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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-08

United Nations Daily Highlights Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

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


Monday, 8 September 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.


  • UN Secretary-General warns of dangers of identity politics in his first annual report.
  • In Switzerland, UN Secretary-General stresses importance of UN reform in meetings with high-level officials.
  • UN Secretary-General proposes expanding UN Observer Mission in Tajikistan to assist in transition to peace there.
  • President of Democratic Republic of Congo assures UN Secretary- General that his investigative team can safely proceed with its work.
  • UN Mission in Haiti sends team to help recover bodies of people who drowned off Haitian coast.
  • UN health agency launches strategy to save millions of children from killer diseases.
  • Diplomatic conference in Vienna works to strengthen the nuclear liability regime.
  • In message on International Literacy Day, UN Secretary-General says literacy is bulwark against poverty and building block of development.
  • UN Department of Humanitarian Affairs to channel assistance to Seychelles following devastation by heavy rains.

In his first annual report on the work of the Organization, UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan warns that identity politics are threatening peace and progress in the current era.

The report, released today, states that at their best, identity politics provide a sense of social coherence, but at their worst, they have been responsible for some of the most egregious violations of international humanitarian laws in recent years. In some instances, identity politics have violated elementary standards of humanity, manifest in genocidal violence; the conscious targeting of civilian populations; rape as a deliberate instrument of organized terror; and attacks on emergency relief workers. "Negative forms of identity politics are a potent and potentially explosive force," the Secretary- General cautions. "Great care must be taken to recognize, confront and restrain them lest they destroy the potential for peace and progress that the new era holds."

The report also underlines the importance of institutional reform of the United Nations, outlined in his proposals. "To succeed in the new century, the United Nations must unleash its own major resource: the complementarities and synergies that exist within it. In other words, the United Nations must undergo fundamental, not piecemeal, reform." In this endeavour, the Secretary-General writes, the support of Member States is essential.

Calling attention to the "unprecedented and debilitating" financial crisis facing the United Nations, the Secretary-General notes that apart from its fiscal problems caused by the failure of Member States to pay their dues, the Organization's resources are declining resources relative to the magnitude of tasks that it faces.

On his first official visit to Switzerland, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today met with Ruth Dreifuss, the Federal Minister of the Interior, and Flavio Cotti, the Foreign Minister. Among the issues which were discussed were the prospects for Switzerland joining the United Nations, UN reform and its consequences for Geneva, development cooperation, and regional conflicts.

The Secretary-General also met with the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Switzerland. In a message he gave the Committee, he said that reform of the United Nations aimed to strengthen the Organization in order to tackle the mounting challenges of the new age. With the General Assembly's next session set to begin in less than two weeks, he said that, "With reform and renewal of the United Nations at the top of the agenda, this promises to be one of the most momentous periods of debate and decision in the Organization's history."

The Secretary-General later visited a chemical and biological weapons verification laboratory in Spiez which is cooperating with the United Nations Special Commission charged with monitoring Iraqi disarmament.

Later, the Secretary-General made an unscheduled visit to the Universal Postal Union in Bern, where he met with its Director- General.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has recommended expanding the United Nations Observer Mission in Tajikistan (UNMOT) from its current strength of 45 to 120 military observers in order to carry out expanded tasks in the country's transition to peace.

In his latest report to the Security Council on the situation in Tajikistan, the Secretary-General recommends expanding UNMOT's mandate so that it can perform new functions under the recently-concluded General Agreement on the Establishment of Peace and National Accord in Tajikistan and the Moscow Declaration. These include providing good offices and expert advice; cooperating with the Commission on National Reconciliation; monitoring the cease-fire; monitoring the demobilization of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO); providing assistance for the reintegration of ex-combatants; and coordinating United Nations assistance to Tajikistan.

The situation in Tajikistan continues to be volatile. The Secretary-General reports on a number of incidents causing serious concern, including heavy fighting in Dushanbe in early August; the taking of hostages; bullet holes discovered in an UNMOT aircraft; and some UTO restrictions on UNMOT's movements.

Noting that the process leading to the signing of the General Agreement has been long and arduous, the Secretary-General states that, "the greater challenges are still ahead." He calls on the Government of Tajikistan and the UTO to bring the General Agreement to life. Both, he writes, will have to "bring all segments of society into the process of reconciliation and, together with them, reform and strengthen the country's institutions so that they can withstand the stresses and strains to be expected after years of turbulence and upheaval."

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has received written confirmation that his team investigating allegations of massacres in the Democratic Republic of the Congo can proceed to the eastern part of the country to continue its work.

Speaking today at a press conference in Bern, Switzerland, the Secretary- General said that on Saturday, he had received a letter from Congolese President Laurent Kabila confirming that the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was committed to protecting the members of the team.

The Secretary-General noted that there had been earlier difficulties created by conflicting statements made by Congolese officials regarding the team's work. "We kept getting different signals and different statements from different ministers, but I am encouraged by the leadership President Kabila has shown in finally cutting through the confusion and writing to me to say that they can proceed," he said.

Peace-keepers from the United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) were deployed today to a site off the Haitian coast where an estimated 25 people had drowned after a passenger ferry capsized today. Fifteen Pakistani troops patrolled the area and helped survivors. UNTMIH also sent a 15-member medical team and two UN helicopters equipped with life-rafts. Three UNTMIH Canadian divers worked at the site to recover bodies.

According to UNTMIH, the ferry, which was bringing passengers back from the island of La Gonave to the port of Montrouis 75 kilometres north of Port-au- Prince, capsized at 5 a.m. and went down some 200 metres from the port.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is convening a conference this week in the Dominican Republic aimed at reducing the number of children who fall victim to killer childhood diseases. Beginning tomorrow in Santo Domingo, specialists from WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), governments and non-governmental organizations will gather to discuss the integrated management of childhood diseases.

The WHO estimates that over 11 million children die each year from preventable diseases. "More than seventy per cent of these deaths are due to five diseases in particular -- pneumonia, diarrhoea, measles, malnutrition and malaria," WHO spokesman Richard Leclair told reporters in Geneva. "WHO is proposing new integrated management of childhood illness strategy which we believe will be able to save up to five million children a year," he said.

Integrated management gives due attention to both treating and preventing childhood diseases, with an emphasis on immunization. It calls for treating the sick child as a whole, since often symptoms may overlap, making a single diagnosis inappropriate. The Santo Domingo Conference will review this strategy and make plans to implement it globally.

Diplomats are starting a week-long meeting today in Vienna to consider measures that would require operators of nuclear power plants to pay more in compensatory damages in case of an accident. Representatives of over 70 countries will meet at the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with the aim of adopting a Protocol to amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, and to consider adopting a convention on supplementary funding, which would establish a voluntary fund for paying damages in cases of nuclear accidents.

The significance of these new documents lies in their contribution to the safety of nuclear power plants, according to Berhan Andemicael, representative of the Director-General of the IAEA to the United Nations. "Operators are being held even more responsible for civilian damage, so more care and more safety precautions will have to be taken because if there is damage, it is going to cost more for the owners and operators," he said.

The IAEA has been preparing for the Vienna meeting since 1990, when it established a Standing Committee on Liability for Nuclear Damage.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today stressed the importance of literacy in fighting poverty, achieving development, promoting democratization, and realizing human progress.

In his message on the occasion of International Literacy Day, the Secretary- General said the ability to read is "a bridge from misery to hope." Especially for girls and women, he said, literacy is an agent of family health and nutrition. "For everyone, everywhere, literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right."

The Secretary-General noted that the illiteracy rate, estimated at 45 per cent 50 years ago, has fallen to 23 per cent today, even with the growth in world population. Between 1970 and 1995 the adult illiteracy rate in developing countries was reduced by nearly half -- from 57 per cent to 30 per cent. But attention must still be paid to the plight of the world's 840 million illiterate adults in the developing world, 64 per cent of whom are women, the Secretary-General said.

Following damages caused by flooding last month, Seychelles needs international assistance to reverse serious disruption before the next wet season in October, according to the latest situation report prepared by the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs (DHA).

The report, which is based on a recent visit to the country by a UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team, says that heavy rains damaged 247 homes, of which 22 were completely destroyed. Landslides brought down power lines and heavy rains flooded the airport, agricultural lands and other areas, according to the report.

Although it is a small island developing country with no comprehensive disaster management plan, Seychelles has met most of its emergency relief requirements. Still, according to DHA, the Government reports that an additional $100,000 in international assistance is required to provide items such as food, shelter and clothing to those in need.

For information purposes only - - not an official record

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

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