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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-06-17

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


Tuesday, 17 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.


  • General Assembly adds the question of UN reform to its agenda, approves appointment of Mary Robinson of Ireland as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
  • Security Council reiterates the importance of UN mission in Guatemala; consults on Angola, Albania and the former Yugoslavia.
  • UN/OAU Special envoy travels to Brazzaville to overcome obstacles in Libreville talks.
  • Co-winner of 1996 Nobel Peace Prize calls for a cessation of all armed activities in East Timor.
  • Intensive negotiations continue in preparation for Earth Summit + 5.
  • Observance of World Day to Combat Desertification draws attention to planet's drylands.
  • Asia-Africa Forum concludes in Bangkok, urging the developed world to continue assisting African recovery.

Acting on two recommendations by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the General Assembly on Tuesday approved the appointment of Mrs. Mary Robinson of Ireland as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and added the question of United Nations reform to the agenda of its current session.

The inclusion of an additional agenda item, entitled "United Nations reform: measures and proposals", was requested by the Secretary-General earlier this month to allow him to present his report on United Nations reform personally, on 16 July. The report will cover further measures to restructure the Secretariat and improve its capacities and effectiveness in serving Member States.

In recommending Mrs. Robinson for the post of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Secretary-General called it "one of the most important appointments" of his term and a very important step for the entire international community. The post was created by the General Assembly in December 1993. The Secretary-General will inform the General Assembly about the effective date of the four-year appointment, once it is agreed upon.

The United Nations Security Council has reiterated the importance of the UN Mission for the Verification of Human Rights in Guatemala (MINUGUA) in promoting the peaceful settlement in the country, the Council President said on Tuesday. Ambassador Sergey Lavrov of Russia spoke to the press after the Council met in consultations on a number of issues, including the UN missions in Guatemala, Angola and the former Yugoslavia, and the situation in Albania.

On Albania, the Council considered a request from the Government of that country for the extension of the mandate of the Multinational Protection Force in Albania. The Security Council was also briefed by Bernard Miyet, Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, on the overall situation of the UN peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. On Angola, the Council discussed the Secretary-General's proposal for a follow- on operation after the expiry, on 30 June 1997, of the mandate of the United Nations Angola Verification Mission (UNAVEM III).

The Special Envoy of the United Nations/Organization of African Unity (OAU) Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun travelled to Brazzaville, Congo, Tuesday to speak with the principals in the conflict and to try to overcome some of the obstacles that had surfaced during Monday's talks in Libreville. According to a UN spokesman, the rest of the negotiators stayed on in Libreville, awaiting the outcome of Ambassador Sahnoun's visit to Brazzaville.
The co-winner of the 1996 Nobel Peace Prize has urged resistance fighters in East Timor to observe a cessation of all armed activities. In a statement to the Special Committee on Decolonization on Monday, Jose Ramos Horta also called for a reduction to 1,000, the number of Indonesian troops in East Timor and their confinement to barracks.

Speaking during the Committee debates on the question of East Timor, Mr. Horta urged the parties concerned to work in good faith with the Secretary- General to find a satisfactory formula for resolving the East Timor conflict. He also called on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in East Timor, which could serve as a useful bridge of communication between the local people and the authorities.

Earlier on Monday, the Special Committee on Decolonization called for a speedy resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom on a peaceful solution to the sovereignty dispute over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas). Approving by consensus a draft resolution on the islands, the Committee said that a peaceful and negotiated settlement was the way to end the dispute and reiterated its firm support for the mission of good offices by the Secretary-General to assist the parties to comply with the General Assembly resolutions.

Intensive consultations continued on Tuesday in the Commission on Sustainable Development which focused on sectoral issues in an effort to reach an agreement on a platform that world leaders are expected to adopt next week at Earth Summit + 5, a special session of the General Assembly to assess progress on sustainable development since the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

Updating the press on the results of the negotiations, Joke Waller- Hunter, Director of the UN Division for Sustainable Development, stressed that all issues that were at the heart of the talks in Rio in 1992, were still at the heart of the negotiations that were leading up to the Special Session.

Pointing to finance as a key element in the negotiations, she said the debates focused on four major topics: the Official Development Assistance or ODA, the issue of domestic resources, the question of the foreign direct investment or the private flows, and the issue of possible innovative international financial flows.

The United Nations on Tuesday marked the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought. In a message on the occasion of the Day, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said the observance aimed to focus on the concerns of the people inhabiting the world's drylands.

The day was established by the 1994 United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). The CCD, which entered into force in December 1996, is the first legally binding agreement to combat desertification in an integrated approach to environment and development, as advocated by the 1992 Earth Summit.

As part of the observance at UN Headquarters in New York, the UN Environment Programme organized a photo exhibit. Featuring photographs from Kenya, the exhibit reflected the Day's main themes: the cause and consequences of desertification, the links between poverty and land degradation, alternative means of livelihood for people living in dryland areas, and programmes to eradicate poverty and ensure food security.

The Second Asia-Africa Forum has concluded with a strong message for leaders of the developed world to continue helping in Africa's economic and social recovery.

The Forum, which ended last week in Bangkok, also welcomed the inclusion of African development on the agenda of the Denver Summit of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and urged the international community to continue its development assistance to Africa, encourage investment and expand trade in the region.

Organized jointly by the Governments of Japan and Thailand, the United Nations and the Global Coalition for Africa, the Forum was attended by senior officials from 44 African and 11 Asian countries, as well as 10 donor countries and 10 international organizations.

In its "Bangkok Statement for Furthering Asia-Africa Cooperation", the Forum urged African countries to "intensify the pace of structural transformation of their economies, in order to enhance mutually beneficial relationships with Asian countries".

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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