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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-06-05

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

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Thursday, 5 June 1997


This document is prepared by the Central News Section of the Department of Public Information and is updated every week-day at approximately 6:00 PM.

HEADLINES

  • With pledges of action for "For Life on Earth", World Environment Day is observed in over 100 countries.
  • Israel would pay for damages at UNIFIL Headquarters at Qana, under draft resolution introduced by Group of 77.
  • UN reform Coordinator says the process should be unrelated to the issue of the US Congress withholding funds.
  • Head of the UN department of peacekeeping operations concludes an assessment visit to the former Yugoslavia.
  • Russian Foreign Minister tells disarmament conference in Geneva his country's goal is complete ban on anti-personnel landmines.
  • Head of ILO calls for the strengthening of the standard-setting function of the UN labour organization.
  • UN sets up a coordination unit to monitor the situation in Freetown.


Amid expressions of hope and concern about the health of the planet, World Environment Day was observed on Thursday in more than 100 countries. The aim of the commemoration, which was held under the theme "For Life on Earth", was to deepen public awareness of the need to protect environment.

In his message on the occasion, President of the General Assembly Ambassador Razali Ismail of Malaysia stressed that the key to arresting the inevitability of a deteriorating environment lay in adopting a substantially different manner of thinking and altering individual behaviour. "And this we need to do in all our guises -- as representatives of governments, scientists, consumers, members of the media, taxpayers, shareholders, workers, parents and children", said Ambassador Razali.

The theme was also echoed by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who said that the quest for a healthy environment was a never-ending process. "It is an attitude. A way of life", said the Secretary-General. Noting that in less than three weeks, world leaders and concerned citizens would gather in New York to assess progress since the landmark Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Mr. Annan urged nations to rededicate themselves to protecting the global environment as a central element of peace development and the eradication of poverty.

This year's observance has special significance for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) which was established 25 years ago as the result of the landmark United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. After the Conference, the UN General Assembly designated 5 June as World Environment Day.

Elizabeth Dowdeswell, UNEP's Executive Director, used the occasion to call for joint action in the face of formidable environmental problems. "Let us consider carefully the action which each of us must take and then address ourselves to our common task of preserving all life on earth in a mood of sober resolution and quiet confidence", said UNEP's Executive Director.

As the United Nations programme responsible for coordinating activities of the Day, UNEP each year selects a city to be the main venue for the international celebrations. This year, that special event took place in the Republic of Korea, culminating with the presentation of UNEP's 500 awards to 21 environmentalists, from every corner of the world, who had made outstanding contributions to the protection of the environment.

A series of commemorative events also took place at UN Headquarters in New York, including an expert symposium which featured video messages from the Prime Minister of Sweden and the President of the Republic of Korea.


The Group of 77 developing countries and China on Thursday said that Israel should pay for the damage caused by the April 1966 incident at the headquarters of the United Nations peace-keepers in Qana, Lebanon.

A resolution on the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), introduced by the representative of Tanzania in the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), would have the General Assembly ask Israel to bear about $1.7 million outstanding costs of the incident.

Introducing the text on behalf of the Group, the representative of Tanzania said the draft have to be voted on Friday, should the Committee's ongoing consultations fail to produce a consensus.


The Executive Coordinator for United Nations Reform Maurice Strong said that the question of UN reform should be unrelated to the issue of the United States Congress withholding funds from the world body. Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, on Wednesday, Mr. Strong discussed a wide range of reform issues, focusing, in particular, on the areas of humanitarian assistance and development.

Mr. Strong said it was important that the distinctive nature of organizations such as the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) be strengthened and maintained but there was a question whether this should be a pretext for complete independence and autonomy.

Asked about the likely impact of reforms on UNICEF, Mr. Strong stressed that no recommendation he would make would do anything but strengthen and improve the UN children's agency. He said agencies like UNICEF and others were understandably protective of their autonomy but should understand that the world community expected them to act more as members of the same family.


United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Bernard Miyet has concluded an assessment visit to all UN-peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia region.

On Wednesday, Mr. Miyet met with Croatian President Franjo Tudjman and Foreign Minister Mate Granic. According to a spokesman for the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES), one of the key issues discussed was the return of refugees and displaced persons to their pre-war places of residence. In reviewing all the aspects of peaceful reintegration of the eastern Slavonia area, Mr. Miyet emphasized very strongly the need for an effective, safe and secure programme of return of displaced persons in both directions.


Russian Foreign Minister Evguenyi Primakov told the Disarmament Conference in Geneva that Russia considered the complete ban on anti- personnel land- mines as a goal. The Russian Foreign Minister said that the movement towards the ban should probably consist of a number of agreed time stages. He also urged States which possessed considerable technical potential in the nuclear sphere and had not yet signed the Comprehensive Nuclear Test- Ban Treaty to do so.

With regard to chemical weapons, Mr. Primakov hailed the development of the global convention on the prohibition of chemical weapons as a major achievement of the Conference on Disarmament. He informed the Conference that deputies in Russia's State Duma had expressed their intention to complete ratification of the Convention as early as this autumn.


The Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Michel Hansenne has called for the strengthening of the standard-setting function of the organization to come in step with liberalization of trade and multilateralism.

In an opening statement to the plenary meeting of the 85th International Labour Conference in Geneva earlier this week, Mr. Hansenne called on the conference to adopt a "solemn declaration reaffirming the universal respect of all its Members for fundamental workers' rights, whether or not the relevant Conventions have been ratified".

The current session of the Conference is expected to adopt the ILO's programme and budget for the period 1998 - 99. Also on the agenda is a proposal to amend the Constitution of the labour organization to enable the Conference to abrogate Conventions that it would judge to be out of date.


A United Nations Coordination Unit has been established in Conakry, Guinea, to monitor the situation in Freetown, Sierra Leone, a UN Spokesman announced on Thursday. He said the Unit would also prepare an inter-agency assessment mission to assess humanitarian needs in the country.

Meanwhile the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that over 14,000 new refugees had been registered at Forecariah in Guinea by 3 June. The UN humanitarian agency said many of these had fled earlier violence in the northern province of Sierra Leone.


For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <http://www.un.org> - email: unnews@un.org


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