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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-06-16

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From: The United Nations Home Page at <> - email:


Monday, 16 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.


  • Final phase of preparations for Earth Summit + 5 gets underway.
  • A quest is continuing for a negotiated solution to the conflict in Congo- Brazzaville.
  • UN Secretary-General urges Guatemalan society to support the continued implementation of peace process.
  • UN Secretary-General says respect for human rights and international law is a must for all peacekeepers.
  • A UN mission to Israel and the occupied territories is put off.
  • The head of UNICEF says promising economic indicators may give hope for Africa's children.
  • UN Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf begins deliberations in New York.

With only a week to go before the Earth Summit + 5, the final phase of preparations began on Monday as the Commission on Sustainable Development started a series of informal consultations on the draft of the proposed outcome of the upcoming forum. Some 70 Heads of State or Government are expected to attend the Special Session of the General Assembly to Review and Appraise the Implementation of Agenda 21 adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Nitin Desai, Under- Secretary- General for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development, said that the purpose of the Special Session was essentially to give a five-year review of "what we have done or not done since Rio", with the intention to identify directions and set priorities for the coming century.

Noting that the talks held earlier this year to negotiate a platform that the world leaders would adopt had left many unresolved differences, Mr. Desai drew particular attention to "the perennial issue of finance". He said that the language and text on this question were still under discussion and this was an area where he hoped some significant movement could be achieved at the special session. Mr. Desai noted that there had in fact been a decline in the support for development cooperation since Rio and that a commitment was required to reverse that.

Stressing that Rio was remarkable in the way in which it brought together countries of very diverse political persuasion and different historical antecedents, Mr. Desai said one of the major tasks now was to revive that sense of cooperative action on development and environment.

As the situation in Congo-Brazzaville continued to be a cause of concern for the international community, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan over the weekend was in touch with President El Hadj Omar Bongo of Gabon concerning the President's efforts to mediate the crisis.

In a statement issued by his spokesman on Sunday, the UN leader said he was gratified that the parties to the conflict had agreed to seek a negotiated solution to the conflict and he urged the parties to respect the ceasefire. The Secretary-General also expressed his gratitude to the Government of France for evacuating all foreign nationals, including the staff of the United Nations and other international organizations.

In a related development over the weekend, Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun, the joint UN-OAU Special Representative to the Great Lakes, held what UN officials described as "useful and constructive" talks with President Lissouba, former President Nguesso and Mayor Kolelas. He also attended the discussion organized by President Bongo of Gabon in Libreville.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has urged all sectors of Guatemalan society to give their full support to the continued implementation of the peace process. Following his meeting on Friday with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Eduardo Stein Barillas, Mr. Annan expressed the hope that the implementation of the Peace Accords with the cooperation of all parties in Guatemala could now move ahead as planned.

The Secretary-General commended the Foreign Minister on the successes achieved in the demobilization of the former combatants and on other progress in the implementation of the Peace Accords. During their discussions, the two leaders, among other issues, focused on the presence of the United Nations in Guatemala.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan expects all peacekeepers to regulate their conduct according to highest standards, including respect for local laws, human rights and international law where applicable in armed conflict, his spokesman said on Monday.

Referring to reports on allegations of misconduct against Italian peacekeepers in Somalia during 1993 and 1994, Spokesman Fred Eckhard said that it was not clear from the dates whether the alleged incidents had taken place during the Unified Task Force deployment or during the United Nations Operation in Somalia (UNOSOM).

The Spokesman noted that Somalia was the first UN mission to involve combat since the Congo operation and the world body had drawn some lessons from its experience there. The United Nations had also taken steps to incorporate the respect for international law in the agreements that were negotiated with the host country. The Spokesman noted, however, that ultimately the behavior of troops was the responsibility of commanding officers and any disciplinary action that might be necessary must be taken by the troop contributing country.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has decided to put off a mission to the Middle East and the Occupied Territories, according to his Spokesman. The Secretary-General had proposed to dispatch Kieran Prendergast, Under- Secretary-General for Political Affairs, as his Special Envoy to Israel and the occupied territories in accordance with the resolution adopted by the Special Emergency Session of the General Assembly on 25 April, 1997.

Letters had been exchanged between the Secretary-General and the Government of Israel, and a number of consultations had also been held between Israel and UN officials to discuss the scope of the proposed mission.

During those consultations, Israel had imposed restrictions on the scope of the mission which were not acceptable to the United Nations. Therefore, it now appeared that the mission would not be taking place since the Secretary- General needed to report to the General Assembly before 25 June.

UNICEF Executive Director, Carol Bellamy says there may be hope for Africa's children if promising new economic indicators lead to real growth and progress in eradicating the continent's desperate poverty.

In a statement on the occasion marking the observance of the Day of the African Child on Monday, the head of the UN children's agency said that despite the projected positive economic growth in Africa, the progress was fragile.

The Day of the African Child is an annual event reaffirming the importance of ensuring the survival, protection and development of Africa's children. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1991 declared 16 June the Day of the African Child in memory of the South African children massacred in Soweto on the same day in 1976.

UNICEF's Executive Director also stressed the importance of education for African girls. With women heading nearly one third of African households, the vicious cycle of poverty begins when girls drop out of school to help at home or lose their childhood when they become pregnant.

Underlining the importance of freeing developing countries from the devastating burden of debt, Ms. Bellamy said the huge debt obligations in many African countries were severely undermining their capacity to care for their children.

The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf on Monday began its first session at UN headquarters in New York. The Commission is the body mandated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to make recommendations to coastal States which claim that their continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical or sea miles from their coasts.

The Commission was created to deal with specific circumstances where a coastal State wishes to exercise jurisdiction over its continental shelf up to 350 nautical miles from its coast line. Such a State is required to provide technical data to support its claim and to submit evidence to the 21-member Commission which comprises experts in geology, geophysics or hydrography.

During its first session, the Commission is expected to focus on a number of organizational matters, including the election of its Chairman and the adoption of its draft rules of procedure.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

From the United Nations home page at <> - email:

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