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United Nations Daily Highlights, 97-09-09

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

DAILY HIGHLIGHTS

Tuesday, 9 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.

HEADLINES

  • High Commissioner for Refugees appeals to Security Council to persuade Governments in Great Lakes region to reverse "crisis of protection".
  • Joint UN/OAU Envoy in Great Lakes Region and Gabon's President convene summit to discuss crisis in Congo-Brazzaville.
  • Iraq says it will provide information on biological weapons to UN special disarmament commission.
  • UN Transition Mission in Haiti continues search operations following yesterday's ferry disaster.
  • UNICEF reports severe malnutrition spreading among children in Sierra Leone.
  • International Monetary Fund working to mitigate marginalization of poor countries in globalized economy.
  • Governments meet in Montreal to strengthen protection of ozone layer.
  • In rare moment of agreement, Disarmament Conference decides to transmit its report on just-concluded 1997 session to UN General Assembly.


The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today appealed to the Security Council to persuade governments in the Great Lakes region of Africa to comply with international standards for the treatment of refugees.

High Commissioner Sadako Ogata briefed the Council this morning on recent events, recalling that last week, military forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo surrounded a transit centre in Kisangani and forced some 800 Rwandan and Burundi refugees to return to Rwanda. Mrs. Ogata told reporters that she had informed the Council that UNHCR would be obliged to suspend its operation with regard to Rwandan refugees in Congo under the current conditions. "The weight that the Council has in the international community is very, very heavy, and Council members would be in a position to persuade governments who are hosting refugees to allow the proper treatment of these people," she said.

Following the High Commissioner's briefing, Security Council President Bill Richardson of the United States reiterated the strong support of Council members for UNHCR's work. "We all agree that the work of the United Nations High Commissioner makes a vital contribution to the safety of the refugees as well as the prospect for a return to peace, social harmony and development in the region," he told members of the press.


The Special Representative of the United Nations and the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in the Great Lakes Region, Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, and President Omar Bongo of Gabon are continuing their preparations for a summit of regional leaders to discuss the crisis in Congo-Brazzaville on Friday.

Their actions follow on Monday's decision by President Pascal Lissouba to unilaterally appoint the Mayor of Brazzaville, Bernard Kolelas, as the country's new Prime Minister. A UN spokesman told reporters that the action was taken without consultation with the mediators or with former President Denis Sassou Nguesso.

Ambassador Sahnoun and President Bongo hope to convene the Friday summit with the participation of the heads of State of the International Mediation Committee, which includes Senegal, Mali, Benin, Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon as Chair. Leaders of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola are also being invited.


Iraq will furnish full information on the country's biological weapons in the next 48 hours to the United Nations Special Commission charged with Iraqi disarmament, the country's Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, told Special Commission Executive Chairman Richard Butler at a recent meeting in Baghdad.

Following a series of high-level meetings during his recent trip to Iraq, Ambassador Butler reported progress on technical issues, including questions relating to the accounting of missiles and special warheads.

The Special Commission is expected to require several months to verify information it receives on Iraq's biological weapons.


United Nations peacekeepers today continued to assist search operations to recover the bodies of people who drowned yesterday when a ferry sank off Haiti's west coast. Twenty-two divers from the United Nations Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) had recovered some 50 bodies since yesterday, according to Fred Eckhard, the Spokesman for the Secretary-General. He said the divers were continuing to facilitate the recovery of bodies trapped inside the boat.

Between 300 and 400 people are believed to have died when the ferry sank. Mr. Eckhard conveyed UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's condolences to the families of the victims and the Haitian Government.


The health situation of children in Sierra Leone is extremely serious and rapidly deteriorating, a spokesman for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) told reporters in Geneva today. Nutritional surveys have found malnutrition rates running at an average of 10 per cent, with pockets of severe malnutrition as high as 15 per cent in some parts of the country.

UNICEF is alarmed at the lack of a clear and speedy exemption process for humanitarian supplies to the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), according to the spokesman. "Unless a political situation is found, the nutritional status of the population, especially the children, is bound to deteriorate, and a rise in morbidity and mortality will become inevitable," he said.

UNICEF, along with several non-governmental organizations, is working in Sierra Leone to provide health kits, essential drugs and immunisation in accessible districts, as well as water, sanitation and makeshift schooling. It is also supporting therapeutic and supplementary feeding centres in the country's four largest towns. "Nevertheless, measles outbreaks with child deaths have been confirmed in three districts in the northern province," the spokesman said, noting that malnourished children who contract measles have only a 50 per cent chance of surviving.


The challenge posed by the integration of the world economy is not how to resist the forces of globalization, but rather how to enable countries to benefit from these forces, according to the 1997 Annual Report of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), released today.

The IMF report, which reflects the views of its Executive Board, states that globalization might adversely affect employment opportunities and wages in some segments of society in the short-run while the economy adjusts. But globalization has not been the principal force behind the unfavourable effects on employment and income distribution observed in some developed countries, according to the report.

Although standards of living have improved remarkably in most developing countries over the past 30 years, the Board expressed disappointment that per capita income levels there were not advancing toward advanced-economy levels. Per capita incomes in many developing country regions had actually been declining relative to those in advanced economies. Countries that had aligned their policies with the forces of globalization had fared well, but those that had not "were likely to experience declining shares of world trade and private capital flows, and to find themselves falling behind," the report states.

The IMF expressed concern about the problems faced by low-income countries struggling to avoid being marginalized in the increasingly globalized world economy. At a press briefing today in New York, IMF Chief Editor Ian S. MacDonald spoke of "the risk that in the trend towards globalization, the poorest countries could be left on the side," adding that, "the IMF is very conscious of this and this is an important focus of our management."

Initiatives taken by the Fund in response include continuing the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility -- which supports the Fund's poorest members -- beyond the year 2000, when its resources were expected to be fully committed. A joint initiative of the IMF and the World Bank to release the debt of the most heavily indebted poor countries is also under way. That initiative is designed to ensure that heavily indebted poor countries with a sound track record of economic adjustment can attain a sustainable debt situation over the medium term.


Representatives of over 100 governments today began a series of meetings in Montreal to seek stronger controls on ozone-depleting substances through amendments to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. They will consider proposals for accelerating the phase-out of ozone- depleting substances and to discourage the illegal trade in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

In addition to negotiating these matters, participants will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Protocol, which is monitored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Said UNEP Executive Director Elizabeth Dowdeswell, "The history of the Montreal Protocol is a cause for celebration, but we must not be complacent. Saving the ozone layer remains the responsibility of us all."

Under the Montreal Protocol, Governments have agreed to phase out the major chemicals that destroy ozone in the stratosphere. Because developed countries are responsible for the bulk of historical and current emissions and have a greater technological capacity to adapt, they have agreed to take the lead. Developing countries receive grace periods for phasing out chemicals and a pledge of financial and technical support.


Without ever having agreed on a programme of work, the Disarmament Conference concluded its 1997 session by deciding to transmit its report to the General Assembly.

The report's adoption followed months of debate about which subjects deserved the Conference's immediate attention. As in previous years, a number of members, including those in the Group of 21 non-aligned States, considered that priority should be given to the issue of nuclear disarmament. But other members, including countries in the Western Group, argued that emphasis should be placed on negotiations to ban anti- personnel landmines and the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. With no agreement on these matters, the programme of work was never adopted.

The Conference was able, nonetheless, to appoint "special coordinators" to explore issues related to the establishment of a possible mandate on reconsideration of the agenda; improvement of the Conference's functioning; and the question of anti-personnel landmines.

According to the Special Coordinator on anti-personnel landmines, John Campbell of Australia, a majority of the members were in favour of, or at least not opposed to, appropriate work commencing in the Conference on anti- personnel landmines. While serious caution had been expressed by some delegations, he said, the mandate which enjoyed the widest support would have the Conference adopt a step-by-step approach to the elimination landmines beginning with work on exports, imports and transfers. He added that most delegations would prefer to decide on a specific mandate in early 1998.


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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