARIAN CHIEF URGES FOR INCREASED COOPERATION TO MEET URGENT NEEDS IN SUDAN

John Holmes, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has concluded his five-day visit to Sudan by urging increased cooperation in responding to urgent humanitarian needs, and a genuinely constructive future operating environment for humanitarian actors.

This was Mr. Holmes second visit in six months to Sudan and his fourth since becoming the Emergency Relief Coordinator.

His visit aimed to review the humanitarian situation in the areas affected by the 4 March government decision to close three national NGOs and expel 13 international NGOs, and to promote a better relationship between government and the humanitarian community.|

He welcomed the positive collaboration with the government on the Joint Assessment in Darfur, and noted that the most urgent short-term needs in food, health and nutrition, emergency shelter, water and sanitation were being tackled; however he voiced his concern about the longer-term needs in all sectors.|

In his discussions with officials in Khartoum and North Darfur, Mr. Holmes also called attention to the increasingly unsafe operating environment in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) reports that the security situation during the past 72 hours has been relatively tense in some parts of North Darfur, with shooting reported in the state capital, El Fasher.

Carjacking incidents were reported in both North and South Darfur and a surge of banditry activities targeting UN personnel in North Darfur were also recorded.

There has been an increase in burglaries targeting UNAMID staff accommodation. Three cases were recorded last week in which staff members houses were broken into and their valuables and personal effects, including cash, were taken away.

There were also reports of sporadic shooting in El Fashers main market as a result of clashes involving the Sudanese military and the Central Reserve Force. Two men were later arrested by the Sudanese Government, and there were reports of fatalities during the clashes. A UNAMID investigation patrol was dispatched to the market area and its members spoke with locals about the situation.

UNAMID has also reported fighting over the weekend in the North Darfur town of Umm Baru between the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) and the Sudan Liberation Army/Minni Minawi wing (SLA/MM). The Mission transported 26 people injured in the fighting to El Fasher for medical treatment at a military hospital.

U.N. ENVOY CONDEMNS RWANDAN REBEL RAID IN NORTHEASTERN DR CONGO

The Secretary-Generals Special Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Alan Doss, has strongly condemned the criminal raid this past weekend by Rwandan rebels on the northeastern village of Butolonga. Doss said the attack shows once again that the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwandan (FDLR) rebels are outlaws.

According to our mission in the DRC (MONUC), FDLR rebels raided Butolonga on the night of 8 May, firing guns and burning houses. 131 houses were burned, and two Congolese soldiers were killed. UN peacekeepers dispatched to the scene found the village empty as residents had fled into a nearby bush. They are only now returning to their homes.

INFLUENZA A (H1N1) CASES ALMOST DOUBLE OVER WEEK-END

On the influenza A (H1N1) virus, the World Health Organization (WHO)

confirms that the number of lab-confirmed cases has increased to 4,694 from 2,500 on Friday. Those cases include 53 deaths.

WHO says that 30 countries are now reporting cases as opposed to 25 countries on Friday. But regarding WHOs influenza alert level, we are still at phase 5, the agency says.

IRAQ: CHILDREN STUDYING IN UNSAFE AND UNHEALTHY ENVIRONMENTS

Children in nearly half of the primary schools in

Iraq are studying in unsafe and unhealthy environments, according to a United Nations-backed

survey that was released today.

The study, which was supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and conducted between 2007 and 2008, revealed that 48 percent of the 150 schools assessed were dirty.

In addition, some 63 percent of the schools lacked chlorine testing procedures for drinking water, placing children at high risk of water-borne diseases.

The report also found that primary school boys are more likely to be exposed to trauma than girls and noted a higher incidence of trauma-related eye injuries, which the authors say suggests that male students are more active and willing to engage in violent behavior.

OTHER ANNOUNCEMENTS

LAKE VICTORIA PROJECT TO ASSESS CARBON STORAGE OF SUSTAINABLE LAND MANAGEMENT: Communities in and around Lake Victoria have been chosen as a test-case for calculating how much carbon can be stored in trees and soils when the land is managed in sustainable, climate-friendly ways. This initiative --known as the Carbon Benefits Project-- was

launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Centre, along with a range of other key partners. The project is being funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). According to UNEP, the project will allow scientists to develop a system for measuring, monitoring and managing carbon in a diverse range of landscapes. Along with Kenya, projects will also be set up in China, Niger and Nigeria.

ILO TO DISCUSS RELATIONS IN OIL PETROLEUM INDUSTRY: Senior representatives from governments, workers and employers organizations are attending a

meeting at the International Labour Office (ILO) from May 11th to the 14th. They will be discussing the state of industrial relations in the petroleum industry amid a global downturn in employment in the oil and gas sector. On the basis of the discussions, the meeting will adopt conclusions that include proposals to promote sustainable enterprises and contribute to decent work in the oil industry. The meeting will call for action from the ILO, the governments, the employers and the workers organizations on a separate, tripartite or bipartite basis. A new ILO report called Social dialogue and industrial relations issues in the oil industry, has been prepared for the meeting. The 134-page report is

available on the ILO website.

WORLD TOURISM ORGANIZATION ELECTS NEW SECRETARY-GENERAL: The World Tourism Organization (WTO) has

elected a new Secretary-General. Taleb Rifai, a former Jordanian tourism minister, is expected to start his four-year mandate in January 2010. His nomination has to be confirmed by WTOs general assembly when it meets during the first week of October, in Kazakhstan. Rifai was WTOs Secretary-General ad interim since last March and, before that, the Deputy Secretary-General since 2006.

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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