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United Nations Daily Highlights, 09-05-22
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THE NOON BRIEFING
BY MARIE OKABE
FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL BAN KI-MOON
U.N. HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK
Friday, May 22, 2009
UN Headquarters in New York will be closed on Monday for the Memorial Day holiday.
The noon briefing will resume next Tuesday, May 26.
BAN KI-MOON ARRIVES IN SRI LANKA
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in Sri Lanka on a visit aimed at seeking progress on three critical areas: immediate humanitarian relief; reintegration and reconstruction and a sustainable and equitable political solution.
Hours before his arrival, his Chief of Staff, Vijay Nambiar, told reporters in Colombo that: We hope that the Secretary-Generals visit can help begin a process of national recovery, renewal and reconciliation for all Sri Lankans.
He said on the process for national reconciliation, we feel, must be all inclusive so that it can fully address the legitimate aspirations of Tamil as well as other minorities. It is important that victory becomes a victory for all Sri Lankans.
Mr. Nambiar described his activities over the past week, which included a visit to the North to IDP camps in Menik farm as well as a helicopter flight to the conflict area. He said he met with a range of interlocutors including senior officials, humanitarian agencies, the diplomatic corps, plus senior political leaders including Tamil Parliamentarians, as well as the President Rajapaksa and representatives of civil society.
He said the Secretary-Generals programme on Saturday includes a visit to the IDP camps as well as, weather permitting, a helicopter over flight to the former area of conflict.
SECRETARY-GENERAL URGES INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY FOR DISPLACED PAKISTANI
urges the international community to show their solidarity with the people of Pakistan by supporting the
Humanitarian Response Plan launched today in Islamabad, and the Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Plan presented yesterday by the Government of Pakistan.
The Secretary-General is concerned that Pakistan is currently witnessing rapid displacement on a massive scale. He emphasizes that the assistance provided in partnership between the Government of Pakistan and humanitarian agencies is key to maintaining basic support to the needs of some 1.7 million people, as outlined in the Humanitarian Response Plan.
The Secretary-General stresses the urgency of raising the $544 million requested in the appeal to address the critical needs of the affected population and assist in the normalization of their lives.
Meanwhile, the UN Refugee Agency, (UNHCR),
says it is working to provide better shelter facilities to help protect displaced civilians from the intense heat, which is reaching 45 degrees Celsius at this time of the year.
The agency is also working to provide separate communal shelters --or cool rooms-- for men and women, with electricity to power fans and coolers.
UNHCR is also constructing individual and communal kitchens for the internally displaced persons, so they could cook their own meals instead of receiving already-cooked meals that are currently distributed by the government.
And the UN Population Fund, (UNFPA) has raised concern about the critical health needs of nearly 70,000 pregnant women displaced by the fighting in the Swat Valley.
UNFPA says the massive displacement of civilians has placed pregnant women at special risk. It says their situation is made worse by existing lack of access to prenatal care, assisted delivery and emergency obstetric care.
The Fund estimates that nearly 6,000 pregnant women are expected to give birth within the next month, with many needing surgery to handle pregnancy-related complications.
Asked about how many children had been displaced in Pakistan, the Deputy Spokesperson said that, in such types of emergency situations, children typically accounted for some 50 percent of the displaced. Asked if UNICEF was participating in the flash appeal, she noted that all UN humanitarian agencies, including UNICEF, were participating.
U.N. ENVOY FOR SOMALIA HOPES FOR RETURN OF FLEEING CIVILIANS
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for
Somalia, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, has expressed some hope that some 40,000 civilians who have fled Mogadishu in recent days because of increased fighting could return home soon.
He was speaking to UN Radio earlier today as pro-government forces reportedly launched a fresh offensive to repel Islamist fighters who have been attacking Mogadishu in recent days.
Ould-Abdallah said that the situation has been very difficult for the newly-displaced persons, who have joined a flow of refugees on the outskirts of Mogadishu.
FRESH INFUSION OF PEACEKEEPERS AND POLICE JOIN MISSION IN DARFUR
[Soldiers and police officers as well as police advisors from Bangladesh, the Philippines and Nigeria have arrived in Darfur this week as part of a fresh infusion of peacekeepers to the ranks of the joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).
Some 245 Bangladeshi peacekeepers arrived yesterday in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, and a second batch of 245 is scheduled to arrive tomorrow.
The new arrivals consist of 175 members of a sector reserve force, a 35-member platoon that will assist in the movement of Mission staff and cargo, and two formed police units (FPUs), each comprising 140 officers. FPUs are composed of police officers who have received specialized training in high-risk operations.
Today, 52 Filipino police advisers also arrived at UNAMID headquarters in El Fasher for induction training ahead of their planned deployment within the region. Earlier this week 39 Nigerian police advisers joined the Mission, while more than 60 police from Sierra Leone are expected to arrive next week.
With the scheduled arrival of the second batch of Bangladeshi peacekeepers tomorrow, UNAMID will have 13,454 military personnel (69 per cent of its mandated strength), 1,855 police advisers (49 per cent) and 978 FPU members (37 per cent).]
Asked about the lack of helicopters being provided to UNAMID, the Deputy Spokesperson said the Secretary-General continued to flag this matter regularly in his reports. She noted that there were some Ethiopian helicopters in the pipeline. In response to a further question, Okabe said that, as soon as any helicopters were received, that would be reported to the press.
Asked for the Secretary-Generals response to escalating tensions between Sudan and Chad, the Deputy Spokesperson noted the Secretary-Generals
statement from 18 May, in which he expressed his concern and called on all parties to cease fighting. Okabe added that the Secretary-General continued to follow the situation closely. She also noted the efforts on the ground of the United Nations-African Union Joint Special Representative, Rodolphe Adada, including his interactions with a variety of actors in the region.
SECURITY COUNCIL DISCUSS SITUATION IN CYPRUS
Council held consultations this morning on Cyprus and other matters.
The Secretary-Generals Special Representative for Cyprus, Tayť-Brook Zerihoun, briefed Council members. Earlier today, he briefed troop-contributing countries of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY CONCLUDES IN GENEVA
The World Health Assembly wrapped up its 62nd session today. It adopted 15 resolutions on a variety of global health issues, including primary health care, drug-resistant tuberculosis, public health, innovation and intellectual property, and pandemic influenza preparedness.
In closing remarks, the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Margaret Chan, noted that, for the first time in history, we are watching the conditions conducive for the start of a pandemic unfold before our eyes. On the one hand, this gives us an unprecedented opportunity to be on guard. But on the other hand, scientists are capturing an abundance of signals that are not always easy to interpret.
Chan added that the decision to declare an influenza pandemic is a responsibility that she takes very, very seriously."
Meanwhile, the Assembly approved a plan of action that recognizes the effects of climate change on health. Among other things, the plan deals with preparing health systems to better cope with the diseases that might appear as a result of global warming.
HEALTH SITUATION IS DETERIORATING IN GAZA
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has released an annual health report.
According to the Agency, because of the blockade of Gaza, the health situation there is still deteriorating. UNRWA has been unable to repair damaged health centers, and a lack of paper has complicated the keeping of medical files.
Meanwhile, the Agencys current health budget is $80 million for 4 million people. In other words, it only has $20 per person per year. As a result, UNRWA says it may have to close its hospital in Qalqilya, in the West Bank, or reduce certain health services.
Asked if the issue of the paper had been raised with Israel, the Deputy Spokesperson noted that the UN had various interlocutors on the ground who were in regular contact with Israeli authorities on coordination issues.
U.N. APPEALS FOR CIVILIAN PROTECTION IN EASTERN DR CONGO
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Refugee Agency is
concerned over growing reports of atrocities against civilians in the North and South Kivu provinces. It says that these abuses are committed both by rebel groups and by government forces and continue to cause major population displacements in the region.
Since January, repeated attacks by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) in North and South Kivu have driven more than 370,000 people from their homes.
UNHCR is appealing to the Government of the DRC --with the support of the international community-- to provide protection to the civilian population. It also asks to end the atmosphere of impunity surrounding crimes committed by members of the Congolese army (FARDC), the national police and by armed rebels such as the FDLR.
The UN Refugee Agency says that harassment, human rights abuses, rapes and intimidations against civilians are regularly reported by the local population in the east of the country. It adds that security incidents against humanitarian workers are also on the rise.
COLOMBIA: RECENT WAVE OF DEATH THREATS AGAINST HUMAN RIGHTS WORKERS: UNHCR
reports a recent wave of death threats against human right workers and social activists in Colombia. It says that pamphlets signed by one of Colombias new illegal armed groups were distributed last week around the country -- issuing threats against several state bodies as well as civil and human rights organizations. The latest threat, adds UNHCR, comes amid a climate of rising intimidation in recent months, originating from various armed groups and targeting indigenous communities, social leaders and representatives of displaced people. UNHCR says that in some cases, the victims of threats have been forced to leave their communities in order to save their lives -- in other cases, the threats end in death.
AFGHANISTAN: U.N. HABITAT HELPS TO IMPROVE LITERACY: UN-HABITAT and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have joined forces to
improve Afghanistans literacy rate. After years of conflict, 90 percent of women and 63 percent of men cannot read or write.
Called the Learning for Community Empowerment Programme, the 40 million dollar project will be implemented in 20 provinces across Afghanistan.
GROWING ENERGY DEMAND IS THREAT TO GORILLAS: The UN Environmental Programme (UNEP)
warns that the ever-growing human demand for energy is endangering gorillas and their habitats. UNEP says that the degradation and destruction of their habitats are also becoming a threat to climate change overall. With this in mind, 2009 has been declared the Year of the Gorilla (YOG). One project enables local residents to purchase highly fuel-efficient stoves for a low price in order to use less firewood, which is often taken from the forests that are home to gorillas.
SECRETARY-GENERAL HIGHLIGHTS THREATS TO BIODIVERSITY: Today is the International Day for Biological Diversity. In a
message to mark this occasion, the Secretary-General says that the global decline in biodiversity remains alarming -- despite agreement at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to significantly reduce the rate of loss by 2010. He adds that the main causes include deforestation, changes in habitat and land degradation, often linked to the growing impact of climate change. The Secretary-General also highlights another threat the spread of invasive alien species, which is the focus of this years observance. And, UNEP and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity
stress that although only a small percentage of organisms transported to new environments become invasive, their negative impacts ob food security, plant, animal and human health can be catastrophic.
THE WEEK AHEAD AT THE UNITED NATIONS
Saturday, 23 May
The Secretary-General is in Sri Lanka.
Sunday, 24 May
The Secretary-General is in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he will deliver an opening statement at the World Business Summit on Climate Change, which lasts until 26 May.
Monday, 25 May
Today is Africa Day.
Starting today and until Friday, UNESCO is organizing Africa Week under the theme Africa in its cultural and athletic dynamic at its headquarters in Paris, France.
The 51st session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child starts today and runs through 12 June in Geneva.
In Geneva, the 12th session of the Commission on Science and Technology starts today and runs through 29 May.
Today is an official holiday at New York Headquarters.
Tuesday, 26 May
Today and tomorrow, the Secretary-General is in Helsinki, Finland, on his first official visit to the country.
The special session of the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka begins today at 3 p.m. in Geneva.
The Security Council will hold an open debate and hear briefings by the Chairmen of its 1267 Committee, 1373 Committee and 1540 Committee.
Wednesday, 27 May
This morning, the Security Council will hold consultations on resolutions 1808 (2008), 1839 (2008) and 1866 (2009).
At 11 a.m. in Room S-226, Rob Vos, Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division at Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) will launch the mid-year report World Economic Situation and Prospects 2009.
Today, the United Nations World Tourism Organization (WTO) will award its 2009 Ulysses Prize and Awards for Innovation and Application of Knowledge in Tourism Governance.
Thursday, 28 May
This morning, the Security Council will hold a debate on Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is also expected to adopt a resolution on Somalia. In the afternoon, the Security Council will hear a briefing on its mission to Africa. It will also hold consultations on the report of the Group of Experts on the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
At 11 a.m. in Room S-226, Rob Vos, Director of the Development Policy and Analysis Division at Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) will launch the joint United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the African Union Commission (AU) report Developing African Agriculture through Regional Value Chains.
The guest at the noon briefing is Maxwell Gaylard, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and UN Coordinator for humanitarian and development activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to provide a humanitarian update on the situation in Gaza.
At 1.30 p.m. in Room S-226, Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director for Hunger Solutions and Henk-Jan Brinkman, Senior Advisor for Economic Policy, of the World Food Programme (WFP), will brief on hunger amid the financial and food crises.
The Graduation Ceremony for the Class of 2009 of the United Nations International School (UNIS) will take place at 3 p.m. in the General Assembly Hall.
Friday, 29 May
Today is the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers. At 9.15 a.m., the Secretary-General will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony to honour peacekeepers who lost their lives in 2008. At 10 a.m., he will attend a ceremony, at which the Dag Hammarskjold Medal will be presented posthumously.
The guests at the noon briefing are Alain Le Roy, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, and Susana Malcorra, Under-Secretary-General for Field Support, to brief the press on the occasion of the International Day of United Nations Peacekeepers.
At 2 p.m., a multimedia exhibit entitled Women in Peacekeeping: The Power to Empower will be officially opened in the Visitors Lobby.
Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
United Nations, S-378
New York, NY 10017
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